When I received the news of Manny Ramirez’s 50-game suspension, I didn’t flinch or really react at all.
No anger. No disappointment. Indifference.
We’ve heard this story over and over, especially in Baltimore after the Rafael Palmeiro scandal in 2005. Of course, Ramirez received a medication from a doctor who didn’t know any better—a doctor clearly unaware of Ramirez’s status or Major League Baseball’s chronic problem with performance-enhancing drugs. It’s understandable that one of the two highest-paid players in all of baseball could only afford to go to a doctor that didn’t know any better.
And if you believe that, you’re clearly still waiting for Palmeiro’s promise to tell his side of the story—four years later.
How ironic is it that Alex Rodriguez appears set to return to the Yankees this weekend at Oriole Park at Camden Yards this weekend? Baseball can never get out of its own way, can it?
Instead of dwelling on the indelible cloud of doubt and questioning whether anything in baseball is real, I’m reminded of a piece I wrote shortly after the revelation that Rodriguez used steroids—effectively ending any hope of Barry Bonds’ “home run record” being purified. I’d like to share it with the WNST.net audience.
“The Names We Truly Seek”
Published: Feb. 9, 2009
The Steroid Era has finally delivered the knockout blow to the jaw of the American Game.
With the revelation that Alex Rodriguez is as guilty as the many others that chose to use performance-enhancing drugs, the last hope for the purification of the home run record, and perhaps the game itself, now appears lost for good, at least in terms of perception.
Many will call for the remaining 103 names that failed drug tests in 2003 to be revealed, but what purpose will it really serve?
Will knowing more names suddenly make us feel better about the state of baseball? Is it simply the shock value? Or, do we simply want to shake our heads in disappointment again and again?
The damage has been done. The list of those to blame is endless, ranging from league executives to club owners, trainers to coaches, and utility infielders to league MVPs. The Steroid Era is a period that cannot be repaired or erased, ignored or forgotten.
As time goes on and more perpetrators are revealed, my desire to seek a new set of names continues to grow. Names that will not be found in the list of the remaining 103, the Mitchell Report, or even BALCO.
What are the names of those who chose to stay away from steroids and performance-enhancing drugs in this corrupted period of professional baseball? The question is commonly asked with a heavy dose of cynicism, but my asking it is utterly sincere.
Unfortunately, the endless lies, whether it be to the grand jury or to the court of public opinion, make it impossible to truly believe anyone that has come forward to speak out against the use of performance-enhancing drugs in professional baseball.
The image of Rafael Palmeiro wagging his finger before Congress in 2005, only to fail a drug test months later, is irreversibly burned into our collective memories.
We can only imagine what players ultimately chose to play the game with integrity, even if that meant making sacrifices or being passed over by others. Make no mistake, these honest, clean players did exist and do exist today, but there is simply no way of knowing who they are for sure.
These are the players for which we have no other choice but to admire, even if we’ll never find their names on a list. They are nothing more than faceless heroes in this era of corruption.
I respect the middle infielder that will never receive the big contract, because he barely hit his own weight. He may never hit home runs, but he knows he is getting everything he absolutely can out of his ability, without compromising his principles.
I appreciate the grizzly backup catcher whose time in the game has come to an end due to the emergence of a bigger, stronger, younger backstop. He could have reached out for that extra edge, but he speaks to the local high school team and gives them a positive role model.
I look fondly at the 10-time All-Star first baseman, one of the greatest players in the game, who has to deal with the scrutiny and consequences of his peers’ actions. While we’ll never truly know whether his Hall of Fame performance is authentic, he can tell his grandkids that his name legitimately belongs with the all-time greats.
I admire the career minor league outfielder, riding buses from town to town, playing for one shot at the major leagues but knowing it will not come. Even if he never receives as much as a cup of coffee in the big leagues, he can sleep at night knowing he did it the honest way, even if that meant others “succeeded” over him.
In this era of dishonesty and ultimate disappointment, these nameless players are the ones that will ultimately carry us through this dark time in baseball. There’s nothing they can really say, for we would have a difficult time believing them anyway.
All they can do is continue to take the field as they always have, competing as hard as they can against those choosing to be dishonest.
These are the players I choose to celebrate, even if we’ll never truly know who they are. And this is the saddest fact of all.