Ending the A-Rod debate


Judging by the comments and email, my reaction to the A-Rod presser didn’t please anyone. The criticism was about evenly split between those who seemed to think I was too hard on the guy and didn’t give him enough credit for being candid, and those that still think that I’m not hard enough on him because I still argue that his usage almost certainly had little effect on his numbers.

Some days you’re better off just staying in bed. Or maybe I could blog recipes. I don’t imagine that those folks get too much hate mail. “You’re calling for too much sugar! Who likes custard, anyway! Obviously you’ve never cooked in a real restaurant.”

Let’s try to deal with both objections, starting with the first. I would very much like to give Rodriguez the benefit of the doubt here, as I have steadfastly defended him over the years from those so-called fans who want to blame every bad bounce of the ball on him, not to mention the declining economy, global warming, and the continued popularity of “American Idol.” Despite this, I think his performance on Tuesday was ludicrous. I can’t sum up his explanations any better than did Joel Sherman in Wednesday’s New York Post:

So before we even deal with the discrepancy that Rodriguez, according to the Sports Illustrated story, failed a test for two steroids, not just “boli,” let us just sum up A-Rod’s new story: Fitness freak lets untrained relative shoot drugs that the fitness freak cannot fully identify or vouch are safe into his body 36 times, though the fitness freak is not sure he is taking the drugs correctly or if they are having a positive result.

Lewis Carroll’s White Queen could believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast, and you’d have to be her to buy into this mess. It makes very little sense. Nor does the “youthful indiscretion” thread ring true, given that the guy was 25 when he started. Whatever maturity issues the guy was facing, it’s pretty clear he had a fully developed sense of right and wrong or he wouldn’t have tried to hide what he was doing.

As I said yesterday, this has little to do with my estimation of Alex Rodriguez as a ballplayer. I respect his on-field performances and feel they are legitimate. The same goes for Ty Cobb. Had I been around, I would have paid good money to see Cobb play, but I don’t think I would have wanted to be friends with him or have him over for dinner. Heck, given what I’ve read of Babe Ruth’s table manners, I don’t know that I’d want to have dinner with him either. Ted Williams was not easy to get along with. Mickey Mantle was so good he’s actually underrated, but it seems like his personal character left a lot to be desired. These guys are not my idea of great human beings, but they can play on my all-star team anytime.

As for those on the “steroids corrupt all stats” debate, I remain somewhere between agnostic and outright skeptical. I’d be more willing to believe in a placebo effect than I do in a large-scale impact on home run production. If you feel differently, I’m open to your argument, but we need an argument more solid than, “Look at the home runs, man!” I did a radio spot recently, and the host said — I loosely paraphrase — “You puny stathead, I used to play the game, and I look at how Bongs and Ray-Rod can stay back on the ball and still hit it out — that’s unnatural power that can only come from the juice!” And as I struggled to say something more than, “Wait, what?” he repeated, “I played, I know.” Well, great. Let’s say we accept your argument. These guys hit 50 home runs a year. In how many of them did they “stay back” and still hit it out? What is the recurrence of your little anecdote in a given year? Are there any players who can do that naturally? Is it possible that, given that we’re talking about the top one percent of home run hitters in the game, that they can do some things the average player cannot? That you cannot? We’re talking about people’s lives and good names here. We cannot condemn them based on inference, innuendo, anecdote.

All of this searching for a “natural” production baseline is ridiculous given that there is no such thing. The line drawn between fair and unfair substances is completely arbitrary. No player, in any sport, is competing with only the assets that birth gave him. There’s always something else going into the pot, be it aspirin, absinthe, or amphetamines. During his 56-game hitting streak, Joe DiMaggio chain-smoked cigarettes in the dugout to calm his nerves. That gave him an unfair advantage on Wee Willie Keeler.  Heck, genes are unfair and should be banned. Consider Barry Bonds and Jose Cruz, Jr. Bobby Bonds was a very good player. Barry Bonds is better. Jose Cruz was a very good player. Jose Cruz, Jr. is not half the player his old man was. Seems like Barry’s mom brought more to the chromosome hoedown than did Jose Jr.’s mom. Clearly, Barry Bonds is the beneficiary of genetic hypergamy, giving him a competitive advantage unavailable to other players. As such, his records should be stricken from the book. Breeding, intentional or not, makes a mockery of the level playing field.

I’m done. This is over. Let’s move on… at least a couple of yards down the road. At least until the next revelation.


  1. richinnj

    I have heard the sports media complain about the no follow up question rule that was imposed at the outset of Alex’s press conference. There was, however, a simple remedy for that limitation. Each questioner could have followed up on the question of the one posed before him or her. In that way, the “discrepancy” that Sherman pointed to (and others) could have been addressed (not that I understand why we need to know every detail beyond his admission of usage). But for some reason, be it a lack of: motivation, mental acuity or adaptability, the media was unwilling or unable to do so. As such, they have no one to blame but themselves.

  2. buzah

    Where were all these press room Columbo’s for the 25 or so years when the steroid craze was going on? What a bunch of jokers they were to be trying to catch ARod in some sort of story that was nobody’s business anyway. Gaylord Perry and several other Hall of Fame pitchers who clearly cheated as often as they could, were voted into the Hall by some of the very same monkeys who were grilling ARod over a completely unquatifiable edge he was one of hundreds trying to gain, back when both MLB and the media were at least tacitly encouraging it. btw, was Joel Sherman on a fricking boat yesterday when he asked his question? The real Columbo never swayed when zinging Bob Culp or Jack Cassidy.

  3. juliasrants

    Joel Sherman, I think, did a great job of summing it up. I am a bit distressed on several blogs here that people feel the media is treating A-Rod differently from Pettitte. I think a HUGE difference is the reason Pettitte started taking the steroids and the fact that when he “came clean” his story didn’t change and he came across as truly remorseful. Sadly, I think there is going to be a “witch hunt” against the media who some fans deem aren’t A-Rod friendly enough. I am a Red Sox fan – yes, I have a natural bias against the Yankees – but even my teen-aged sons saw right through A-Rods joke of a press conference. I commend you for you honest and fair reporting of this story. And if the Yankees fans give you too much grief – you could join us over at Friendly- Fenway! 😉 Have a great one!


  4. buzah

    “Witch hunt” against the media? I don’t think you know what a witch hunt is. That’s surprising given the fact that the ancestors of today’s Red Sox fans started the practice. And if you’re gonna use social proof to validate your transparently biased perceptions try to choose people who you haven’t had a chance to program.

  5. hateslibs

    Steve, I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you are a fair reporter. The rest of your partners in crime leave a lot to be desired. I would like to know why you and the rest of reporters have not checked out and asked Selena why she laid this egg just so she can sell her new book “A-Rod”. It didn’t long for these dupe reporters to find out A-Rod.s cousin’s name, so why can’t the witch hunters find out who her 4 stoolies were? Have any of you reporters ever asked her any of these ?????? I can tell you in one word “””NOPE””” I just love Julia from Fenway’s comment. She is really a typical Soxxy fan, as she tells us how “”FRIENDLY”” the pit they call Fenway is and her 2 sons are sooooooo smart. She needs to bring her brood to Yankeeland and we will show her friendly. C’mon Steve start checking out Selena and the 4 stoolies and the other 103 names on the list. I am no A-Rod fan but fair is fair…….

  6. stthomasdude

    I understand that A-Rod did a stupid thing by using steriods, but is not the criminal here. The people who committed a crime
    are the ones that leaked the test results and the person that
    printed. I understand that you all have to protect your own, but right is right and wrong is wrong. A-Rod was wrong for this and he admitted it. I don’t hear one admission of guilt from anybody about the wrong that was done by leaking information that was sealed. Why were any names written on the test samples. I smell a fish and it all comes down to Bud Selig. He had an agenda and now we know what it is.
    If he can’t make public all the test results, we should all move on.

  7. innocent9@aol.com

    Wait . . . Steven Goldman wrote something critical of A-Rod? But I thought all of Alex’s troubles should be blamed on Joe Torre and Derek Jeter! (Can you believe Jeter played hurt last year? My BP 2009 says that was selfish!) The world has gone mad, and it’s making me dizzy . . .

  8. kevinoates6@comcast.net

    I have come to the sad conclusion that baseball, as sport, ended sometime in the mid 1960’s and has morphed, almost exclusively, into entertainment. If you asked a major league player in the 1920’s or 30’s what he did for a living, he’d probably push his cap back, look at you quizzically, spit tobacco on your shoe and snort, “I’m a ballplayer. What the hell do I look like?!” If you fast-forward to 2009, a major league player is likely to reply, “I play baseball,” and he probably wouldn’t be offended if you called him an entertainer.” Baseball used to be about athletics. Sure, crowds flocked to Hilltop Park and the Polo Grounds to watch, but they were there to see the game played at it’s highest level. In the Yankee glory days of the 1950’s, they drew about 1 million in a good year. Over the years, owners realized the entertainment bonanza they had on their hands and it led to all sorts of giveaways, special days, and even a “hate disco night” in Chicago. Somewhere along the line, the emphasis on entertainment became more and more pronounced. And today, the Yanks pack ’em in at the rate of about 4 million annually. Why? Because baseball has morphed into a an unhealthy (if you’re a purist) mixture of athleticism and entertainment, with the latter taking far too large a role. Today’s major leaguers are more entertainers than they are athletes – and they’re paid like it. A-Rod is more a rock star than a baseball player. He’s paid like it and, unfortunately, he acts like it. Fans have a hard time dealing with this because of their reverence of statistics and records. The sad truth of the matter is, however, that we have to recognize that with the change from sport to entertainment, the stats and hallowed records don’t mean the same thing that they used to. Records pre-70’s mean something different then they do post 70’s; the former are the stats and records of sportsman while the latter are numbers belonging to entertainers. Baseball just doesn’t exist as it once did and modern records have little relation to those compiled in years past.

  9. andy4646

    What about reconstructive surgery (such as “Tommy John” surgery) doesn’t this give players an unfair advantage versus players from years ago. Who knows how many wins Koufax would’ve had or how many more home runs Mantle could’ve hit if they could’ve repaired Koufax’s arm or Mantle’s knees. I’m not saying I like steroids (I certainly don’t), but where do you draw the line between enhancing/repairing the body with drugs or surgery? Bionics/prostethics anyone?

  10. iamanycguy

    I have to side rowdyholly on this issue. Who wants to be stalked by Selena Roberts or anyother reporter. A-rod is a baseball player, not a govt. official squandering tax payer money. Who cares who injected who. He did what he did, admitted it, and blamed no one else. He didn’t blame a trainer or a teammate, and didn’t try to snitch on someone else in order to get the heat off himself. He took it like a man, like Giambi and Pettitte before him.
    Those who make the argument that he came foward ,only because he was found out, fail to look at things honestly. How many of us would publicly admit to cheating without being forced to. He along with others were promised anonymity. He was let down by the rats in MLB and the slackers in the union and now he’s paying for it. Let the govt. investigate if they want about the steroid problem in sports, but frankly, gthere are more importatnt issues facing America, without the media exploiting someone who chose to cheat. If the media wants to do something positive on this issue, write about the players who have cheated in the past **** cheated, admitted what they did and have redeemed themselves like Pettitt and Giambi.
    His cousin’s identity has been learned by the media. Who cares. Let it go already. If he turns out to be a serial user, then kick him out of the game, otherwise why continue to kick the guy for admitting the ugly truth.
    As for Boston fans, there isn’t a player on that team who’s as good as A-Rod.

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