Somewhere in America, somewhere in a Latin American country, a major-league baseball player is fueling his body with performance-enhancing drugs. As … you … are … reading … this. So do not make the mistake, as Bud Selig will try to claim throughout his final year as commissioner, of believing the Steroids Era finally ended with an arbitrator’s decision to ban Alex Rodriguez for a record 162 games.
With the continuing erosion of integrity in society, coupled with a hopeless reality that doping scientists always will be steps ahead of the cops, the sport’s PED Period actually is just beginning.
Rambo Bud may have nailed his biggest filthy fish, effectively burying the major-league career of the two-time lying juicer. But Selig was two decades too late in taking his action-hero stance against the dopers, which still overwhelms the impact of winning suspensions against all 13 players tied to the Biogeneis scandal. The sleazy tactics used by Selig’s hit men in nailing Rodriguez — paying for evidence, threatening witnesses, climbing into bed with Biogenesis kingpin Anthony Bosch — underscores the desperation to end his turbulent reign with an anti-steroids barrage.
Yes, even if Rodriguez’s threats to challenge the decision in federal court will be a three-pitch whiff, I’d like to know what he and his people have unearthed about Selig’s own dirty pool. Remember, the players are not the only bad guys in the Steroids Era; Selig and the owners were complicit villains, knowing the game’s lagging popularity in the ’90s was being juiced along with hundreds of glutes. But there are no rules demanding a commissioner be suspended if he conveniently turns his head amid a raging scandal. Bud and his owner cronies will tell us what a wonderful leader he was because of the insane money he made for his owner cronies. Truth is, for all the revenues made possible by television’s DVD era and the networks’ need for live programming in each of 30 markets at least 162 dates a year, baseball plummeted in our culture from national-pastime status to America’s fourth sport in Selig’s 21 years.
As he disappears from the sport — I suppose Japan might have him — Rodriguez will be remembered as the most tragic example of how the Selig era enabled cheaters. in what has become a tired story, with people utterly exhausted by all things A-Fraud, I remain as disgusted as I was months ago, when I wrote these words: What confounds me is why a golden child must cheat and lie, why a Natural is compelled to sleaze down and risk everything when his life is so blessed.
If it’s easier to grasp why an athlete struggling to survive would use performance-enhancing drugs — a wannabe, a broken-down journeyman, a lightweight — it’s blow-me-away-baffling why someone with extraordinary, out-of-womb abilities would be so arrogant and foolish to compromise those gifts with chemicals. The simple explanation, I suppose, is ego and hubris, the glow of entitlement that follows prodigies from the first day they’re discovered and fawned over. The complex answer, in the saddest and most reprehensible case yet, is insecurity.
It wasn’t enough for Rodriguez, favored with a greater skill set than almost every baseball player who has walked this planet, to have a special career. No, he needed to augment his built-in advantages with phony little helpers so he could aim for the mightiest of legacies and feed his empty inner soul. Some have suggested his crater was excavated by a father who left home when Alex was young, but please; not every kid from a broken home becomes a world-infamous Pinocchio. When he was forced five years ago to acknowledge steroids use during his Texas seasons in the early 2000s, Rodriguez apologized in a major media production and promised to disassociate himself from all things juice. “I was young and stupid,” he explained that day in Tampa. I remember writing that if he stayed clean and healthy, he might pass Barry Bonds’ total of 762 home runs and that maybe, just maybe, Cooperstown voters might have mercy on him someday and elect him to the Hall of Fame.
“I’m in a position where I have to earn my trust back,” he told reporters that day in Tampa. “The only thing I ask from this group today and the American people is to judge me from this day forward.”
We have done so. And he has stumbled into ignominy as an all-time sports sham. That is becoming a lengthy list — Bonds, Roger Clemens, Armstrong and Marion Jones among recent headliners — but Rodriguez is at the top because he kept playing his dirty little game after vowing to stop. This time next year, he surely will be lobbying to play, at 39, with a broken-down body and a deceit-ravaged soul. Meanwhile, the new commissioner will continue to fight a permanent problem, falsely buoyed arbitrator Fredric Horowitz’s decision to uphold most of Rodriguez’s original 211-game suspension.
“(We) respect the decision rendered by the panel and will focus on our continuing efforts on eliminating performance-enhancing substances from our game,” MLB said Saturday in a statement.
Eliminating PEDs from the game?
There’s a better chance of Roy Hobbs — the original Natural, chemical-free — playing in the majors this summer.