What’s Wrong With Baseball #8: Cheating

Cheating would come in at No. 1 if I were currently doing a series on What’s Wrong With Football. And there would be something about Belichick and video tape. But baseball is far from being above the cheating fray. And it never has been. While Bill Belichick has taken cheating to a whole new level of sophistication, similar things have been done in baseball for a long time, though not quite in such a refined manner (e.g., binoculars in the scoreboard stealing signs).

The cheating that stands out right now … I mean right now … is steroids, and related substances. I really hope there is a way Paul Byrd can be found innocent. (See “Byrd Revelation Casts Pall Over Indians-Red Sox Game 7.”) Barry Bonds is still on the hook, though nothing has yet been proven. Then we have Giambi.

Perhaps the most disappointing is Mark McGwire, who has disappeared since his sworn testimony evaporated.

Let’s be honest about cheating. It has been part of the national pastime in more ways than can be enumerated from memory.

There was the out-in-the-open dirty play … Ty Cobb sliding into the bag with his spikes high.

Gamblers fixed games … whatever one believes about the Black Sox … perhaps the worst form of cheating.

There was one that was so universally used that they had to create a rule to prevent it … the spitter. Gaylord Perry, where are you now? We even hear about little edges that Hall-of-Fame greats like Whitey Ford used to get … digging a wedding ring into a ball, for example.

My goal is not to list all the types of cheating in baseball. You can stretch the whole ethics issue here. How about a catcher framing a pitch to try to fool the umpire? I remember once playing first base in a pick-up game. One of our infielders tossed me a ground ball, which arrived at about the same time as the runner, but clearly beat him. I had to come into the line to get the wide throw and the runner slammed into me. I went sprawling, tearing a brand-new pair of pants (in the days before rips became desirable).

The runner jumped off the ground. “He didn’t touch the bag,” he yelled repeatedly. Everyone considered him out. I was the only one who knew he was right. But I was ticked about the pants. I didn’t say I did touch the bag, but I didn’t say I didn’t either. So he was out. That was unethical … and now it’s finally off my chest.

My point is … even little forms of cheating, like trying to get an edge with the umps, are cheating.

We would all love it if we could free the game of the big cheats and forms of cheating. But how about we just expect adults who play baseball to be honest. Now, wouldn’t that be refreshing?

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