A recent story in sports has the hamster wheel in my head spinning and it has nothing to do with baseball.
The story involves NFL coaches and administrators with the New Orleans Saints instilling a bounty program that paid players thousands in bonuses for injuring opposing stars. In recent days, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell brought the hammer down on those involved. He suspended the Saints head coach, Sean Payton for a whole season without pay, General Manager Mickey Loomis for eight weeks of the regular season, former assistant coach Joe Vitt six games, and suspended defensive coordinator Gregg Williams indefinitely.
I want to reiterate that last one, Goodell basically banned defensive coordinator Gregg Williams for as long he sees fit. This is the equivalent to Pete Rose or the Black Sox being banned from baseball. He may well have coached his last NFL game. Williams isn't even with the Saints' organization anymore, so the team he was set to coach with this year, the St Louis Rams, will have to suffer without him. That how serious Goodell is about punishing those involved.
These suspensions are not even the whole punishment, the Saints also lost draft picks, have to pay fines, and in the coming days, similar punishments are expected to come down on players involved as well.
Now, the bounty program that was instilled is wrong on many different levels. First of all, it puts player's safety at risk. Secondly, it's cheating. It's gives the players involved an advantage and incentive for performance that other teams did not have, not to mention it is banned in the NFL rules.
The worst thing the Saints did in this whole matter, according to Goodell, was during the NFL's initial investigation. The Saints lied repeatedly about the bounty program. While I have disagreed with many of Goodell's decisions (particularly in relation to the NFL's handling of concussion prevention), but in this case the punishment handed down by Goodell definitely seems fitting.
Now, how does this relate to baseball?
To me, the similarities are all too apparent. Now, what event or scandal has happened in baseball recently which could be described in similar terms, an unfair advantage that also put players' safety as risk?
Oh yeah, Steroids.
Steroids are the same thing as far as I'm concerned and deserve the same punishment as any bounty program. They endanger the players health, as well as the integrity and heart of the game. Goodell realized the bounty program in New Orleans did this and cut it off with harsh punishment before it spread across the league.
What did Selig do about steroids when it was brought to light by the Mitchell report? Next to nothing, though he stated action would be taken. How about when players lied to the MLB and fans about taking steroids, only to be caught later? Still, Selig does nothing.
Selig and the MLB did make the punishment for positive tests harsher, but they can't even enforce their own policies. Look at the way the problem has progressed in recent cases, Manny Ramirez just flat out retired when he was going to face a 100-game suspension for his second offense, now he's back this year and doesn't even have to face his full sentence. Ryan Braun, last year's NL MVP, faced a charge of a positive test and managed to get away with only a damaged ego on account of a technicality.
Selig has missed the boat on eradicating steroids from the game a long time ago. He doesn't even have a prayer at saving baseball from the black mark that will forever mar this past era. Action should have been swift and ruthless from the start (perhaps the way Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis would have handled it) but he chose to stand idly by while the problem grew bigger than anyone could handle.
Goodell gets it. He understands that harsh action now prevents the problem growing deeper or beyond repair. The players may hate him for it, but the bigger picture means that he is saving his game from further damage down the road. If Selig had taken swift action in the late nineties when steroids started becoming so rampant, would we even have cases like Ryan Braun or Manny Ramirez? Perhaps. Perhaps not. At least then we could say that Selig took some sort of action to defend baseball's integrity.
Baseball had its chance to rid the game of steroids, but did nothing. Now, no player can overachieve without whispers of foul play and PEDs. If an MVP can be caught cheating, and the MLB commissioner lets players like him off the hook, then who can we root for in baseball today?