Play Ball! – A Victimless Crime

(An expose into the interrelatedness of baseball and society, and how to start fixing the problems.)

Today, I am writing to ask for help.  Prior to my life in finance I spent a few years in Minor League Baseball where I tried to live out my American Dream …but it turns out that that dream wasn’t meant to be.  Years have past by, and the public has finally become aware of why “clean” ballplayers like me did not get as far as we hoped.

I have spent the last 4 years on a crusade against Major League Baseball for the purpose of ridding Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED’s) from the game, and to get recognition for the true victims of this era, the minor leaguers who were clean (PED free).  The piece below is a 2 part paper that concerns my journey and establishes the direct connection between Baseball and the Economy.

I ask that you read Part 1 named:  Performance Enhancing Drug Free Baseball, and if you agree with me, and believe it is a just cause, please help me plaster the internet with my request.  Hit all media sources, and send it to friends and ask them to do the same.  Apart from doing it because I’m asking… look at this as a test to see just how hard it is to bring about change.  (Even if the change you and I are looking to make is good for people/society/economy)  All you have to do is copy and paste.  …and then sit back and watch as nothing happens and nothing is done to fix the problem.

Part 2 of this article, named:  If You Build it, He Will Come, I will go into much greater depth on the “how” and “why” of my crusade.  Please feel free to skip this if you don’t find it of significant relevance or of interest.  (it is quite long.)  It also draws out the parallels between the ills of society and the game.

Performance Enhancing Drug Free Baseball

Major League Baseball, in an effort to deceive the public, has created a drug policy that gives the appearance of being anti-drug, but in actuality, isn’t!  The sound bite of: Three Strike Policy is a blatant misdirection.  (I am not referring to recreational drugs.  I am only speaking of Performance Enhancing Drugs, which give an unfair advantage to the user, and put pressure on non-users to use, so they can meet the artificially enhanced standards of the drug users.)  Anything short of 0% tolerance is actually promoting its use, as the risk versus reward factor is null for borderline players making $9,000 per year.  Under the new rules, testing positive the first and second times come with a suspension, the 3rd positive test comes with expulsion.

To prove the lack of deterrence, a Major League player tested positive last season, and 3 days after being caught, was given a 3 year – $30 million deal!  For sub-par player, risk of suspension is nothing, since they wouldn’t be in the Major League without the help of the P.E.D.’s anyway.

It’s quite simple; the ONLY way to circumvent use is through 0% tolerance.  For this reason, I ask that Major League Baseball set into motion the following guideline; all players must sign and adhere to the following policy or face lifetime suspensions from Major League Baseball.

The Players Contract:

From this date forward, ____________________ (date)  I, _____________________________ (players name) agree to a 0% Performance Enhancing Drug Policy.  As part of this policy, I agree to random testing on an annual basis that will be performed by an independent authority.  Any Performance Enhancing Drugs that are purchased, possessed or used without advanced written consent by Major league Baseball and its independent authority will result in my expulsion from Major League Baseball on a first time basis.  The term:  Performance Enhancing Drugs refers to all known and unknown supplements that a player may choose to use, that are not already pre-qualified for use by the league and its independent authority.

I agree to these terms of my own free will as an act to bring transparency back to performance levels, accountability and integrity back to player conduct, and a level playing field for all those who look to someday play this game.  I will in good faith honor this agreement, as it displays my understanding that it is a privilege to be a part of this institution that is The Great American Pastime.

_______________________________ (signature)

If You Build it, He Will Come

To quote the movie Field of Dreams:  “The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”

 

It has been argued and/or debated for many years that Baseball mirrors the America.  From a business standpoint, it’s been typically called counter cyclical, but from a social standpoint baseball is a microcosm of American society.  (It is a daily business running from February through September with no such thing as weekends, but in actuality… it’s year round.)  As America’s pastime, the parallels run deep between the game and the economy.  The clichés, mentality, and structure are so interwoven that you can have a discussion about a baseball and interchange the subject to finance, and say the exact same things.  The owners and management of baseball organizations are the highest ranking government officials, and big business leaders.  The corruption and decay that has taken place within game, magnifies our societal woes.  To fix society, there is no better a place to start.  …and it can be done at no cost to the public, but instead, by the stroke of a pen.

In boom times, Baseball boomed.  In bust times, baseball busted.  The player’s who were idolized, stood as icons of there time, as the represented the American dream in its most pure form.  The early 1900’s saw scrappy and gritty players that mirrored the immigrant plight in America.  The roaring 20’s had Ruth and the Yankees.  (actually, every generation had the Yankees!?!?!?)  The depression saw the creation of night and televised games, in an effort to bring in money.  The 1940’s brought about integration before civil rights were achieved.  (Many say, Jackie Robinson may have done more for civil rights then any other man in American history…  as he changed the way many white Americans grew accepting and welcomed him into their homes.)  In recent years, we have once again seen just how baseball mirrors life.  During the stagnant 70’s, a baseball player fought the reserve clause, and free agency was born.  Salaries started to skyrocket.  “Greed was good”, drugs use rose, things started to spiral out of control.

What we saw was the beginning of a cycle of deception and greed.  No different from Wall St, players who inflated their performance statistics through artificial means, reaped massive contracts.  As a clear and undeniable conflict of interest, the owners turned a blind eye to this (much like our government did to Wall St) because everyone was making more money.  This artificial enhancement became an acceptable crime as long as it brought a profit with it!  The owners were profiting off of the corruption.  The players were profiting, and the union was profiting.  In a 12 year span, from 1995 – 2007 revenues increased 5 fold, from 1.2 billion to 6.075 billion.  The acting commissioner of Major League Baseball (Bud Selig) during this crime spree was a fellow team owner, who cashed in on this crime, which is all the more reason there was no motivation to put a stop to the drug use?  …and what has been his punishment?  He was just awarded an extension for doing a GREAT JOB.

THIS IS A JOKE!  DAMNIT AMERICA, WAKE UP!  Demand changes.  Demand accountability.  The time for indifference to moral flexibility is over!  This can be done!  If there is a single person within President Obama’s Administration that has read this, or has the ability to pass it on to his administration, I ask that you help me reach out and achieve my goal of ridding PED’s from baseball, and moving forward.

3 strikes…   No!  3 words!  “YES WE CAN!”

Over the last couple of years I have repeatedly sent the following letter to many of our nations largest publications.  (It was sent to Henry Waxman last year, with no reply.  Good thing he wanted to clean up baseball, and yet forget about its victims?)  Only the NY Daily News, MSNBC, FOX, and the StLouis Dispatch have been responsible enough to relay the story to the public and acknowledge the victims.  This letter is the basis for a Class Action Suit I have been working on (with a legal team), and will hopefully reach the plateau where enough players join to put the pressure we need to force change.

A Victimless Crime?  – By Rich Hartmann

 

During this Steroid Era of baseball, it is my belief that every single minor league player, that did not use performance enhancing drugs, was cheated out of the opportunity of a potential major league baseball career, by players who did use these performance enhancing drugs.  For too long, this has been perceived by many, to be a “victimless crime”.  But that couldn’t be further from the truth.  What many people don’t realize is just what a fine line separates a minor league ball player from being a major leaguer.

Without the level playing field, the MLP that used PEDs were given an unfair edge.  If that edge kept even 1 undeserving player in the majors, then that means it kept 1 deserving minor league player out of the majors.  For every single user, there is a minor leaguer that was cheated out of making a realistic dream come true.  How many players have been cheated of this opportunity?  This is what PED users fail to realize, understand, or even acknowledge!  What do they say to us?  How can they compensate us?  How do they repay even 1 minor leaguers lost dream?  …Let alone the unknown others.

For this reason, I’ve decided to take on the crusade to hold the players accountable for their actions and to hold the league, the players union and the organizations accountable for their inaction!  I’m doing this for myself and all the other minor leaguers that were robbed of a life’s goal… but most of all I’m doing it for the future generations of ballplayers.  My son, along with all of the other future ballplayers should not have to chase the records set by players that used PEDs.

 

The Players:

These players disguise themselves as “entertainers who do this for the fans”, but when they cheat, they do it for themselves.  When cheating is the only way these players can maintain that professional level of play they have lost sight of the privilege that it is to play the game of baseball.  Baseball doesn’t need these players…  These players need baseball!!!

Players don’t take an anabolic steroid or HGH because they had a lapse in judgment when someone offered it to them at a party, and those aren’t highly addictive substances, like some recreational drugs or even nicotine. Players take those substances with forethought and for a purpose. In this instance, that purpose is to gain an illegal competitive advantage.

During this Steroid Era, just how much money did the players who used PEDs earn?  What is the sum total of opportunity cost lost by the people that chose not to cheat?

The players part this greed and corruption historically unparalleled.  But they are not the only ones at fault!

The Union:

The players of MLB stand behind the iron curtain of the MLBPA’s union.  The fact that they had been using these PED’s to enrich their careers and ultimately their bank accounts, is no different then a trader using insider information to enhance his wealth.  If a trader makes it rich on illegally gained information, (and is caught) not only would they lose their license…   but they would NOT be able to keep the money gained and they would potentially be jailed.  It is the MLB Union that has fought for these players rights.

 

What the union has failed to realize through their (and their client’s) greed is that they don’t just represent baseball players…  They represent human beings.  How they can possibly argue that players should be allowed to do this to themselves is beyond me.  The cost through potential genetic affects this will have on the player’s children and their children’s children will be felt for generations, and will ultimately be a burden on the taxpaying society!  They should demand that as representatives that care about the players as human beings, that they never want to see anything like this done to their body.

MLB, Selig and the Owners:

By Major League Baseball and its owners knowingly turning a blind eye to age of chemical enhancement and not policing the game, just how much money has the League and its owners made?  How much has baseball’s revenue increased during this time?

Bud Selig was recently quoted as saying: “As I told the clubs today, we’re on a great high here,” “When you look at the final numbers and you see what’s happened, it’s remarkable. There are times, honestly, when I have to pinch myself to make sure all of this is happening. … Growth and revenue, growth and profitability; it’s just been really, really good.” “We started at $1.2 billion, and I can remember waking up in ’93 and ’94 and ’95 and thinking how are we ever going to get to $2 billion? So here we are at $6 billion, 75 million. And if we just keep doing our work, stay out of controversies, keep the focus on the field, we’ll get to numbers someday that will be stunning. And these are stunning.”

Well I am Stunned too!!!  I can’t believe Mr Selig is proud of where baseball is today!

His exuberance directly points to his and the owners part in this crime.  There is a clear and undeniable conflict of interest that exists when an owner polices this game.  He is directly profiting off of his own corruption!  In a 12 year span, revenues increased 5 fold, from 1.2 billion to 6.075 billion.  What motivation was there to put a stop to the drug use?  During this same period, what is the percent increase of drug use in baseball?

Bud Selig, MLB and the Players Union have recently agreed upon new policies to change the drug culture that exists in baseball.  (The creation of these new policies is proof and acknowledgement that there were major oversights in the past that they are directly responsible for!)  The league and its players now say:  “Let the new policies work.”

Well, now that they acknowledge the oversight…  WHERE is the apology to the victims?  Where is the reparation?  What thoughts has MLB given towards adequate compensation?

 

The New Policies:

Recent enforcement of these new policies show me that MLB has proven themselves to be incapable of creating a solid drug free system due to the apparent stranglehold the Players Union seems to have over the game.  The cracks in the MLB procedures are an embarrassment to the public, who are being told that “something is being done to combat this problem”!  Without the ELIMINATION of drugs in the game (through ZERO tolerance), MLB is passively forcing the next generation of baseball players to commit these same crimes to level the playing field.

Urine testing for PEDs, that only show up in blood tests!?!?

Organizations being alerted to testers showing up in advance (through parking permits, etc…  – though this has “apparently” been fixed.)

Is that how you police a sport?  The way I see it, what baseball has done to combat the problem, has not worked in the past, nor will it make up for the damage that has already been done.

When Pete Rose was banned from baseball, there were people that argued that betting on his own team to win was wrong because: that means if he didn’t bet on the next game, he was effectively betting against his team…

Well in that same frame of mind, by MLB and the Players Union NOT calling for a 0% tolerance to PEDs in the game, they are effectively promoting drug use in their game!

3 Strikes:

A three strikes policy might make for a nice sound bite since we are talking about baseball, but it is simply a public relations ploy by MLB and the Players’ Association to make it look as though they are tough on performance enhancing drugs.  A three strikes policy is really a safety net for those who wish to circumvent the rules. It establishes a risk versus reward relationship where the potential reward still far outweighs the potential risk, especially when you see players who have tested positive reach free agency and still sign lucrative deals.

What is really sad about this whole issue is that it has tremendous socio-economic undercurrents. For an established Major Leaguer or even someone like me, who had earned a college degree and had prospects for a decent career outside of baseball, the decision to take a performance enhancing drug is about ego and greed, nothing else. (It’s different for the guy who signs out of the Dominican Republic at age 16 or the American player who signs out of high school and passes on a college scholarship. If they come from an impoverished background, their options aren’t very good if baseball doesn’t pan out. The pressure on those types of individuals is much more intense, and their baseball careers are often the way to a better life for their families. This is no excuse for their cheating, but the blind eye the sport turned to this entire issue puts a spotlight on the Risk vs Reward relationship that MLB has established.)

To a marginal Major leaguer facing demotion or to an older player who’s career is fading or a minor leaguer that’s making $10,000 a year, this policy says “You can use drugs to better yourself, and even get caught twice before getting thrown out.”  So in turn, this new policy is inadvertently PROMOTING drug use in baseball.

Past, Present and Future.

The “black sox” were banned from baseball a year after they threw the World Series.  There wasn’t a law in place prior to this, but MLB made a stand that saved the game!  They reaffirmed it when Pete Rose was banned, after having gambled on the game.

It’s not too late!  These players cheated.  In my eyes, as a former minor leaguer, what these players have done is far worse then placing a bet.  They have cheated me and every other minor leaguer that did not choose to cheat.  …and they have been rewarded with contracts and egos that think they are bigger then the game.  There is no way MLB should ever let these cheaters be given the privilege to play in the league or ultimately be immortalized in the Hall of Fame.  Likewise, the records they’ve established need immediate reclassification!

Families and former players like the Maris’s and Aaron’s have handled themselves graciously while watching their historic records fall.  Their grace is part of what made them great.  …but I, as a fan, am disgusted for them!  Mr Selig has allowed the most hallowed records, in all of sports, to be broken with the aid of illegal drugs.  This was on his watch.  This too needs immediate attention since; in baseball, not only are you competing against one another, but you’re also competing against the history of the game.  It’s numbers, its records are what you strive to attain.  …and acknowledging these counterfeit numbers is forcing your next generation of ball players to repeat the same crimes.

In summary

For me, it’s impossible to put a price tag on a dream.  Nor could I ever be adequately compensated for getting the chance to play professional baseball at the Major League level against other clean players.  For me, baseball is not a hobby, it’s a passion.  It’s been that way since I was 5 years old, when I can first remember my father and I playing catch in the front yard.  It seemed pure then, and I believe it will pure again.  I would like son Michael to get a chance to have the same joy of the game.  I would also love for him to get the chance to someday play.   …and who knows, even break the records of baseball’s immortals.

To all who read this, I thank you for listening.  Not many people have or do.  Hopefully the changes we need, that will help us all will someday come.

All the best,

Rich “The Chainsaw” Hartmann  aka  Miss America

6 Responses to "Play Ball! – A Victimless Crime"

  1. pa   March 6, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    you are not alone on this issue it is global.Becky Scott’s pursuit of justice around her 2002 Olympic gold medal was a triumph for athletes’ rights and fair play. She is also a tireless advocate for drug-free sport, and is currently Canada’s representative on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s newly formed Athlete Committee.She is also a tireless advocate for drug-free sport, and is currently Canada’s representative on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s newly formed Athlete Committee.

  2. Guest   March 6, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Hi Rich,The dream is always there. The good thing is you can turn over, wake up and pursue that dream for real. And you are doing that for your son.Since this is an economics forum I will add: There are politicians on steroids who can’t listen to the economists who know what it takes to turn around this market.In the end the steroids lose. It is a cruel twist of fate that the highest paid player in baseball probably can’t play this season because of hip problem. Hmm, genetics… I guess.Where’s the syringe?

  3. redleg   March 6, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    Rich:for what its worth, the local news anchor at KARE-11 TV in Minneapolis was a player (Pomeranz? too lazy to look it up right now) in the Twins farm. I don’t know if he was clean or not, but it might be an easy ally in the MSM.

  4. Anonymous   March 9, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    you should check out this website and submit your ideas to be posted: http://sportsanddrugs.procon.org/

    • MA   March 10, 2009 at 12:06 am

      Thanks,RH/MAp.s. Thanks all for checking this out. I didn’t want to make a big deal over this post since it was a very self serving, agenda driven post. …but it’s something I believe strongly in and wanted to let the RGE community know why I’ve been away for a while and what it is that I was working on.Thanks, and I will check out that site.

  5. ld   March 22, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Bud Selig just doesn’t care! Baseball is making money and they dole out a paltry amount of money to a couple of organizations and they give them selves a big pat on the back. The point is that with use of steroids and other performance enhancers by MLB players, they engage kids to use these drugs. Rodriguez, McGwire, Palmiero, Clemens, Bonds make kids the victims by their actions. If they can’t resist the urge, thinks a 14 or 15 year old, why should I?They are making victims of the hundreds of thousands of teens who say they are or have used steroids. MLB should have a tax, just like the one proposed for the AIG bonuses for influencing kids to do the wrong thing. Victimless? Hardly! MLB has its biggest stars using these drugs and denied a problem for years. Selig and MLB union should be ashamed.