Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fixing Baseball

Last week the Mitchell report named dozens of major league baseball players for steroid use. Many of the superstar players found their names on the list. It almost read like a who’s who of baseball.

The whole culture of the sport seems to encourage the use of illegal steroids. Some players claimed they had doctors’ prescriptions for the drugs. Some may have taken supplements, not knowing that they were illegal. They certainly all fell prey to the “everybody’s doing it” attitude. To be somebody in baseball, you had to bend the rules.

Then they want to talk about it on Capitol Hill. It always amazes me when the U.S. Congress gets involved in baseball. What stake do they have in the sport? Well, for generations they have given Major League Baseball a non-competitive playing field. While leaving other sports subject to the open market, the law gives monopoly status to pro baseball. There are no leagues to compete with Major League Baseball. Periodically, congress renews that status.

Other pro sports are certainly not free from corruption, but they are subject to competition. The ABA gave the NBA a run for their money. The AFL also challenged the NFL. Both of those alternate leagues eventually merged with the older sports associations, but maybe they helped make the sports better.

While congress demands that baseball get cleaned up, they ought to eliminate the sport’s special status. Maybe then Major League Baseball would clean up its act. I wonder if fans would support a system where the athletes were all drug-free. They may see fewer homeruns, but they would also see fewer asterisks in the books.