By now, most Americans are familiar with the steriod scandals that have been plaguing Major League Baseball for the past several years. Since the early days of baseball, players have been the real life superheroes that little boys (and girls) admire and look up to. In a child's eyes they're beloved, held in high regard and virtually worshipped. From the time that they can toddle, many little ones swing a minaturized bat at a ball resting atop a rather short Tee. Some of their first words are baseball related. Baseball is America's game - a tradition, a part of our heritage.
My son is a born and bred Red Sox fan. I stopped nursing him, and turned him towards the television to watch the Red Sox win the World Series in 2007. Connor was born in August, so he was a little over three months old. He's got a Red Sox board book, and can identify most of the tools related to the game - helmet, bat, ball, glove, etc. He loves hitting his little wiffle ball of the tee we got him, however he hasn't mastered the concept that he needs to hit the ball horizontally not vertically. More often than not he is bedecked in a Sox related shirt, sometimes it is a specific player tee, at others it is just a team related shirt - my favorite says "Yankees Yuck." My little boy is going to grow up as a card carrying member of Red Sox nation. Should he decide to root for another team as an adult, I will not disown him... but I won't watch a ball game with him either!
When Manny Ramirez left the Sox I tossed his shirt in the donation bag. I'm glad that I did. I am also glad that my son is young. I don't have to explain, as many parents do, why his favorite player has been suspended. Why his hero is a failure and a cheater. The impact of the Age of Steriods, to steal a term often used by commentators and players alike, affects not only the ball clubs, the players or the management. The people most affected by the scandal are the youngest fans. I realize that this brings up a teachable moment about the usage of drugs, but the question that begs to be asked is - why?
Why is it that so many of baseball's great players have tainted the integrity of the game by acting in such a selfish and irresponsible manner?
My theory is fairly simple - Greed. Look at the salary budget of teams like the Yankees. Oh yes, Texiera is a good player, but not $170 million good, at least not to the Sox. Certain players seem to have an inflated sense of self worth. Free agents shop themselves around, trying to get the highest price possible for themselves - a strange and somewhat convoluted version of prostitution. Never mind looking at factors such as team compatibility and the overall atmosphere of the ball club. Money does not a championship team make! Having a working, cohesive team on the field and properly ordered in the batting line up are the two factors in how games are won.
What needs to occur in Major League Baseball is that players need to realize that it is not, indeed, all about them. Once they realize across the board that they need to focus on the fans. The kids who want to grow up and be just like them.