Wednesday

2-11-09: A-Roid

Hello again everybody...

Another middle of the week, and like most of you, I'm already looking forward to the weekend. We've been feeling awfully "Seattle" here in the upper Midwest the last few days, but I'm not complaining. I'll take 40's and damp over negative temps and snowing any day of the week and twice on Sunday!

I'm beginning to write today's missive from Key's Cafe at the Foshay Tower in downtown Minneapolis. I had to be downtown for a work meeting at 9:30am. And yes, for those of you wondering, that is painfully early for me. But like the good soldier I am, I made it in and was glad I did. But it did leave me with the problem of finding something to do from approximately 10:30am til I have to be in the studio at 1pm. So I did some research, found out Key's has wireless Internet and serves breakfast all day, and decided I'd go there.

I'm happy to report the breakfast was good (the bacon was especially yummy) and once they rebooted their modem, the wireless Internet functions quite nicely. So you have my apologies if there's any grease on your screen. I tried to clean up as best I could before I started typing!

Today's Take focuses on the subject at the forefront of most sports fans' minds, and all baseball fans' minds: Alex Rodgriguez. Or as he's been dubbed in the New York media, A-Roid.

(Aside - Don't get me wrong, I still hate Boston. But I am anxious to see how badly the Red Sox fans, whom I hate, rib A-Roid when he shows up in Fenway. That ought to be entertaining!)

Let me say by way of preview that I wasn't surprised by the revelation, but I was saddened, and more than a little annoyed. I'll discuss.

So let us away...

"An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a narrow field."
- Niels Bohr (1885 - 1962), Danish physicist


I think Professor Bohr might have been more famous for smelling something rotten in his native State, but I thought this quote was clever as well!

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Okay. A-Roid time.

Where do I begin?

For those of you living under a rock for the past week, it was revealed over the weekend in a Sports Illustrated investigation, that Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees was one of 104 baseball players to test positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2003.

The rub is that the tests that were conducted in 2003 were done after the players received strict assurances that they'd be anonymous and that the results were to be destroyed.

Why destroy the results? Because the tests were only designed to indicate whether PED's were a problem in Major League Baseball or not (I know, more obvious an answer could not be). If more than 5% of the tests came back positive, then MLB would institute regular, random testing. If not, then not.

So let's do some quick math. Each of the 32 MLB teams has a 25-man active roster. That equals 800 active MLB players. 104 is 13% of the 800. So those tests clearly exceeded the threshold for the institution of regular testing, which is why we have the program we have in place today.

So why does any of this matter?

It matters for several reasons. First of all, those tests were supposed to be destroyed. They weren't because 5 days after MLB received the results, they were subpoenaed by the federal government in the case they were building against Barry Bonds. The feds were able to tie the results up in court long enough, that a reporter was able to get ahold of A-Rod's name as one of the positive testees.

Which begs the question, are we going to learn the other 103 names on that list? I'd be flummoxed if those names didn't come out sooner or later. It's unfair that Alex is the only name to be revealed. And if that list is in the hands of the federal government (the single worst institution ever at keeping something secret), then some intrepid reporter will eventually gain access to the entire list and publish it.

It also matters because of who Alex Rodriguez is.

When Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron's career home run record, the event was met with indifference pretty much everywhere except San Francisco. By that time, the conventional wisdom was that Bonds was guilty of steroid use, and his record was therefore tainted.

Alex Rodriguez was supposed to be the guy who rid that sacred record of it's taint. He's the active player with the best shot at breaking Bonds' mark, and up until now, he was also under no suspicion of being a PED user.

Now that's changed. Now we have an admission, albeit a limited one, of Alex's use of steroids from 2001 to 2003, his years as a Texas Ranger.

In his recent interview with ESPN's Peter Gammons, Alex claimed that he felt a tremendous amount of pressure to perform from the mammoth, record-setting contract he'd just signed. And, given the "culture of baseball" at the time, PED's were a method by which he could achieve the results he, as well as Rangers fans and management, desired.

And clearly they worked. In his three years with the Rangers, he hit no less than 47 home runs per year, and drove in no fewer than 118 runs. Those are some serious numbers.

According to Alex, he suffered an injury in 2003 that "awakened" him to the dangers of PED use, and he ceased using them after being traded to the Yankees prior to the 2004 season.

Do I believe him? No. But I don't think that really matters either.

I don't believe him because this is the same guy who in 2007, looked Katie Couric in the eye and told her he'd never used any form of PEDs. Obviously, that was a lie. And once you know someone's willing to lie to a national audience, it's only prudent to question any statement they make thereafter.

As I said, I don't think it matters though, because once the taint of PED's is on you, that's pretty much it. It's like how they say you can't be "a little bit pregnant". You can't be "a little bit of a PED user". Once you've done it, you've done it, and your career will be forever colored by it.

So now Alex can't be the guy who de-taints the career home run record.

That's unfortunate, but it's not why this revelation really annoys me.

It annoys me for two reasons.

Those who are regular readers of The Sports Take, or have known me personally for any length of time, know that I love the game of baseball. The PED controversy has been a dark cloud hanging over the game for at least the last 5 years. People can say what they want about the Mitchell Report. But if nothing else, it seemed to at least start to put a period at the end of the "steroids" paragraph. Baseball had begun to move on. We'd gotten back to focusing on the game, not on what the players were or were not injecting themselves with.

Now, all that progress has been reversed. Now we're going to spend the next several months talking about A-Roid and his indiscretions. And we'll also be waiting for those other 103 names to surface. And when they do, we're going to spend months dissecting those names and the implications they make for the game.

And that leads me to my second annoyance. I've spent the last 3 and a half months getting excited for the start of the 2009 baseball season. I don't want to think about steroids. I want to think about Justin Morneau hitting a 3-run bomb. I want to think about Stephen Drew legging out a triple. I don't want to think about who these other 103 guys are, or when we're going to find out about them.

But now it's unavoidable. Steroids will dominate the discussing during Spring Training. And whenever the names come out, we'll be talking about those for several months as well. That means by my estimation, we won't be talking about pure baseball until after Memorial Day at the earliest.

That makes me sad for baseball. And annoys me to death as a baseball fan.

So that's my Take on A-Roid. For those of you wondering why I didn't discuss his punishment, that's because there isn't going to be any. At least nothing formal from Baseball. He didn't break any rule at the time of his positive test. And he hasn't tested positive since. I'm not sure what the statute of limitations is as far as legal charges, but my guess is that's run out as well. So the only punishment he's going to receive is to his image and marketability.

That's all for today. I'll be back on Friday with this week's edition of the DFTU. Until then, stay safe and thanks for reading!

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