OPINION – I used to really love sports.
I lived and died — mostly died — as a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals as a kid.
I lived and died — mostly died — later as an adult, or what at least on the surface passes as one, as a fan of the Oakland-Los Angeles-Oakland Raiders.
I lived and died — a thousand deaths until just recently—as a long-suffering fan of the Los Angeles Kings.
These days? Not so much.
I have even less reason to get back into following sports closely with the announcement earlier this week that New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez, baseball’s highest-priced star, has been suspended for the remainder of this season and all of next season — the longest non-lifetime suspension in Major League Baseball history. He was part of baseball’s largest en masse suspensions ever as he and 12 others were punished Monday for taking performance enhancing drugs.
The punishment could be a veritable death sentence as a player for the 38-year-old Rodriguez, who has spent this season trying to rehab a bum hip.
As far as money is concerned, the suspension will certainly cut into his $30 million a year salary, however, he could declare that his bad hip just doesn’t allow him to play any longer and hang it up for medical reasons, which would result in him collecting his salary from the Yankees as long as he suits up for at least one game, which is why he appealed the decision. Or something like that. I don’t know, it’s very confusing. He is allowed to play until the appeal is decided..
This all gets very complicated in determining the true extent of his injuries, the penalty of his being suspended, when he retires — if that is his decision, that is — if he decides to stick it out as a member of the Yankees and make a comeback in 2015.
The Yankees, of course, are happy their biggest salary burden has been lifted because what it means is they will be able to take A-Rod’s salary, plus the $10 million the team was paying Mariano Rivera, who retires at the end of the season, and use it to rebuild a team that has been mired in the nether regions of the American League East division.
The deal the Yankees cut with Rodriguez ranks as the worst the team has ever made, signing him to a 10-year contract worth $275 million.
Once baseball’s most promising young player, his skills have eroded rapidly to the point where his manager ended up benching him during the post-season last year after he went 0-for-18 against right-handed pitchers.
It’s very disturbing that these days, the daily sports section is filled with legal wrangling, drug abuse allegations involving recreational or performance enhancing drugs, and guys in court on a variety of charges from beating up their wives or girlfriends to killing somebody. It’s to the point where they should run the police blotter alongside the standings.
Rodriguez admitted to having taken these performance enhancing drugs while playing for Texas because of, what he termed, the incredible pressure to live up to all the promise he showed as a young man. Old habits die hard and he continued using the PEDs, as they are called, as a veteran player trying to maintain a competitive edge.
He lied, denied, and tried to cover it all up to no avail and finds himself in this embarrassing position today.
I have no sympathy for Rodriguez and I have no sympathy for the Yankees. Both parties knew what they were getting into when they chose their path and both get what they deserve for their arrogance and ignorance.
By paying these athletes so much money, professional sports organizations heap incredible pressures on them to perform at super-human levels. Players, tasting the outrageous wealth, get accustomed to it and their greed swells to the point of risking life and limb to continue hitting home runs or scoring touchdowns.
As a kid, I idolized Stan Musial, the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Famer.
Stan was a competitor. When his career as a pitcher ended because of a shoulder injury, he focused on his hitting, which catapulted him to an incredible career he spent with one team. When it was time to hang it up, he did so with grace, dignity, and a certain humility that marked his career.
There aren’t many like him any more.
Instead, the mindset seems to fall more in line with something former Chicago Cubs first baseman Mark Grace once said: “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying hard enough.” Unfortunately, that attitude spirals downward from the pros to college, high school, and kid league ranks
I guess that’s why I really don’t care what happens to A-Rod, the Yankees, the Raiders, the Kings or any other athlete or sports organization.
They all struck out long ago in my book.
No bad days!
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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