My thoughts on the A-Rod situation

February 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

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  1. You bring up many good points, especially that we really should think about Canseco differently. I agree that he only came out with these books to turn a profit, but it seems as though he is spot on thus far. You are right that the media will never apologize, nor will any player critical of his books.

    I agree that this was all part of an era of the sport, and hopefully an era that has come to an end years ago. Should we penalize everyone in MLB forever for it? I don’t think so, but try telling that to the guys who have a vote for HOF’ers. I think if a player is openly admitting that he made a mistake, he knows better now and stopped, perhaps we can be pissed and move on. But guys like Bonds and McGwire can suck it as far as I’m concerned. They danced around the issues like high school girls hiding secrets. Grow up, be a man, and take responsibility for what you did so that maybe you can retain some dignity for yourself.

  2. You touched on the one aspect that really irks me about the whole steroids thing: how baseball is singled out while everyone in every other sport can do whatever they want.

    Sure it’s news when a track athlete or football player tests positive for PEDs, but there isn’t the hand-wringing and angst and the “this sport will never be the same” nonsense that you get when a baseball player tests positive.

    There was one idiotic column in the Detroit paper today about how we shouldn’t consider baseball a sport anymore because some stars used steroids in the past. Well, what about football? If people are certain that at least half the baseball players have used steroids, I’m pretty sure that even more football players have used them. Where’s the “shame on the NFL” nonsense that baseball has to go through?

    Baseball is a longstanding institution. And like other longstanding institutions, people are just lining up waiting to bring them down, because it makes them feel better about their mistake-ridden lives.

    End of rant.

  3. Dave, I know you love defending your Yankees but wait just one second.

    1. I don’t believe for one second that Arod only used for three years. Maybe he hasn’t been caught recently but we don’t know if he has been tested every single year since then.

    If you were in a ten year marriage and cheated on your wife in the second year and then in the 8th year and were caught for it, would you go back and tell her about your second year affair as well?

    Arod is a liar. He broke up two marriages and lied on television. He’s only on TV now to tug on the heartstrings of dumb Yankees fans that will believe anything and support him no matter what.

    2. He cheated and no matter what he should get an asterisks next to his numbers if not officially then by the fans. In fact, take away those 3 years he admitted to and he doesn’t even have 500 home runs.

    3. Canseco has said he’s got more surprises in store about Arod and others. I can’t wait.

    4. I hope more than anything that the 103 names on that list also get released. It wasn’t fair about Arod although it was great to catch the hypocrite in a lie.

    5. He may end up hitting 800 home runs but much like today’s record…it will remain tarnished.

  4. Look at his HR totals by year–he says he used for three years, which presumably started in 2001, his first year with the Rangers. All of a sudden, he’s hitting 10 more homers than he did in Seattle, in what was a hitter friendly (if I remember right?) Kingdome. Uses for 3 years, stopping sometime during 2003? HR totals start to drop.

    He may have been treated a little unfairly after he signed the $252 million deal–although given the degree to which it was larger than any other contract, and the degree to which is prohibited the Rangers from signing anyone else to help them be competitive (a situation he complained about, and did nothing to solve, even if it was management’s stupidity that got them there), he deserved criticism.

    Given the way he got his new contract, the size of the contract, the steroids, and the way he has acted and performed, he deserves ALL of the scrutiny he gets.

  5. Tony – the ballpark in Texas is actually the best hitters park in the American League by far. Almost everybody who plays for the Rangers sees an increase in their home run totals.

  6. Mario, I’m not a Yankees fan or an A-Rod fan. I’m just calling it as I see it. Your opinions are pretty similar to what I’ve been hearing on XM radio and reading on the internet over the last few days. There’s a lot of people ready to crucify A-Rod, and as I suggested in my post, I don’t think that’s really fair.
    .
    The problem with asterisks and with fans trying to figure out what a player’s statistics would be if he had never used steroids is that we have no way of quantifying how much of an impact the steroids have on a player’s performance. Surely you don’t believe that A-Rod wouldn’t have hit ANY home runs between 2001 – 2003 without steroids. He probably would have hit less, but he’d definitely be over 500 home runs now no matter what. We also have to remember that many of the pitchers that A-Rod faced were also juiced. Who has the advantage in that situation? I think that Jose Canseco could write a great book about the effect that steroids really have on players, as opposed to just dropping names.

  7. Ya know Dave, that’s the one thing we really haven’t seen from Canseco. Everybody agrees that he’s the “expert” when it comes to steroids. I’d really like to see him explain what it actualy does for you.

    And regarding his home run totals, he still would have hit over 30 HRs a year, and has done so since.

    Mario, look at the HR totals for other guys who play their home games in Texas.

  8. Charles, Jose said in his first book what it does and doesn’t do for you.

    It won’t help you hit a fastball, it will help you lift weights for longer and give you a serious extra amount of confidence over other guys.

    I will dig up the book tonight.

  9. great article dave…but have you noticed that there is also a steroid era in baseball cards?what do i mean?the card companies had to create bigger,badder,stronger products to get the edge on the other guy.they pumped up the products with jersey cards.then auto cards,then auto jersey patch limited edition 1/1 logo patch cut autos.and now topps has the dna cards.real pieces of human beings(2008 topps a&g abe lincoln relic).these ideas are just like the steroids,short term gains that could ultimately kill the hobby or a product line.just like with the jacked up ball players going for the records,the demand for tickets went up which in turn drove the price up.the card companies unleashed their own version of the steroid monster with the release of such products as Exquisite collection,sterling,national treasures.the prices have gone up and the quality suffered.they like arod forgot that they were already good and did not need to rely on artificial means to make them great.sure everyone likes pulling a big hit out of a box but when i started collecting the only thing you were gonna pull was a rookie or insert.arod was a great player on his own(and i’m a red sox fan)just like topps and ud flagships are.that is their not the “hits in box”.the steroids have diluted the the mlb records and the big hit products have diluted the hobby.

  10. I know I am going off track a little bit but the real question is what to do with these guys regarding the HOF. I think the simple answer would be to build a wing dedicated to the 90’s and as you enter, the first plaque you read is one written by the commissioner of baseball during all this, Bud Selig, apologizing for the leagues complicity in the whole steroid era due to having turned a blind eye for years as some of the most cherished records in all of sports were chased, eventually passed and new marks set.

    To keep guys implicated, alleged, positive-tested, admitted out of the HOF based on baseball writers opinions and to serve as a means of punishment is going to be absurd. The across the board use of steroids seems to suggest that no one or two players had that distinct of an advantage. Do I wish this whole issue never existed, do I wish the broken records were accomplished untainted? Of course.

    However, to hold the players 100% accountable and for the MLB to snobishly take the high road through all this is just as bad, if not worse, than the players taking steroids. Because the 90’s happened, and baseball as a whole just can’t ignore that. Our era has seen some of the greatest players of all time regardless of ‘the juice’ and I think it would be a disservice to the history of the sport to just ignore them and banish them from the HOF altogether.

  11. And just when we think the steroid story is done and we can move to spring training… Miggy Tejada has charges brought against him! When will it end?!

  12. Dave,

    I have read a bunch of articles over the past few days by major sports writers and the like on what A-Rod has done to the game and how horrible it is. You however are the only person who seems to have struck a chord and hit the nail on the head as how I feel as well. I agree that in the time, the rarity was the player who didn’t use. I also feel that if he used at that point, what was then not a banned why is it such a big issue. Its kind of like Babe Ruth and womanizing, Mickey Mantle’s alcoholism, and other quirks of the players. They are who they are and what they are for what they do on and off the field. We can like them or hate them for it, but it is just another way for a player in a sport, any sport for that matter to compete at the highest level. When the Yankees as a team build and emphasize the philosophy that winning the World Series every year is the ONLY option, can we also point the finger of the steroid question back at the owners as well. The Yankees, Red-Sox Angels and others with their huge payrolls strive for the best players money can buy. To be the best, you need to use every advantage to grasp that brass ring and fat contract. While I am a Yankees fan who also grew up in the doldrums of the terrible 80’s teams, I have never liked A-Rod, perhaps something to do with his .044 BA in the playoffs, but I do think for someone who has tested clean for six years, but is raked over the coals for something he did in 2001-2003 is difficult. While his “apology” was lame, at least he had the guts to say it, unlike McGwire and Clemens. I gave more than my two cents, but a great post Dave!

  13. How do we know he has tested clean for six years? Where has it been said he has been tested every year since this failed test?

  14. Kevin – that is a great analogy! I think that many collectors feel that way.
    .
    Rob – I think that creating a new wing in the Hall of Fame would be an overreaction. Are you going to put all of the Hall of Famers from the 1990s in that wing – guys like Ripken, Gwynn, Henderson, and Maddux? How do we know that none of them did steroids? And do you put Gaylord Perry, who cheated on the pitcher’s mound during his career, in that wing too? Or Ty Cobb, who was probably the dirtiest player in history? I think that guys like Bonds and A-Rod should be in the Hall of Fame, and fans can make their own judgments about their place in history.
    .
    Paul – thanks for the comment – I’m glad that I struck a chord with you.
    .
    Mario – according to Wikipedia, every player is tested for steroids at least once a year.

  15. I’m not ready to believe he hasn’t failed any since then.

    In today’s game, you can’t trust anyone in baseball.

  16. “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.”

    While he may not have failed a test since 2003, that by no means indicated he still isn’t taking steroids.

    Firstly, the fact is that new steroids are being developed all the time which are harder and harder to detect. He may in fact have been and is taking a newly derived steroid that can’t be detected by the current tests.

    Secondly newer and newer masking agents are also being developed. Yes, masking agents may be banned too and tested for, but it’s the same as above – he may be taking a newly developed masking agent that can’t be detected by the current tests, which masks his steroid us.

    Thirdly, I believe it is a case of it not being announced that he has failed any drug tests since 2003 – that doesn’t mean he hasn’t failed any. It is possible (and yes this is all very conspiratorial) that he may have failed drug tests since 2003, but for fear of the negative publicity for the sport (the sort that is now occurring), MLB decided not to make it public because of the financial impact that having the sport’s greatest star found to have been using steroids would have. MLB is a business, and sometimes business decisions mean doing things that are best for the business even if they aren’t right – like covering up cheating by steroid users.

    As for the NFL, yes some players have been caught and punished. The fact is that as far as I am aware, none of the all time greats and/or record setters have been found to have used steroids, so their records and careers haven’t been tainted, and neither has the NFL with it.

    In the case of Merriman, before he tested positive, he had been tested before and was clean, and has been tested since and is clean. From what I understand (and I know this could be crap) he took another product was designed to speed up recovery (which in itself should have rung alarm bells, because this is what steroids help to do) without being aware of the steroids in it. Again, this may be crap, but the fact that he had previously been tested and was clean indicate this may be true. The NFL seemed to verify this when they came out and said that out of the 20 drug tests he had had since entering the league, he had only tested positive once.

  17. Unscrupulous scumbags like the NY Media? Isn’t A-rod(adultery, lying, cheating, drug taking) the unscrupulous scumbag? Anyone THAT unscrupulous would cheat again! I still cannot believe for the life of me that he couldn’t even admit that he never felt PRESSURE to take steroids! No one is safe in the modern day media, every single news outlet in every corner of the United States was reporting and criticizing Alex Rodriguez.

  18. What is with all of the haters.

    Yes these baseball players make tons of money. But does that mean that we should be able to tear at every personal matter regarding there lives?

    Arod cheated on his wife. Big deal! Do people realize what they do to his family when they publish that? How many of us know someone who cheats on their spouse? Should that be public knowledge? Why do we have a “right” to know about this?

    How many people have cheated on a test in grade school and or college. After answering “No, I would never!” how would it feel if someone dug up a few pieces from your past that. And then exploited you.

    Did Arod use PED’s? Yes.
    Did he admit it? Yes.

    Do we need to know every detail?
    I love this horsecrapp that the media puts off about the sanctity of the game. These guys don’t write about A-Rod and Maddonna because of the love of baseball. They are trying to dig up a story that is provacative so that people will read. And they will hurt everyone and anyone in the process. Their excuse or justification is “free speech”.

  19. Alex, you mention masked Steroids for Arod. But then say that Merriman tested negative excpet once and that means he was clean other than the one test. Prety obvious like you like Merriman but hate Arod.

    No NFL player with big records ever failed drug tests. NFL is a business like the MLB. Use your own logic.

    Arod tested positive after the 2003 and MLB didn’t release it??? Obvious ARod Hater comment.

    Does his big contract make his “cheating” any more important than the other 103?

  20. Mario,

    I have found in my life that most honest people are quick to forgive. They are usually a bit naive and gullable because they think that everyone is honest like them.

    Most people that have consistently lied about things in the past or currently are able to determine how to be a good or bad liar. Usually those people are quick to pass judgement because in there mind everyone looks at things the same way they do such as.

    You have a pessimistic outlook with Arod and I would assume all players that use PED’s. So if he used in 03 then he used forever?

    MLB tests every year. He has passed every year. Did he stop for fear that he would be tested? Would he continue to take Peds if he wasn’t tested?

    I would assume the answer to both of these are YES.

    If you are looking for the Pure in heart then go to your local church. If you are looking for a quality baseball player. Then Alex is your guy.


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