|Chronic cheater Alex Rodriguez|
Some of my fellow lifelong baseball fans are mad as hell. "I love the game, but this is kind of the last straw for me," says David Popp, a friend and Los Angeles Dodgers fan who is just fed up. "I knew it was coming, but to hear it all explained in detail and watch that weasel A-Rod (Rodriguez) talk about how he still wants to be a role model for his kids, it's just sickening. He promised everyone he was clean. We all thought baseball was finally cleaning up its act. These guys, some of them, at least, are still cheaters and liars. They all need to be kicked out of the game, forever."
David's words resonate. And they instantly take me back to 1998, when I covered the infamous home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa for People magazine. It was exciting for the public, but every sportswriter who covered baseball back then told me that both players were juiced.
I didn't want to believe it - until I actually interviewed these two guys and looked at their neck muscles and forearms. They were freaks. It was disillusioning for me. I had played the game since I was eight years and at that point still put the players on a pedestal.
Seeing McGwire's pathetic confession more than a decade later just reminded me how much damage he, Sosa, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and others have done to this great game. McGwire told AP in 2010 that he used steroids on and off for nearly a decade! He also insisted that "baseball is really different now. It's been cleaned up. The commissioner and the players' association implemented testing and they cracked down, and I'm glad they did."
Cleaned things up? Really? These latest suspensions are hard evidence to the contrary. Guys are still cheating. And perhaps they always will. It's hard to trust these players now. When you see them run out on the field, you can't help but wonder who is and isn't playing by the rules.
Ken Wisnefski, reputation management expert and founder/CEO of WebiMax, a leading Internet marketing company, says the league "needs to do more to uphold its reputation as America’s favorite pastime."
Wisnefski notes that continued events involving athletes abusing drug policies "will hurt the game and put the future of the sport in jeopardy. Children and youth who look up to these professional athletes as role models are the future of the sport. These athletes are putting a negative label on professional baseball, and this can ultimately steer them to choosing alternate sports to embrace."
Wisnefski adds that MLB Commissioner Bud Selig could have made a louder impact by "placing a lifetime ban on Rodriguez. That would have sent the strongest message to current and future athletes."
I couldn't agree more. It's high time for zero tolerance. I will always love baseball and am not yet willing to boycott the game. But the league needs to step up and say, flatly, "You cheat? You're out!"