I wasn’t in search of finding a breaking news story when I took a cruise with my television remote control on Saturday morning. in fact, I just wanted to see with was on the MLB Network (I’ve become a big fan in the month it has been on). Imagine my surprise when I saw that MLBN was live with the news that Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez had tested positive for using anabolic steroids in 2003.
My immediate reaction was “Et, tu, A-Rod?” I sat on my couch in stunned disbelief. I watched hours upon hours of coverage (which annoyed my wife but that’s another story). This wasn’t just big news. This was HUGE news. Bigger than the Bonds revelations.
And this was news I choose to believe. I know Selena Roberts, having covered many games with her over the years (we cut our teeth covering the awful New Jersey Nets of the mid 1990′s). If she’s reporting it, it’s true. And besides, Rodriguez never denied it when Roberts confronted him with her story last week. All A-Rod did was decide to duck behind the cover of the union.
A-Rod is the best player, certainly of his generation, maybe of all time. A player that was on track to smash Bonds’ steroid aided record of 762 Home Runs. A-Rod is baseball’s version of Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan, and Peyton Manning. He is bigger than the sport he plays. He’s a crossover star (and that was true even before he started an affair with Madonna). In many ways, A-Rod is the game.
And now he is tainted forever. Even if he never fails another drug test, he’s got the stain of steroids all over his uniform. When he breaks Bonds HR record (and he will) he’ll do it with the steroid cloud hanging over him. His reputation will never recover.
Even if he decides to come clean, call a news conference and apologize, he will never get past this. Let’s face it, Jason Giambi apologized for using steroids years ago. Fans forgave him. But don’t tell me for a second that you (as a fan) have forgotten that Giambi’s best years were helped by the use of performance enhancing drugs.
A-Rod – to some – will now and forever be considered a steroids cheat. Why? Well, for one, there’s that report he failed the drug test. And secondly, because what he did hurts the game – and its fans – more than anything Barry Bonds did.
That’s right. Rodriguez reportedly failing that steroids test six years ago is worse than what Bonds did.
You say you don’t believe me. Well, MLB desperately wanted A-Rod to break Bonds’ record. They looked at him as the clean cut boy next door type to rescue the record book from the steroids cheat MLB officials believe Bonds to be. They would have celebrated Rodriguez breaking Bonds’ record in a much grander manner than they celebrated Bonds breaking Hank Aaron’s record. Now they can’t do it. Now Rodriguez is in the same category as Bonds is. He can’t rescue the game the way MLB and Commissioner Bud Selig had hoped. And there isn’t anyone else (at least that we can tell for now) that can. No one to rescue the record books from The Steroid Era.
A-Rod’s positive test hurts fans more than Bonds does as well. Let’s face it, Bonds has been a bad guy for most of his career. He was always a ‘look at me’ type of guy. He was a me guy as opposed to a team guy. Bonds proved that over and over as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates (run ins with Jim Leyland, the constant moaning and groaning about his contract). He proved it over and over as a member of the Giants. He’s proved it since he’s been out of the game (you can’t say blacklisted, but you can think it). No fan outside of San Francisco was shocked that he was accused of doing steroids. No fan was shocked when he (in a back handed way) admitted to using the ‘Cream’ and ‘Clear’. No fan was shocked when reports surfaced last week that the Feds had proof of a positive steroids test. Most fans didn’t think Bonds was above cheating. That couldn’t be said about Rodriguez.
Should we have suspected something? Maybe, considering that he did get bigger as he got older and that the Texas Rangers were one of the teams that we know had a number of different performance enhancing drugs users (Juan Gonzalez, Jose Canseco). But the growth spurt (and A-Rod is bigger than he was as a rookie, by a long shot) was written off as Rodriguez just getting older. And considering the way Rodriguez worked to get better as a ball player, he flew under the radar in terms of steroids.
But he had us fooled. All of us. That’s why this hurts – not just as a media member but as a fan – way more than Bonds, McGwire, or any of the others named in The Mitchell Report.
Rodriguez was supposed to be the savior. He was supposed to do for the game after Bonds what Cal Ripken did for the game after the strike of 1994.
It turns out he’s just another steroids user. It turns out he really is A-Fraud.