Back in 2009, when one could still read an ordinary newspaper without developing an upset stomach and feeling a need to shower afterward, Newsday sports writer Wallace Matthews lamented all the records that would be tainted by steroids. I emailed this missive in response. With more labor strife at hand in baseball land, and Lent once again upon us at the beginning of next month, I believe that a rerun of this letter and its associated suggestions could be fruitful to keep things in perspective.
Earlier this week you lamented that baseball's record books are permanently tarnished by the steroid scandals. Not so. In the spirit of Lenten penance I offer the following suggestion. As we learned back when Roger Maris broke the home run record in 1961, the length of a season is irrelevant-- a season is a season. Thus the asterisk was removed from Maris' record, since it mattered not if the season was 154 or 162 games. With this precedent well-established, we simply take it to the next level.
We must erase these steroid-tainted records (which should have asterisks) once and for all. First, we implement testing (24-hour video monitoring if need be) to insure that at least for the next seven years no steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs are used by baseball players. Any means necessary is fair game-- after all, baseball needs to do penance for its sins. Put them in protective custody if necessary. Next, we make the season 324 games. Almost every day would be a doubleheader, but again, it's penance for these overpaid, spoiled millionaires. Make them work for their living. They would still have several months off every year, which is more than most fans get. Hopefully, within seven years of 324-game seasons, all the records of the likes of Barry Bonds and A-Rod would be gone (they would be banned from play during this time just to make sure). If not, the 324-game seasons continue until justice is done.
And while we're at it-- a nine-inning game is not long enough. Some players actually sit on the bench for an entire game! Even a utility infielder making the major-league minimum is a fantastically wealthy person by ordinary standards. Make sure these players earn their pay and do their penance too. Increase the number of innings per game at least to 10, or maybe even 14 (a multiple of 7). If the doubleheader has to start at 9 AM to make sure it's finished by midnight, too bad-- most working stiffs have to punch in by 9 AM or be docked pay.
Pitchers-- hey, these lazy bums might work only every fourth or fifth day, and, in the American League, pitchers don't even have to carry their cross (also known as a bat). They deserve penance too. An out should consist of at least four strikes. I'd say seven (the biblical symbol of perfection) but that might actually be penance for the fans who have to sit through it. This mess isn't their fault (much), so we have to be a bit easy on them. Maybe seven balls should constitute a walk, though; batters don't get off scot-free either. Bats should be made heavier, with a minimum mass 50% more than what it is now. Let batters sweat a little for their pay.
Since no Lenten observance is complete without considering food, all baseball players should be required to eat nothing but food from concession stands in baseball stadiums (and they have to pay from their own pockets). Perhaps this will help them identify with the ordinary fan, at least a bit.
I trust that these concepts will help us fix the steroid mess and what it has done to the great American sport of baseball, and I hope that they will be implemented for the beginning of the season-- but will Bud Selig have the courage to do so? Maybe if we extend his life to 140 years he might muster just enough courage to do the right thing. He needs to do penance too!