I have long been sick of the steroid drama that has engulfed major league baseball for the past decade. Baseball swept the issue under the rug because "chicks dug the long ball" , and then acted holier than thou when it became obvious that performance enhancing drug use was rampant in the sport.
While people have endlessly debated guys like Barry Bonds, Rogers Clemens and Jason Giambi, I have stood on the sidelines, mostly indifferent. Until 2004, taking steroids was illegal in the United States, unhealthy and possibly immoral. In baseball, however, it was not against the rules. For that reason, I have always had trouble vilifying the accused, or getting too involved in the he-said, she-said drama.
All of that changed this morning. Sports Illustrated is reporting that my personal favorite player on my favorite team, Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids back in 2003. Obviously, leaking a report of this nature with specific names is a blatant violation of the agreement between the league and the player's association. It was agreed upon at the time that the players would be tested, but it would be completely confidential and there would be no penalties for the players who tested positive. Since the government got involved with baseball's problem, all rules have flown out the window. Apparently those sealed test results from 2003 were unsealed when the BALCO investigators came knocking on MLB's doors.
Once again, this puts Alex Rodriguez at the center of a massive controversy. Since Barry Bonds' fall from grace, A-Rod has been looked upon as Major League Baseball's savior. Even amidst all of the hooplah about his love life, his relationship with the New York fans and his relationship with Yankee teammates, he has been the guy that people expect to "save the homerun record" from the clutches of the immoral cheater, Barry Bonds.
As of February 7, 2009, Alex Rodriguez can no longer be looked upon as the savior of the sport's most treasured record. When first reached for comment, A-Rod deferred all comments to the Player's Union - the obvious first step to take. Rodriguez can continue to take this stance for the rest of his career and never admit to steroid use, but it will likely damage his reputation even more. There will never again be a day when Alex Rodriguez is the great hope of baseball. People can say what they want about his strange persona, his magnetism for pointless controversy, his supposed lack of performance in the clutch. However, when it came time to negotiate his new contract in late 2007, the New York Yankees saw the marketing potential in his chase for the all-time homerun record, especially considering the man he would be chasing. The Yankees probably figure that with each milestone homerun A-Rod hit, he would gain more and more fans around baseball. After all, A-Rod was saving the homerun record.
Going forward, the best course of action would be to call an Andy Pettitte style press conference and come clean with his steroid use prior to 2004. He can explain that there was no reason for him to come forward with his use until this leak because it was a confidential testing program and the Player's Union demanded that players keep it that way. He can explain that he got caught up in a culture that demanded greatness and that had devolved into performance enhancing drug use to ensure that greatness. Making this bold and honest admission won't save his image. A-Rod put up some amazingly gaudy numbers from 1996 - 2003, all of which will FOREVER be tainted, no matter what he says from this point forward.
In order to save his future place in Major League Baseball and on the New York Yankees, A-Rod has to come clean with his steroid use prior to 2003. While questions will always linger about Alex's performance with the New York Yankees, he will be able to point to the fact that he has never tested positive for a performance enhancing drug under Major League Baseball's drug-testing program.
In terms of how this will affect the 2009 Yankees, there is no denying that it will be a HUGE distraction. Even A-Rod's biggest supporters now realize that while he is probably one of the best players in the game right now, he still isn't worth all of the controversy. Yankee fans finally have a tangible reason to despise Rodriguez and they will make it known. Even after the steroid drama dies down later in the season, the fan reaction controversy will bubble over when Rodriguez falls into an inevitable slump. Without a third baseman waiting in the wings, and considering A-Rod's full no trade clause, long-term contract as the highest paid player in baseball, and clean record within MLB's official drug testing system, the Yankees have absolutely no choice except to ride out the storm, as long as it lasts.
Sadly, the steroid drama has finally sucked me in. It is worth repeating that there is absolutely no proof that Alex Rodriguez has injected one millimeter of steroid into his body since becoming a New York Yankee. The fact remains, however, that A-Rod was the poster-boy of Major League Baseball while knowingly using illicit drugs to enhance his competitive edge over teammates and opponents . No amount of apologies or assertions that his cheating ended in 2004 will allow me to forgive those sins and return his stature as my favorite player. Without future reports debunking the SI reports as bogus, the authentic #13 road gray Yankee jersey in my closet should prepare to collect some dust.
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Saturday, February 7, 2009
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