The Daily Jolt is a dose of baseball reality every weekday morning.
Most of the time you can ignore Ozzie Guillen. Do so at your own peril, of course. When he's not testing the boundaries of decency or making you do earmuffs like Vince Vaughn's kid in Old School, he's wildly entertaining. And if you can get by the crudeness and the f-bombs, he's even insightful sometimes.
The White Sox skipper told reporters over the weekend that he'd like to see Major League Baseball adopt stiffer punishments for players who test positive for performance-enhancing drugs the first time.
Guillen supported season-long bans for first-time offenders, a penalty that would fall more in line with cycling and the Olympics and would be virtually unprecedented in American professional sports. Baseball already punishes first-time offenders more harshly than the NFL, shelving them for 50 games (30.9 percent of the season) as opposed to football's four games (25 percent).
But whether it's a matter of perception or the fact that fans just don't care about football players in the same way that they do baseball players, baseball has much more of a public relations problem. People see it as a dirty sport, even though PED use probably isn't any more prevalent in MLB than it is in the NFL or other pro sports leagues. It should take its cues from cycling and the Olympics when it comes to doping, because baseball has to prove it is clean again in a way that the NFL and NBA never have.
"Baseball shouldn't worry about what happened from 2008 to the past," said Guillen Sunday. "Everybody involved in the game should feel guilty. I'm a baseball fan and a baseball man, and I feel guilty myself. I care about baseball, and the thing I worry about is what happens in 2009 and the future."
David Ortizechoed those sentiments Monday. The Boston media, of course, highlighted his call for a season-long ban, but if you look at his comments in context, you see that he was actually defending embattled slugger and friend Alex Rodriguez and pushing for baseball to focus on the future.
"I would suggest that everybody get tested, and not randomly. You go team by team and you test everybody three, four times a year, and that's about it," Ortiz said. "You're going to get respect from the players when they know they're going to get tested."
This is exactly what Bud Selig has repeatedly failed to grasp in the wake of each steroid bombshell, and has plagued him during his entire reign atop baseball. He is indecisive and often paralyzed in the face of a crisis. For a recent example, just revisit Game 5 of last year's World Series.
The commissioner has talked of suspending Rodriguez and restoring Henry Aaron as the home run king in recent weeks because he thinks it curries favor with the fans and the media. But it's a transparent gesture. Selig has no intention of following through on that talk, and even if he did it wouldn't erase the Steroid Era. Selig and the rest of baseball's power brokers should focus on the things they can control, like how the game is perceived in the future. They can not change what happened in the past now, nor can they stem the trickle of tainted names that will keep leaking out for years to come. But they can alter perception going forward, and by doing so, they can minimize the impact of each steroid user that is unmasked.
He should listen to Guillen and Ortiz. If stiffer punishment is what is needed to make a serious statement to the fans and to serve as a greater deterrent to players, then work something out with the union, instead of musing wistfully about Hank Aaron.
Guillen is the on-field leader of the one franchise that has been more in tune with the steroid problem than any other. Long-time White Sox Frank Thomas was the one active player who spoke with George Mitchell during his investigation. In 2003, the same year that A-Rod flunked his supposedly anonymous test, 16 White Sox players nearly refused to be tested as a way of ensuring that more than 5 percent of players in the majors would test positive, thus making drug testing permanent. It would be the height of naivete to think there wasn't a user or five on Chicago's roster, but those actions speak loud and clear all the same.
Ortiz is well-liked among the players, but also a pragmatist. He has acknowledged in the past that he can't be 100 percent certain that he's never accidentally ingested a banned substance, but at the same time he said Monday he would submit to blood testing for human growth hormone.
A-Rod reminded us once again that we never really know when a player is clean, but the strong words of Ortiz and players like Roy Oswalt and Jamie Moyer indicate that they probably are and remind us that there are many just like them. Those players are mad and finally making their presence felt.
In Tom Verducci's The Yankee Years, there is a significant passage devoted to former Rangers pitcher Rick Helling. He was Texas' team representative to the union during the height of the Steroid Era, and he spoke repeatedly about the problem baseball had with performance-enhancing drugs. His message always fell on deaf ears.
Helling's story is sad in two ways -- because there weren't more clean players like him sticking up for themselves and because none of baseball's leaders listened to him.
There are plenty of them speaking up now. Commissioner Selig should worry about what the Oswalts and Moyers of the world have to say instead of asterisks or the spectacle of A-Rod and his team of handlers greeting the rabid media in Tampa on Tuesday.
Daily Jolt: Major League Baseball Should Listen to Ozzie Guillen, Big Papi originally appeared on MLB FanHouse on Tue, 17 Feb 2009 08:30:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.