Thursday, February 12, 2009

Steroids Decimate Baseball

Pretty busy with business with not much time for blogging. However, with the story about Alex Rodriguez and steroids ring bust I thought I'd repost something I first wrote in 2004 that I think still fits today.

The current steroids crisis has in effect decimated the credibility of all major league baseball players. To understand how bad the situation really is – I thought it might be useful to look back at what the word “decimate” actually meant.

Decimate comes from the Latin for “every tenth”. In the Roman military, decimation was used as a deterrent and as a punishment. If a group lost in battle because of cowardice or if they mutinied - then the punishment was to kill every tenth man of the group. The thought being – soldiers would fear decimation more than facing the enemy or disobeying orders.

Now over the years the meaning of the word “decimate” has changed to mean “wiped out”. For example you could say, “the Black Death in the middle ages decimated entire towns” or “the oil spill from the Exxon Valdez decimated the wild life in Prince William Sound”.

The situation in baseball today actually fits both the old and the new definitions.

The players union has admitted that between 5 and 7 percent of players failed a drug test on steroids in 2003. This was a test that the players knew was coming – so many players who were using steroids were able to pass just by altering their drug cycles. Conservative estimates would say the number of steroid abusers would number at least double the 5-7% of those caught. (Other estimates place that number much higher – in the 30% range.)

[Note: we now know that the list of players was 104.]

If we use a VERY conservative estimate of 10% of players – that means that “every tenth” major league player was using steroids to cheat. As mentioned in my opening – these abusers have basically decimated the credibility of all the players. Now no player is safe from whispers and rumors because of the cheaters.

Some apologists will try and argue, “What’s the big deal?” – “people don’t care” – “fans will still go to the games or watch on TV.” These people are ducking their heads in the sand and they don’t understand the damage that has been done.

The Catholic Church is expert on Latin words like decimate and unless you’ve lived in a cave the last four years – then you know that they are also no strangers to crises.

Less than 10% of Catholic priests were involved in the sex abuse scandal but their actions have decimated the credibility of the Catholic Church in the minds of many in the United States. Apologists could easily point out the fact that millions of Catholics still attend church but the fact is most people will never look at a Catholic priest the same again.

Now I am in no way equating the vile, disgusting actions of pedophile priests with baseball players who juice - but the fact is that people will never look at baseball players the same either. Catholics still love Jesus and baseball fans still love their game but things will never be the same.

The Catholic Church tried stonewalling on the abuse scandal and they only succeeded in making life harder on the men of the cloth who were pure and dedicated to “the calling.” Remember - there were only a few priests implicated at the beginning but the Church leaders knew there was a widespread problem.

Today Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi are just the tip of the steroid scandal iceberg. Anyone with half a brain knows this but still some apologists would prefer to sweep this under the rug or pretend that these guys are innocent and that this never happened.

These apologists should ask a Catholic friend how that worked out for their Church. Then they should go to the nearest dictionary and memorize the word “decimate” because the word applies to baseball and they will be hearing it more and more as this crisis plays out.

[I think it is fair to argue that after the Alex Rodriguez revelations - the integrity of baseball has been more than decimated.]

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