Major League Baseball has done everything it can to drive its fans away.
There was the strike in 1994, which, I suppose, was the only way to actually force people to stop watching baseball, as there was none to be played.
In 1998, baseball was back with it's two knights in shining armor—Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa—and their unforgettable run towards history.
Whoops. McGwire was hopped up on steroids, and Sosa corked his bat.
2001 may have been the best, most memorable year in baseball history. Mike Piazza jacking that home run after 9/11 was just spectacular. Ok, that was a good one.
Two years later, Bonds became the single season home run king.
Whoops again. Bonds was on steroids as well.
Then Balco Barry broke the biggest record in sports, and people didn't know what to do—cheer or jeer.
Let's look for another hero.
A-Rod! The 30 million dollar man, he's flawless! Nope...was on steroids while in Texas.
Name a superstar of this decade, and he probably took a performance enhancing drug of some kind. That means he flat out cheated. For some reason, the word "cheat" isn't thrown around as much as "took performance enhancing drugs."
Maybe because people want to love baseball, and the latter phrase is a little easier on the eyes.
My hero when I was seven years old was David Justice. He could do no wrong, even as a Yankee. Until he could do wrong, and was named in the Mitchell report. Ever been slugged in the stomach? That's how I—that's how we all—felt when that list was named.
The baseball optimist, even after taking all this cruel and unsual punishment to his fan hood, tried to remain positive. "Ok, the list is out now, it's over."
Too bad at least 102 names have yet to be released of players who tested positive for steroids a couple years ago.
Feeling sick? Because the odds are good that those names will be released individually, or a couple at a time.
Remember how the national media fell in love with Manny being Manny over the winter? I'm not sure, but I don't believe Manny cheating the game is as lovable as his goofy antics in left field.
Every chance a baseball purist gets, he or she should be watching the Cardinals as much as possible. Albert Pujols' biggest fans should not be confined to just people residing in Missouri. Pujols currently stands the best chance to claim the all-time home run record out of players who have yet to be linked to performance enhancing drugs (366 career dingers, he turns 30 in January). Forty home runs a year for 10 years is not out of his reach.
Matt Holliday is talented, but if I'm Bud Selig (and if we lived in a perfect world), I'm giving the Cardinals an extra 20 million for 10 years to sign an all-star slugger to hit behind Pujols to deny opposing pitchers from walking or chronically pitching around him.
Either way, it's tough to root for a sport in which (it seems like) every superstar is a cheat.
And now, after a nine year hiatus, baseball's second favorite argument—the Yankees payroll—has a reason to resurface.
Yankee fans have had a nice go-to comeback to this, "Well, we haven't won since 2000, so it's fair."
Well now you've won, so now it's not.
How can one man take the worlds' greatest sport, and America's past-time, and simply buy a championship?
Do you know how much more money the Yankees actually spent than any other team in 2009? 52 million. 52 million more dollars.
And three of the last four years, the Yanks actually held a wider gap over the rest of the league (twice over 70 million; 85 million in 2005).
Two years ago, before Hanley Ramirez signed his contract extension, this was a true statement: "Alex Rodriguez makes more money than the Florida Marlins."
The Yankees say they won becuse they came together as a team. No. There's no chemistry there, only currency.
Colin Cowherd, a very respected ESPN radio and TV personality, repeatedly states that he loves the way baseball is set up, loves that the Yankees can spend so much, and doesn't believe baseball would look any different with a salary cap.
That's his opinion, and he is entitled to such.
But take any mid-size market team, say the Indians (because I'm selfish and the coffee mug I'm currently drinking out of has Chief Wahoo smiling at me), give them the money New York has to spend year after year and see what comes up.
So, take Cleveland's better talent—Sizemore, Choo, Cabrera, Carmona, Masterson, Westbrook, and Wood—and add the roughly 120 million dollars needed to reach the level of Steinbrenner.
Let's add Halladay and Holliday, A-Rod, and we'll bring back C.C. and Victor Martinez.
That team, on paper, is a championship contender from day one.
Check out who the Pirates have given up over the past couple of years, and it looks like a B-List All-star team.
Look at Stephen Strasburg. When his rookie contract is up, do you think he'll be in Washington? Or New York?
A local announcer called Strasburg the "future of the Nats!"
We all had the same, grim reaction. "No, he's a temporary ticket seller until he becomes New York's most recent purchase."
And we all know that day will eventually come.
Every team has a farm system. That is fair.
But when you have two teams in two different sized markets, and one of those teams can sign all the biggest free agents from year to year on top of their best prospects in the minor leagues—that is not fair.
In fact, I wonder how many great players were wasted away in the Yanks system because established players with 20 million dollar price tags were brought in instead.
Baseball is, once again, the greatest game on Earth.
But it's becoming harder and harder to watch when four out of five superstars are tainted, and the Yankees have three unofficial training grounds. The first is their AAA affiliate, Scranton-Wilkes Barre; the last two are called the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals.