Eric Thomas: Peralta Has Paid His Debt
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By: Eric Thomas
The Tigers organization took a few steps in Jhonny Peralta’s direction yesterday when GM Dave Dombrowski offered reporters that the currently suspended infielder would begin work with the team’s instructional league. The door back to the major leagues just opened a crack for the former All Star shortstop. This was met with some trepidation among Tigers fans. Some want to Peralta to assume the role of the man who never returned—left to wander some landscape of lifetime penance for sins committed against the sport of baseball. Others gently point out that he was hitting .305 with a wRC+ of 125 and we want to win the freaking World Series so he needs his butt to the ballpark the second the sanctions are lifted.
The camp who campaigns for Peralta’s continued banishment are a curious group. (Full disclosure: I’ve evolved on this position, which is a softer way of saying I changed my mind. This happens. I’d like to think I’m a smarter person today than I was yesterday, and even my most deeply held beliefs need to be examined on an almost constant basis—this is why I forget simple things like where I’ve thrown my keys and my girlfriend’s name.) They say things like: When the Melky Cabrera was suspended last year for the exact same thing; the Giants won the World Series. (This was my argument. I stopped saying it when I realized that the argument didn’t go much further than that.) Others point say that allowing Peralta to return would represent some tacit approval of steroids and PEDs.
Let’s deal with the question of PEDs and the “endorsement” that would occur if Jhonny were allowed to return to the Tigers. What’s the point of a 50-game suspension if there is an unwritten extra suspension after the suspension? After someone has been punished, shouldn’t they emerge with a clean slate?
It’s an odd facet of our current culture, the never ending punishment. It happens with prison every day. If someone is convicted of a crime, a judge sentences he or she to (in this example) a two year prison term. At the end of those 730 days, does that person emerge with a clean slate? Nope. There’s probationary periods, records permanently rendered, halfway houses and other apparatuses that continue to punish those who’ve repaid their debt to society.
One might say America has become a society that thrives on punishment—but this tendency has been dyed in the wool since someone kicked a stool out from under Sarah Good.
Baseball has always reflected American culture, and the latest example of this is the punishment of idolater steroid-doers. Why must punishment continue after a person has served his or her sentence? If a person had paid their debt, why don’t we welcome them back with a clean slate, free to earn their way back into society without judgment? Peralta has lost his shortstop position, but can he earn his way back to the Motor City’s good graces in the remaining months of the season? If not, why?
The role model argument is made a lot in instances such as these. People argue that it sets a bad example for the young and impressionable. “The children will see this as an endorsement of this kind of behavior,” they say, about seemingly everything. Why is the opposite never argued?
If a child asks, “Why did he have to go away?”
“He had to serve a fifty game suspension because he cheated. The league punishes people who cheat, and he had to pay the price?”
“Why did they allow him to come back?”
“Because his punishment is over. He’s got to earn his way back on the team now.”
Why is forgiveness the one thing that children can never see? Have you ever heard anyone say, “We need to forgive this person, because children need to see mercy. Restraint and forgiveness are actual virtues in almost every major theological philosophy and the children need to see some of that meted out in public.”
He’s paid his debt. Stop kicking. Let’s let vengeance and self-righteousness take the day off, for once.