Baseball has suspended 13 players for using banned performance-enhancing drugs. Twelve will not appeal and will miss the next 50 games without pay. The thirteenth, Alex Rodriguez, has been suspended for the rest of this season and all of 2014. He is appealing and will play for the Yankees until his hearing.
This is the largest group suspension in baseball history. Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers blamed an intestinal illness during the winter that made him so weak that he was unsure whether he would be able to play. As a result, “I made an error in judgment that I deeply regret, and I accept full responsibility for that error. I should have handled the situation differently, and my illness was no excuse.”
Detroit shortstop Jhonny Peralta stated, “In the spring of 2012, I made a terrible mistake that I deeply regret. I apologize to everyone that I have hurt as a result of my mistake.” He had a different attitude in the days leading up to yesterday’s announcement, however: “Nothing to worry about. Play the game how I play every day, and try to enjoy every day.”
That’s the attitude that bothers me most about this sordid mess. Some players are pointing out the unfairness of using performance-enhancing drugs to those who are clean. Some believe that the penalties are not strong enough, suggesting that clubs which sign cheating players should be penalized as well. Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan reduces the situation to risk vs. reward: “What is the reward? Getting a $150 million contract. What is the risk? A 30-day suspension, a 60-day suspension? The risk doesn’t outweigh the reward. Until that happens, it’s not going to change.”
But what about the immorality of taking drugs your sport has banned since 1991 and penalized since 2005? Where is the outrage from fans and teams that are losing key players at the most crucial time in the season? Most seem to me to be treating the players’ absence like a hamstring pull. Has our culture so lost its moral compass that it can no longer call something “wrong”? Is this too intolerant? God warns us: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20), for “whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17).
Fortunately, we can close today with a great baseball story. Last Saturday, Seattle Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager lost control of his bat, tossing it into the stands. It struck a young boy named Lyle Raymond. He gave it back to Seager and later wrote a letter to him: “My name is Lyle Raymond, Your bat landed on me. I am OK. Thanks for giving me the thumbs up when you were on first base. I like the Astros but will cheer you on too. I gave back your bat because you had a big hitting streak with that bat. I hope you have more with that bat. Your fan, Lyle.”
Lyle, I’m your fan, too.