The year 2013 has not been a kind one to the sports Gods. LeBron won his second NBA title. Aaron Hernandez submitted a new college criminology text on how NOT to commit murder. Riley Cooper, Hernandez’ college teammate, was caught using a very insensitive racial slur on camera at a concert where I am sure thousands more were using it in an even more incendiary fashion. But let us face facts here, people. As fresh as those wounds may still be, it is always the freshest one that seems, as superficial as it may be, to cut the deepest. And no wound is fresher than the biogenesis suspensions handed down by the honchos running Major League Baseball, particularly the 211 game ban handed to one Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez.
So what is one to make of this unprecedented step that Major League Baseball, and, more specifically, Bud Selig, has issued. On one hand, Alex Rodriguez has never failed an official MLB drug test under their current PED guideline. The poster children for that are Manny Ramirez, Rafael Palmeiro, and the inexplicably exonerated (until recently) Ryan Braun. Even David Ortiz has failed a drug test, but that was in 2003, and he has been proven clean since (allegedly…color me skeptical on that one. But I digress). Rodriguez has never flunked even one, but allegations have hung over his orange tinged head ever since the winter months of 2009, when Selena Roberts of Sports Illustrated unleashed a bombshell: She had ways, means and sources linking Rodriguez to PED use. Roberts was not the first to hold these allegations; Jose Canseco had said in the past that he knew for a fact A-Rod was a roid user. Its amazing to sit here in 2013 and credit Jose Canseco as probably the most credible figure in the history of baseball and steroid abuse. Almost every Canseco allegation has proven to be true, and if any two people in this world should have felt completely exonerated yesterday, Selena Roberts and Jose Canseco would top the list.
Now, some may see the title of this little rant and say “Gee, we know he is a degenerate lying cheater, but the SCOURGE of sports? That is a little excessive, isn’t it?” To that, I simply say you don’t know all the facts. For the time being, let us stick with baseball, Rodriguez’ lifetime passion, the game he is associated with.
Baseball has seen its share of dubious characters through the years. Ty Cobb was a documented hot head and racist who played with such a fierce, defiant streak that it often led him to spike opposing players, strike opposing fans, and rub people so wrong that, later in life, even when some called him the greatest ball player to ever play, he was completely shunned by his peers. Pete Rose is heralded for his hard nosed play, as embodied by his nickname, Charlie Hustle. He lived hard and played hard. When his playing days were coming to an end and he was named manager of the Reds, managing simply did not fill the rush playing did. So he violated the cardinal rule of baseball: he bet on his own team. Granted, he picked them to win, but, as any baseball fan or player knows, in every clubhouse throughout the game, there is a list of transgressions never to be violated, and betting on the game is numero uno. It all harkens back to the late 1800’s and early 1900s, when betting almost ruined the game. This problem was not just the 1919 Black Sox…that was just the culmination of it. Hal Chase was the Captain of the early 1900’s Yankees, a great first baseman who was also one of the games most corrupt players. He would intentionally tank infielders throws to him at first in an attempt to shave points on the game for his financial gain. The 1914 Batting Title was shrouded in mystery amidst an alleged friendly bet between the teams for the two combatants: Detroit’s Cobb and Cleveland’s Nap Lajoie. Trust me, all this stuff is just the tip of the iceberg, and if you want to know more, I can turn you on to some excellent books to read. But suffice to say, gambling was a widespread vice in baseball (especially with penny pinching owners paying players a pittance). The Black Sox scandal should be remembered as baseball finally clamping down on the problem, even if it did sacrifice some good players who were not necessarily guilty, but tainted.
Back to Rose, he eschewed the advice staring him in his face everyday for 25 seasons, and bet. He was caught. And he picked the worst possible strategy for him: He denied everything. On top of that, after Rose was barred from the game by the late Bart Giammati, he was not above pimping himself in any way shape or form simply to make a few bucks to feed his insatiable need to gamble. The man showed no tact. He was rude, crude, defiant, and unapologetic…until 2003. And even then, when he came clean on national television and admitted that, yes, he had bet on the game, it was only to schlock his new autobiography. Always classy to the end. And at the end, ten years later, the book that Rose thought would lead him back into the loving embrace of MLB (and, more specifically the Hall of Fame), the absolution he sought, the forgiveness…has eluded Rose, because he provided a textbook example of how NOT to deal with a crisis or scandal, how not to look for forgiveness. And its a shame, because the All Time Hit King still remains an outsider, and it does not look like that is going to change any time soon.
Alex Rodriguez apparently has never heard of Pete Rose.
Let us add another figure to this jambalaya of deceit: Barry Bonds. Bonds is a different swine of sorts. Barry has ALWAYS been an asshole first and a once in a generation baseball talent second. At least Barry was up front about it. When he was a Pirate, he quarreled with fans, quarreled with teammates, quarreled with Jim Leyland, Bobby Bonilla, Andy Van Slyke, every member of the Pittsburgh media…at least he was up front about it. By the time Spring Training 1990 hit, we knew two things about Barry Bonds: 1. He was an AMAZING ballplayer, and 2. He was an AMAZING asshat. Bonds never kowtowed to what the Media wanted him to be, and I respect him for that, to a degree. He spurned my Yankees in the 1993 offseason in order to play for his father and godfather’s home club, the Giants (nevermind that Bobby Bonds played for the Yankees or that Mays spent his glory years in New York…not bitter). Bonds proceeded to, in parks NOT conducive to hitting, put up ungodly stat lines. Sure, guys like McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, Griffey and Thomas (the latter two never linked to PED’s, might I add) were providing sexier box score numbers. Bonds was busy hitting around .300 with 30 homers, 30 steals, an ungodly OBP, tons of doubles, and great left field defense. In short, Bonds, even before the PED’s, was a Hall of Fame talent. And, according to “Game of Shadows”, he stayed clean until he saw what Sosa and McGwire, two players with lesser talents than he possessed, were usurping all the headlines. While they were busy chasing Maris (and the accolades, and the MVP votes), Bonds was putting up a .303/.438/.609 slash line with 37 HR and 28 stolen bases. Folks, that is an ALL TIME season there, and it was overshadowed by Sosa and McGwire making Maris’ 61 home run mark their bitch for the better part of September. Most fans will remember 1998 for that fact. I remember 1998 for a different reason, for as a Yankee fan, I was enamored with that teams sheer dominance over the rest of the American league, and, moreover, all of baseball. For the record, in that day of inflated baseball stats, Tino Martinez led arguably the greatest team baseball has ever seen with 28 home runs.
Bonds at this point was furious at the lack of media attention, or, should I say, recognition (and honestly, as time passes, I agree) that his stellar 1998 received. So he showed up at Spring Training 1999 with an added 35 pounds of muscle and an added ten pounds of bowling ball head. And none of us batted an eye. STEROID ERA BABY! Everyone was, from fans to media, complicit in the obvious muscular and frame change of the game. No one uttered a word. It was FUN! Bonds, and I can’t blame the man, especially knowing his personality (or lack there of) must have been RIGHTEOUSLY pissed. Thus began Bonds assault on all power and hitting records available. And, even though it is well established that Bonds was a cheater…was he really? That age was littered with steroid cheaters. Bonds may be chief among them, but does he really belong there? He took his natural gifts, added some muscle mass (and head mass) and became, quite literally, the best ballplayer, well, the best pure hitter since Ruth or Teddy Ballgame. His at bats, which often pre empted baseball coverage on ESPN, were events. Either dude was getting walked, intentionally or “non intentionally” , and if he got one pitch a game, one good one, in 2001? It was going out of the fucking yard. This was Bo Jackson Tecmo Bowl as a flesh and blood Major League Baseball player. It was astounding. It was unbelievable. Many will point to Bonds never winning a title…but did you SEE that 2002 World Series? The game six homer that Bonds hit in Anaheim just hit me in my scrotum today sitting in Massachusetts. The Hubbell Telescope did not have that height or trajectory. Look at Bonds 2004 stats. This was an example of a guy who was just a generational talent enhancing his already formidable abilities, taking them up a notch than Emeril Lagasse would be envious of.
This of course brings us back to the Scourge, A-Rod. Anyone who has read Selena Roberts salacious book must take these facts into account. Whereas Bonds was just a natural, Roberts accused A-Rod of doping since High School, even JR. High School. One of his role models as a kid was Jose Canseco. I could end an article on A-Rod on that little tid bit. But it goes much further. The most basic evidence proves to the world that A-Rod has been doping, more or less, since High School. A-Rod is five years older than I, and I can tell you, from the time I was 12 or 13, which would be 92-93, steroids were there. A friend of mine, same age, started cycling in 1993 or so. And he got HUGE, not big, HUGE, and stronger than a 1950’s Impala. Seeing as I was exposed to that at such a young age, in a town renown for its football program, Brockton Massachusetts, it is hard for me not to think that this pandemic was limited just to the streets. It was in weight rooms, it was present at High School Football and Baseball practices. It was prevalent. A-Rod was a product of the same times I was, so for him to be using PED’s as early as High School is not as far fetched as one may think.
A-Rod was drafted #1 overall by Seattle in 1993, and the scouts who were observing him were beyond drooling. Baseball scouts use a scale of 20 (poorest)-80, and Alex scored 80’s across the board. He was the evolutionary Ripken…better range, better hands, better arm, better average, better power. Alex did not disappoint. Look at his 1996 age 20 season: .358/.414/.631 with 36 homers, 54 doubles, 15 steals, 123 RBI, 379 total bases. It is an ALL TIME season. A-Rod, doped up or not, had just submitted the greatest age 20 season ever.
A-Rod continued his Mariner’s career hitting much like his first. He became a free agent in the 2000 offseason. Now, most of us were not yet clued in to PED’s at this point, so A-Rod’s age and stats, his pretty stats, made him the biggest (and likely to remain the biggest) Free Agent in baseball history. Rodriguez received some solid offers, but it was dumbass Tom Hicks (dumb ass Ashy Tommy) who absolutely broke all banners of sanity in baseball’s free agent period: 10 years, 252 million dollars. To anyone wondering why 252, well, Kevin Garnett had previously signed a 10 year 126 million dollar contract with the Minnesota Timerbwolves, and A-Rod’s agent, the nefarious Scott Boras, wanted twice the amount. And dumb ass ashy Tom Hicks agreed to it. A-Rod was a Texas Ranger, and Hicks immediately regretted the decision.
A-Rod was unbelievable as a Ranger. Unbelieveable in two ways: Unbelievable in his on field production, and unbelievable in a later confession. But this was the height of a now derided era, and there is no argument now that A-Rod was the standard bearer (besides Bonds) of the era. His numbers as a Ranger were mind blowing: .300 Avg, 50 homers and 120 or more RBI’s a year. That was the era he performed in.
Here is where it becomes cloudy. A-Rod, after flirting heavily with the Red Sox, suddenly becomes a Yankee. All because Aaron Fucking Boone decides to play a pick up game of b-ball. He crushed his ACL. Now, listen, the Yankees SIGNED a stopgap…Mike Lamb, who for the next five years proved to be a reliable player. But this was still the height of Steinbrenner Doctrine. Cashman wanted Vlad Guerrero and a decent third baseman. George was a little more pragmatic. He wanted A-Rod. At third. Along with Jeter at Short. Here began the downfall of the Yankee Dynasty. Do I need to start about A-Rod’s defensive issues in adapting to third base? (not that hard, might I add). A-Rod’s continued failure in the clutch, especially in the glare of the New York Media? A-Rod has done nothing to help his image with Kate Hudson and fucking MADONNA. People will harp “What about Jeter?” What about him? He keeps his sexual conquests on the DL. A-Rod makes his front page news. A-Rod does not perform in the playoffs as a Yankee, while he enjoys MVP season after MVP season. How many MVP’s has Jeter won? He realizes that the gravy in New York is poured when you win. When you perform in the big games. Take 2009 away, and A-Rod has come up smaller than Billy Barty. He is so focused on his own legacy that he forgets that this is a TEAM GAME. And, to most Yankee fans, he is the antithesis of what the mid to late 90’s-early 2000’s teams met. Brosius, O’Neill, Jeter, Bernie, those guys are guys who are all about team. A-Rod is ME first, and it has been that way since he first donned the pinstripes. A-Rod only cares about his lovely statistics, and they are phenomenal, let me say. But ONE World Series title in the Pinstripes is unacceptable. This is a team that has won 27 World Championships. And we will put it this way; I, as a longtime fan, cannot name a Yankee with one World Title besides this group.
The basic gist of this column is this: While many players have seen less service time on the field that A-Rod, no one player has brought more shame. He is a sham, a loser, a stats obsessed asswipe who cares not for his team, but for his own legacy. That is all this stiff Rodriguez cares for. He is the antithesis of the mid to late 90’s-2000’s Yankees. Those teams wanted one thing and one thing only: The World Series Championship, and the bonus money that followed. Alex Rodriguez sought individual glory, and it has cemented the downfall of a once great franchise.