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PR Fail: Major League Baseball Wins the Battle While Losing the War
By: Mike Bush
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Baseball’s greatest home run hitter ever may not get into the hall of fame. Arguably, its best pitcher won’t get in either. The catcher who hit the most home runs from the most demanding position on the field? Yeah, he didn’t do so well in hall of fame voting either. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Mike Piazza are among a few of the true baseball stars who have seen their careers tarnished, potentially beyond repair, by allegations of steroid use and performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).
 
At the very least, it seems as though Bud Selig, the commissioner of MLB, decided that it was OK to sacrifice those player’s resumes in the name of “cleaning up the game.” If a whole generation of superstars needed to be tarnished in with the goal of eliminating PEDs from the game, so be it. How would players of today react when they saw demigods from the '90s basically shunned from the sport that made them famous?
 
Surely, making an example of some of the game's greatest-ever players would resonate!
 
Only…it didn’t.
 
This past week, ESPN’s Outside the Lines ran a report that named some of today’s best-known players as cheaters, using similar drugs to those that tarnished yesterday’s starts. Today, Yahoo! Sports labeled the three worst flack-jobs in the U.S. as the NRA, Big Tobacco, and mouthpiece for Alex Rodriguez. 
 
When MLB decided to take charge of the situation and eliminate PEDs from the game (albeit with a not-so-subtle push from Congress), they had to hope the punishments they put in place, along with the examples they’d made of former players would be enough.
 
They weren’t, and they aren’t.
 
Today, MLB gets to trumpet its success in catching more cheaters. The institution can say, “See, our testing and our approach is finding guys who are breaking our rules.”
 
And in so doing, they create more and more doubt about which players are doing it the “right way.”
 
Sure, MLB won a battle this week. But in the war to keep fans believing that the players we cheer for are clean, they took a major step backwards.
 
If there’s a PR lesson here, it’s that sometimes just being “right” doesn’t equate to having “success.”


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About the Author
Mike Bush is a PR and Marketing freelancer with more than a dozen years of experience in the field. Find him on and connect Twitter @mikebush or at www.mikebush.nyc. 
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