So, what are you guys going to do?
You make $363,000 a year, you're living on top of the world and you just got your letter from Peter Ueberroth.
Between now and Friday, you have to make a moral choice. Not an easy one.
The commissioner of baseball has just gotten down on his knees and begged you -- for the good of your game, your family, your reputation and your own health -- to volunteer for his drug testing program next season. His logic is simple.
Basically, the commisioner is saying that for the money you make, the adulation you receive and the perks attached to your position in society as a hero, you ought to give a little something back.
He just wants you to obey one particular law. And prove it.
He thinks that, in the court of public opinion, big-leaguers have been found guilty until proven innocent. So, he wants you to prove your innocence.
Ueberroth wants you to do this even if:
*You believe in a person's right to privacy and think widespread testing of the innocent is a horrible Big Brother precedent for society.
*You think what you put up your nose on your own time is your own business and your own risk -- a victimless crime, if you don't count yourself.
*You think that by volunteering to be tested you are pointing the finger at teammates who refuse -- branding them, even if they are blameless, by a kind of reverse guilt-by-association.
*Your union, which has made you rich, says that Ueberroth is going over its head, violating fair labor practice and weakening the association.
While Ueberroth reasons with you on one hand, he also hints at veiled threats on the other. His testing program will, he vows, insure "complete confidentiality" and have absolutely "no penalties." The commissioner implies, however, that if you don't pay him now, you'll pay Congress later. The Senate and House, he says, are looking at you hard and thinking about legislation. A governing body that seriously considers censoring rock 'n' roll lyrics shouldn't have too much trouble cracking down on something that already is a crime.
"Inevitable," says Ueberroth of the eventual intervention of outside agencies in baseball's drug abuse problems.
"There's a cloud hanging over baseball, and it's a cloud called drugs," says Ueberroth. "The players can take that cloud and blow it away tomorrow."
In a sense, Ueberroth is right. If 90 to 95 percent of big-leaguers agreed to be tested three times a year "not on predetermined dates," that probably would convince the public that baseball's level of drug abuse was acceptably low.
Baseball, instead of stinking to high heaven as players turn stool pigeon to nail a small-time pusher, could say it was showing America the way toward an enlightened drug program. Ueberroth already claims that the combination of confidentiality and no penalties would be uniquely progressive among American industries. "We can show the way."
Ueberroth's ace in the hole -- the argument to which every player really has to listen -- is his insistence that a player who experiments with illegal drugs is tampering with the integrity of the game. Ballplayers long ago gave away one of their freedoms: the right to consort with known gamblers. Nobody complains about that. The 1919 Black Sox scandal proved that a fixing scandal struck at the very heart of baseball as a viable industry.
Now, the argument goes, if a player buys thousands of dollars of cocaine, how far can he be from the influence of organized crime? Even if you aren't an addict, even if you aren't in debt, aren't you still vulnerable to blackmail?
So, what will you guys do? This is a lot tougher than voting Series shares.
Even by the most cynical guesstimates, the majority of major leaguers don't use illegal drugs. Even those like former union-head Ken Moffett who warn that "we've still only seen the tip of the iceberg," still assume that the number of drug-dependent ballplayers is extremely low.
In other words, if the ballplayers who already are clean, plus those who don't see any reason not to change their recreational habits for the sake of a game that's making them enormously rich, would just join forces, baseball could have the voluntary program that Ueberroth suggests.
But should it?
Even if one's perspective does not extend beyond a locker room, should ballplayers run the risk of weakening their union, especially if they think Ueberroth's concerns are essentially just a public relations cleanup?
And what about the issue of guilt by disassociation? Teams may find out which players refuse those tests. In a nation that preaches "innocent until proven guilty," isn't that abhorrent?
For men who consider it a tough life decision to choose between a Porsche and a Jaguar, this week could cause a few headaches.
Just remember: ask the trainer only for aspirin.