Saturday, April 30, 2016

Sunday Edition (on a Saturday)

This is a picture of my then three year old daughter at an Albuquerque Isotopes game back in July 2013.  She's holding a baseball that had just been handed to her by the Isotopes second baseman.  On a high fly ball down the line, the second baseman made it all the way across the field into shallow left and nearly made a play on what ended up being a foul ball landing just in front of us.  After beating the left fielder, shortstop and third baseman to the spot, he picked the ball up and handed it to my daughter.  For the rest of the night, and the summer, and probably even today if you were to ask, my daughter insisted "her friend gave it to her."  In her mind, she and the player were now "friends."  The ball still sits in a display on my daughter's dresser.  Admittedly, I put it there.  But over the years I've tried to force the issue with a lot of things in her room, and for the most part she has no problem tossing them away or taking them down.  The ball, with a card of the player (pictured below) has escaped her purges so far.

As a kid, at a spring training game, Dave Stewart signed my brother's glove.  Dave Stewart has forever since been revered as a great guy by everyone in my family.  Will Clark signed a ball for me at a Hall of Fame Game in Cooperstown in the early 90's.  He too, can do no wrong as far as my family is concerned.  Two small, 3 second acts, that have bought these men three decades of goodwill from a family of strangers.  Dee Gordon gave my daughter a ball.  But before you dismiss this as a "He gave my a girl a ball so it's ok that he cheats" piece, hear me out.

Perhaps it's the defense attorney in me,  but I tend to side with the accused in most situations.  In my job the accused, at least on occasion, sometimes become the guilty and I must shift from advocating their innocence, to advocating for mitigating factors when it comes to a sentence.  Sometimes this is easier than others.  However, I rarely find it difficult when it comes to sentencings related to drug laws.  In this country, we send citizens to prison, often with mandatory sentence enhancements, for the medical condition known as addiction.  There's plenty of other outlets to read about our broken system when it comes to policing drugs, the for profit privatized prisons, race, and addiction.  I'll just add, that's its all a very real problem that is far worse than anyone wants to admit.

There are lot of great minds, working very hard on this issue, with no easy solutions.  The vast majority of "PED's" banned by MLB, aren't illegal.  Which makes it all the more perplexing that MLB feels the need to dabble into the issue on their own, with legal drugs no less, needlessly making controversy where there need be none.  It shouldn't be any more complicated than if it's bought over the counter or prescribed by a doctor it's fine.  (Let the FDA and various medical licensing boards deal with bad product or MD's a little too loose with the prescription pad)

Which is perhaps why I harbor such resentment towards the people who cry for harsher PED use penalties in baseball.  While I may not agree with how society punishes citizens for say, methamphetamine, I can at least agree that using meth is wildly unhealthy.  As far as I can tell, the primary problem people have with PED's is that they are against the rules.  While I agree that rules shouldn't be broken, I also have very little tolerance for what I consider unnecessary, or unjust rules.  Why are these rules in place?  Why shouldn't an athlete, or anyone else, have every option that modern medicine has provided for their personal well being, at their immediate disposal?

These PED rules aren't meant to protect a player's health.  In most cases, they appear to be counter to a players health.  Especially when it comes to players trying to come back from an injury as quickly and completely as possible.  "Because it's against the rules," just doesn't sway me.  I also need to know why something is against the rules, and the effects of the practical application of those rules.  No one is suggesting Dee Gordon's alleged use was detrimental to his health.  As far as I can tell, the problem seems to be that it made him healthier.  The days of the Lyle Alzado's of the world dying before our eye's, or the manic "roid rage" lunatic beating someone half to death have long since passed, yet MLB (and especially some outspoken writers) insists on casting all PED use, and punishing it, in that light.

The other "outrage" against PED use that I'm supposed to swallow whole without question is that it creates an uneven playing field, giving unfair advantage to those that choose to ignore the rules and risk punishment.  This rather infantile argument fails on two immediately obvious grounds.  The first is that the players breaking the rules know the punishment for being caught.  Every player in the game, in theory, makes a risk/benefit analysis, and in that sense, the playing field is level.  Ignoring that though, the rules as written are a laughably inefficient attempt to level the field.  Players are always going to get away with using banned substances.  Simply allowing their use is an immediate and fool proof way to "level the playing field."  Again, let the FDA and player's physcians worry about what's healthy.

My daughter will forever love Dee Gordon.  And if I raise her, as I am trying, to share my strong sense of social justice and morality, I don't believe she will ever have any reason not to.  This suspension surely isn't grounds.  In the next five to ten years, the major pharmaceutical companies are going to come to the realization that an aging population is willing to pay a lot more for a "Viagra" that makes their knees and backs feel and perform like their twenty years younger, than they are for E.D. pills.  And when this happens, you can be sure that the vast majority of the marketing will be between innings and during timeouts of televised sporting events.  The ads will probably find their way onto outfield walls and next to Budweiser signs on jumbotrons.  Perhaps I'm overly cynical, but somehow I suspect that when this happens, MLB will lighten it's stance on PED use.  Of course, they'll just change the name, and sell off the rights to be the official "whatever they change the name of PED's to" of MLB, and claim the moral high ground by still banning the archaic (and illegal) 1970's steroids that no sane individual outside of the body building universe has sought out in over two decades.

Before the season started, I sprung for some very good seats, first row, along the visitor's side for when the Marlins visit the Diamondbacks.  I'd be lying if I said seeing the Marlins first-rate coaching staff up close wasn't my primary reason, but selling my daughter on seeing her "friend" from Albuquerque didn't hurt either.  Now it looks like Dee won't be there.  If she asks why, I'll probably just  re-tell her about the time Dave Stewart signed my brother's glove for what will have to be about the 100th time.

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