Former Mets/Yankees superstar Dwight Gooden faces a litany of charges after crashing his car, evading the scene, while under the influence, and with a child seated in the back seat, last week. I’m empathetic towards Gooden, but hardly surprised. Gooden has battled demons his entire life, and it’s become more than evident baseball creates an environment where players are conditioned to face a lack of accountability, hampering their professional and personal lives forever.
After testing positive for cocaine use in 2009 Ranger’s manager Ron Washington faces little punishment by the league moving forward to the 2010 season. The irony is lost on no one that as a coach Washington lives in a mentorship role to Rangers players and especially starting left fielder Josh Hamilton who has lived one of baseball’s greatest comebacks, from personal tribulation, after battling a drug and alcohol addiction that nearly took his career and life. The most offensive part of the story to me would be the fact that Washington assumedly isn’t battling an addiction and likely used in a casual act displaying a disregard for league rules and his position as a coach. The “one” time he used cocaine, being mid-season, also shows a lack of focus and care for winning; but is somehow keeping his job with no punishment in-house or from the league.
It’s apparent to me that baseball is more interested in responding harshly when public opinion weighs in on high profile players (Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Reyes) rather than creating any sort of standard for itself. Players that transcend the sport are at greater risk for punishment.
I always find it ironic that home-run king Barry Bonds faces proverbial exile from the league and fans alike when he never technically tested positive for any illegal substance, meanwhile an endless list of players, helping their team’s day in and out, face little criticism. Brian Roberts, Troy Glaus and Greg Zaun to name a few. Rafael Palmeiro lied to congress in 2003, but the players listed prior never had to face US congress, would their “one time” story carry over with a pack of seasoned politicians interrogating them and not an ESPN crew?
The sad but true story of Dwight Gooden is becoming one of cliché. also, Darryl Strawberry found himself in legal hot waters due to issues with cocaine, alcohol and prostitution.
I realize I’m digressing a bit, but baseball started the mainstream anti-steroid campaign in sports, and whereas other major leagues have moved swiftly and sternly (NFL, NHL), baseball is dragging its feet. I take no issue with a player playing, or a coach coaching, but people need more critical discussion about this issue in baseball throughout all ranks. By picking and choosing who is punished and to what degree baseball is setting a dangerous precedent.
Stories of Gooden are the end result. Wild temper tantrums such as Roberto Alomar spitting at an ump, Rob Dibble throwing a baseball in the stands striking a woman or Lou Piniella nearly reaching coronary during a rage fit is where it begins; and such actions need to be with just as stern a punishment.
The wildly non-pragmatic lifestyles of baseball players showcased in classic movies needs to be punished in the real world.