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DAYS:Athletes aren't exempt

KIDS THESE

June 19, 2007|By STEVE SMITH

Over the years, we have all heard stories about professional athletes getting away with crimes and moral lapses for which most mere mortals would suffer mightily.

The stories occur at the college level, too, whether it's having someone attend classes and take tests for an athlete, or bending the NCAA rules about gifts and payments.

What usually happens at both levels is an outcry, followed by an investigation, followed by what seems to be a lack of interest. Former USC star Reggie Bush's alleged financial transgressions during his college years are a good example of how controversy can dwindle down to nothing over time.

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Sure, once in a while there is a criminal prosecution but those seem to be only for the worst criminal offenses involving physical harm to another.

My favorite example of a star getting the star treatment is Steve Howe, a major league baseball pitcher in the 1980s who was suspended seven times for drug-related offenses. Howe kept coming back — not because he had kicked his habit but because he had the promise of helping ball clubs improve their records.

Howe died in a car accident last year.

The problem we have is that this preferential treatment begins when kids are much younger. The promising arm or the 6' 5" sixth grader often get away with much more than the average student.

I'm happy to report, however, that once in a while, there are glimpses of a system that won't tolerate bad behavior.

Just up the road in Anaheim, the Angels have sent messages to players that they will not tolerate bad behavior, regardless of a player's ability.

In 2004, for example, the Angels suspended left fielder Jose Guillen for an apparent string of angry outbursts. Guillen had been having a good season and could have helped the Angels in the playoffs that year. But for management, it was not only about winning.

"We had to do something with Jose," Angels' manager Mike Scioscia was quoted as saying. "This is about the organization, not one guy. [General Manager] Bill [Stoneman] wanted to be loud and clear with the message. It was an issue getting in the way of winning."

So for Scioscia and the Angels, bad behavior was seen not as something to tolerate from a star, but an impediment to success.

What a concept.

Just a few days ago, the Angels did it again, this time much earlier than at the pro level.

Last week, a promising young right-handed pitcher named Jose Arredondo was demoted from double-A level in the minor leagues, to Class-A level.

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