Monday, February 9, 2009

A-Rod: The surprising non-surprise

Great piece by Joe Sheehan on Baseball Prospectus about the "outing" of Alex Rodriguez for his use of PEDs. Most of his venom is directed not at A-Rod, but at the self-righteous "professional" -- scare quotes earned -- journalists who "cover" baseball:

Of course, the screaming is about the screamers. The loudest voices on the evils of steroids in baseball are in the media, and there's probably a dissertation in that notion, because for all that we have to hear about how greedy, evil players have ruined baseball by taking these substances (and then playing well, according to this selective interpretation; no one's ripping Chris Donnels these days), the reason we're talking about this in 2009 is that so many "reporters"—scare quotes earned—went ostrich in 1999. We hear every year around awards time that the people closest to the game know the game better than anyone, because they're in the clubhouse every day, and they talk to everyone, and they have a perspective that outsiders can't possibly understand. For those same people to do a collective Captain Renault, which they've been doing since beating up players for this transgression became acceptable, is shameful. Take your pick: they missed the story, or they were too chicken-shit to report it. In either case, the piling-on now is disgusting.

Couldn't have said it better myself. So I won't.

The only surprise I can register is that A-Rod actually came clean. That's something I don't think we'll ever get from Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, or Mark McGwire, each lost in their own egos or delusions of baseball immortality. The more that comes out, the more I think Jose Canseco might be one of the more reliable and truthful people in the history of MLB. Scary, huh?

Of course, A-Rod says he hasn't used PEDs since 2003. You know, since it would be illegal and cost him money. He hasn't touched the stuff since, I'm sure. After all, that's what he told us, and he wouldn't lie to us, right? I mean, unless we were Katie Couric.

And remember how angry Albert Pujols was when reports came out erroneously linking him to the names in the Mitchell Report? Gosh, he was angrier good ol' finger-wavin' Rafael Palmeiro! Maybe Pujols uses; maybe he doesn't. Not a single baseball player -- not A-Rod, not Pujols, not Manny Ramirez, not Ryan Howard, not David friggin' Eckstein -- has credibility right now when it comes to the question of whether they used PEDs. Not a one. (Though I do openly wonder who's got a bigger credibility gap right now, baseball players suspected of using steroids, or, as Joe Sheehan insists, the media members who cover them?)

The thing is, I've come to terms with it. A good number of baseball players (and likely football players) use steroids, and it's probably closer to the 75% Canseco insists upon than the single digits MLB found during its testing in '03. I really can't be indignant about it any more. I'll still draft A-Rod in my fantasy leagues if he's available, I'll still follow the Twins and the sport in general. If the opportunity arises, I'll still go see a game this year. (I've never lived in a city with a MLB team, so I've only seen a handful of games live.)

And maybe that's baseball's biggest failing, that when one of its biggest stars is brought down like this, the opinion of at least one fan is: "Whatever. Play ball."

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