Will Alex Rodriguez join Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds as stars that have fallen from baseball grace?
That collective thud you heard over the weekend was the sound of the MLB and MLBPA brass slamming their heads to the table. Once again, the sport sees one of their premier stars allegedly linked to steroid use.
This time, it’s the heir apparent that is being accused of using PEDs. Alex Rodriguez, the player almost universally brought up as the “golden child” to surpass Barry Bonds as the all-time homerun leader is now being painted with the same brush as Bonds himself.
Yes, "cheater", "liar", and "fraud" will join the chorus that has chimed in for Bonds, Clemens, and others, such as Jason Giambi, Rafael Palmeiro, and Mark McGwire.
And, on top of the thud, the collective smack you just heard was from many fans that have been praying that the whole sordid steroids/hGH/amphetamines/next performance-enhancing cocktail would just go away from all of sports, but most especially, baseball.
For one thing, anyone with their finger on the pulse of baseball would find it hard not to suspect any star player from juicing at some point. The sport’s bombardment of PED stories have so numbed the masses that it’s hard to see a game and not ask the question, “Did they? Are they?”
The allegations against Alex Rodriguez adds to this brainwashing of the baseball soul. His body type began to change right around 2003 when he left the Texas Rangers and went to the New York Yankees as baseball's richest player. The news on Saturday simply seemed to reaffirm that sense of, if it was probable, it was also exceptionally possible.
To add to the queasiness surrounding the news that A-Rod allegedly tested positive for steroids in 2003 stands one Jose Canseco, who in his self-promoting, egomaniacal way, has America reevaluating who the good and bad guys are. He was a pariah in front of Congress in 2005, being lambasted by Curt Schilling who said, “First, I hope the Committee recognizes the danger of possibly glorifying the so called author scheduled to testify today or by indirectly assisting him to sell more books through his claim that what he is doing is somehow good for this country or the game of baseball.”
Shortly thereafter, Schilling said, "[Canseco] admitted to being a cheater. His whole career was a sham," Schilling said. "It makes me appreciate the fact that Alex Rodriguez is more of a genetic freak than we ever thought because he's truly the only 40-40 guy to ever play the game."
Curt, it’s okay to bang your head against the table, as well.
After all, Canseco said in his second book published in 2008, that he educated Rodriguez about steroids in the late 1990s and introduced him to a steroid supplier. "I did everything but inject the guy myself," Canseco wrote.
The problem for A-Rod is that he, like many others that have been ensnared in questions of PED use, have gone on record as saying that they’ve never used them. For Rodriguez, that defining moment may have been in December of 2007 when he was interviewed by Katie Couric for 60 Minutes.
"For the record, have you ever used steroids, human growth hormone or any other performance-enhancing substance?" Couric asked.
"No," Rodriguez replied.
Asked if he had ever been tempted to use any of those things, Rodriguez told Couric, "No."
(see the 60 Minutes interview)
The biggest problem facing A-Rod has to do with the other star players that have systematically told the public (and in some cases Congress and grand juries), that they have not used PEDs, only to find out that they probably have. In the not too recent past, we believed our sports heroes. They were supposed to be beyond reproach. Now, the emperor has no clothes, and we know otherwise. Rodriguez will have to fight the court of public opinion, which by in large is already tagging him as guilty as charged.
For baseball, maybe the only silver lining in this mess is that there seems to be no other player of higher stature from the 2003 survey test that could have their name leaked to the public. For all intents and purposes, this is as bad is it can get. For fans, it may be entirely different. As soon as they start to heal from one wound (say, Clemens), the bandage is ripped off the wound again.
Finally, fans and the media place baseball under far more scrutinity than other sports. A leaked name from a round of testing results from 2003 that is still under seal that was part of a program to determine if mandetory testing should take place grabs the headlines and pushes everything else to the side. Meanwhile, Dana Stubblefield, the first NFL player charged in a federal steroids probe, was sentenced to two years’ probation and a $5,000 fine for lying to a federal agent in 2003 about taking the steroid tetrahydrogestrinone, or THG, and erythropoietin, a protein hormone known as EPO. Stubblefield played 11 seasons in the NFL, and yet, that news was hardly covered by comparison.
Maybe it is the fact that Rodriguez has been a lightingrod for controversy since leaving the Seattle Mariners in 2001. Maybe it is his high-profile dealings with the likes of Madonna. Maybe it has been his personality that while on the outside seems to present a "stand up guy" but also comes across as phony. Regardless, the alligations that baseball's most highly paid, and one of its most talented players has allegedly cheated by using PEDs, is but one more sucker punch to the gut to baseball fans around the globe.