Friday, August 2, 2013

By David Saltzer Senior Writer

Baseball is the national pastime because it is a microcosm of life in America. In all ways, baseball represents what is best and worst about our country. Whether it be Jackie Robinson integrating the game as a prelude to the Civil Rights movement, or Ted Williams going off to serve in two wars for the military, baseball has been there to show the world what the American values are.

That has never been more true than now with the ongoing PED scandal. In particular, it has never been more true than with one player in particular, A-Rod. While he was not the only player caught up in the Biogenesis scandal, he stands apart for several reasons.

The Biogenesis scandal is not A-Rod’s first alleged use of PEDs. Rumors swirled for years that he was juicing, and for the longest time, A-Rod denied them. He went so far as to go on “60 Minutes” to publicly declare on national TV that he never used them, and in fact, never felt “overmatched” on the playing field. As the reports and allegations continued to surface, including his failed drug test in 2003, which he had been warned about, A-Rod finally held a press conference to admit to having used PEDs for a limited time back in 2003. 

In his press conference, rather than show remorse, A-Rod tried to soften the blow by saying he only cheated so that he could perform up to the level of the gargantuan contract that he signed. He claimed it was the pressure of living up to the contract that drove him to cheat. What he failed to mention, though, was that he was the one who opted out of his existing contract to as to extract more money from the Yankees or that he had been asking for more money than he received. He did not take accountability for his actions, and if anything, was just sorry that he had been caught, not that he had cheated.

When A-Rod’s name first appeared in the Biogenesis scandal, he again denied any culpability. As the evidence mounted, he protested his innocence. He gave the same song and dance, while at the same time, assembling a massive legal team to defend himself. Up until two weeks ago, he continued to proclaim innocence in spite of massive evidence to the contrary.

Now, when it is clear that baseball has more than compelling evidence against him, A-Rod wants to negotiate a “deal” with Major League baseball that will let him keep a portion of the $100 million remaining on his contract. Under no circumstances should baseball negotiate with A-Rod for a lesser punishment. Major League Baseball should ban A-Rod for life. 

We are living in a precarious time in American history. One of my biggest concerns is that America today has replaced doing what’s right with doing what’s expedient. Think about it: How often do you see a business or person settle a bogus lawsuit because it is cheaper to settle than it is to defend doing what’s right? How many soldiers and people have died fighting terrorism just to have their families see America negotiate with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan even though we have a stated policy to not negotiate with terrorists? How much more do we pay in taxes to cleanup graffiti and trash rather than hold people accountable for their actions by making them clean it up?

Over the past 5 years, we watched nearly 20% of our national wealth (about $13 trillion dollars) disappear, mostly by banks that were too big to fail. And, after we bailed them out, we were shocked to learn that those running the banks were engaged in criminal acts, such as manipulating the LIBOR and insider deals. Yet, have any of them gone to jail? Sadly, none. Sure, the government negotiated some penalties against some investment banks, but by and large, banks that were too big to fail were run by bankers who were too big to jail.

I am a father. I do not want my sons growing up in a society in which people think that what is expedient is right. In my mind, my sons should do what’s right, even if it isn’t expedient. We all know that the right answer is usually the hard one, but, I would rather my sons struggle to do what’s right than compromise with doing what’s wrong.

If Major League Baseball negotiates a punishment with A-Rod, what example does that set for my sons? Will they then try to negotiate punishments with me when I need to discipline them?

I understand that there is a lot of money involved in this situation. And, I understand that the Yankees may benefit from giving A-Rod a lifetime banishment (although I will address that in a separate article). And, I understand the risk that an arbitrator could revise the punishment.

But, I would rather see baseball continue to be a compass for all by showing us what are true values are rather than seeing the game soil itself by doing what’s expedient rather than what’s right. America may be a bit lost on its values right now, but baseball can once again show us what is right.

If A-Rod is allowed to “negotiate” a punishment, it would only further encourage PED use rather than discourage it. Think about it: a marginal player who would be helped by PEDs would have every reason to take them and sign a lucrative deal as quickly as possible because he would know that he could negotiate to preserve a chunk of that money. So, negotiating with A-Rod will only make the problem worse, not better. And, over time, as more and more players negotiate punishments, the punishments will become less and less severe, not more and more severe. It’s just like how America’s treatment of North Korea has given Iran every incentive to build a nuclear device—it sees how America treats North Korea differently, and knows that it can get away with a lot more once it has gone nuclear.

There is only one way to preserve the game of baseball and to prevent PEDs in the future. It’s simple, and it’s the right thing to do. Ban A-Rod for life.
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