Why is a Lifetime Ban so Wrong?


by Derek Franks

There is a facet of baseball logic that I will never understand. It’s as if I’m trying to translate some foreign language— taking something that doesn’t make sense and trying to put it into comprehensible terms.

We don’t ban the cheaters.

When a convicted murderer goes to jail, that person goes there for two reasons: 1) to be punished and 2) so that he or she can’t do it again.

In Major League Baseball, when a player cheats the system and obtains an unfair advantage over others, they get a little slap on the wrist and then get to play again.

When they cheat gain, they get a slightly tougher suspension and then they get to play again.

Perhaps most sickening, is that no matter what, they will get millions upon millions of dollars before they get caught. And they will get millions upon millions after they are caught. So think about that for a second. If you are a professional athlete, and you can be perceived as having a whole lot of talent, earn a whole lot of money, and only receive minor penalties if they find you out, (and then return to making a whole of lot of money after those penalties) what is there to deter you from taking performance enhancing drugs?

A better question, what is there to stop you from doing it?

In a rapidly evolving world of professional sports, where money and fame seems to be more pertinent to players than teams, championships and playing for the fanbases and communities, these athletes are not only not discouraged to cheat, they are invited to do so.

This is not to say that a large majority of MLB players are taking performance-enhancing drugs, because I’d like to think that somewhere in pro sports there is still a shade of morality and consciences out there. This is, however, to say that the league’s stipulations are not only too weak, but they are truly 100 percent ineffective.

Very simply put, I blame major league baseball for not doing enough.

For some strange reason, despite there seemingly being a significant amount of support for much harsher penalties for these violators—from both fans and players alike—, it is virtually taboo for those in baseball headquarters to discuss. Perhaps people of the likes of commissioner Bud Selig fear the ultimate worse case scenario: that the leagues brightest stars all eventually get caught and then the game becomes void of any star power to market itself with. After all, players like Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera and Ryan Braun were once the faces of the league, faces that were the essence of the MLB brand.

But perhaps there too is another reason: maybe the league knows that its big name players probably do cheat and a very harsh penalty for such violations would actually encourage its players to stop taking performance enhancing drugs, leading to a decline of homeruns, grand slams, no-hitters and perfect games that sell tickets. There’s no secret that baseball sells more tickets to the games with a superstar pitcher scheduled or a team with a big time slugger rolls through town.

Furthermore, baseball fails to recognize how bad it is for the league’s image to have a constantly revolving door of investigations that lead to suspensions of its players for cheating. Trust me, if the league knew how truly bad it looks, they would have done something by now.

Yes, they plead both ignorance and arrogance here.

Whatever the reason, the league refuses to alter its stipulations, choosing to release strictly worded statements like “It will not be tolerated” whether than actually laying down strict penalties. They choose to go passive aggressive, in a time when a more aggressive approach is clearly needed. Apparently their schoolteachers never taught them a simple phrase: show don’t tell.

Because of this, players will continue to cheat, no matter how loud the call is for baseball to rid itself of this despicable behavior. Unfortunately, the punishments that are currently the standard are not enough. When these violations carry such implications for the game, the 50-game suspension is far too little.

So now I will say the inevitable. I will now state what is likely the most obvious thing on the face of the planet that still somehow escapes the league’s front office; what will guarantee that no one ever cheats again; what will guarantee that no one tests the system even once; what I’ve been waiting this entire article to say:

All players who are caught taking performance-enhancing drugs should be banned from the league on first offense.

Why, I ask, is that so wrong?

It’s not wrong. It’s the solution.

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