As I sat in a sports bar last night watching the St. Louis Cardinals take on the Los Angeles Dodgers, the ticker at the bottom of the screen continuously flashed news of the 13 major league baseball suspensions handed down yesterday. Evan Longoria called it a “day that will live in infamy.” For me, the fan, it was just another day where the knot that’s lived in my stomach for years now turned that much tighter.
This article is not just about Alex Rodriguez, it’s about everybody that’s used PEDs and cheated the game of baseball over the course of what’s now nearly 25 years. Hell, our national past-time is only about 150 years old, and nearly a sixth of its history has been a lie played upon uneven ground. How can you call that anything but sad? As for Rodriguez, it’s his own self-created reality that he gets to be the most recent poster boy for a generation of fraudulent players.
To be honest, it’s fitting, really. A-Rod is the prime example of a guy that had it all. When he was drafted #1 in the 1993 MLB draft, he could hit for power, he could field, he could run. He had the opportunity to play alongside and learn from two of the best players in the history of the game – Ken Griffey Jr and Derek Jeter – who also happen to be two of the only players of his generation who are overwhelmingly thought of as “clean” players. And we all know about the $275 million contract he signed with the Yankees.
Alex Rodriguez had the opportunity to be one of the best ever, and to be filthy rich for the rest of his life. He even got to date my girl Cameron DIaz along the way. All PEDs ever got him was a baseball card filled with illegitimate stats, the scorn of fans around the world, and the respect of just about no one. He’s now appealing what’s supposed to be a 211 game suspension, and in his own words he’s living a nightmare. He deserves it all, and he should never be allowed to step foot on a major league baseball field again.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; playing major league baseball is a privilege, not a right. A-Rod has consistently broken the rules, and for those that say “the punishment fits the crime” or “everybody was doing it” or “he only hurt himself” I say bullshit on all accounts.
When I was 9 years old I had a 1995 Baseball Almanac that I would literally fall asleep reading every night. I could tell you the top 10 players in the history of the game in terms of nearly every important career statistic, starting with home runs. When I look at those all-time lists now, they mean little to me as they’ve been forever tainted. And that’s incredibly unfair to the players of this past generation who did do it the right way. If you just happen to be an at all muscley power hitter who busted your ass in the weight room and played the game the right way anytime from the mid 80′s until today, your legitimacy is called into question. Talk to any of those guys and they’ll tell you A-Rod hurt more than just himself.
But forget those guys for a minute. The guys who truly lost in all of this are the guys that never made it – the Triple-A star who never got called up because there was a guy on the big league roster in front of him cheating his way to better numbers. The Triple-A star who never even signed a six figure contract. The Triple-A star who never got the opportunity to be cheered off the field at the major league level. A-Rod got all of that, and will get to keep his millions – where’s the justice in that?
Fans who seem to be “over” the steroid era also discount the importance of the whole thing because of the industry in which it’s taken place – professional sports just aren’t that important, right? I must admit, I do understand the sentiment – but I don’t agree with it. How are A-Rod’s actions any different than those of the Enron executives who scammed others out of crazy amounts of money? Those guys broke the rules that regulate their industry and they’re not just banned for a season – they’re in prison for decades. None of them, like A-Rod, needed the money – they were acting out of pure greed. I have more sympathy for the guy that breaks into your grandmother’s house and steals her TV because he needs the money than I do for A-Rod or the Enron execs.
So I ask – what separates business from baseball? Because the primary argument I hear from fans that are “over the whole steroid thing” is that baseball is a business, and at the end of the day that’s why this is all happening in the first place. So treat A-Rod as he would be treated in any other industry – he’s stolen from others, he’s broken the rules, and he no longer deserves the right to play – end of story.
And a final note – Bud Selig should not get off so easy in this whole ordeal. Yesterday the MLB player’s association said that Selig acted “inappropriately” in his handling of A-Rod’s suspension. Evan Longoria said the suspensions were a “tremendous step” in cleaning up the game. I say “not so fast.”
There’s no doubt that Bud Selig has done a lot of good for the game of baseball, but the steroid era has taken place on his watch. There’s also no doubt that newer, less detectable drugs are rolling out faster than testing processes can keep up, that much I admit. But Selig’s counterparts in other sports took decisive action on PEDs and saved their sports in the process. The NFL’s record books are intact, major league baseball’s are not. In my eyes that’s largely on Bud Selig’s shoulders.
When Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa started blasting 70 and 66 home runs, irrespectively, you would have thought that would turn some heads. It would have been about a decade late, but it would have been a start. But it’s easy to forget that the home run race of 1998 took place just a few years after the strike of 1994, when the business of baseball was desperately in need of fans and the money they doll out when they show up at the ballpark. The business of baseball seemingly was more important than the integrity of the game, which begs the question – which is the commissioner’s responsibility to protect?
As for that 1994 season, Ken Griffey Jr had 41 home runs through 111 games when the strike ended the season – that would have put him on pace for 60 home runs, and given him a real shot at breaking Roger Maris’ single season home run record. That may have been the last legitimate run at the record books fans of baseball have seen, and we have players like Alex Rodriguez to thank for that.
So enjoy your nightmare, A-Rod. It is fun watching you chew on your lips and wilt in your own skin during your press conferences. And baseball fans – please, have no sympathy for the devil.