12/14/2007 02:39 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Why We Like Cheating in Baseball

"So long as there might be potential cheaters in the game, we have to constantly update what we do to catch them. And that's exactly what I intend to do. We will not rest." -- Commissioner Bud Selig, as reported in today's New York Times

Forgive me. Why on earth should anyone trust what Bud Selig says about drugs in baseball? When PEDs were juicing MLB's balance sheets, he colluded with Player's Union Executive Director Don Fehr to block a serious drug-testing program for years. He apparently didn't much care as George Mitchell's investigation dragged on with almost nothing to show until Kirk Radomsky fell into Mitchell's lap.

But here Selig is the real voice of most baseball fans, most of whom, most of the time, could not care less about the drug habits of their favorite players--as long as they're winning, that is. Since when has cheating bothered us fans? Announcers use the term all the time to mean something positive. "See Jeter cheating toward second base?" (Implication: "If he can get away with it--meaning if the batter doesn't hit the ball in the larger hole between 3rd and short--more power to him!")

What about the ancient tradition of sign-stealing? Has anyone suggested putting an asterisk next to Bobby Thompson's "home run heard round the world"--even though it turns out that the Giants had a telescope installed in their centerfield fence to steal signs from opposing catchers, and Thompson may have known just what pitch Ralph Branca was throwing as he hit the most famous home run of 20th century?

And what about Hall of Famer Mike "King" Kelly, the most beloved player of the late 19th century, who used to cut from first to third right across the diamond (out of view of the two umpires) whenever he could? Or groundskeepers who let the grass grow higher close to the mound to help a good home-team bunter? Or club owners who sign a left-handed slugger and move in the right field fence a few feet?

Spitballs are dangerous pitches that can really hurt a hitter, which is why they are illegal, but how many calls have you heard lately to kick Gaylord Perry out of the Hall of Fame. His autobiography, you may recall, is entitled Me and the Spitter.

Personally, I prefer the baseball tradition in which players and owners use whatever they've got (or can buy) to win games, and don't make any bones about it. Given the material rewards for outstanding performance in professional sports, I just don't see any way to stop the use of, or search for less detectable, PEDs.

The report does make for great gossip, however, and I do derive a certain grim pleasure, I from seeing the Andy Pettittes of the world, who make a big deal of their evangelical morals--His book is entitled Strike Zone: Targeting a Life of Integrity and Purity--get truly hung out to dry.