When he heard that New York Yankee superstar Alex Rodriguez was suspended for the rest of this Major League Baseball season and all of next season, Peyton Engler had a strong reaction.
“Not cool,” he said Monday between games at the National Baseball Congress World Series at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in Wichita.
Engler is 10 years old. He pitches and plays shortstop for the Goddard Pirates, a Little League team. He attended the tournament with his older brother, Christian, wearing a blue Kansas City Royals jersey and a black Wichita State University Shocker baseball cap.
He thinks Rodriguez should have been banned for life.
“I think he’s been doing it his whole career,” he said.
Opinions at the NBC World Series were widespread on Monday after Major League Baseball announced it had suspended Rodriguez, a three-time Most Valuable Player and baseball’s highest-paid player, for 211 games stretching through the 2014 season. Rodriguez was punished for his connections to a Florida clinic, Biogenesis of America, which is accused of distributing banned performing-enhancing drugs. Baseball also handed out 50-game suspension to 12 other players.
Christian Engler, 15, thought Rodriguez was punished a little too harshly. While using drugs is cheating and unfair to other players, he said, a one-season suspension would have been enough to warn Rodriguez away from using drugs.
The suspension isn’t going mean much for the future of baseball.
“I think it’ll hurt the Yankees, but I don’t think it’ll make that much difference,” Christian Engler said. “He’s a big star, but he’s just one player.”
Jerred Wheelock, a pitcher for the Valley Center Diamond Dogs who are still playing in the tournament, said a big-name star like Rodriguez should have been suspended longer than a year and a half.
“It’s hard to give a guy a lifetime ban, but I think if they’d have given him a lifetime ban, they’d probably stop everybody else from doing that,” he said.
Wheelock said he wouldn’t want to throw to a batter he suspected was on drugs.
“You got everybody else working their tails off to be the best they can be, and you have other guys coming in using performance enhancing drugs,” he said. “It kind of ruins what those other people are working for.”
Craig Bontrager, an NBC fan from Wichita, said Rodriguez should’ve been banned for life. But, he said, it’s sad.
“As fans and as players and as owners demand so much out of these guys every day for the amount of money they pay them, some of the guys think that’s what they’ve got to do to gain that edge,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s their choice. But I do understand.
“But I think he should’ve manned up and said, ‘I did it, and I’ll take responsibility for it.’
“Not only are they cheating on the game, they’re cheating on themselves.”
Out on the field, a couple of NBC teams were warming up for a game. Bontrager said that because some players in baseball use drugs to gain an advantage, there are players in Wichita who won’t get a chance, he said. And that, he said, is sad, too.
Steve Crothers, of Wichita, who attended the tournament with his son, Wyatt, 8, said Rodriguez deserved a long suspension because he lied about his drug use in the past.
Baseball was too lenient on all the offenders named Monday, he said. Those who play for contending teams will be back for the playoffs after their 50-game suspensions expire.
“If baseball wants to get rid of drugs, suspend them for the rest of the season,” Crothers said.
But he wasn’t without sympathy for the suspended players.
“With the money in baseball and the pressure on players to reach the big paychecks, players have an incentive to cheat,” he said “When they put that much money out there, somebody’s going to try and get it.
“If a guy’s making that kind of money he’s going to have to stay on top of his game. and if that’s what they think they have to do to stay on top of the game, they’re just going try not to get caught.”
“The pressure to perform for money is outrageous,” he said.
Crothers said he hopes the suspensions will help clean up the game.
“But it doesn’t matter,” he said, thinking about past drug scandals in baseball, as well as a players strike that shut it down for a while. Baseball always survives.
“People will still come out to it,” Crothers said. “Baseball is still the American sport.”