The Richmond Register

Lifestyles & Community

August 9, 2013

Drugs, gambling and baseball

MADISON COUNTY — There was talk that Alex Rodriquez would get a lifetime ban from the game of baseball for taking performance-enhancing drugs.

There is a ton of evidence that he took performance-enhancing drugs. Does that mean he should be given a life sentence?

Only if you understand what baseball commissioner Bud Selig’s version of a life sentence is.

I can think of only two players who have been given a lifetime ban from baseball: Shoeless Joe Jackson and Pete Rose.

Shoeless Joe was booted in 1919, and there is a compelling argument that before Pete Rose is admitted back into baseball, Shoeless Joe should be admitted first.

Because the alleged crime was committed 95 years ago, there’is not much of a constituency clamoring for Jackson’s enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

That brings us to Pete Rose.

Pete, age 72, has been out of the game for 24 years. If he is going to get in the Hall of Fame while he is still alive, they need to get on with it.

Drugs are illegal across the United States, where almost every state, expect for one or two like Utah, allow some form of gambling, be they casinos, lotteries or sports betting. Thousands more bet on baseball online and offshore.

Drugs should be before gambling when it comes to a lifetime ban. They talk about maintaining the “integrity of the sport” by keeping Pete Rose away from the game, yet they allow casinos and lotteries to advertise during televised games and with signs inside the ballpark.

How many times have you seen a baseball player do a public service announcement to warn against gambling addiction? I am thinking almost never.

Being truly concerned about gambling means cutting major league teams off from gambling money.

Bud Selig thinks he can let baseball take the gamblers’ money, do nothing to help problem gamblers and think that banning a star, from a different era, will ward all gamblers away.

I’m 54 years old and grew up in the Cincinnati area. I got to see Pete Rose play at his prime, but few younger than I got that opportunity. I wonder if anyone playing baseball today ever saw him play? If so, how can Pete’s lifetime ban be scaring anyone straight?

If you don’t count the nonstop ads for Viagra and Cialis, drug dealers don’t pump money into major league baseball teams. But there was a time when drugs were extremely important to Bud Selig’s bottom line.

During the steroid era.

In 1994, during Selig’s early years as commissioner, a baseball strike crippled baseball to the point where a World Series was not played that year.

Attendance plunged 20 percent the following year. Operating revenue was cut from $1.87 billion in 1993 to $1.2 billion in 1994.

Revenues came back in 1997, as Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa and Ken Griffey Jr. geared up for a home run chase that eventually allowed McGuire and Sosa to break Babe Ruth and Roger Maris’s home-run records.

I was one of those who paid extra money to see McGuire and Sosa. I was cheated, like millions of others.

I thought I had paid to watch exceptional baseball players, like Ken Griffey actually was. Instead, I was watching two hopped up guys, hit home runs that they would not have hit otherwise.

I want my money back. Or at least donated to an anti-drug program.

Baseball is promoting a very strong message: Drugs help you play better.

Performance drugs must work or so many superstars would not be taking them. Bud Selig was for drugs when he needed them and now that revenues are up, he has decided they are not a good idea. Tossing A-Rod out of the game as an example would make me feel better if they forced the Yankees to take the rest of his salary and donate it to anti-drug programs.

It seems like the college sports model is fairer. You cheat, your whole team loses.

A policy like that would show me that the drug problem is being taken seriously by major league baseball.

It’s easy for Selig to portray banning Rose as a noble cause instead of what it is: a personal vendetta. If Selig was actually serious about stopping gambling, he would allow Rose to come back and talk about how he has sinned.

I look at A-Rod and Pete Rose as victims of Bud Selig. A man more intent on putting on a show than actually solving baseball’s problems.

Don McNay is the bestselling author of Son of a Son of a Gambler: Winners, Losers and What to Do When You Win the Lottery. In the updated edition of the book, McNay talks about his father's gambling relationship with Pete Rose.


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