A disclaimer of sorts: I’ve been bugging a buddy of mine for a while to write for X-Rays Spex. At long last — and after a lot of coercion by means of candy, etc — David has decided to put this piece together. Here’s to hope there are more articles on the horizon!
By: David Wise
Over the course of the last decade the highest levels of athletics in the United States has become a minefield of over political aberrance, the sporting world becoming nearly unrecognizable. The most notable of these over politicized happenings being the many scandals involving college athletes brokering trades and accepting gifts, congress’ decision to get involved in the structure of the college football postseason, and the congressional hearings regarding the use of performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball.
I’ll try to keep this part as brief as I can because it includes an entirely different argument regarding morality, the fact of the matter is that if you were to ask every college athlete who was found to be guilty of brokering trades or accepting gifts and donations you would most often find that many of them made those extremely difficult decisions in order to help their families and friends out of less than desirable situations. There have been some real careless and senseless incidents, trading jerseys for tattoos and the like, however the consequences in large part tend to effect more than just the individuals at fault. Alongside the consequences against individuals for their actions, which run the gamut from suspensions to forfeiting of awards, many universities have had various impositions placed upon their athletic teams, competitive bans, entire team death penalties, wins forfeited, for the actions of few, the whole was held accountable, and generally with reason.
The model for collegiate athletics often holds the university, or at the very least the athletic department, the coaches, etc accountable in addition to the individual offenders. If you ask why this is you will find a very clear and logical stream of reasoning. The university profits incredibly from its major athletics and it invests a great deal of its profits back into those athletic departments by hiring the best coaches and athletic staffs that they can, they pay millions to have these people in place and spend millions more recruiting the best possible talent to represent the university. Basic rationality dictates that when one makes a major investment they monitor and protect it, it is their responsibility to get the greatest reward for their risk. When the risk becomes a liability and when it becomes an absolute disaster, it is only right for the investor to continue to bare a great deal of the responsibility for what went wrong.
If we are punishing entire college athletic teams with competitive bans for the actions of some of their student athletes, actions which are more often than not, survival oriented then why should we not also be punishing professional athletic organizations when their players, especially their superstar players, their major investments, whom they should be and most likely are keeping under a microscope, fail and succumb to incredibly poor judgment. When Alex Rodriguez left Seattle for Texas his career and his numbers began to rise to astronomical superstar levels, levels which at the time hardly seemed to be too out of the ordinary for any top echelon player, considering the previously unbreakable single season home run record had been broken six times by the end of Rodriguez’ first season in Texas. I could buy that at this point in time that the Rangers and Rodriguez’ representation were not aware that he was using any sort of banned substances because at the time, everyone was putting up insane numbers and even the most middle of the road players looked like body building champs, and I could even buy that if they were aware, they were unconcerned as the use of steroids during that time was as prominent as the use of greenies and cocaine in previous eras, while it was not a point of pride for the organization, there was a significantly positive return on their investment for a period of time.
When the Yankees and Alex Rodriguez agreed to the monster contract that freed him from being the best part of a bad team in Texas perhaps, they thought that this was a great athlete finally reaching his brightest potential — the beginning of the peak of his career and this was the once in a generation player that we had all believed him to be.
We all recall what happened in 2009 when it was revealed that Rodriguez had used PEDs, at the very least during his years in Texas, and his denial of having tested positive during what was supposed to be an entirely anonymous sampling of PED use within the league. Rodriguez signed a new contract with the Yankees in 2007, one which is chock full of multimillion dollar performance based incentives, incentives having to do with his becoming the all-time home run king, one would be naïve to think that an organization as prolific as the Yankees would not have every last iota of their bases covered when making such an ambitious pursuit of an investment of the highest caliber, and I will even go as far as being naïve myself, perhaps they didn’t know, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they were in the dark.
The final point of all of this is that if we are going to impose suspensions and levy fines upon the individuals at fault then we must also hold accountable the organization which has invested and directly benefited over the years from the successes of their employees, especially in the cases of repeat offenders, and especially when those repeat offenders are amongst the best and most notable players of an entire generation. That these same individuals have been able to perpetrate the same offenses more than once shows an incredible failure on the part of the organization with respect to their fans, those who stand by the organization during the winning seasons and the losing seasons, the good trades, the bad trades, the dynasties and the forgettable decades. Baseball fans display an undying loyalty to their teams. Many will go down with a sinking ship, convinced that it is still afloat and sailing towards a better place (See: Cubs fans). But there are some things which are unforgivable; undignified moves that feel like stabs in the back, a dignified acceptance of accountability by the organization — admitting their wrong when they are wrong — will ultimately spare them am greater level of humiliation. However, when the organization in question is one that is as globally polarizing, who embrace both the positivity from supporters and negativity of their adversaries, the humiliation may not be enough. A more perfect situation for Major League Baseball to set precedent for any future offenses, there is not.
Any losses incurred due to fines levied, playoff appearances missed due to competitive bans, and prospective players adding to an organizations legacy who will pass on a team for better money or a chance at a championship which would not be available to them on a team paying the price for offenses, could be recouped or resolved. But tainting the morality and sportsmanship of baseball will become irreparable at a certain point, and demonstrating a severe recompense for all parties involved is the only way to insure that all parties are doing their job.