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Baseball can learn from us. We can learn from baseball.

The View - Dan Fisher

There’s an old saying that some people use that goes, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.” I say that’s a load of crap.

My saying is, “If you’re not winning, try harder.”

Beat me fair and square and I’ll look you in the eye and shake your hand. If I find out you cheated to beat me, I just might look you in the eye and then knock you on your ass. That’s just me, and me being honest.

Recently it was announced by Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, that because they were caught cheating, more specifically, caught using electronics in their dugout to steal signs from opponents during their World Series run of 2017, and again throughout 2018, the Houston Astros would face severe discipline. The penalties included a $5 million fine, the loss of top draft picks, and one-year suspensions to both manager A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow. Subsequently, both Hinch and Luhnow were fired by Astros ownership as well.

But what about the players? According to the league, the sign-stealing scheme was largely conceived, developed and operated by the players, but none of them were penalized.

Let’s face it, cheating, or bending the rules, to some degree, takes place in all sports. One only has to look at the New England Patriots of the NFL in that regard. But in most sports the people that actually break the rules get penalized, and even though he’s a superstar, Tom Brady himself was suspended four games for his role in the Patriots’ ‘Deflategate’ scandal a few years back.

If you get caught cheating in golf, you’re immediately disqualified from the tournament - even if you didn’t know you were cheating.

In the NCAA, players from major football programs like Ohio State and USC have recently been stripped of Bowl Game victories and even National Championships, because of rules and recruiting violations by the school, and/or illegal cash donations to certain players from team boosters. In those cases the majority of the players didn’t even do anything wrong but they still lost their titles.

That brings me to our sport, a sport that hasn’t always had a good image to the outside world regarding possible cheating. I’ve heard it from the uneducated for years. Things like, “The drivers all bet and make money don’t they?” Or, “I heard that the trainers give their horses drugs.” But I have to stand up for us, because not only are those rare occurrences in our sport, but we also test strictly, and we do punish accordingly.

If a driver drives in a suspicious manner, they get a call from the judges, and fairly recently one of our top drivers in Ontario was suspended a very harsh 30 days for what was deemed inconsistent driving.

If a horse gets a positive test, not only does the trainer get fined and/or suspended, but the purse money gets returned as well. The trainer does not profit from breaking the rules, nor does the owner, whether they were complicit in any of it or not.

The key here is that the purse money gets returned - as would the trophy and title if it happened to be in a stakes race. In horse racing you can’t get caught cheating, profit from it, then serve a suspension (or less) as the only slap on the wrist. Apparently in Major League Baseball you can.

Baseball is often known as ‘America’s Game’ or the great national pastime, and I’m a huge baseball fan - it’s been played and loved in my family for generations. Rob Manfred and the MLB missed the boat on this one though.

Sports like baseball and football, not to mention hockey and basketball, face controversy all the time. From the cheating scandals mentioned here, to racism directed at players, to repeated domestic violence arrests, and so on, the news seems to be full of professional athletes and coaches who have done wrong. But at the end of the day, more often than not, their arenas and stadiums seem to be full, and their salaries continue to rise.

I’m sick of the bad rap that horse racing continually seems to get from the general population in regard to possible cheating, and especially sick of hearing when some of that negativity comes from within the industry itself. We need to continue to speak up for our sport in a positive way, and let the world know our good side. So if someone is beating you, and they’re staying within our rules, don’t cheat - don’t complain - just try harder.

What can baseball learn from us through all of this? Punish all of the cheaters and strip the Houston Astros of their title as World Series champions of 2017. Take back the rings, take back the cash bonuses, and take back the trophy.

What can we learn from baseball? Like Astros ownership did, if the people managing your horses aren’t on the up-and-up, fire them. Just as the Astros will easily find a new manager and general manager that won’t allow cheating, you can easily find a new Standardbred trainer that will do the same.

Dan Fisher
[email protected]

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