Up the Middle with Skitch Hanson: A-Roid Has Singlehandedly Ruined Baseball

Scratchbomb hands over the reins to nationally syndicated sports columnist Skitch Hanson, as we’ve done many times before. You may know him as the author of the highly popular syndicated column “Up The Middle.” You may also have read his best-selling book I Liked It Better When Home Run Hitters Drank Like Fish. He’s also a frequent guest on ESPN’s sportswriters panel show 4th and Forever. Without further ado, here’s Skitch.


Without A-Rod, who will the Yanks turn to as their playoff scapegoat?

The news about A-Rod couldn’t have come at a worse time for baseball. Just when everyone was ready to believe again, just when it seemed Barry Bonds was finally going to get his just deserts, just when all of us were ready to move on from steroids altogether, we get a reminder that performance enhancing drugs are a scourge that may never be removed from the game.

But for me, the A-Rod scandal broke at the perfect time! I’ve struggled to come up with column idea since I got back from Tampa. My editor rejected my Super Bowl column for being “rambling” and “incoherent” and “possibly libelous.” To be honest, it wasn’t my best work. My head wasn’t in a good place at the time.

I don’t want to point fingers, but a night I spent out with a certain Steelers kicker may have had something to do with my mental state. The whole evening is kind of fuzzy now. I remember drinking something called Irish car bombs (top o’ the mornin’ to ye, ol’ sport!) and then going to some place called Wild Cherries which, despite the name, was not a pastry shop.

From that point on, I only recall bits and pieces involving exotic dancers and a VIP room, and I think I might have drank human blood, but that’s a story for another column.

It’s unlikely that A-Rod will do any jail time for his crimes. But he may find himself in a far worse prison: the Big House of Negative Public Opinion.

Instead of bread and water, he will be fed a steady diet of scorn. Instead of bars, he will be confined by constant whispering about his accomplishments. And he will fear the questions that will be raised every time he passes another batting record, instead of just the threat of sexual assault.

On further thought, I’d rather face questions than prison rape, but my point is clear.

What’s even worse about the A-Rod situation is that he’s a hitter. A hitter who hits home runs! And the home run is a sacred thing, passed down to us from our cherished forefathers. When Washington suffered through the brutal winter at Valley Forge, he had one vision: that men could watch other men hit home runs and not worry about their purity!

I mean, he didn’t literally dream about that, because he had a lot of other important things to worry about, and also baseball hadn’t been invented yet. But I think he did dream about that, in a way, in spirit. I think he would have dreamed of baseball, if only he knew what baseball was.

Baseball must get its steroid problem under control. Because if they don’t, what will we tell our children? I had no idea how to tell my son about this whole mess–and he’s 28! Still, he was pretty upset. Granted, it was mostly because I didn’t go see him in that regional theatre production of Promises Promises.

The fact remains, our children look up to these athletes as role models. They see their heroes on TV doing these horrible things, and they think it’s okay to do them, too. When she was in high school, my daughter told me she thought it was okay to take some money from my wallet because Mark McGwire cheated, too. And when she stole my Discover card, she said she thought that was okay because Rafael Palmeiro had cheated, too.

And when she stole my car and drove it through the food court at the local mall, she said it was all because of Sammy Sosa. I’m still not sure how the two relate. Truth be told, I think it was just because she was mad at this girl who worked at Panda Express. Still, I wonder if Sammy would have thought twice about doing steroids if he knew it would cause my daughter to park a Kia on top of a White Castle fry cook.

If baseball wants a clue about how to handle this issue, look no further than the NFL. They used to have a pretty serious problem with performance enhancing drugs. But thanks to increased testing and public scrutiny, you never hear about steroids in football anymore!

I mean, sure, guys get caught doing them all the time and get suspended for several games, but it’s never any major players like you see in baseball. Except for those times when it is. Oh, and ex-players come forward all the time with tales of steroid use and guys taking drugs to play through concussions and other injuries. In fact, I think that might be worse than steroids. A lot worse, probably.

However, the NFL is very good at making sure no one at ESPN pays any attention to these things, and that’s what’s most important.