One day you’re a hero, the next a goat. That describes a lot of professions but none more perfectly than professional sports.
Alex Rodriguez was generally considered the best among the best of all time. But he was revealed as a steroid user and admitted to it two days later, leaving his legacy and his place in the game in question.
The good thing from ARod’s perspective is that he has nearly a decade of a career in front of him. He claims he’s been clean since 2003 and that he used “performance enhancing substances” for the three years between ’01 and ’03.
“I don’t know what I was taking,” he told Peter Gammons in an exclusive interview. “I was stupid, naive and I was young,” is how ARod described his confession for using a banned substance. He says he got caught up in the “everybody’s doing it,” mentality of Major League Baseball at the time.
To tell you the truth, I don’t know what to make of his use or his confession.
Rodriguez claims he didn’t know he was on the list of 104 players who tested positive until a reporter from Sports Illustrated told him a week before it was revealed to the public. He says the union said he “may or may not’ be on the list so he figured whatever he was taking in Texas was OK. I don’t know if that’s a lie or not, but it sounds plausible given baseball’s history of ignoring their problems off the field.
Drinking, Drug use, “greenies” and who knows what has been a part of baseball’s culture since the game was organized. They knew steroids were a part of the game for a while. They knew players were doing whatever they could to stay in the game, put up bigger numbers and make more money. But until there was a public outcry and a variety of media reports baseball accepted the inflated numbers and the corresponding jump in fan interest and attendance that went with it.
It wasn’t against the rules and barely illegal so players, insulated by the league and their teams, took pills, shot up and made concoctions of whatever they thought might make them hit better, run faster and last longer.
So if “everybody was doing it” where does that put the numbers? Mark McGwire was probably still going to lead the majors in home runs, but probably not 72 in a season. Sammy Sosa was probably going to finish second, but instead of hitting 66, he might have hit 50-some. ARod was probably still going to be the MVP in ’03 but might not have put up the gaudy numbers to go with it. So season-by-season, player-by-player comparisons in that era are probably fair.
But baseball is such a game of numbers and the custodians of the game consider themselves such purists that comparing Babe Ruth’s 714 home runs to Hank Aaron’s 755 is important to them. So Barry Bonds’ single season record for home runs is illegitimate to them. I’d say Bonds’ single season record is fine based on the competition he faced. It’s his overall production that should have an asterisk.
ARod’s immediate admission that he was involved is an attempt to put it behind him, to be as upfront as he can for one reason: to protect his legacy. Rodriguez might put the numbers out of sight in the next eight or nine years and wants those records for his own. He wants to be considered among the best of all-time. He doesn’t want to have a tainted career. He wants to go to the Hall of Fame.
This is one of those wait-and-see situations. He’ll be under unbelievable scrutiny as his career goes forward comparing his numbers to those in the years he admitted to using a banned substance.
I took creatine for a while to help in my workouts. While it’s not a steroid, it’s definitely performance enhancing. It didn’t make me hit a baseball farther, or run faster but it did allow me to workout harder and more often. My workouts were more productive. So much so that I was growing out of my clothes. Taking a performance enhancer doesn’t make you hit the ball more often, but it does turn about 10 warning-track fly-ball outs into home runs. It does allow a player to continue to play at a high level in August and September where he used to get worn out.
But the big factor might be that the public doesn’t care. Nobody’s worried about athletes, especially baseball players using a drug that makes them bigger and stronger to produce bigger numbers. A lot of people would just as soon see the players get as big as they want and see where the numbers go.
It’ll have to wait.