So, Commissioner Bud Selig, you think A-Rod has shamed the game? How surprised you must be by his use of steroids! How disgraceful of him to soil the game like that! How disrespectful of him! What was ARod thinking, using steroids even though your strong leadership has been at the forefront of fighting steroids in baseball since you’ve known about them back in 1993? How arrogant of A-Rod, since you tirelessly worked to create a culture that will not tolerate steroid-use, and you have admirably worked to protect the integrity of the game.
Oh wait . . . you haven’t. You’ve done none of those things. My bad.
What is more shameful? That one player got caught up among the likely hundreds of others who have used steroids to gain a competitive edge in baseball? Or that a commissioner – whose job it is above all else to protect the integrity of the game – knowingly turned a blind-eye to the steroid problem so the sport could cash-in while it’s records and integrity were forever soiled?
Shameful? Hmmm. The Players Union is shameful. They worked to protect and encourage the use of performance enhancing drugs for the last decade. That is shameful. But the buck stops with the commissioner. And, Bud, you have a huge helping of shame on you. I’ll let you choose what happened — you either acted like a coward who was afraid to take on the Players Union for the good of protecting the game, or you just didn’t care about steroids because cash was flowing into the game. There really is no other choice here. Cowardice or greed. What was it, Bud?
And now you’ve put me in a position of having to defend ARod. That’s a crime I’ll never forgive you for.
There’s an excellent article by Tom Verducci up now on CNNSI.com. In it, Verducci makes some great points about what a sham the Rodriguez-Gammons interview was.
Before he dives into the interview, Verducci makes this irrefutable point: The Texas Rangers’ investment in Alex Rodriguez was the worst investment in sports history. He points out the Rangers paid ARod $150 million to play for them for three seasons – seasons in which they finished last each year – and then go play elsewhere.
Verducci then delicately – but certainly – takes Peter Gammons to task for essentially being a public relations pawn for ARod. He points out how Gammons fed ARod the usage timeline, never asked ARod any follow-up questions or pushed him, and how he just let a fellow reporter – Selena Roberts – be dragged through the mud by ARod’s allegations of stalking.
That final point is maybe the most startling — and unfortunately shows that the respected Hall-of-Fame writer Gammons is past his prime and no longer relevent (as if his predictions that Jimmy Gobble is the next Tom Glavine weren’t telling enough). Gammons should have offered up at least some defense of Roberts, or at least questioned ARod’s positions. Instead, Gammons let himself be used.
Meanwhile, what Roberts did was some of the best investigative sports reporting in recent memory. Perhaps if more journalists had worked so hard and not been asleep at the wheel during the steroid era, it may have washed out sooner. And ask yourself: Why did Roberts work so hard to investigate this story, and why did her and her partner David Epstein use four sources? Because like all journalists should do — and all to often don’t bother doing — they wanted to get it right. How often nowadays do you see a one-source story that later turns out to be wrong? Journalistic laziness is an epidemic today. Lesser journalists would have taken one-source and ran with the ARod story.
And they would have risked being wrong.
And in this way what these reporters did was good for ARod. As it turned out, their great reporting created a huge case against ARod. But by digging up so many sources, these journalists were making sure the info they had was accurate — because they didn’t want to go to print accusing ARod of something that he didn’t do. In that way, they showed a ton of respect for their subject, ARod.
Of course, like all criminals backed into a corner, ARod looked to blame someone else, and he dragged Selena Roberts through the mud. That is to be expected.
And Gammons let him. Shame.
- Please tell me you don’t believe A-Rod only took steroids from 2001 to 2003. Sure, and Andy Pettitte only took ‘roids twice. If you believe that, there’s a bridge I’d like to sell you. The “pressure” excuse is simply damage control; saying it was pressure might make him a sympathetic figure, and the limited timeframe tries to minimize the crime. Steroids were a staple in the game long before 2001. And you can bet your bottom dollar — even in this economy — that the truth is he used before and likely after that time.
- The reason A-Rod chose to speak to Peter Gammons is Gammons was a friendly interviewer. He might be a Hall of Fame sportswriter, but he’s no investigative reporter who is going to interrogate a person like a Jim Lehrer or Barbara Walters might. Gammons was almost leading A-Rod toward making smart answers, like when it was Gammons who essentially gave A-Rod the timeframe of when he used. (And, notice, A-Rod said that was “pretty accurate,” and didn’t say for sure, leaving it open.)
- One of the baseball apologists on the MLB Network yesterday was complaining that baseball is being held to a higher — and unfair — standard than other sports when it comes to steroids. He was saying in football, a guy who tests positive might miss three games, and there is no public outcry by the fans and media. But that is comparing apples to oranges. Baseball is a different animal, where not only do wins and losses matter, but where milestones are sacred. Tell me the magic numbers that an offensive lineman or a tackle can soil by using ‘roids. Baseball much more than any other sport has its history linked to magic numbers — 61, 755, .406. And steroids harms that heritage in baseball more than any other sport. That is why steroids are much more harmful to the sport of baseball than other major sports, and why it needed to be taken seriously long ago.
- Bud Selig is still baseball’s commissioner.
- I am tired of people saying it is unfair to speculate about who used and who didn’t without any proof. It wasn’t fair to baseball fans for the Players’ Union — run by the game’s very players — to try to keep steroids in the game and to try to protect those who used. I think fans have every right to speculate. Fans should come up with a list of Steroid Era players who we think likely used steroids, even if we have no documented evidence that they did. If players don’t like that, they’ve done this to themselves. First on that list has to be Pudge Rodriguez — thick body during the steroid era who was one of those players (like Jason Giambi) who suddenly lost 20 pounds when testing was implemented; and his production dropped. Pudge used. You have candidates? Let’s hear them. And don’t worry about being unfair to players. They were unfair to you. Once you realize that, it is extremely liberating.
I feel bad for Alex Rodriguez.
Actually, let me clarify that, just to avoid any confusion. First, understand this: I despise Alex Rodriguez. DESPISE him. I despise him for having his separate area for A-Rod merchandising at the Texas Rangers spring training camp. For begging out on his team (the Rangers), then saying he wanted to remain with the Rangers at a press conference where he was named team captain — mere days before asking for and receiving a trade to the Yankees. I despise him for his obsession with Jeter. I despise him for his bush-league antics, like yelling when opponents are trying to catch a pop-up, or pointing at where the outfielders are when he’s on second, or slapping a ball away when he’s running to first. I despise him for screaming at Bronson Arroyo about being hit by a pitch — a frigging BREAKING ball. I despise him for backing out of his contract, and announcing it in the middle of a World Series game — a game in which he was supposed to be there to honor Hank Aaron, but for some reason couldn’t make it. He’s a fake, a phony, a complete and utter dirtbag.
All of which leaves me confused as to why, on the day he takes the mantle as Baseball’s Ultimate Villain, I feel sympathy for him when I should be rejoicing. It doesn’t make any sense, but it’s true.
I feel bad for Alex Rodriguez.
I’ve been shocked at the number of top columnists who have jumped on A-Rod about the steroid scandal. Yeah, we all love to hate A-Rod. But, really, this isn’t his fault. Who can blame A-Rod? How can you blame a guy who in the late 1990s was perhaps the most talented player in the game (or at least in the Top 3 at the time), who was watching all these other players using steroids and getting all the glory. How can such a highly competitive individual so close to the cusp of all-time greatness not use steroids? We all like to be holier-than-thou, but almost all of us would make the same decision A-Rod would.
And that is why I can’t understand how the best baseball writers in the country are beating on A-Rod. They are saying he has soiled the game; ruined it. That he has ruined his legacy, and he deserves the hate. I wish I could feel that way, I really do. I jumped for joy when the report came out. But now, I feel bad for A-Rod. He doesn’t deserve this. It’s not his fault. There are people who deserve this; people who really are responsible for the Steroid Era and how it has soiled the game. And those people’s names are Bud Selig, Don Fehr and Gene Orza.
In case you haven’t heard, Bud Selig makes more than $17 million a year to be baseball’s commissioner. That’s more than all but the very elite players in the game. But at least those players get that money because of their effective performance. I’ve chronicled Selig’s many failures in this blog before, and I won’t rehash it here. But understand that memoes have shown the commissioner’s office was aware of a steroid problem in baseball as early as 1993, and chose not to take it seriously. When records were being trounced in the late-1990s, Selig chose to look away and let the sport reap the cash rewards instead of doing the one job at the heart of the position of baseball commissioner: Protect the integrity of the game. He failed miserably at that, and he failed at that on purpose. He knew of the problem and chose to look away while the game and its most hallowed records were soiled. For failing so horribly to protect the integrity of the game, Selig is certainly the worst commissioner in baseball’s history, and he should be fired. Of course, his cohorts — baseball owners — would never do that.
But Selig isn’t the only one at fault. Fehr, Orza and the rest of the Players’ Union is to blame. They knew – without a doubt — about the steroid problem, and chose not to act. Instead, they actually worked to keep steroids in the game. Former Rangers pitcher Rick Helling told the Players’ Union they needed to do something about steroids. He told them that in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002. The Union ignored him. They then went on to try everything in their power to protect the use of steroids in the game, from fighting every effort at testing, to allegedly even tipping-off players about when they might be tested (reports are Orza may have tipped-off A-Rod about a test in 2004).
Of course, while the Union fought testing, Selig provided no leadership. He might argue that it would have taken a strike, and baseball couldn’t survive another strike. Well, he could have at least yelled and screamed about it, instead of remaining silent. And if it takes a strike to weaken the union, then that is what baseball needed to do and should do. Have a lock-out, bring in scabs, whatever baseball needs to do to protect the game. Baseball can survive another strike. Baseball fans love baseball, and they’ll always come back eventually. Baseball will survive strikes, and it will survive the Steroid Era . . . but it will be tainted forever.
Let’s take a break for a moment from bemoaning the evilness of the Yankee purse and their ability to sign Sabathia, Burnett, Teixeira, and possibly more in a single offseason, and instead take a look at some of their vulnerabilities; weaknesses that aren’t going to just go away.
There’s currently an army of bloggers and columnists proclaiming you can’t just give the Yankees the championship right now, because anything can happen. And those people are right. However, right now I will just give the Yankees the division title. This is a team that won 89 games last season despite being plagued by injuries and marching out a starting rotation built on ductape. Now give that team the best young hitter in the game in Mark Teixeira, the stuff of CC Sabathia and a semi-healthy AJ Burnett, and the return of Chen-Mien Wang (sp?), and they should easily win an additional 10 games this season. That will mean a division title for New York, and it’ll set up an interesting Wild Card battle for the Red Sox with an ever-improving Tampa Bay team – a team adding David Price to their rotation, featuring the improving bats of BJ Upton and Evan Longoria, and remember their ace Scott Kazmir was sub-par last season. It should all make for an interesting 2009.
But while the Yankees look imposing and should certainly capture the division crown, even on paper they have deep flaws that could expose them to failure come October.
- Derek Jeter. Before I bash Jeter, let me first say I think he is a hell of a player. Jeter has “it”; he has that same competitive fire and passion that guys like Larry Bird and Lance Armstrong have; that willingness to go all out and come up big when it counts most. We’ve seen it in his legendary play against the A’s; we saw it when he went into the stands to make a catch against the Sox (the same game Nomar sat pouting on the bench). But despite that, Jeter has always been overrated. He has passion; but even in his prime his numbers weren’t overly impressive compared to second-tier shortstops, and his defense was average. Now he’s going to be 35 this season — an ancient age for shortstops. His defense is already a liability. When offensively-gifted shortstops get old, they usually get moved to thirdbase or firstbase. But with ARod and Teixeira in place for the next decade, Jeter won’t be moving to those spots. And you don’t want an aged former shortstop suddenly trying to run around the outfield. The Yanks are stuck with Jeter at short, and that could be a problem for years to come.
- Jorge Posada. Prior to last season, I said Posada’s new contract was a bad deal of monumental proportions. Thanks, Jorge, for proving me right in 2008. Anticipate him being dead weight the rest of that contract too. Take away his suspiciously-good 2007 contract-year campaign, and Posada has never been an exceedingly great hitter. And his catching abilities have many Yankee pitchers grumbling. By this mid-season, it will be apparent to Cashman and diehard Yank fans they need to address the catching issue. Don’t be surprised if they get in on Saltalamacchia or other young prospect discussions. But until then, we’ll watch Jorge drag the Yanks down.
- Crowded Outfield. To fill their three outfield positions and the DH spot, the Yanks have Matsui, Damon, Swisher, Cabrera and Nady. Matsui and Damon are both years passed their prime, have seen their numbers drop, and have been recently plagued by injuries. Maybe Matsui can bounce back, but given his age and injuries, expect him to drop off. At this point in his career, Damon is a shell of himself. Speed was his game, and now it is gone, making him slower on the basepaths and a liability on defense. Nady is good. But Swisher and his .220 average make Dave Kingman look like Rod Carew. (Although, with Swisher being cut from my fantasy baseball team, expect him to have a career year in 2009.) Cabrera is a wildcard — a moderately-talented player with the personal makeup the Yanks are desperate to ship out of town. In the outfield/DH department, both the Sox and Rays have the advantage over The Bombers.
- Starting Pitching. Despite signing Sabathia and Burnett, the dependability of the Yankee starting pitching staff is far from a sure thing. While I’ve often said that, given his size and number of innings pitched, Sabathia will eventually break down, that probably won’t happen this year. It could, but anyone could get injured. And its a safer bet to expect Sabathia to be Sabathia in 2009. That being said, its also a safe bet to expect Burnett to get injured and log under 25 starts. And,even when healthy, Burnett is touchable. Wang is good, but isn’t a top-tier starting pitcher. And while he’s been great at times, he’s also gone through stretches of being very vulnerable. Even if they are all healthy, the Yankee Top 3 aren’t any better than the Top 3 pitchers for the Sox or Rays. After that, the young arms of Chamberlain, Kennedy and Hughes are a wildcard. They all have talent, but given the way the Yankees have mismanaged their development into the bigs, there’s no way to know how they’ll react this season.
Y’know, the more I think about it, maybe it is too early to give the Yanks the division crown.