Our beloved Brew.

Our beloved Brew.
R.I.P. Big guy.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

MLB - America's Tainted Pastime

Manny Ramirez of the LA Dodgers can add his name to the Baseball Hall of Shame. MLB and its brand reputation are fast approaching a point a no return. MLB = performance enhancing drugs (PED).

Can we all finally admit illegal drug use is as prevalent and ingrained in baseball (and maybe all of professional sports) as fighting is in hockey. Baseball and the players union will pat themselves on the back for testing for and "exposing" violations, but they will not do what is needed to seriously curtail drug use. The window of opportunity to characterize PED as a brief, ugly phase in the past is no longer credible. Front office people tsk-tsk, on-field managers hang their heads, and the commissioner's office cranks out statistics on how limited PED use is, and how vigilant they are in ferreting out the offenders. And still, the game is dirty.

The fact that MLB and the clean players have circled the wagons and allowed the union to protect offenders to the extent they have, means everyone in the game must now be considered suspect. Ramirez gets a 50 game suspension. So, while he forfeits around 8 million dollars of his mega contract this year, he's still eligible for the playoffs and a slew of related incentive clauses should the Dodgers qualify for postseason play. Ramirez will hardly miss the eight mil. At this point, he's got more money than he could ever spend. Fining a guy like him isn't a deterrent and far from the greatest damage being done.

At this point, no right-thinking brand can align with individual players as endorsers. Too many heroes have been unmasked. Even those players have submitted to and passed every conceivable drug test is a risk to consider as future endorsers. You can't have it both ways. Singing the praises of your teammate when the team is winning and then trying to distance yourself from a guy who is exposed as a PED user who occupies an adjoining locker only results in the old adage that people are judged by the friends they keep.

A faltering economy and the disenchantment fans feel toward players and the game may be creating the "perfect storm." Attendance, particularly in the "high roller" seats in the newer stadiums, is down. It's still spring, so it's not unusual to see lots of empty seats in MLB ballparks, but I contend the purity of the game, which has always had a mystical hold over fans, has been compromised so badly that those feeling the pinch of the economy most severely will find other ways entertain themselves and their children.

Talk to any group of young teen boys and you'll see the mystical fascination for the game, rabid support for individual players that once was a hallmark of baseball fans no longer exists. A generation exposed to graft and corruption in traditional sports has taken its pursuit of fantasy elsewhere.