Let me tell you something that really makes me angry about professional sports these days, and more specifically, modern day baseball.
Please allow me to vent.
In today’s game, a scout’s major objective is to track down the biggest, strongest, most powerful athletes in the universe. I say “athletes,” because only secondary emphasis is put on baseball instincts, range, footwork and a player’s personal character. Sure, there are a few guys who defy the odds, like Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros and San Diego Padres utility man Alexi Amarista. But these guys are more the exception rather than the rule.
To achieve that chiseled, bodybuilder mold, guys train diligently, hit the weight room at least daily, and drink a lot of protein shakes. There are always a few individuals, however, who prefer to take shortcuts. It’s a fact of life in any profession.
Now, I’m not an attorney and certainly do not endorse cheating. But there’s no way a dirtbag like Tony Bosch will ever be able to supply enough credible evidence to bring down the entire 21 players named in the Miami-based PED scandal. And if Bud Selig tries to nail alleged “cheaters” with non-analytic positive tests, the Major League Players Union will press ahead with with legal proceedings that could take months to resolve.
The bigger question here is why all the players on Selig’s “black list,” with the exception of Ryan Braun, are of Hispanic descent? Is this a case of racial profiling? Does the commissioner hate Latinos because they are taking over his sport, and he wants to squeeze them? Are there “snitches” in the locker rooms? To the best of my knowledge, the answer is “no” to all these questions. What’s true, though, is young Hispanic players are under a lot of pressure, and “superstars” like Alex Rodriguez, Nelson Cruz, Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon are terrible role models.
The fact that many of the accused are Dominicans makes perfect sense. In the D.R., only two things are important: baseball and the Catholic Church. Kids dream of playing “pelota” in America when they’re still wearing diapers. Before their teen years, serious youngsters and their families are already looking for a “buscon,” the fastest-rising profession on the island. These guys act as an adviser, personal trainer and a salesman of sorts, assuring everyone that he is well-connected.
The ultimate goal for these prospects is to play in the Dominican Summer League by their 16th birthday, where they’ll get exposure and be eligible to sign a big-league contract. The competition is fierce, and also includes the best talent from Venezuela, Colombia and Central America. For scouts, it’s one-stop shopping. Looking for an edge, this is when many of these kids often start experimenting with creams and lozenges that produce muscle growth and testosterone, which are often supplied by the “buscon” for an extra charge.
If and when these prospects are signed, the use of these substances secretly continue. It’s also true that when injuries occur, these players are misguided in thinking that certain PED’s speed up the recovery process. So, is it any wonder that about 80 percent of minor-league players chalking up 50-game suspensions are Latinos? And because these athletes are not protected under the umbrella of the MLPA, Selig’s lawyers are tightening the screws on these kids to provide damning information on their countrymen.
Look, I couldn’t care less about guys like A-Rod, who is a steroid poster boy like Sammy Sosa and is financially set for life. But I wonder about players such as Washington Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez, who says he bought nothing illegal from Bosch. It’s possible the same could be true for a lot of individuals on that list. In this country, a person is innocent until proven guilty.
There’s nothing noble about using drugs to enhance athletic performance. It’s cheating, clear and simple, and nobody feels sorry for players who have been punished for errors in judgement. With regard to foreign-born Latinos, most are victims of their own environment. And that is a problem Major League Baseball must address, because in the search for the biggest, strongest athletes, it has created the PED monster.
On July 2, another international draft will take place, perhaps the last in it’s present format. It’s important that teams do a better job of screening prospective recruits for false names, verifying birth dates and performing a more complete background check before offering a small fortune. And just for the hell of it, I’d like to see a daring club draft one of those scrawny kids this time. You know, a wiry lad with the soft hands, sling-shot arm and savvy baseball mind. What’s more, it’s a good bet that he’ll be juice free.