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.