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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
13 Feb 2016
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Family Values and Baseball


We have already in this young century heard more than too much about "family values" — too often from candidates whose children were not speaking to them and whose wives learned via press release that they were being divorced. But in his first prime-time press conference, President Barack Obama's answer to the Washington Post's Michael Fletcher's probably unanticipated question — "What is your reaction to Alex Rodriguez's admission that he used steroids as a member of the Texas Rangers?" — fairly brimmed with authentic family values.

Obama, as a baseball fan, spoke about how "depressing" the news was after "a flurry of depressing items" about the sport and that "it tarnished an entire era, to some degree." But what "I'm probably most concerned about," the president continued, "is the message it sends to our kids."

What message exactly? "That our kids hopefully are watching and saying: 'You know what? There are no shortcuts; that when you try to take shortcuts, you may end up tarnishing your entire career, and your integrity's not worth it.'"

As a life-long baseball fan, I admit I am disgusted with Major League Baseball, with the men and a few women who own the teams, with Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and, yes, with fans, including yours truly, who have all hypocritically conspired — with just a wink and a nod — while players were filling stadium seats, setting individual records and growing to the proportions of Humvees by consuming illegal performance-enhancing substances (PES).

It's been going on for more than a decade, and yet each time another baseball star is exposed as a drug cheat, the commissioner and baseball's owners are once again "shocked."

It began with three years of empty ballparks following the strike-shortened 1994 season.

In the century of baseball prior to 1998, just two men — Babe Ruth in 1927 and Roger Maris in 1961 — had ever hit 60 home runs in a single season. In 1998, Mark McGwire — who had begun to resemble the Incredible Hulk — hit 70 homers and Sammy Sosa hit 66. The genie was out of — or to put it more accurately, was in — the bottle. In 1995, all the players in baseball hit a total of 4,081 home runs. By 2000, 5,693 homers were crushed.

Ken Caminiti, the league's Most Valuable Player in 1996, later told Sports Illustrated that he had been "juicing " (using illegal PES) that year — and so, too, had half the players in the league. But Selig and his fellow owners looked the other way because home run records were bringing fans, even at higher ticket prices, into the ballparks in record numbers. The unethical formula worked: better hitting — and bigger crowds — through chemistry!

If curiosity really did kill the cat, then Selig and baseball's brass will live forever.

It took three talented and fearless American politicians to save baseball from itself. Reps. Tom Davis, R-Va., and Henry Waxman, D-Calif., held public hearings that forced baseball to confront the widespread use of steroids — which baseball had declared illegal in 1991. And it took another politician, former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, D-Maine, to author, after the investigation he headed, the report that shamed baseball and the players' union into accepting drug testing.

Baseball is too important to be left to the owners and its commissioner. I salute President Obama for speaking about "the message" — baseball and its condoned illegal drug-abuse — "sends to our kids."

He's right — as baseball and Wall Street cannot apparently grasp — "there are no shortcuts ... (and) your integrity's not worth it."

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




4 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;... You should forget about the moral questions involved in the use of steroids, and consider the raw, honest facts... On a level playing field whites don't stand a chance of beating black people in athletic competition without the help of performance enhancing drugs... If you want to be the Great White Hope, take dope... I don't mean to be mean...If Black people do not have more natural testosterone, they are more sensitive to what they have...Even Black women look like White women on steroids... When they are young they are all well muscled... And it is easier to get kids off the couch for sports were they have a sense that they have a chance, and what would that be: Chess??? Swimming??? Downhill skiing??? If the Blacks wanted those sports they could have them, playing fair... The problems they face, and all people who are well muscled and physically strong face is the simple thought that it, what ever it is, can be done with brawn... Brains carry the day... Life is an intelligence test, and when people with lots of bawn are shown the example of people making a living on strength, or jump shots, or home runs; they throw their books away...But you will never take from people the thought that there is an easier way... People get rich quick, and it may be that they are quicker; but quite often it means that they are breaking a law or at minimum, a moral roadblock...I do not want to have to point out the facts to you... We don't care, and caring may be the one thing missing from our lives, but we do not care... We want results... We want our team to win and  we want our retirement account to grow... Do we ever look at how that happens??? Do we ever look for where our money is invested to see that it does good, and not harm???We know what we do to pay the mortgage, and very often it is not pretty, some times it is shameful, and hopefully not illegal.... What if the interest rate is twice that of your mortgage??? What will some poor slob at the ends of the earth do to collect his share of your easy money...And that too, is a part of the problem, that we live in a money society... Oedipus the Tyrant gouged his own eyes out for doing wrong not knowing what he did... Faced with wrong on a vast scale people say they did what everybody did...At least with sports you have people who will be checked... All through our financial sector we have people free to wreck the whole society, to take actions that will lead us to war, and to pervert the whole process of democratic government; and yet, they are as a group, and as individuals presumed innocent....Would we presume people in a house of prostitution are playing board games??? Anyone not a part of the Union of the United States, who is not elected, and responsible to the people for his actions should keep open books to demonstrate their virtue at any point in time....We have let corporations, even corporations like our churches, and our universities drive our government this way and that, and considering our situation, can we consider any of them to have been acting in our best interest???Is that not why we allow corporations??? Is it not because we believe there will be a public benefit??? How can we believe that now???...When we see that the whole nation has been broke to make a handful rich, and that these corporations; these false individuals, have been hiding all the while behind our individual rights, WHY can't we ask why???People have rights...Individuals have rights... The nation; our union has rights, our rights as a whole... If you conspire with others, and join with others in any group for a private purpose; why can't the government demand that your actions be always for the benefit of the whole nation... Why should any people submit to any group whether a church, or a labor union, or a financial institution whose aim is only the benefit of its own members at the cost of all others outside??? Is it not the job, the aim, and the goal of government to protect the people from enemies domestic and abroad??? Is it not within the power of this people to demand a pure public purpose from every private enterprise???They are free; free of us and of the restraints of government, and it is the people who are restrained from seeking justice or even the truth from these corporations....We may live in a money society, but we cannot live without honor, and where money is seen as the equal of honor the poor are seen as dishonorable... And people cannot live without honor, so the solution and the problem is that when people are deprived of honor and money by their society; that either money and honor will have no meaning, or the people will rise up, and take both back from the rich over the impediment of government... As honor was once virtue, wealth too should be virtue...Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Feb 14, 2009 6:09 AM
Mark, I love ya, but all of this is pure hypocritical bull. Baseball and "professional" sports in general have always been about money and drugs. We've become so thoroughly and uncritically addicted to alcohol as a nation that we've forgotten the true center of it all. It's only natural for players who find a drug that makes them feel and perform better instead of turning them into a hungover wreck to just go for it. Especially when millions of dollars are at stake. You are right to liken this institution to Wall Street. The whole thing left real family and cultural values a long time ago, ran away with the nation, and never looked back. Maybe if all of those bloat-bellied, couch-bound, living-room coaches got out from under that high definition, super-sized mammon holding them in trance and broke away from the chips and beer feeding frenzy, they would wake up to how much their tax dollars continue to be handed over to those cackling crooks who rob us blind as we guzzle, crunch, and coach away.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Masako
Sat Feb 14, 2009 9:44 AM
Re: Masako;... Sir, all the fuss about pro sports only makes obvious to me the futility of expecting morality in only one section of society... I think people are generally moral; In moral societies... But it is societies that are moral, and they that make an issue of morality across the board... Now we have the rich expecting the poor to be moral...It does not mean we expect morality; and how can we when there is no culture of morality... Do we even expect the rich to be moral??? Or rather, do we admire their immorality??? In the checkout lane the trash magazines make an issue of every infidelity and failed relationship among the famous... Do we take offense or pleasure at the thought???Don't we expect the great to make the rules they will live by, and know that is what makes them different from ourselves???I do not know why so many confuse freedom with immorality... To me morality and freedom are both essential and exist together...And, If I may explain: Community is morality... We get our morality from the last vestige of the community -in our families... We know that behavior that contributes to a successful family also contributes to a successful society.... But freedom is also a condition that comes from community... It is the defense of rights that makes Ad Hoc communities like labor unions today, and it is rights that equates to freedom... Among ancient societies a person could only be free among his own, and then perfectly free... If we take freedom for granted, we should not because around us are people with no sense of community or morality willing to trade on our freedom and destroy the basis of our morality.... We should not be surprised at the wide spread immorality; but should be amazed at any morality... Our natural communities are so fractured, and we are all hung out as individuals without protection that morality, though rare, is more common than should be expected...We need to understand that those who should be our friends, taking more freedom than is their right, are our worst enemies... It is their freedom, their license, and the protection of which that demands our restraint by law.... Our law protects immorality, and attack community, so it cannot be just, support rights, or lead to freedom... Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #3
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sun Feb 15, 2009 8:45 PM
Once upon a time I was an avid baseball fan. Watching the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants with Granddad on his "giant" 16" black and white TV is among my favorite memories of boyhood.
Once upon a time began to fade when the Dodgers and Giants moved out west. It ended once and for all when steroids infected baseball.
Every steroid influenced record must be erased from the record books. But that would take courage - and greed trumps courage every time in politics and in baseball.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Charter Wells, Jr.
Tue Feb 17, 2009 9:20 AM
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Mark ShieldsUpdated 13 Feb 2016
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