On Melky And Morality

Yesterday, San Francisco Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for testosterone. It’s upsetting to me in that a talented player whose charisma and charm makes him loveable to his team’s fan base would ultimately cheat at baseball. After all, using testosterone is agreed upon by the players and owners to be a breach of conduct.

It is not upsetting to me because Cabrera broke some sort of arbitrary moral code beyond breaking the rules of Major League Baseball  by using a substance he believed would improve his performance. In my opinion, the only moral choice he made was with regards to doing something against the rules. He is not a horrible person, nor is he selfish.

It would take a level of naivety of which I’m not capable to imagine that competitors in a highly competitive field aren’t going to seek out every advantage possible to triumph over their competition. It would take an equally unsound measure of naivety to trust my limited understanding of what advantage there is to be gained through the use of banned substances, at least to the point of vocalizing or writing out accusations about the fiber of someone’s character.

Certainly, it’s bothersome that players cheat in baseball as a means of getting ahead. However, because the idea of performance enhancing drugs has been elevated to a level of notice other areas of cheating have not been, it receives a higher level of attention. And that’s not even discussing the far more reprehensible cases of bad behavior that have included drinking and driving, as well as, in the case of Delmon Young, hate speech and physical assault.

Adding to my general annoyance is the specific moral grandstanding of certain baseball writers who descend from on high to deliver shame upon a player’s head. This is done not out of concern for the overall health of athletes – the supposed reason the use of banned substances are treated so severely – but merely to promote themselves as a voice of sound judgment and moral responsibility.

Typically, these writers jump to the following conclusions:

  • The use of banned substance has improved a player’s ability.
  • The accomplishments of that player, which are given a sudden and arbitrary level of importance, should be called into question.

There is no concrete evidence to suggest the levels at which taking substances will improve your performance. Yes, the use of so-called performance enhancing drugs allow your body to do things physically that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to do, but how that transfers to skills on the baseball field, we cannot say. The list of what we would consider poorly skilled baseball players who have been caught using banned substances is just as long as the list of what we would consider to be highly skilled players.

This is why it’s unreasonable to both: a) smear Melky Cabrera’s name beyond the fact that he broke the rules of the game and b) call into question any of his accomplishments, which have suddenly gained an increased amount of importance, while he was supposedly using a banned substance.