Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Aftershock

Well, the sun came up again today, after all.

It's interesting to see the changes people go through when an Abstract Principle pertaining to The Other Guy suddenly becomes a personal matter affecting One of Our Own. Many Twins fans who derided the new steroids policy as too lenient, and may have been calling for Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi to be run out of the game, today are thinking that the whole issue isn't so cut and dried. What are the safeguards against false positive results? Could Latino players be unaware of what's really banned because of a language barrier? Could Juan Rincon really be a cheater? What are the levels of cheating involved here? What did he really take? How do we really feel about a popular Twin getting busted? Should Rincon be booted off the team post haste, or does he deserve a second chance? What's become of our Moral High Ground?

Batgirl recently coined the term "Moral High Ground" in regard to her feelings about the way the Twins play defense. Over the years, if the Twins did nothing else right, the organization and its fans liked to believe that the team could field the ball better than most clubs. "We catch the ball around here," the management is fond of saying. It's their trademark, almost to the point of being a moral virtue. What's more, our rivals the White Sox have held a reputation for sloppy fielding, making it especially easy to enjoy lording our chief virtue over them as our team bests them in the standings yet again. So to see the Twins playing sloppy defense early this season while losing games to Chicago stung Batgirl. Not only did we lose to our rival, we were stripped of our most precious virtue in the process. Our fielders had booted away our moral high ground. I think that's the gist of it.

Turns out, a lot of Twins fans apparently believe that not only is the team supposed to be fundamentally superior to other clubs in the field, but the Twins--and by extension, the fans--are actually supposed to be morally superior, as well. Moral High Ground, indeed. Juan Rincon's suspension has spurred a sudden rash of soul-searching in Twins Territory. The immediate response from many has been, cast the demon out! He has shamed us, and he should be banished from our lands as soon as possible.

That reaction is just as bewildering and disappointing to me as the news about Rincon itself. How did we get the sense that we are truly Morally Superior as people just because we live in the Land O' Lakes? And what is so moral about shunning a man just because he made a mistake, in the first place? Juan Rincon apparently broke a new league rule covering what kinds of drugs he's allowed to take into his body. Exactly what he took or how he's benefitted from it, we don't know--and may never know much more than we do today. People say he's a good guy and they never would have suspected this of him; he never was busted by the minor league testing program, it's been said. Perhaps it's fair to assume that he really is a first-time offender who made an isolated mistake. The penalty under the league rules for his case is a 10-day suspension. For me, that's enough punishment for now.

Since the league announced its new drug policy before the season, I've felt that just the humiliation of a player's name being released to the public after a first offense could be enough of a deterrent to cut out steroid use eventually by nearly all but the most arrogant and sophisticated users. Seeing Juan Rincon get busted, I feel even more hopeful that Selig will let the program run its course. If Rincon thought he could beat the system, perhaps this public embarrassment will scare him straight; or if he was just caught in an accidental mistake, all the more reason why he deserves a welcoming back into the fold and a chance to put all this behind him.

Honestly, I don't think his pee cup really got mixed up with J.C. Romero's. Considering the potential benefits to a relief pitcher that could come by taking a drug that would increase arm strength and reduce muscle recovery time, Juan Rincon very well could have succumbed to the temptation to take a steroid. I never suspected him because of his body type, but I suppose the greater shock would be if every team did not have at least one steroid/HGH user in its bullpen. Juan Rincon is probably just the tip of the iceberg, which is a big reason why, when Juan Rincon returns to the mound for the Twins, I will not boo or treat him like a pariah. I will not call for the club to wash its hands of the man because he was caught breaking a rule. I think he deserves the chance to make good on this, and I will support him in his efforts. I just hope that he learns from the experience, and that his example may be a lesson to us all, as well.

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