For the first time all season, Alex Rodriguez will be taking the field before the hometown fans in the Bronx on Friday night. The last time fans saw the embattled third baseman, he was either being ridiculed by the New York papers for allegedly throwing a baseball at two women in the stands during a game asking for phone numbers; or being pinch-hit for in light of a horrid slump; or being benched entirely, as the Yankees failed their way to being swept by the Tigers. Since then, fans have endured the Biogenesis scandal; a ridiculous radio tour by ARod’s “doctor” contradicting the Yankees medical staff; and finally, a 211-game suspension for alleged PED use and his alleged attempts to “frustrate” and impede Major League Baseball’s investigation into the matter. The media is naturally asking the question, “What kind of reception will ARod get?” For me, the question is slightly different: “What kind of reception does ARod deserve?”
I had no problem giving Alex Rodriguez a pass following his admission of using banned substances. Think about all the players from that time have admitted to or alleged to have used PEDs: Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Andy Pettitte, Rafael Palmeiro, etc. Staggering. Those drugs were not expressly illegal in Major League Baseball. It was the wild west of steroids.
While it saddens me now to see how many accomplishments and merits were tarnished by being achieved with use, I don’t begrudge any player for using. Disappointed, sure. I am a huge Pettitte fan, and I was crushed when I learned my athletic hero used HGH in the pages of the Mitchell Report. Furthermore, I can even give Alex Rodriguez a bit more credit than the others, in that he never failed a test, and never made a spectacle of himself in front of Congress in denying an allegation that was a reality. His test was a survey, in effect. It was to have remained anonymous, never to be seen by anyone. It was one among many, a show of hands where a vote didn’t count. I would have respected him a lot more once his use was public if he had just admitted it, like Pettitte, as opposed to giving a weird runaround story about his cousin and crying to Katie Couric.
Regardless, I acknowledge that it was a period in baseball where there was no rule against PED use. He used the drugs. He never broke a rule. It’s a murky ethical area, and as someone who wants to see the game clean, it’s a bit convoluted, but it’s a part of baseball history. Accepting, but not necessarily forgiving, I was willing to say, “You know what, ARod? It’s in the past. Let’s move forward. Show me what you got.”
With that, and the new CBA in baseball that incorporated the testing policies that, on paper, make MLB the strongest anti-PED league in professional sports, I believed that for Rodriguez, his usage was in the past. I applauded his 600th homer. I felt a weird sense of relief for him, seeing him crying on the field after Game 6 of the 2009 World Series, that giant monkey off his back. I appreciated seeing my team parading (literally) down the Canyon of Heroes, and admit that I was on the street that day cheering for every member of that team, including Alex Rodriguez.
It is amazing what a funny thing winning is. So much so that you can admit to using PEDs in April, and in October of that same year, be declared a hero for helping to win a World Series. For me, ARod’s past was in the past. While it may still be boggling to know that all those numbers, all those homers, all those hits would forever bear a black mark or asterisk, Alex Rodriguez was part of a winning team.
For Yankees fans winning is the most important thing. And so, I suppose I finally forgave him. Even for Yankees fans who didn’t didn’t necessarily forgive, we ceased to heckle him for his indiscretions. We rationalized it. “It was the era,” we said. “Everyone was using,” we said. “He never failed a test, it was supposed to be a secret,” we said. And we were right. We had moved on, and were ready to look ahead- more home runs, maybe another championship. Things were good. If nothing else, he was on my team- he was my guy. He wore pinstripes, and that was good enough for me.
Then this happened.
At his sometimes weepy, sometimes irritatingly self-deprecating presser early this week, Alex Rodriguez was asked point blank if he used PEDs in connection with Biogenesis. His response: “We’ll have a forum to discuss all of that and we’ll talk about it then.” Where in those words is a simple, “no”? He never discussed the reason behind his suspension, much like Ryan Braun never contested the content of his sample that was tested positive. A “no” would have sufficed. I understand pleading the fifth amendment. But if you are innocent, what is there to fear?
We didn’t get a no. Not a denial. Give it to Braun, he may have been lying, but he was emphatic in his denials. We got nothing from ARod. If I was being accused as something as heinous as ARod, and felt like I was “fighting for my life,” I would be screaming from the rooftops that I was innocent.
We got nothing.
There is an old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” ARod got his pass from me once. I gave him the benefit of the doubt that his PED usage was behind him. With his non-denial the other day, I have no other choice but to believe that he is guilty again this time, and his appeal has to do with the amount of time he is suspended, not the fact that he is suspended. So when he comes back to the Bronx Friday night, I will not boo him. I will not cheer him. He will no longer get anything from me, regardless of the uniform on his back. Forget being booed. Forget being cheered. For me, he is nothing but a liar, who played me for a fool. Nothing. That is the reaction that I feel his deserves.