That dream, which drives every professional player, loses meaning when champions cut corners. Fans doubt the sport’s legitimacy, which clouds subsequent titles and brings into questions previous ones as well. The shiny trophy that my favorite Phillies team won in 1980 when I was 10 years old comes into question. Not because they were responsible for behavior in 2017, but because those who later took the torch decided to forge it with fool’s gold. That selfish act makes everyone question the validity of the future and the truth of the past.
Players grow angry and dispirited to learn that a team beat them for reasons unrelated to talent, hard work, or even a lucky bounce of the ball. We already know that the differences between major league players are razor thin. Small enhancements lead to big advantages in the realm of the elite.
When the game is in doubt from every direction, baseball suddenly faces an existential crisis. There are so many opportunities to cheat; we all know it. Those who chose to play straight and respect the effort to maintain fair play, whether player or organization — and the actions taken to respond to the subversion of fair play — are what gives the game its moral clarity.