The old used-car salesman from Milwaukee tried to pull a fast one. Bud Selig and his henchmen, only one day after securing a 162-game suspension from an arbitrator for Alex Rodriguez, arranged for their star witness to appear on “60 Minutes” and further smear the beleaguered A-Rod. There was Anthony Bosch, Biogenesis boss, looking the part of a Miami creep who fed PEDs to baseball players out of a strip mall. There he was, full of hair gel and empty of any conscience, describing how he supplied Rodriguez with testosterone and human growth hormone to help the delusional, morally bankrupt slugger chase 800 home runs.
We heard about testosterone-filled gummie lozenges, which Rodriguez would use in the dugout before and during games. We heard about his fear of needles, requiring Bosch to inject Rodriguez with the banned juice. We heard about Bosch allegedly receiving a death threat from a Rodriguez associate after their relationship broke down, with Bosch refusing a $20,000-a-month offer to live in Colombia so he wouldn’t be hounded by Major League Baseball investigators.
Death threats? Ho hum.
But gummies? What, Twizzlers and Swedish fish weren’t available? Will we ever look at a gummie the same way again? What do we tell our children at the candy store?
“They are so small, you could literally while sitting in the dugout take it, put it in your mouth and people could think it’s sunflower seeds or … a piece of candy or a piece of gum, for that matter,” Bosch told the CBS news show. “Now, all of a sudden, his levels of testosterone are higher. It gives him more energy. It gives him more strength. It gives him more focus. And in combination with the growth hormone, that combination would make playing the game of baseball a lot easier.”
If that wasn’t chilling enough, consider how many times Rodriguez passed drug tests administered by MLB, even though his system was filled with HGH, testosterone, peptides, growth factor 1 and who knows what else. Would you believe, more than 12? Coaching Rodriguez, Bosch explained how to foil the urine testers. “You want to start the test and then introduce the urine cup into the stream,” Bosch said of the doping duping. “And what you want to capture is the middle of the stream, not the beginning or not the end of the stream. That was extremely important because most of the metabolites are either in the beginning of the stream or at the end of the stream.”
This is not what Selig and his men wanted America to hear. What it tells us, in the commissioner’s obsession to nail Rodriguez and try to convince the public that he is ridding baseball of PEDs, is that he isn’t ridding baseball of PEDs in the least. If Rodriguez could have such a sophisticated knowledge of the PED culture — as part of an “anti-aging clinic” that included 12 other players who were caught and suspended by MLB — then how many major-leaguers are doing the same here in 2014? Dozens? Hundreds? And when Selig insists he has the toughest drug-testing mechanism in North American sports, is he just full of his initials?
All the “60 Minutes” piece did was ensure us another year of PED hell, which comes seven years after the Mitchell Report, nine years after the Congressional hearings, 10 years after MLB began drug testing, 13 years after a tainted Barry Bonds hit his single-season-record 73rd home run, 16 years after the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa derby, 17 years after Selig said he didn’t know much about steroids, 19 years after Selig said he and the owners indeed had discussed steroids and 26 years after Washington Post baseball writer Thomas Boswell went on television and said Jose Canseco’s speed-and-power show was all about steroids.
We have been trapped in PED hell for a long, long time. And we are going to be be trapped in PED hell for a long, long time, after likely Selig successor Rob Manfred — meet the new boss, same as the old boss — is spewing the same garbage about baseball’s progress on the drug front.
Spring training starts next month. All eyes will be focused on Tampa, where Rodriguez insists he’ll report to the Yankees as he sues MLB and the players’ association in attempts to overturn the suspension. Once there, the Yankees could order him to a minor-league field, where they could force him to sit and watch like any other fan. Or, Yankees boss Hal Steinbrenner could pay him off and be done with the A-Rod circus, except the amount would be an obscene $61 million. Meanwhile, Rodriguez and his battalion of high-priced New York lawyers and goons will make sure they exhaust every legal avenue, filing suit Monday in U.S. District Court hoping to prove that arbitrator Fredric Horowitz was biased in his ruling. They have little or no chance of pulling it off, but that isn’t the point.
A-Rod wants to be an A-You Know What.
The fallout reminds us that the PED Era likely is permanent, at least in our lifetime. Somewhere in America, somewhere in a Latin American country, a major-league player is fueling his body with performance-enhancing drugs. As … you … are … reading … this. So do not make the mistake of believing the Era ended with Rodriguez’s suspension. With the continuing erosion of integrity in society, coupled with a hopeless reality that doping scienists 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 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, players are not the only bad guys in the PED 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 vanishes from the field — he can’t play in Japan or South Korea, where they honor MLB drug rules — 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 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 said that day. “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, Lance 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 an incurable disease.
“(We) will focus on our continuing efforts on eliminating performance-enhancing substances from our game,” MLB said after the Rodriguez ban.
Eliminating PEDs from the game?
There’s a better chance of Roy Hobbs — the original Natural, chemical-free — playing in the majors this summer.