Lies My Father Never told Me

I don’t know why the recent revelations concerning Manny Ramirez have struck such a chord with me. Maybe it was the final straw that broke the camel’s back after all these years of what has turned out to be many false hero worships. After all, the now seemingly endless procession of star baseball players who have been found guilty or are at least under suspicion of cheating should have numbed me by this point. This has happened to many baseball fans that have made their collective “enough already” feelings well known over the past few months. My anger, while ebbing and flowing, had continued to resurface on occasion.

When announcers recite the lofty statistics of an Alex Rodriguez or a Barry Bonds or a Roger Clemens or a Sammy Sosa and compare them to those players they are passing or have passed it’s as if those untainted numbers from the past mean nothing. How dare they compare.

There has been little, if any, accountability thrust upon these players.  Their numbers still count and their bank accounts are still safe. Certainly, viable proof of deeds done before the decision to ban those various substances which inflated those numbers is all but impossible to obtain.  Besides, say many, those substances were not illegal then and everyone was doing them anyway, thus leveling the playing field.

There are also the Andy Pettittes who vehemently deny, then admit it’s possible they may have, then after much questioning, crocodile tears at the ready, admit that, yes, they did use these performance enhancing drugs and are very sorry.  Perhaps sorry that they got caught but that is all. Resplendent with finger waving and pointing and with a suddenly authoritative voice, they defend themselves to any who will still listen and assure us that they may have been guilty once but never since and never again

Worst of all are those players who profess innocence based on ignorance.  I was fortunate enough to have covered the Triple A Ottawa Lynx during the 2006/2007 seasons, conducting clubhouse interviews after each home game,  and can state unequivocally that no player ingests or is injected with anything the nature of which he is not completely aware. Major league players making millions more dollars would be even more cautious. Their bodies are their livelihood and are considered sacred.

Which brings me back to Manny. Manny seemed like a great player, certainly a hitter as few has ever been. He was capable of carrying his entire team on his back when needed and in the clutch he was unstoppable. Even the mighty Yankees feared him like they feared no one else for he was a Yankee killer, a player who rose to the occasion no matter how high or difficult. After being traded (given) to the Los Angeles Dodgers, he worked his magic there, if only for one season. He made the lackluster and under achieving Dodgers worth watching, at least for one season.  His antics were fun if not cause for head shaking. He made you stay in your seat or your chair until his at bat was done. Manny was pure baseball fun no matter how you looked at it or which team you cheered for. He seemed to find a joy in the game like few others.

I get no joy from watching an Alex Rodriguez. He doesn’t seem to get any joy out of playing either as he continues his tainted rise up into the heights achieved by Babe Ruth and Henry Aaron and Willie Mays. His statistics are meaningless, as if he had never played the game. His career, when finally over, should be quickly forgotten.  An asterisk isn’t enough.

Listening to the denials of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens reminds one only of our politicians, who can deny, justify and then excuse any action with the egotistical expectation of continuing to be loved and respected. The during and/or post trial silences of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmiero have been deafening. Their ilk should also be quickly forgotten.

Manny already is forgotten. It could have and should have been a career to celebrate. Instead, the joy, the antics the wonder of it were all one big lie. You can tell me that the real world is like that and that I’m being naïve. Maybe you’re right and the righteous values our parents taught us really do mean nothing and that they were wrong. I couldn’t live that way, wouldn’t want to even if I could. Not for all the mansions and Mercedes and movie starlets in the world.

6 Replies to “Lies My Father Never told Me”

  1. Some of these guys were using PED’s before baseball actually banned their use. All they needed to do was admit that they used them to get an edge and it wasn’t against the rules of the game when they were using. The guys that tested posititve are a disgrace to the game.

  2. I’ve been following baseball and baseball stats for almost 50 years now. For the past 35 years I’ve participated in an annual baseball league based on Strat-o-matic, the tabletop baseball simulation game.
    To say that baseball has been a big part of my life would be an understatement.

    So I too am dismayed, disgusted, and disapointed by the use of PED’s by players and the impact it has had on baseball records. But I don’t consider the
    players who used them much worse than players of former generations who benefitted from cheating, drug usage, and discriminatory baseball policies.

    Ruth, Cobb and Mathewson never faced a black player in a game that counted. Whitey Ford had a special ring to cut balls with. Gaylord Perry used vaseline to make his pitches dance. Willie Mays and many others used pills to get him up for games. Hundreds of others were drunken, women-chasing louts off the field.

    The bottom line is, there has never been a generation of ballplayers which did not include a significant percentage of men not deserving to be put on a pedestal. There are few baseball records not tainted by some form of cheating or bias or bizarre circumstances (260 foot homers in Polo Grounds, legalized spitballs before 1920, etc).

    You obviously have very negative feelings about Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez and that’s your right, but I suggest you don’t look too closely at your heros from previous generations because you might wish you hadn’t.

  3. It’s not Ruth’s, Cobb’s or Mathewson’s fault that they did not face a black player. The game of cat and mouse that the likes of Perry and Ford played or the uppers that Mays and others may have taken was not the likes of a substance that literally changed the physiology and skills to play the game in such a dramatic fashion as it has with later players.

    Your take on “former generations who benefitted from cheating, drug usage, and discriminatory baseball policies.” is not fair when stated as such a blanket statement. There were many great players who did not scuff the ball, use uppers, or use recreational drugs.

    It’s not the ballplayers fault that ballparks were built as they were either.

    I think your statements about Doug’s or anyone’s heroes is again an unfair blanket statement. There were and still are a number of ballplayers who played the game above board, with dignity and courage. And the fact that some others were not as perfect as you would have them does not put them in the same class with those who have used substances that are so dramatically altering to their real skills on the field. Were it not so, there would never have been such widespread use of these PED’s which in recent studies have been proven to have spread to many young people aspiring to be as great as these players.

    I suggest Strato that you take a closer look to research the lives of players who really were heroic in their play on the field, in the clubhouse and in their lives. Sometimes the heroism itself comes from the fact that no one is perfect, that we are all tempted at times and that they all spring from the same well of imperfect humanity as the rest of us do.

  4. Although I don’t feel NEARLY as strongly as the author of this article does, I can (for the most part) understand where he’s coming from…
    … Except for one line in particular: “…untainted numbers from the past…” I’ll admit that current performance enhancing drugs are ‘better’ (presumably) than those of the past, but there has always been various forms of cheating (as stratobill brings up in comment #3) and… I guess I felt the need to chime in agreement with most of what stratobill had to say in comment #3.

  5. Alvy, you’re right that it is not fair to make blanket statements about players. So if that’s what you think I did, I apologize.

    Bob B.’s comment focussed on the phrase in the article that bothered me the most, the one about, “untainted numbers from the past”. It is very difficult to know which numbers from the past are truly untainted. I’m sure there are some, but I also have a hunch that the unethical behaviour we do know about is only the tip of the iceberg. We only know about the ones who got caught or admitted it later.

    Leo Durocher said, “Win any way you can as long as you can get away with it”. I don’t like that approach but a lot of players, present and past, have similar attitudes.

    And yes, I know that players were not responsible for the color line and that they had no control over
    the dimensions of the ballparks they played in, but that doesn’t mean that their numbers aren’t tainted.
    We will never know what kind of numbers Ruth and Mathewson would of put up if they’d had to face the best black players of their day. And we’ll never know how many home runs Josh Gibson would of hit had he been allowed in the majors. So yes, any records set in the days before integration are tainted.

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