New York Yankees‘ third baseman Alex Rodriguez is far and away the biggest name to come under fire for his use of performance-enhancing drugs. While his career and legacy have yet to be determined, Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers comes in at a distant second.
Unfortunately for fans that love the game, this is simply the tip of an iceberg that will never be fully exposed.
The fans and Major League Baseball alike will never know 100-percent who used and who didn’t. For as much as people continue to criticize Jose Canseco for being a bozo, the game of baseball should be indebted to him for pulling the curtain back and exposing the numerous players over the years who cheated themselves and more importantly, the game.
Canseco’s stay in the big leagues was long enough to have covered parts of three decades. When his books Juiced and Vindicated were released, critics and fans scoffed. In reality, everyone should have sat up, and taken notice. Canseco has made some outrageous claims over the years, and his accusations of players using steroids and other PEDs raised a hesitant eyebrow.
Anyone that looks up and down the record books at the all-time leaders in categories from home runs to hits to wins to strikeouts, has to now wonder, if the lists are speckled with names of players who may not have been clean, but yet were never caught, how many from the same era that are on the all-time lists have never been mentioned, yet could just as easily be dirty?
We just don’t know, and we will never know.
A-Rod came into 2013 recovering from multiple hip surgeries, a couple of small injury setbacks during his minor league rehab assignment with 647 career home runs, and is less than 100 hits away from the magical 3,000-hit plateau.
He is also staring a 162-game suspension squarely in the face, his legacy tarnished forever. He has admitted his use of PEDs. A-Rod is now fighting a legal battle against both Major League Baseball, the Player’s Union, and his only chance of seeing the field in 2014 is to have his suspension at least put off while a federal court examines how MLB took possession of their evidence to ban Rodriguez in the first place. The Anthony Bosch/60 Minutes interview made both sides look like complete scumbags. Ryan Braun took his suspension in 2013 and went away without as much as a whimper, dirty and caught red-handed as the day is long.
They used. So what?
Do the use of performance-enhancing drugs really matter? Should they? Why is it that when an NFL player gets popped for using an illegal substance, he takes his suspension, sits out a handful of games and the rest of the world treats it like business as usual? Supposedly, the game of football is now America’s great national pastime, yet the reaction is more in-line with a yawn than outrage.
Should America, the U.S. Government, and Major League Baseball really care what players are using?
The argument can be made that four parties are responsible for the continued use of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs in the game of baseball: 1. the players 2. the teams 3. Major League Baseball, and 4. the sportswriters that cover the teams.
How can this be?
For the players, better numbers and better performance resulted in larger and longer contracts of guaranteed money. Why shouldn’t the players take the risk? Alex Rodriguez even though he wasn’t using at the time, signed a 10-year, $252-million dollar deal with the Texas Rangers. He felt he needed to live up to the expectations of the contract, so he began using shortly after making his way to Arlington from Seattle. We’ve seen outrageous contracts awarded to players, who within a couple of years into the deal, begin breaking down physically (Albert Pujols).
The teams are just as much at fault for players using as anyone. We can’t buy for one second the belief that training and medical staffs, whose only job it is, is to get players bigger, faster, and stronger along with helping them rehab from injuries and to stay healthy, didn’t know what was and has been going on for the past 25 years.
When fans notice a player’s dramatic bulk increase, and increase in power, the training and medical staffs have to know. Home runs and big-time power sell jerseys, tickets, and the like. The long ball puts butts in the buckets. Even if a trainer or team doctor suspected a player was using, are they trying to argue that they didn’t feel the least bit obligated to advise team management of their suspicions?
If a medical staff did tell team management, such as a field manager or general manager, why wasn’t action taken to quash the problem then? Are the Yankees really the good guys for attempting to get out from underneath the current deal they willingly signed with A-Rod? Or is it a hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil environment. Teams pay players big money to perform, and in reality, don’t care what players do to perform–that is until they get caught.
That’s right, home runs make money, home runs help teams win games, which leads to pennants and titles. For the Yankees, there were many players on their roster over the past decade-plus that were using or thought to be using: Roger Clemens, Kevin Brown, Andy Pettitte, Gary Sheffield, Francisco Cervelli, and A-Rod. Yet Brian Cashman and his staff had no idea whatsoever that anything was wrong? I’m not buying it.
Try again! How about the idea of teams building bandbox-sized ball parks to help the increase in home run production?
Aside from Citi Field, Safeco Field, Petco Park, and perhaps Comerica Park, the rest of the new ballparks were constructed for one thing: to increase the output of the long ball, period.
How is it Major League Baseball’s fault that players were using, teams knew about it, and nothing was said or done to prevent it? Let’s rewind the tape back to 1994. Steroids were already in prominent use, and power numbers were increasing. Much like the long touchdown pass in football, the home run is baseball’s answer to that.
Baseball was reeling from a year without a World Series, fans had seen and heard enough and walked away by the thousands, and play was stopped over a pissing match between millionaires and billionaires. Baseball needed to make a big splash upon it’s return in 1995. Commissioner Bud Selig introduced realignment, and a wild card option to add a new wrinkle to the game.
He also turned a blind eye to what was right under his nose.
Instead of taking a zero-tolerance approach to PED and steroid use in the mid-1990s, he had his marketing machine worked with Nike to promote it. Remember the “Chicks Dig the Long Ball” campaign? Mark McGwire was the centerpiece around which it was constructed.
Selig did nothing to discourage the use of PEDs. Single-season records were falling, and before long, all-time records were being destroyed as well. Yet Selig and the boys at MLB said nothing, and did nothing.
Finally, who can forget about the sportswriters that covered the players and teams each day of the season? Each team has a team of writers that follow them around throughout the season, starting in spring training and concluding with the playoffs and World Series. These are many of the same morons that now hold the power of the vote to decide who is Cooperstown-worthy and who is not.
How many sportswriters reported even one time between 1985 and the present of a player using steroids or PEDs? Two come to mind: Thomas Boswell and Rick Reilly. Boswell attempted to break the story and it was quickly buried. Reilly began hounding Sosa before finally giving up the chase.
Where were the rest of baseball’s gatekeepers?
The so-called preservationists and protectors of the game? Not a single one of them spoke up and exposed a player such as Canseco, the late Ken Caminiti, McGwire, Sosa, Barry Bonds, A-Rod, or any of the other big name sluggers who were tarnishing the game and polluting their bodies and pooping on their own legacies?
They were nowhere to be found. Why?
These writers were more concerned about getting their next exclusive with a star player, getting the inside scoop on something safer, that wouldn’t put their own careers at stake. Spineless, and gutless, just like the players, the teams, and the Commissioner of Baseball. Yet these are the same men, 10-15 years later who are wagging the “Rafael Palmeiro” finger of “how dare you” in the face of these same players they were paid to cover throughout their careers, and who now hold the golden ticket to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
The question should really be, how dare you jellyfish sportswriters with no conscience sit on your pedestal as if you are innocent in all of this, and proclaim that any or these players are not worthy of enshrinement, have the audacity to pass judgment on anyone that may or may not have used during the “Steroid Era”?
If every single player who has even been suspected of use without one shred of evidence (Jeff Bagwell) is kept out of Cooperstown, and the players who are known to have used (Take your pick), then every single writer with a vote should also be stripped of the ability to vote—forever!
Players who have used should be recognized for their accomplishments just as if they never used. We will never know who used and who didn’t. Don’t be surprised if the Hall of Fame already has members who used and were never caught. An admitted user, once again becomes eligible for the first time next year (Gary Sheffield). Does he get a free pass because he “unknowingly” used while training with Bonds? Does Pettitte get a free pass because he used to “rehab rather than cheat”? Team executives that knowingly allowed players to use for the benefit of the team, should be subject to banishment just as the players are. Sportswriters who witnessed or had a strong knowledge of a player using, and said or did nothing should be stripped of their vote, because not saying anything is just as despicable as helping the player inject.
Same goes for field managers, coaches, and the like. Finally, Commissioner Bug Selig should follow his own advice, and because he cast that blind eye for over a decade, promoted PED and steroid use because it was helping the game recover post-’94 strike, and use his “Best interests of the game” powers, and ban himself from ever coming anywhere near the greatest game on Earth.
If the baseball-loving public wants to place the blame of tarnishing the game, and turn people into villains, along with the caught or admitted players, how about we hold EVERYONE accountable?
Follow Billy on Twitter @Billy_Brost.