Bob DiCesare of the Buffalo News wants baseball to be more like golf when it comes to policing itself and its attitude toward cheating. In it, he raises plenty of excellent points and adds some good quips, though the comparison between golf and baseball fails in terms of their respective views toward policing of the rules for various reasons.
Baseball does have an issue with how it views cheating, an inconsistent one. Joel Peralta got an 8 game suspension while those who use a banned substance can get 50 games. His act was every bit as worthy of punishment as a repeat steroid user who has to go back on cycle when he is struggling. Peralta knew what he was doing, knew it was against the rules, and it shouldn’t matter if the mode is ingested or applied by hand.
The most unsettling aspect of the Peralta caper was in the response of his manager, Joe Maddon, who tried to justify the incident by calling it a “common practice.” He labeled Washington manager Davey Johnson “cowardly” for requesting umpires inspect the glove of the former Nationals reliever.
. . . Baseball has lived for decades — or, more likely, throughout its existence — in a culture of see no evil, speak no evil. The post-incident focus within the Rays dismissed Peralta’s breaking of the rules and, instead, centered on who might have ratted him out. Peralta spoke of feeling a certain reassurance when former teammates approached him to say they played no part in the unmasking.
I thought the response of the Rays and Maddon was unsatisfactory. With double meaning absolutely intended, let’s call it the Unclean Hands doctrine. If you cheat, you can’t be found to complain that some other scoundrel turned you in. You cheated. There should be no observed and honored code to protect cheaters, and if you move on to another team and continue to do so, beware.
The history and difference between the two sports, though, leads to some of the attitude toward who is responsible for policing. Golf was developed in large outdoor areas, often where the player is alone. It is not direct competition where someone else can influence your result. Without self-policing, it would have been impossible to regulate. The reputation, and the restraints on it, then become the method to enforce. At the professional level, no one wants to be known as a cheater. With television, also, there are numerous “officials” at home that police if the players do not, so the players are mindful that they probably cannot get away with anything that is televised.
Baseball, on the other hand, features head to head competition where the actions of one player or team influences the other. There are numerous decisions that need to be made. Those decisions were delegated to third party umpires, so that self-policing was neither encouraged or optimal. In golf, it’s in the hole, or you play it where it lies, with a few exceptions. Those exceptions are known, and in tournament play, there are officials on the course that can be consulted at the more leisurely pace of the game (relative to a head to head sporting event).
Still, I’m not going to say that baseball needs to be like golf or that golf is pristine. There are always gray areas with equipment, and the rules have been changed frequently to address them. If someone can get away with some they still might try–witness the caddy for a European player who tried to ditch an extra club in the bushes this year. The self-policing in golf is an ideal, but it is also necessary to the existence of the sport given the size of the venues and the nature of the game.
Let the umpires call the strikes and the outs, and yes, kick players out for having an aid on their glove when they pitch. I’d just settle for baseball not justifying the cheating by pretending there is some code that should protect it.
[photo via US Presswire]