In the aftermath of last Saturday's report by Sports Illustrated that New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroid use during his days as a Texas Ranger (2001-03), more than a few journalists have taken the stance that Rodriguez was betrayed by Major League Baseball's player union. The stance is that the tests that "outed" 104 players (including, we now know, A-Rod) were supposed to be anonymous and the samples destroyed once the study was complete. However you define the word "cheater," the union somehow broke rules that trump the transgressions of the 104 juiced players in its study.
Former player (and a teammate of Rodriguez's in Texas) Doug Glanville wrote an eloquent piece in The New York Times that articulates the apologist's view. At one point the Penn grad asks, "If we take the higher ground and talk about the greater good of the game, then why create trust issues between owners and players by allowing an agreement to be breached this way? It undermines any sense of cooperation."
What disturbs me is the emphasis by Glanville and his ilk on a lost "trust" between a players union and baseball management/ownership . . . without so much as lip service to the most essential "trust" in any sports endeavor: that between the players and paying customers (fans, as we're known).
While Glanville is quite noble in standing up for what he sees as constitutional protection when it comes to players' privacy, I'd like to ask him how protecting cheaters (sweeping information under the rug of collective bargaining) enhances the most important relationship (again players-to-paying customers) in the business that made him so wealthy.
Let's pretend the fairy tale of Alex Rodriguez was alive and well. Glanville (apparently) knew he tested positive (with the 103 others in the "blind" test). Who is cheating whom? Who is the loser in this equation had it been carried into perpetuity?
Fans are the losers. And baseball historians. And kids growing up idolizing Alex Rodriguez.
I have a hard time sympathizing with Doug Glanville and the defenders of their union protection (now critics for their lack of union protection). The most heartbreaking element of the Rodriguez outing -- and it won't be the last, folks -- is the trust that is broken between heroes and their followers. A baseball card just ain't what it used to be.