Integrity: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.

By far the biggest sports story of the summer was Major League Baseball’s steroid investigation and the subsequent suspensions doled out to 14 players found in violation of the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs (PED). Thirteen of the suspended players admitted involvement, apologized for their poor decisions and quietly accepted their punishments. One player, as we all know, chose a different route.

Alex Rodriguez, who in the past has admitted to both using PED and lying about using PED, chose to appeal his 211-game suspension rather than cop to his wrongdoing and humbly bow out. The worst part of it all, the league will continue to allow him to play while the appeal is processed, which could take months, giving A-Rod the convenience of playing out the rest of the season.

What A-Rod effectively accomplished through the appeal, aside from cementing his position as the most-hated player in baseball, was creating a distraction that robbed every other great player in the league of the attention they deserve. He’s now a spectacle whose very presence on a baseball diamond overshadows anything else happening on the field.

I happened to be at Fenway Park August 18 when Ryan Dempster chose to express his displeasure for the situation via a fastball to A-Rod’s elbow. While clearly not the best strategic game play (A-Rod responded with a home run), I can only imagine how frustrating it was for Dempster to have to pitch to someone who many believe doesn’t deserve the privilege of standing in a batter’s box.

His refusal to accept responsibility for his poor choices has soiled the 2013 season for a lot of players and fans. And the MLB’s choice to allow A-Rod to finish out the season has made many question the integrity of the entire organization. If the MLB wants to redeem itself, the appeal will be denied, A-Rod will receive the punishment he deserves, and when the 2014 season starts, the focus will be on baseball … as it should be.

Leading the Way

On the flipside of the integrity coin you find Thomas Goyne, a young, aspiring groundskeeper who, through hard work and a willingness to learn, has already earned the respect of many professional groundskeepers. Though he only started college this fall, Thomas’ résumé shows an impressive list of field care experience. See page 10 to read about the journey that took Thomas all the way to the majors while he was still in high school.

Katie Meyers