By Mike Steffanos
With Barry Bonds out of the game, baseball badly needed someone to step up and be the face of performance enhancing drugs. Thanks to someone in the government who illegally leaked evidence obtained in the Balco investigation, the comically self-absorbed Alex Rodriguez has replaced Barry Bonds as baseball's new official PED scapegoat.
Rodriguez has denied steroid use in the past, and that's going to hurt him in the court of public opinion. As with Roger Clemens before him, the rumors have followed him for a long time. Like Clemens, writers who rather naively took him at his word and held him up as a monument to "clean" achievement will now turn against him, filling pages with thousands of self-righteous words on how they will never vote A-Rod into the Hall of Fame.
It's hard to work up any pity for Rodriguez, who has a public persona that is narcissistic, money hungry and somewhat weird. A-Rod is also in the somewhat unique position of still being in the productive years of his career. Unlike previous steroid scapegoats Bonds, Clemens and Mark McGwire, Rodriguez will be playing this game for the foreseeable future.
There is some divine justice in the fact that Bud Selig, who once turned a blind eye to steroids and then cynically tried to rewrite history, will now be linked with the record pursuit of yet another tainted athlete. Truly, the commissioner and this soiled superstar deserve each other.
Yet I still find this whole thing troubling on several levels. Number one, the federal government has no business leaking evidence obtained in an investigation. They're supposed to protect the public from wrongdoing, not engage in it themselves.
Second, why was only A-Rod's name leaked out of list of over 100 positive drug tests? Was it just for the splash it would create? The amount of our money the government has spent pursuing primarily Bonds is staggering. Is leaking this new name some sort of device to keep this investigation going? Frankly, I would prefer the government get out of this pursuit and concentrate on putting Americans back to work.
Another problem I have is this thinking that you keep Bonds, Clemens, McGwire and now A-Rod out of the Hall of Fame and this is somehow justice. Sadly, though, there will undoubtedly be players inducted that were fortunate enough not to get caught or outed. History teaches us that it wasn't just big-muscled home run hitters who benefitted from steroids, but rather everyone down to the skinny reliever in the bullpen.
We'll truly never know the extent that steroids tainted this era of baseball, but I suspect that the numbers of players who utilized PEDs for all or part of their careers are staggering. Moreover, the recent case of Phillies reliever J.C. Romero points up the fact that there are still plenty of ballplayers willing the chase the benefits they received from steroids from "supplements" that promise to provide them.
Anyone who believes that keeping a few guys out of the Hall of Fame -- even jerks like A-Rod and Clemens -- is some sort of justice is only fooling themselves. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me at all if at some point in the future some of these guys get in. After all, it's all but certain there are players in the Hall right now who took these drugs. They weren't any more moral than these other guys, just luckier.