Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio

Friday, 14 May 2010 09:59 AM

By Jon Friedman

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Does America have any faith in role models any more? I'd guess not.

A pertinent question: How low will baseball sink? Now, I'm reading that a coach for the Philadelphia Phillies was accused of using binoculars to steal the opposing team's signs during a game. Maybe this practice is as much a part of the sport as coaches slapping players' butts during their home run trots, but wrong is wrong.

When I was growing up on Long Island, I used to think that baseball players like Mickey Mantle and Tom Seaver were gods. I never believed in Santa Claus but I sure believed in the Mick. Those were the days.

Now, seemingly as often as not, we keep reading bulletins that today's baseball players are steroid-abusers, or dope addicts — garden-variety criminals.

Do players have an obligation to the fans to be good citizens? Should they care? Should we care, as long as these strangers, these mercenaries who are wearing the jersey of our favorite teams, keep hitting home runs, pitching shutouts, and winning championship rings?

Maybe Charles Barkley was absolutely correct when he boasted, and employed some bizarre logic, "I'm not a role model." Perhaps I expect too much from these guys.

But still . . .

Shouldn't we have something to believe in? Can't sports simply provide an escape from our worries about the deficit, Afghanistan, healthcare, Wall Street, and the stock market's insanity?

We sure can't believe in the wisdom of the free markets any more. The crazy fluctuations on May 6 took care of those illusions, right? We can't believe in the sanctity of Wall Street either, God (or Tom Seaver) knows.

No matter how often throughout history we've seen insider trading cases, securities fraud, or any of the other usual shenanigans, the best and the brightest never seem to learn and history keeps repeating itself.

Meanwhile, the Phillies insisted this week they were not trying to steal signs when their bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer was spotted on a camera looking through binoculars from the bullpen bench at Coors Field. (And there is gambling in this establishment, you say? Shocking! Shocking!)

Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said his employee simply was examining Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz playing on Monday night.

It's just another blemish on the National Pastime — and a new reason why we can't believe in ballplayers any more. No, they aren't gods. Too bad.

Charlie Manuel should be working on Wall Street.

Jon Friedman writes the Media Web column for MarketWatch.com. Click here to read his latest column.

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