Thinking Outside The Batter's Box: No Roses in the thornbush of cheating

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Thinking Outside The Batter’s Box is a blog about baseball published every week.

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Thinking Outside The Batter's Box is a blog about baseball published every week.
Thinking Outside The Batter’s Box is a blog about baseball published every week.

by Jacob Gurvis

It’s human nature to try to defend yourself when accused of (or caught) doing something wrong. People don’t like criticism, and understandably they want to take the negative spotlight off themselves. Sometimes, that results in people attempting to justify their actions by saying that others’ actions are worse.

It may be childish to act in such a way, but it happens with everyone, even old, (supposedly) mature, rich athletes. When an athlete is caught taking steroids, he might think that the fact that other players did it too lessens the severity of the act. He is wrong.

Nobody doubts that Alex Rodriguez took steroids. And in addition to juicing (and taking other banned substances),  he lied about it, sued Major League Baseball and the Players’ Union, disgraced the game and himself, and is now hated by many.

Pete Rose admitted to gambling on games both as a player and manager, ultimately banning him from entry to the Hall of Fame despite incredible career numbers.

Both are inexcusable acts. Both disgrace the game. But are they equal in severity and disrespect of the game?

Pete Rose says no.

Rose believes that what he did was not as bad as taking steroids. He said in a recent interview on ESPN Radio, “[Gambling and taking steroids] are both bad. I think in my case, I know I didn’t do anything to alter the statistics of baseball.” True, we can assume that Rose’s form of cheating did not necessarily affect the outcome of events or the statistics of the game.

Rose continued, “These guys that take PEDs – wouldn’t it be nice if you could ask Babe Ruth the same question, or Roger Maris the same question or Hank Aaron, who won’t talk about it. I’d like to hear what their response will be because those are the guys who lost their records because of supposedly steroids.”

He has a point. Alex Rodriguez, and generally all players who took steroids had more success and better numbers. Rose gambled on the game, which while also very bad, did not have an equal effect on baseball.

So the question is: is there really such thing as a better way to cheat?

The short answer is no. Cheating is cheating, and that’s that. Now, Rose isn’t justifying his actions. He knows he was wrong, and he has admitted it maturely. However, by comparing himself to Rodriguez, he is in a way bringing up the topic of labeling the different levels of cheating. And that is where his argument is incorrect.

Ultimately, what Rodriguez did is worse than what Rose did. I agree with Rose that his actions didn’t strip records from far more deserving and honorable players like Rodriguez’s did. But cheating is cheating. Neither man did the right thing. Neither of them played cleanly, and neither of them are less at fault.

So no matter what the act, the reason, or the faulty justification may be, cheating always has been and always will be wrong.