If news breaks tomorrow that Major League Baseball has suspended Alex Rodriguez and the rest of the Biogenesis brigade for 100 games, will anyone be shocked?
Will that stop the masses from ranting about how their beloved superstars disappointed them, betrayed their trust, and defiled the sacred institution of baseball?
Face it: Most fans really, genuinely don’t give a rat’s ass about cheating.
In fact, if you had to make a list of all the things that matter to you in order of importance, the only reason you’d have cheating in baseball at the top of it is if you’re Bud Selig.
Yet, despite an overwhelming willingness to accept that baseball will probably always have cheaters, fans will still rise to the moral imperative every time a cheater is thrust in their face.
In this lousy morality play we call “cleaning up the game,” nothing productive is actually happening. Major League Baseball will never be able to make the game clean, so it’s doing the next best thing.
They’re trying to convince the populace that caring about the game being clean is just as good as actually making it clean.
The damnedest part of this is the camouflage will hold as long as Major League Baseball keeps having public executions.
This allows the fan to mistake blusterous outrage as an instrument of change. It allows baseball to breed stars and then destroy them, yoking their greatness in good times and building a reputation of vigilance in bad times.
Consider that, according to the rules of baseball, getting caught cheating can result in a suspension, docked pay, or even banishment from the game. But there is no punishment that revokes a player’s accomplishments.
That task is left for the fan.
That’s how Chris Davis, dealing with his own steroid whispers, can suggest Roger Maris is the true home run king over Barry Bonds and not get blasted.
It’s the virtuous thing to say. It’s the genius thing to say. After all, what better way to declare you’re playing clean than to denounce peers suspected of playing dirty.
And yet, despite Bonds’ suspected PED use, increased hat size, and history of handling the media like a rabid wolverine, he is still the recognized single-season home run king with 73 dingers.
He’s recognized by Major League Baseball, standing there with its tongue in its cheek like it had nothing to do with any of the disparity.
Bonds never did — or at least was never caught doing — PED’s. But, even if he did, it his record would still stand.
Why? Because his accomplishments would have come within the bounds of baseball law, co-created by players, the union, and MLB.
The stats owned by cheaters are still their stats and they aren’t being revoked any time soon.
The best thing Major League Baseball can do, since it will never get the power to expunge players from the game, is expunge players in the minds of the people who watch, follow, and play it.