Baseball fans know that the beautiful game isn't generally decided by which team makes the most errors, either of the physical or mental variety. That's because this particular diamond is plagued by flaws—observers often point out that Ty Cobb's lifetime average is .366.
That means the all-time greatest hitter-for-average failed in his expertise at a 63 percent clip. That about sums up how immaculate even the best splinters are.
Level of difficulty and simple statistics take care of the rest.
There are probably over 300 pitches thrown in most Major League Baseball contests; even if 95 percent of those tosses are golden (laughable unless Tim Lincecum is on the hill), that means there will be at least 15 uh-ohs.
Apply a similar approach to fielding except using a season-long horizon. Figure there are nine defenders so, though each one will not blunder in every game, one or two usually will.
Mix in a handful of brain cramps along the way—those don't show up in the box score—and you get the picture. It's a very imperfect game.
Consequently, it's not so much how many miscues you make, it's when you make them that defines the matter. This makes baseball fans, as a group, a more tolerant bunch.
However, every horde has its limit.
Which brings me to Bud Selig, Michael Weiner, and the ongoing Steroid Era in the Bigs.
The suits atop the Show blew it the first time around on the performance-enhancing drug issue.
Bud Lite once proclaimed he wouldn't change the way he handled the hot PED potato when it first arrived and maybe that's fair. I'd disagree, but the devil's advocate would point out hindsight has turned a complicated situation into a simple one.
Strike one we can accept because everyone deserves a second chance (within reason) and it probably reeks of hubris to assume we could've handled a relatively novel snafu any more competently.
Again, I'm not sure I buy that and I just typed it. Let's be generous.
Because strike two is coming through the chute and it's a fat, BP-fastball right down Broadway. If the commissioner and union chief swat nothing but air this time around, the masses won't be so tolerant.
Nor should we be.
The meatball they've been served comes in the form of British rugby player Terry Newton, who got a two-year ban for a positive HGH test and didn't protest the decision.
Yes, if we're being technical, maybe human growth hormone (HGH) isn't a steroid by conventional standards.
And perhaps Weiner wasn't the head of the Major League Players Association for the first PED go-around.
Semantics aside, we can all agree HGH is a performance enhancing drug (PED) and "The PED Era" doesn't have the nice ring to it. As for Weiner, he seems to be taking the baton from his predecessor smoothly so I'll haphazardly merge the two.
Back to the test—by now, everyone knows it's significant because it implies there's an acceptably reliable detector out there for the last remaining PED bugaboo.
Emphasis on "implies" because—whether it IS reliable enough isn't really the deal. That bridge will definitely be crossed at some point once the first athlete in the Former Colonies comes up hot.
The implication is what's key, as it should be.
Don't believe for one second it's being overblown because it's "only" a rugby player.
To a lot of the world, it's "only" baseball and the wrong kind of "football." Furthermore, you can be sure Newton (or someone he pays who has a legal degree) understood the fall-out from his silence would be historic.
The rugger just became the anti-doping equivalent of Curt Flood except on a global scale.
Nope, the decision to go quietly into the banished night couldn't have been arrived at lightly. That, alone, speaks volumes as to the needle's credibility.
Of course, the test isn't a silver bullet as I understand it. It still has a limited range of efficacy as far as the window of use covered is concerned. The synthetic HGH must have been taken relatively recently to show up.
Nevertheless, it is now something where there has been nothing.
So, if you're entrusted with either the welfare of the game or its players, the reaction is simple—let's get this into the testing protocol yesterday.
"The so-called 'steroid era'—a reference that is resented by the many players who played in that era and never touched the substances - is clearly a thing of the past, and Mark [McGwire]'s admission today is another step in the right direction."
That's a direct quote from Bud Selig's reaction to Big Mac's apology.
If the commish is right, if his use of the past tense isn't ludicrous, if the game is clean(ish), and if the players want that resentment taken sincerely, then it's in the best interest of all to embrace the test.
To prove the Steroid Era really is over by action rather than word.
Instead, the first volley fired by Weiner is this gem:
"The fact that there has been a positive [result] that an athlete has chosen not to challenge is a factor that raises the profile...But that doesn't make it scientifically valid. Our program has always been based on absolute, solid, reliable science."
Buddy boy and company soon caught up in lock-step.
After initial reports that MLB would give the test a go in the Minor Leagues, the powers-that-be are apparently backing off the stance to strike one more akin to that of Weiner and the MLBPA.
It's not often you can do it, so you gotta take the chance when it's there. Selig and Weiner should heed those pearls of Tennessee wisdom from George W. Bush because the rest of us sure will.
"Fool me once, shame on...shame on you...If ya fool me, you can't get fooled again."