A-Rod: Stardom, power and controversy
See images of Alex Rodriguez from high school through his most recent years with the Yankees.
Barry Bonds may never see the inside of a jail cell. Odds are, Alex Rodriguez won’t even get his hand slapped.
It doesn’t really matter much anymore. By now we’re so numb to the whole steroid mess in baseball that it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if Bud Selig copped a plea to hawking syringes to clubhouse attendants.
This was supposed to be over a year ago when the Mitchell Report named names, assigned blame, and declared it over. But this is the noxious gift that just keeps on giving.
Pitchers and catchers report next week in an annual rite that has fans everywhere dreaming of green grass, new ivy and first place. Meanwhile, the stench of a scandal baseball let fester for more than a decade grows even stronger and forces us once again to rethink everything that has happened before.
The only difference is that at least now we know. The days of presuming innocence are long gone.
The three people in the country who still might have thought Bonds hit all his home runs due to hard work and good hand-eye coordination surely had to change their minds this week when court papers unsealed in San Francisco painted a damming case against him. The judge may not allow much of it into evidence, but the court of public opinion has already delivered its verdict.
Officially, Bonds remains the greatest home run hitter ever, even though his records are so tainted they’re laughable. Until Saturday, all baseball fans could hope for was that Rodriguez would play long enough to pass him on the all-time home run list and restore some order to baseball’s most revered mark.
Sure, A-Rod had his share of problems. His teammates didn’t like him, his wife divorced him and Joe Torre kept calling him names.
And now we’re faced with the idea it all was one giant A-Fraud.
Bonds was bad enough. Roger Clemens was both disgusting and disturbing.
But now we have to get used to the idea of A-Roid?
Sports Illustrated’s report that Rodriguez tested positive for using two different steroids in 2003 topples the last of the big names in a steroid scandal that has now tainted five of the top 12 home run hitters of all time and destroyed the reputation of the greatest pitcher of his generation.
Like Bonds, A-Rod won his league’s MVP award in 2003. Like Bonds, who also tested positive that year, he didn’t bother to credit chemists for his success.
“It really is a validation to all the hard work and dedication,” Rodriguez said at the time.
His numbers were always staggering, beginning with his days with the Seattle Mariners all the way through his current stint in the Bronx. The 47 homers he hit in 2003 didn’t spark any suspicions because he had hit 57 and 52 each of the two years before.
Here’s a statistic that might be more relevant: A whopping total of 104 players tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in the first round of steroid testing in baseball in 2003, even though they knew the tests were coming.
The tests were supposed to be destroyed, and the players never named. But two of the biggest names in baseball have now been outed, and you can only wonder how nervous some current and former players are as the battle over the samples is waged in federal court.
Selig and others never saw this coming. They only grudgingly began testing for steroids after pressure from politicians grew and the home run totals became increasingly bloated, and the last thing they wanted were the stars of the game dragged through courtrooms for a problem they liked to pretend didn’t even exist.
Now Bonds is going on trial next month in a spectacle that will overshadow spring training and further embarrass baseball. At the same time, federal investigators are eagerly hunting down the evidence they need to indict Clemens on charges he lied about his alleged steroid use.
At least those players are out of the game. Rodriguez will keep playing, earning more money than anyone in baseball as he chases those ahead of him on the all-time home run list.
When the Yankees re-signed him a year ago, that chase was seen as so magical that A-Rod will receive an additional $6 million each time he ties Willie Mays, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron or Bonds on the list. He’ll get another $6 million for the home run that breaks Bonds’ mark of 762.
Every home run he hits and every player he passes will simply be another reminder that he cheated along the way.
And everywhere he goes, they’ll stand and chant his name:
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