While public attention was being heaped, inevitably, on the defiance of a certain third baseman in pinstripes, the suspensions announced by Major League Baseball this week actually moved the sport forward — substantially. Much of the credit goes to the Players Association, which prodded those union members who allegedly received performance-enhancing drugs from Biogenesis, a Florida anti-aging clinic, to accept a measure of punishment. The union could just as easily — perhaps more easily — have chosen to defend players at all costs, and by all means. But doing so would have inflicted further injury on fans, who would be forced to choose sides.
Now, even though one player — Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees — has chosen to appeal his suspension, fans will have a measure of closure. Rodriguez has been a sideshow for so long, through scandals and injuries, that even the most devout Yankees backers will have a hard time defending him. Indeed, many Yankees fans had been rooting for a long suspension, in order to spare the team the burden of his overblown contract.
Union president Michael Weiner, who is battling brain cancer, deserves much of the credit for encouraging players to cooperate. But equally important was the union membership: Many of today’s stars simply have no patience for steroid users. Their sense of moral conduct, and willingness to speak out, bodes well for the future of the sport.