By Jason Keidel
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During an interview with ESPN last week, Buck Showalter was unusually candid when discussing the steroid crucible.
He essentially said that a kid from the Caribbean can pick between working sugarcane fields for a dollar an hour or reach or lunge for the farthest star, his nation’s most worshiped vocation: baseball.
The problem can be distilled to ancient business maxims, as old as widgets: supply and demand. MLB is a billion-dollar endeavor. And the islands freckling the Atlantic Ocean are the most athletically fertile on Earth. So the choice between galling poverty and a helpful potion to paradise is rather facile.
Can we say, with any certainty, that we wouldn’t drive a spike into our buttocks for a slice of celebrity when all we’ve known is milk cartons for mitts, rocks for bases and brooms for bats?
This isn’t meant to excuse cheaters, especially those who already made it here on natural talent and temerity, who now look to lump an extra zero onto their next contract. But someone who was never assured three hots and a cot will do what he must to extricate himself from those conditions.
Poverty and proletarians, however, are not the inherent or inherited problems of Ryan Braun, who was just suspended for the remainder of this season, without pay.
His Rafael Palmeiro moment, wagging his finger at the world, demanding his chunk of jurisprudence, will go down in infamy. And his anemic apology — meek and weak with a surreal assertion that the matter is “behind him” when his suspension just started — just shows he’s equally cowardly in victory and defeat.
Next, the world awaits MLB as it takes aim at A-Rod. According to ESPN’s T.J. Quinn, MLB has exponentially more evidence on the beleaguered third baseman. How they attack and how he defends will be a fascinating legal joust, filled with perils and precedents.
Both Braun and Alex Rodriguez are bona fide members of baseball’s aristocracy, coddled millionaires who’ve long lost the distinction between flying the Learjets around the world and those of us who live in it.
Braun stood defiantly in front of a forest of microphones and vomited his twisted veracity on America. Yet the Brewers still owe him $120 million. So what’s the profound penalty? The $4 million he loses this year? He carries that in his wallet.
If Braun is the trial balloon, then A-Rod will be the pinata, the crash-test dummy. And a dummy he is. Forget his hips and knees and the rest of his abused musculature and crumbling skeleton. His conscience is more depleted than his testosterone. And there’s no elixir for a broken soul.
Rodriguez should not wear a Yankees uniform again. Just on principle. And principal. And for whatever tattered sense of nobility he has left. You know the Yankees have a phalanx of lawyers trying to parlay this scandal into a voided, ‘roided contract.
Yes, the Yankees kinda deserve this. They shredded A-Rod’s contract when he had many years and millions left, and gave him an extension when no one in MLB offered him a fraction of his current pay. Between his age and wage and weight on the pristine image the Bronx Bombers are trying to burnish, he is a liability of epic contours.
A-Rod’s apologists — an alarming army of millions — will call us haters and cads and communists for not only demanding truth, but also justice and the American Way. We must ignore them. Fan, pig Latin for fanatic, is a blind beast who wouldn’t know the truth if injected with it, like the way A-Rod jammed a needle into his tan tush, filled with equine potions that would make Seabiscuit blush.
But he only did it in Texas, you see, when he was just a pup, using abstract cousins and conduits and something called “boli” or whatever. Who can remember such things? Then this darn lab in Florida, from which he (allegedly!) summoned Tony Bosh to Detroit for that Love Potion No. 9.
We must ignore the template euphemisms, like “mistake” and “bad decision” and “immature” — all code for foxhole prayer. Braun knew damn well he was lying to us, just as A-Rod did on 60 Minutes. Their biggest regret is getting caught.
If Michael Weiner is to be believed — and all indications are that he’s an honorable man — then the tide is turning in the formerly corrupt, corporate halls of the players’ union. Maybe the scale between veracity and mendacity has tilted to the former. We can only hope.
But no matter, for A-Rod is in a pile of unprecedented poop. Not only is he a liar and a cheater, but his fatal sin is his inability to play baseball anymore. For too long our sense of justice was commensurate to a player’s ability to hit .300. Now, even through the most jaded, vainglorious lens, A-Rod is useless.
Rodriguez is done. Make it easy on yourself, A-Rod, and go away. Let the pastime shed the past you did so much to stain.
It’s not all your fault. There was Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa, your disgraced ancestors, who blazed a most dubious trail for folks like you, who had enough raw talent but got lost somewhere between need and greed.
On June 6 I called for A-Rod to retire, and was told my logic was laughable.
Not so funny anymore, is it?
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