The New York Daily News got hold of an advance copy of the book and gleefully published some of the juicier details Thursday. Among them are allegations that A-Roid, as he is destined to be called for now and forever, first used steroids in high school and continued to use human growth hormone (HGH) while he was playing with the Yankees in 2004.
That last allegation is what kills any chance he has of joining the immortals in Cooperstown. It doesn’t even matter if it’s true. The allegation, supported by circumstantial evidence and the suspicions of teammates who spoke anonymously, confirms what many people want to believe. Among them are the unforgiving baseball writers who vote for the Hall of Fame.
The reason it’s a fatal blow is because the book says A-Rod was still using HGH after he said that he’d stopped using banned substances during his public mea culpa back at the beginning of spring training.
A-Rod had been responding to a story Roberts published in SI detailing A-Rod’s use of steroids during his years with the Texas Rangers. It revealed that A-Rod was one of 104 players to test positive for drugs in the spring of 2003, when baseball conducted a supposedly anonymous survey test to determine how much of a problem it had. The results of the tests triggered the institution of full-scale testing with penalties for the use of performance enhancers.
A-Rod put on his best shamed-warrior face and apologized to everyone, from teammates to fans to the little kids who look up to him. He swore his use of the drugs ended in 2003 and that he would never take anything illegal again, both because he knew it was wrong and because he found he didn’t need them to prove his wonderfulness to the world.
Back then, I said if he spoke the truth, I was willing to cut him a break on my Hall of Fame ballot. It was unfair to single him out from among the 104 positive tests, I wrote. Besides, he had been using the drugs when they were epidemic in the game. Since Major League Baseball had no penalties and no tests for the drugs, how could you punish someone for doing them?
But Roberts’ book changes everything. The drugs were banned in 2004, which makes it real cheating. And if he was doing HGH in 2004, then he lied in his come-clean press conference.
We’re a forgiving nation, but one thing we won’t abide is people who lie in the confessional. If you’re going to come clean, you’d better do just that. Don’t admit to just the things you think you’ve been caught doing. Admit it all or keep your mouth shut.
We’ll probably never know the complete truth. But we’ve reached the stage where allegations, when backed up by enough circumstantial evidence, is enough. Jose Canseco, who is among whose suspicions about A-Rod are quoted by Roberts, was once dismissed as a purveyor of sour grapes, has been proved to be accurate time and again in his allegations about baseball’s juicers.
We’re through stretching disbelief and giving benefits of the doubt. When it comes to performance enhancers, we’ve found that where there’s smoke, there’s invariably fire.
Lying about things has Barry Bonds facing federal charges of perjury. It has destroyed Roger Clemens’ once lustrous legend. And now it’s going to finish A-Rod’s Hall of Fame hopes.
The rest of the book isn’t any nicer to baseball’s most famous and wealthiest player. According to The Daily News, Roberts paints A-Rod as being hopelessly needy for attention and reassurance that he is indeed the greatest thing to happen to baseball since shoe contracts. She details his philandering, his gambling habit and even rips him for tipping the 15 percent minimum at Hooters. John Daly would be shocked.
None of this will change his status on the Yankees, who need his bat to climb back into contention in the AL East and fill the expensive seats in their new ballpark. It won’t change the record numbers A-Roid will put up if he manages to stay healthy for the next eight or 10 years. It won’t even stop Yankee fans from cheering him wildly when he gets big hits to win ballgames.
All it will do is keep him from the one place every player dreams of being — Cooperstown.
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