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A New Scapegoat

Mike SteffanosSunday, February 8, 2009
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.

About Mike: I was the original writer on this web site, actually its only writer for the first 15 months of existence. Although I am grateful for the excellent contributions of my fellow writers here, I have no plans of stepping back into strictly an editorial role. I started this thing in the first place because I love to write and I love the Mets, and blogging here keeps me somewhat sane. If you haven't had enough already, more bio info can be found here.

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Comments (5)

Unfortunately, I think the players you mentioned will, eventually, get into the HOF. I don't think they should. They're cheaters who got caught. I have zero sympathy for them.

Mike, would you say that drivers who are arrested for driving while intoxicated should not be penalized since there are so many people who drive under the influence that don't get caught?

To me the only difference between the example above and this issue is a matter of degree. Obviously, the players broke a rule in a sport, not a law of society. However, the bottom line is: If you do the wrong thing you should be punished. The drivers go to jail, the players, should not go to the Hall of Fame (at the very least!)

I guess I am not suprised by this latest "revelation", but I am at the point of who cares. Baseball knew this crap was going down, they turned away. Steriods, "the era", basically helped save basball in the years following the strike. The statistics these ballplayers put up helped put butts back in the seats, increase apparel sales, etc. There was a saying for two years running " Chicks dig the long ball". I mean if it were not for these guys slapping 50-60-70 homeruns in a year the game would have certainly suffered. Now don't get me wrong, do I approve PED's, no, but I also have to say these were grown men, making decisions on what to put in their bodies. Guys like Brady Anderson, Ken Cameniti, and a few others hitting 40 & 50 homeruns, when they never hit more than 16-20 in a season, should have raised eyebrows then. But the money was good and no one was complaining. The thing about it was you could kind of see guys like Canseco, McGuire, Juan Gonzalez, A-Rod, Piazza, etc conceivably hitting 40-60 homeruns. The thing that started to raise some suspicions for me was the freak and consistant injuries mounting up on players at such a high rate. Now I personally don't have first hand knowledge of any of these guys testing positive for PED's, only what the media and Mitchell investigations have so-called revealed. I don't put too much stock in any of it, yet I don't dismiss it either. Again, I go back to baseball turning a blind eye to the events leading up to this point. It was all good when baseball was making all that money, but when the testing program was investigated and found to be insufficient, then there was a problem. Like with any system it had it's positives but I guess they out weighed the negatives, and here we are today, with some of the most successful players, whom have had tremendous impact on the game now accused of being cheats. Sports in general has always had something to help give the athelete the "edge", that something to put them ahead of the rest of the pack. While I don't judge these guys (Bonds, Clemens, A-Rod), I think I would be more offended if it were revealed if guys like Bob Gibson, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax, Steve Carlton used PED's. I would probably be outraged if guys like that were accused. Maybe it's the times we live in, where we are more accepting of people's actions, and we make more excuses for what people do. We don't want to be so cut and dry with folks, because "there had to be a reason for them doing what they do!" We want to be so forgiving and understanding because it could be us under that microscope. So if these guys did actually cheat, what will you do with all there accomplishments? Just void them, put astericks by them? It has never been proven to me or any other individual on this planet that steroid makes you pitch better, gives you the ability to bat .400? You still have to have skill to play the game.....right?

LJ, the proof is in the amount of athletes in all sports who risk everything to take the drugs.at this point in time, it is obvious that ped's will make u better in your chosen sport.all those guys have some set of skills to get to a major league level.it seems to me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, illegal steroid use puts these cheaters on a much higher performance level, especially when they hit the latter years of their careers.ie. clemens, bonds, mcguire.. i'm 57.when i first started following baseball, baseball players looked like baseball players, not cartoon comic figures.just watch a classic cable baseball replay from the 50's and 60's and 70's..it's like u are watching a different sport.the sad part is baseball was great 50 years ago and it would still be great now even without the addition of ped's..too bad..

Gary, I agree with you from a "baseball purist" point of view. I liked the game when a pitcher's duel was more common. When guys like Luzinski, Kingman, Perez, Jackson, Rice, Stargell were the "power hitters". I agree that PEDS give you more strength, faster recovery time from injury, maybe even gives you a measure of speed. You still have to go out there and do it between the lines. You have to hit that ball, field it, and pitch it. Does steroids help your break on your curve? Or makes your slider move more erratic through the strike zone. I'm not trying to be smart A, but I may need to do a little more research. I have seen guys when I was in college, and when I was overseas use PEDS, but I have yet to be able to equate them with enhancing skill level. And by the way I do not in any way shape or form endorse amateur athelete's using PEDS at all. I've seen guys muscle up in the weight room, but all they really did was become stronger, they could not run any faster than they did before. Did not become consistent at the plate. Did not enhance their ability to catch a ball. So I have mixed feelings about the whole scenario with professionals. I think if your an adult you have the right to make decisions that you wish for the most part. It's like any other drug, it has consequences and you have to be adult enough to handle them. It's competition and many choose to take the easy road. Now they have to deal with the end results and they see how quickly the mighty can fall. We are a society who loves to build people up bigger than life. But if they ever fall from grace, we are so ready to tear them down just a quickly.

LJ, re: your last comment about "tearing people down quickly when they fall from grace", other than bonds who is almost impossible to like, it will very interesting to watch the yankee ownership and the yankee fans reaction to a-roid.my guess is that if he goes 43 hrs and 120 plus rbi's he will be forgiven.if the yanks make the world series and he does well, he could probably get elected governor of ny state.we are a very forgiving people, as long as u show some remorse and make an effort to make amends.what i also find untenable is that baseball still has no tests in order to detect hgh.i have no big sympathy for a-rod, but while he is being fried in the public every day, many other players in mlb will be cheating and getting away with it.to me, that blame lies solely with the players union.as i stated in my previuos post, the whole peds brouhaha is sad and totally unnecessary.rodriguez is a great player.he would have been rich and great without ped's.now he will just be viewed by most as just another dirtbag,lying, cheating steroid abuser..

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