At some point, all of the noise surrounding the latest Alex Rodriguez scandal became more interesting to me than the actual scandal. This may be due to the fact that I haven’t seen any of MLB’s evidence yet and they don’t have a failed drug test, but whatever. The point is, the colors of the debate are more interesting than the debate itself – and just as ridiculous as A-Rod himself.
To be clear, we know A-Rod did steroids – he finally admitted as much in 2009. Not that he had any choice but to come clean, but we did hear it from his mouth. He did it. We know it. And I’m sure he has been using Human Growth Hormone, testosterone and who the hell knows what else all this time around. You get that? I think it’s all true. I’m not a gambling man, but I’d bet money on it. And yeah, we know A-Rod was not been honest about it. He lied in interviews that were specifically about this topic. So we know who A-Rod is. That much is clear.
But the debate surrounding this circus is populated by false white knights who sit on their proverbial high horses and cast A-Rod as not just the leper, but as the embodiment of evil. They’ve made him the face of all that is wrong with baseball, and even though A-Rod has done it to himself time and time again, he doesn’t deserve what is being dumped on him. That being:
The narrative: A-Rod is ruining baseball because he’s a cheater and is the worst person ever.
This sure did move the Ryan Braun story to the back burner, huh?
Here’s a sample.
Nobody has been more disingenuous than this mutt. Maybe it’s his mammoth insecurity complex. Maybe it’s his enormous capacity for self-delusion. Maybe it’s daddy issues for a man who was raised by a single mother.
Extreme, no? Since 2009, there must have been at least 100 articles like this. At least. You might think this is an extreme example, but it’s not. I think it’s clear, A-Rod is a pathological liar and a cheater (in a game that’s ripe with cheaters – that is, if you consider using PEDs cheating, and I think it’s a far cry from the 1951 New York Giants stealing signs with a telescope). And, I feel I would be remiss to not bring up an old saying: "If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying." A-Rod did not make that up.
The case that PEDs ruins the records
I’ve always disagreed with this idea because every era of baseball is so different. For example:
- The ballparks used to be much larger – Babe Ruth hit homers of 450 to 500 feet with regularity – new parks max out right around 400 feet. It’s a big difference.
- The pitcher’s mound used to be six inches higher – surely that has fundamentally changed the delivery angle of the baseball? Yet I never hear ANYONE talk about this. Also, several pitchs, like the spitter and the shiner, have been outlawed.
- There haven’t always been night games and intercontinental travel. Every time the Blue Jays go to and get home from a road trip, they have to go through customs.
- Babe Ruth didn’t have a person trainer, he had hot dogs. Let’s not forget modern medical science, dieticians, money and other advantages the modern player has over the past player.
- What about amphetamines, aka "greenies?" MLB didn’t outlaw these until just a few years ago. I recall Johnny Damon lamenting something to the effect of, "You’re going to see a lot of boring games come August." Players were using greenies at least as far back as the fifties. David Wells mentioned in his book that there were always two pots of coffee in the club house: a regular pot of coffee and another one that had greenies in it.
My point is that Babe Ruth is the best player of all time. He could hit and pitch. End of discussion.
No, my point is that comparing guys who played in different eras is an inherently flawed comparison because the variables change over time. So records be damned – and where were all of you folks in nineties?
Let’s talk about the cast in this circus for second.
People who are complaining about A-Rod:
Players are tweeting they want longer penalties for PED use. Hey guys, call the head of your union – don’t just throw things up on twitter – you can actually effect change here!
The Commissioner’s Office has finally started doing something about PEDs over the last few years, but Bed Selig doesn’t exactly have moral authority on this issue. Again, the nineties.
As mentioned above, the press is having a field day with this story, ignoring their own culpability in the issue. THE NINETIES! Mark McGuire has Andro in his locker – there was like one article!
People who could have done something about PEDs twenty years ago
Obviously, the players and the MLB Players Association knew what was going on. These guys were blowing up like balloons. And Bud Selig has eyes, like the rest of us, and the press – but no, everyone just went along with it and had a good time reporting on the home run race as everyone lined their pockets with cash and baseball made a post strike comeback in a big, big way.
People who got rich off baseball.
See above. If you ever wonder why nobody said anything about PEDs in baseball until Congress embarrassed them publicly (Because then President Bush is a big baseball fan – did he trade Sammy Sosa because of steroid use? We’ll never know – Bush isn’t talking and Sosa forgot how to speak English. [That's the best defense ever, by the way.])
NOTE: none of the players who were suspended on Monday failed a drug test. MLB’s drug testing program apparently has some holes in it – better testing would cost more money, and as previously discussed, these guys favor money above all else.
The fallacy of competitive balance
This brings us to the falicy of competitive balance. If none of these guys failed drug tests, then we don’t really know who is and is not clean. Therefore, how can we assume there is true competitive balance if the drug testing program doesn’t work? It makes this whole thing a big waste of time. And I’m still trying to figure out why David Ortiz, who failed a drug test and had a crazy bout of Roid Rage just a few weeks ago, never got suspended – the point being that I’m sure there are lots of guys who didn’t get caught and are currently playing in MLB.
Sure, A-Rod is a cheater and I’m sure he’s just as guilty as he was last time, but let’s not pretend he’s the only one to blame in this situation. There’s plenty of blame to go around.