My thoughts on the A-Rod situationFebruary 10, 2009 at 12:35 am | Posted in Baseball | 20 Comments
So I heard the news just as everyone else did on Saturday. Somebody leaked that Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) had tested positive for steroids in a supposedly confidential test in 2003 before baseball’s steroid testing program was enacted. My immediate thoughts after hearing the news were as follows:
- Nobody should ever doubt Jose Canseco again. Canseco is clearly the only person who has ever been totally honest about baseball’s steroid problem. Sure, he’s not doing it out of the goodness of his heart – he’s doing it for the money and because he feels that he was blackballed out of the sport, but he is the only major figure who has been 100% honest about his involvement with steroids and the involvement of others. Everybody doubted him when he named McGwire and Palmeiro in his first book, and everyone doubted him when he named A-Rod in his second book. All of the members of the media who doubted and mocked Jose Canseco owe him a huge apology, which I’m sure they’ll never deliver.
- I was not surprised at all to learn that A-Rod used steroids. I honestly don’t think that I’d be surprised if it came out that any player, even someone who is universally admired like Cal Ripken, was on steroids. If Mother Teresa was a baseball player, and if she played in the late 1990s, she probably would’ve been juicing too. At this point, I believe that players who didn’t use steroids during that time were in the minority.
- The test was in 2003. A-Rod has never failed a MLB steroid test since then. It’s generally assumed that the current testing prevents players from using steroids. So if we believe that A-Rod has not been on steroids since 2003, then it should be obvious that he is one of the best players in baseball without steroids. So I don’t buy any arguments that his home run totals are inflated due to steroids.
- We now know that the list of players who used steroids is very long, and it contains names that we already know, and many others who we don’t know about yet. Many prominent hitters and pitchers used steroids. With so many players using the drug, did anyone really have an advantage? With each new revelation about a player who was using steroids, the accomplishments of others who we already knew used steroids don’t look quite as bad as we originally thought.
I really think that A-Rod is being unfairly treated by the media and many fans. I think that this has been going on ever since he first signed the $252 million contract with Texas, and it intensified after he was traded to the Yankees. He gets picked on because he makes more money than anyone else in baseball, but who else deserves to be the highest paid player? The only other player who could make an argument is Albert Pujols. He gets criticized for never having won a World Series, but there are hundreds of players in MLB who have never won a World Series. Baseball is a team game, and A-Rod has certainly helped his teams win many more times over the years than the number of losses that he’s been responsible for. And I’m not even going to get into his personal life. Yes, it appears that he treated his wife horribly, but that’s not something that we should even know about. It’s a shame that he has absolutely no privacy because of the unscrupulous scumbags in the New York media.
I think it’s ridiculous to suggest that A-Rod isn’t a legitimate 500 home run hitter, or that he deserves some sort of asterisk, or that there’s any question that he should be in the Hall of Fame. It’s clear to anyone who has paid attention to baseball over the last 15 years that A-Rod is one of the most dominant players of his generation – when he was using steroids and when he wasn’t. It’s also clear that a majority of star players were using steroids during that time. It certainly isn’t an isolated thing. We’ll never know for sure exactly who used steroids and who didn’t. It’s probably likely that a few players who are already in the Hall of Fame used steroids. Sure, the players knew it was wrong and they shouldn’t have done it. But we really need to blame MLB for allowing the steroid usage to go on for so long with no testing. MLB created an atmosphere where many players felt that they needed to use steroids in order to keep up with everyone else.
Look, nobody can seriously argue that guys like A-Rod, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, and Roger Clemens were not among the best players of their generation. Under normal circumstances, there is absolutely no doubt that these guys are Hall of Famers. Unfortunately, they are all tainted by allegations – and in some cases, proof – that they used steroids during their playing careers. But the more that we learn about what went on regarding steroids in MLB, the more apparent it becomes that the whole era is tainted, and not just a select few players. These are still the best players of their era, and I’m starting to feel that they should all be enshrined in Cooperstown despite their steroid usage.
Should they be admired as much as players like Babe Ruth or Willie Mays who played without chemical enhancement? No, but I don’t see how you can justify keeping all of these players out of the Hall of Fame unless it is decided that no one who played in the steroid era can be in the Hall of Fame. And that would be totally ridiculous.
I have to say that I was impressed by A-Rod’s quick public admission and apology for using steroids, even though he denied it in the past. I would like to see that from the other stars who are guilty of using steroids. The thing that upsets me the most about the known steroid users is that so many of them continue to lie about it. Mark McGwire famously pleaded the fifth. Rafael Palmeiro lied before Congress. Barry Bonds continues to deny it. And Roger Clemens continues to make a complete ass of himself. If these players would be as honest and open about steroids as Jose Canseco has been, and as Alex Rodriguez is now, it would really help me and other baseball fans to fully understand what went on during the steroid era and begin the healing process with these players.
I also want to preemptively defend the sport of baseball from those who will argue that this problem somehow only affects baseball. Steroid usage occurs in many other sports, including football, but people seem content to turn a blind eye. Let’s take Shawne Merriman as an example. He’s one of the biggest stars in the NFL, and few people seem to care that he failed a steroid test and was suspended for four games in 2006. I don’t hear anyone saying that there should be an asterisk next to his sack totals.
Baseball is different because of its long and storied history. People have a hard time seeing cherished records broken by players who have been tainted by steroid usage. But what’s done is done, and nobody can go back and change the past. We’ll always know that Barry Bonds’ home run totals were affected by steroids, but we’ll never know exactly how much they were affected. And the same is true with A-Rod, but probably to a lesser extent. But just like the Cincinnati Reds will always be the champions of the tainted 1919 World Series, the statistics from the steroid era will never go away. All that we can do is place them in the proper historical perspective. Babe Ruth was the greatest home run hitter of his generation, Hank Aaron was the greatest of his generation, and Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez were the best of the steroid era.
Finally, let’s focus on one of the few positive things about this news. A-Rod failed the test back in 2003. That was six years ago. MLB now has a comprehensive performance-enhancing drug testing program. It took a while, but MLB seems to have finally cleaned up the game. With spring training about to begin later this week, let’s look optimistically at the upcoming season and be thankful that the steroid problem is now in baseball’s rear view mirror. Let’s play ball!