I survived the A-Rod story, and you can too

I don’t have three easy steps or anything, but I think baseball fans will survive this weekend’s revelation (and yesterday’s admission) that Alex Rodriguez was on steroids from 2001-2003.  I already have.

Let’s get a few things out of the way first:

  • No one involved is innocent, and most of all A-Rod is not innocent.  While MLB probably can’t punish him, he deserves a lot of the criticism coming his way.
  • Of course, the MLBPA and the government should have been able to keep his test anonymous, and they failed miserably.
  • Someone probably broke the law when they leaked this information to the press, and Selena Roberts is probably going to be sitting in front of a judge very soon trying not to reveal her sources.
  • It should be clear to anyone not named Curt Schilling that releasing the other 103 names is not a viable legal option, and more to the point, it won’t solve anything.  The players have failed to police themselves so far, and releasing the names of those who failed a test six years ago won’t help anyone in the long run.  There are always going to be more names out there.

The excess of moralization coming from the media this week is unfortunate, and fans and sportswriters alike are fooling themselves if they think A-Rod ruined baseball any more than anyone else we’ve learned about over the past few years.

What amazes me about this week’s press coverage is that so many sports writers can opine about A-Rod killing baseball, and yet they still manage to write about it for a living, seemingly enjoying it.  It’s even more apparent to me now that a large number of them are just writing what they write because it sells newspaper ads and drives web traffic.  That’s not surprising, I suppose, but it’s worth pointing out in this circumstance.

This week’s report, overblown as it may be, should accomplish something that’s been long overdue in the public’s perception of the steroid scandal: it effectively invalidates the Mitchell Report as an authoritative document on baseball’s recent history with performance enhancers.  Now we can see that report for what it really was: a PR fluff piece that was a waste of time and money.

As for me, personally, A-Rod’s admission doesn’t change the way I see baseball.  Ever since the steroid news first broke, I was resigning myself to discount some of the individual accomplishments of the last 20 years, but that hasn’t diminished my passion for the game.  Would Bonds have broken Hank’s record without steroids? Likely not, but let’s not forget other circumstances, like the two MLB expansions in the 1990s, which diluted the major league talent in a way that almost certainly increased the frequency of statistically outlying seasons, at least for those first few years.

In spite of the negative impact of the steroid scandal, Major League Baseball remains my favorite professional sport, and that’s not likely to change soon.  Regardless of who’s juiced up on what, I’m going to enjoy the 2009 season for all its ups and downs, and I’ll enjoy each game for what it is: a showcase of excellence in specific skills and a nuanced strategic exercise.  Time still seems to stop during a baseball game, and the game, no matter the score, always requires you to get that final out to seal a win.  Watching baseball is still the best way to spend a summer evening.

A-Rod hasn’t ruined it for me, and neither have the cheaters and liars before him, from Gaylord Perry to Pete Rose to Barry Bonds.  I hope you won’t let him ruin it for you.

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10 thoughts on “I survived the A-Rod story, and you can too

  1. Every sport has its statistics, but one of the things that is unique about baseball is the extent to which it glorifies its numbers and uses them to measure the present against the past.

    A great number of baseball fans are familiar with numbers like 755, 61, and 56, while you’d be hard-pressed to find many basketball fans who could name Kareem’s career point total, or Emmitt’s career rushing yards.

    Those numbers don’t mean everything, but they do mean a lot. Or at least, they did, until we were besieged by the Steroid Era. During that time, two of baseball’s most precious records were broken, and they were broken by cheaters.

    The fact that A-Rod also cheated doesn’t make him anymore guilty than anyone else, but it is unfortunate because as Jayson Stark pointed out, to many fans (myself included), he seemed to represent the possibility of restoring the honor to one of those records that baseball cares about so much.

    Instead, baseball fans are left to either accept the dubious records of the past few years (well sure Bonds was juiced, but everyone else was too, so his 762 home runs should count), or to just pretend they’re not there and hope for someone to come along and break them.

    Neither alternative is very appealing.

    The A-Rod story certainly won’t drive me away from baseball, but it is the latest piece of sad news from a sorry era.

  2. Baseball has certainly thrived on its romantic records over the years. Without a doubt, that’s what piqued my interest in the game when I was younger, since I wasn’t any good at actually playing the sport.

    I’m not happy, or even indifferent, about the stigma of steroids. It’s terrible for me to think I looked up to a bunch of cheaters when I was younger, but I’m not going to let it dampen my enjoyment of the game today. I don’t seem to be alone, considering the attendance records of recent years (although I would be worried about the effect the recession will have on those attendance numbers).

    Call me jaded, but the hyperbole and righteous indignation in the sports media world is what bothers me about this story more than anything else. We’re never going to know all the names of all the cheaters, and we shouldn’t be surprised to hear that any one player was on the juice.

    The A-Rod story is sad news for he and his family, and for all the people who were rooting for him to become the “clean” record holder. Let’s just not give in to the media’s idea that A-Rod’s admission has somehow permanently wrecked the game.

  3. The news of A-Rod wasn’t really that surprising to me. Quite frankly I’m shocked that so many didn’t see this coming. Even as I re-watch his interview with Gammons yesterday, I still see half truths, “escape phrases”, and other clues that lead me to think A-Rod is still hiding information from us. (Can they really NOT KNOW what they are being injected with? Get real, every time a nurse gives me a shot I always know what it is.) But I suppose that’s another conversation.

    No, it didn’t surprise. Nor did it scare me away from baseball. Really, my main line of thinking is (as I communicated on my blog yesterday) that I’m ready for the steroid era to be over.

    Your main thesis is right, though. Baseball survived the Black Sox, Spitballers, Gambling, and they’ll survive this too.

    What would Schilling say if he tested positive?

  4. I think one of the reasons that stories like this are so disheartening to baseball fans is that the steroid era can’t be over until these stories stop forever. That’s not a realistic expectation, which is why we need to move on and stop using the same hyperbole every time a new name comes out.

    As for Schilling, I’m afraid the universe might explode if he tested positive. I think we can be sure he’d say something, though.

  5. To me the root issue is having to separate loving baseball and hating dishonesty/cheating.

    I know you aren’t suggesting otherwise, but cheating is not to be taken lightly.

    Ultimately, THAT is what I mean when I say I want the steroid era to be over.

  6. The Steroid Era will never be over. With advancements in modern medicine, there will be plenty of other “medicines” that baseball players will use for a competitive advantage.

    Lost in all this is how prevalent the use of PEDs are in college and professional football. These guys are pushing the limits of the human body… 6’6″ 280 lb. defensive ends with 38 inch verticals and 4.5 40-yard dashes are not natural. However, the sport does not have 755, 61, 4,256, etc. etc.

    It’s just to the point where you have to look at these sports as strictly entertainment.

    The media will opine on A-Rod because they need to sell their publications or drive traffic to their website. The print media is hurting financially, and any scandal like that is a boon to them.

    Schilling is the biggest whiner in professional sports. Even if he isn’t on PEDs, I’m still not convinced that was blood on his sock.

    The only player in the last 20 years I can probably guarantee did not use steroids was Oil Can Boyd. http://www.baseball-reference.com/b/boydoi01.shtml

  7. The double-standard between baseball and football does bother me, but I guess it shows that to some extent, baseball is still the national pastime.

    On Oil Can: No kidding…he was listed at 6’1″/155lbs. Throw a cape on him and you could fly him like a kite.

    I wonder how they decide which one height/weight figure to use for players over their careers. Beginning? End? “Weighted” Average?

    As the Sports Guy might say, these questions need to be answered.

  8. Back in the good old days when there was no Internet, Baseball Encyclopedia just took an average of height/weight figure.

    I have no idea how the online databases do it.

    A-Rod should get the media off his back for a while since Brett Favre has “retired” again today.

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