By Sweeny Murti
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It’s almost comical now, the way we once thought about Alex Rodriguez.
These are the first three paragraphs of a Sports Illustrated cover story by Gerry Callahan in the July 8, 1996 issue:
In the off-season he lives with his mother, Lourdes Navarro, and shares a bedroom with his best friend, a three-year-old German shepherd named Ripper. He plays golf each morning and hoops each evening, and by 10 p.m. he is nestled in bed with his Nintendo control pad. He makes Roy Hobbs look like John Kruk, and he makes you wonder if you’re missing something: A guy this sweet has to be hiding some cavities.
On July 27, Alex Rodriguez will turn 21, making him old enough to have a beer with his Seattle Mariners teammates. He says he’s not interested. “Can’t stand the taste,” he says. Rodriguez has always felt more at home among milk drinkers.
He grew up in the Miami suburb of Kendall with a poster of Cal Ripken Jr. over his bed and number 3 on the back of his baseball uniform, tribute to another of his idols, former Atlanta Braves star Dale Murphy. “My mom always said, ‘I don’t care if you turn out to be a terrible ballplayer, I just want you to be a good person,” says Rodriguez. “That’s the most important thing to me. Like Cal or Dale Murphy, I want people to look at me and say, ‘He’s a good person.’ “
No, it’s not even comical. It’s absurd. Dale Murphy? Murphy has more integrity and goodness in his pinky than A-Rod does in his whole body. He was supposed to be the face of everything that was good in baseball, and now he is the exact opposite.
Remember, it was A-Rod who—after his teary admission of previous steroid use in 2009—asked us to judge him from that day forward. He was being given a chance to write the final chapter of his baseball legacy. Well, now we know how that final chapter reads, don’t we?
A-Rod might avoid suspension here, because there might not be a way to prove he received anything illegal from Tony Bosch. But his past history does not entitle him to the benefit of the doubt. Within weeks of that teary press conference in 2009, his infamous Cousin Yuri (who was no longer supposed to be anywhere near the team) was spotted picking him up after an exhibition game. If the timeline in the Biogenesis report is accurate, then he was back on PEDs within weeks after that. All he ever admitted to was uneducated use of substances during a three-year period in which he couldn’t be punished for doing so. Well, that’s about the smartest thing he’s ever done, I guess.
Bottom line is this—A-Rod will no longer be considered among the greatest players ever, and he will not be in the Hall of Fame, as a Yankee or anything else. But you know something—he won’t be the last player to get caught in a PED mess, nor should he be. What we are seeing right now is progress. It is justice. And it needs to continue.
Only the naive should think that the increased testing set up over the last few years could eradicate the problem of performance enhancing drugs. The system was not set up to get rid of the problem; it was set up to punish the abusers. We want players to get caught. It means the system is working. If a player was never caught, would you think the system was working? Of course not. I liken it to a state trooper who never gives out a speeding ticket. It doesn’t mean everyone is driving under the speed limit. It means that no one is policing it properly and far too many are getting away with it. Same goes for the drug policy. The only way to know its working is to keep catching the people doing the crime.
Yes, I know that nobody actually failed a test here, that it was the Miami New Times report that led to the Biogenesis investigation and this new batch of players in the PED crossfire. But let’s call that a citizen’s arrest, because people are always trying to find their way around the rules, right? It takes a nation to uphold the laws of the land.
Put it this way—if nobody was getting caught it is likely that they are beating the system and we are right back to where this problem began. The ideal should be this—where the cheaters get caught and the others play on. Otherwise we end up with 12 players hitting 50 home runs a year, and nobody says a word. Been there, done that.
The problem will continue. This isn’t about science being ahead of testing. It’s about the conscience of a player willing to try to cheat, and that won’t ever change. As long as there are millions of dollars at stake someone will think they can get around the law. And that’s not a bad thing because at least we know something is being done about it now.
We used to be in the Steroid Era. This is mistakenly being called the Post-Steroid Era. It is in fact the Steroid-Testing Era. And it will stay that way for a long, long time. Because that’s the only way to know.
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