In Neil Young’s great old song “The Needle and the Damage Done,” he sang the line “every junkie’s like a setting sun.” That was written about heroin addiction, but the words can be applied to baseball players who thought they would have an edge by using steroids, human growth hormone, or synthetic testosterone. Pick your poison because it doesn’t matter. The junkie keeps using because he’s hooked on the high; the sports players keep doing it for the thrill of being better than everyone else. Neither thinks about the damage done until it is too late.
San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera is the latest in a long line of baseball players who thought he could get around the rules. You know the names, the guys whose bodies and heads swelled like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. The guys who put up numbers that were ridiculous, but who were given a free ride because Major League Baseball liked the feel good image of the Sultans of Shots banging home run. Guys like Sosa, McGwire, and Bonds put fannies in the seats, and more people watched games and the cash registers kept ringing all over America. Good for everyone, right? What damage are we talking about?
The answer is that there are rules and those rules are in place and must be followed, but the problem here is that Cabrera may have taken it to beyond the level of just enhancing his stats. He may have created a website for a sports cream that does not exist, but it could have been an elaborate attempt on his part to obfuscate the truth about his testing positive for elevated testosterone. If that is the case, because Cabrera tested positive for an illegal substance, we will have a federal investigation that MLB is actually supporting. Gone are the days of burying heads in the sand and denial of reality.
Cabrera may have duped himself into thinking that what happened with Ryan Braun could happen for him. It seems that commissioner Bud Selig and his people learned a great deal from dropping the ball with Braun, and that means it is time for someone to pay the piper, and Cabrera’s luck seems to just about have run out.
Baseball doesn’t have a choice but to take a hard stance on this because the damage done has already been noted. We can talk about asterisks all we want in the record books; perhaps we can even think about some kind of altering of records and awards in light of what happened at Penn State, but the damage has been done to the game and to the fans, especially the young ones who look up to these guys. They have shamed a great sport and caused pain and it seems we have to face the inevitable litigation that will ensue.
So we have to ask the question: why did Cabrera do it? Look at his numbers and you will see part of the answer, but it is still puzzling that any baseball player would take the risk. Is being MVP of the All-Star game or a possible batting title worth a fifty day suspension followed by possible jail time? What about jeopardizing your team’s chances for the playoffs? Most importantly, what about expulsion from the game? Not to mention the long term physical problems associated with using these drugs.
Right now baseball is doing it by the book. There are rules and Melky is accused of breaking them. It seems that they are going to make an example of him, and that should make all the other players even thinking about using have second thoughts. It’s about time MLB took the air out of the Stay Puft guys, and it looks like the Players Association is going to have to support it because they really have no other choice.
Cabrera’s fate is going to be painful, but he has no one else to blame but himself. The needle and the damage done indeed!
Photo Credits: Melky Cabrera-salon.com; Stay Puft-entertainmentearth.com