By Ken Reed
Is cheating part of baseball’s foundation?
It certainly seems that way. Baseball seems to give us one scandal after another. Cheating seems to be an ongoing part of the game. Spitballs, corked bats, steroids, illegally stealing signs, etc.
Cheating, in various forms, has been part of baseball since the early days. But the powers that be have always tended to look the other way, with a wink and a nod.
During the steroid era, when McGwire, Sosa and Bonds were hitting moon shots, attendance and TV ratings were up, and commercials proclaimed “Chicks dig the long ball,” baseball authorities didn’t really care about cheating.
But today’s situation is different. Stikeouts are at record levels and action is way down. A typical team batting average in the National and American Leagues is in the .230s. No-hitters are becoming commonplace.
One of the primary causes of the pitching dominance appears to be pitchers who are illegally doctoring baseballs with foreign substances to increase a ball’s spin rate. These foreign substances can make balls move a couple inches in ways that increase the already difficult task of trying to hit Major League pitching.
“The data is clear that foreign substances are having an impact on the game,” Theo Epstein, a consultant for Major League Baseball (MLB), who has been charged with addressing baseball’s problems, wrote in a text.
“As the prevalence and sophistication of the substances have grown, we are seeing more strikeouts, less contact, less balls in play, and an imbalance between the pitcher and hitter.”
Major League Baseball has collected thousands of game baseballs this season and a forensic investigation found that a majority of those balls had some kind of illegal foreign substance on the ball.
“This is going to be the next steroids of baseball ordeal, because it is cheating, and it is performance enhancing,” says Minnesota Twins third baseman Josh Donaldson.
But unlike the steroid era, baseball is ready to get tough with cheaters this time. Baseball’s umpires have been given more clout to crackdown on pitchers who are doctoring balls. A new array of penalties, including ejections, fines and suspensions — for pitchers and potentially other club employees— have been announced.
The New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge believes 95% of the pitchers he faces are cheating in some way. Even if the actual number is only half of that, baseball has a real problem.
And it’s not just doctored baseballs, it’s a culture in which cheating is baked into the product.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a long-time member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
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Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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