Bad boys give MLB bad name

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:02 AM ET

Sidney Ponson is unemployed today for absolutely no reason if you throw out the two impaired driving charges and the tuning up of a judge in Aruba.

In other news, Rafael Palmeiro stuffed plugs in his ears at the Rogers Centre but there's an explanation for that: No pillows and duct tape.

David Wells apologized for categorizing commissioner Bud Selig as an idiot who withheld Palmeiro's flunked steroid test. Boomer is now free to issue a whole new set of ramblings including the notion that the order of the serial numbers in the Alexander Hamilton $10 bill influence human behaviour. Wells, by the way, said he has been tested three times for steroids and, as there is no accompanying psychological testing, he passed with flying colors. Ola.

Meanwhile, Barry Bonds, scuttled all year by a media-induced knee injury, continues to take batting practice, although he looks a lot more Felipe Alou. Alou, by the way, heard about Bonds' plan to pull the plug after he put it on a website.

Mark McGwire took the fifth before Congress, Palmeiro erred and didn't and Sammy Sosa became unilingual. Jason Giambi stopped taking steroids and apologized but wouldn't say what for.

If this is the game's renaissance, I'd hate to have to watch the dark side.

Finally, though a ray of hope: The morals clause, a ploy used by the Baltimore Orioles who were interested if not in the common good, then at least in saving $10 million US in salary next year on this stiff Sidney Ponson.

This is a business decision. Based on his 7-11 and 6.21 earned-run average, Ponson hasn't looked like much of a return. He's out of the lineup with calf and thumb injuries.

The Orioles' stand seems clear. Beat up a judge and spend 11 days in jail, okay. Second charge, now you're getting close to the line. Third charge: Bingo. I tell you, it's a hair-trigger at Camden Yards.

Here's the fun part. The Orioles invoked a morals clause, an offshoot of the ones major movie studios brandished toward philandering Hollywood stars. If you've been reading the scandal sheets you'll see that while the clauses have gone out of vogue, adultery sure hasn't.

The morals clause says the player agrees "to keep himself in first-class physical condition and to obey the club's training rules, and pledges himself to the American public and to the club to conform to high standards of personal conduct, fair play and good sportsmanship." Huzza.

The Orioles' move is a stretch. The New York Yankees, for example, didn't opt for the morals clause in what was a resourceful and determined bid to cancel Giambi's contract this spring.

But the morals clause means when a Rafael Palmeiro flunks a drug test and is administered a pittance of a 10-game suspension, the Orioles have the option of tacking more on. The unexpected benefit: A life-and-death grievance with Donald Fehr and the Players.

The San Francisco Giants could have said that Bonds' connection with BALCO made him ineligible and saved themselves $22 million. Of course, he would have never played for them again.

And that is what will never change.

A player at his peak, of course, will always remain largely immune.

If Sidney Ponson were an 18-game-winner, the Orioles would be talking treatment and urging the public not to judge the poor kid. He would cry at a news conference and then everyone would talk about needing closure and moving forward.

But Ponsons' risk exceeds his potential so he's out for running up charges as quickly as earned runs.

The Orioles made the right moral decision for themselves, and for Sidney Ponson in showing him the door.

He're hoping his firing will reverberate ... with drug cheats like Palmeiro as well as loudmouths like Wells. Not even baseball deserves this.


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