Feb. 8 -- A-ssorted A-Rod thoughts

12:46 AM

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Sometime in the middle of 2007, as Alex Rodriguez was obviously on his way to a runaway MVP award and just as surely planning to opt out of the final three years of his contract, I wrote a column for The Star-Ledger in which I urged the Yankees to resist the temptation to bring him back after he opted out. The gist was that sure, his monster 2007 season would prove his tremendous potential value to the team, but that they should be careful not to overlook all of the headaches he'd already caused them and likely would continue to cause them if they locked him up for, say, 10 more years.

I stand by that column.

Seriously, how must the Yankees feel when, almost every time a player's picture is on ESPN in the middle of a steroid story, he's wearing their uniform? Jason Giambi was the poster boy for the steroid era before Barry Bonds raced to the front. Gary Sheffield had his turn in this ugly spotlight while he was a Yankee. A year ago, it was Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte in disgrace. Even guys like Chuck Knoblauch, David Justice and Mike Stanton were mentioned in the Mitchell Report. Mike Stanton, for Christ's sake.

Now it's A-Rod, the player around whom the Yankees have chosen to build their franchise for the next nine years. One Yankee person with whom I exchanged e-mails on Saturday said, "Sure, it's embarrassing, but what can we do?" And this person is right. It isn't the Yankees' fault that so many of the high-profile guys who've been caught (and remember, the number of people who've been caught represents but a tiny fraction of the number of people who were doing this stuff) wore their uniform. I don't think you can claim that there's anything systemic about the way they do business that attracts steroid cheats. They get high-profile guys, they pay them a lot of money to be big stars, and when those kinds of guys get caught it makes big news.

But they could have got themselves out from under Alex Rodriguez a year ago and they didn't. Instead, they decided to make him the face of their franchise and TV Network. So they are stuck with the storm that hit Saturday morning -- a storm whose eye is weeks away from landfall in Tampa. They are stuck with all of the headaches it brings, all of the headaches Alex Rodriguez always seems to bring.

A few more scattered thoughts:

-The Yankees are 10-14 in postseason games since Alex Rodriguez joined their team. Not his fault that their starting pitching has been garbage since he got here, but for some reason that hangs around his neck as much as it does anybody else's.

-CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett are in for a nice welcome to the Yankees later this week, when pitchers and catchers report to Tampa. With third basemen not scheduled to report until a week later, the newcomers who figured to see much of the attention in the first week are likely to spend much of that week fielding questions about an absent goofball steroid cheat they barely even know. But hey -- they might as well find out right away what they've gotten themselves into.

-This idea that if it turns out to be true that A-Rod did test positive in 2003 then at least we know he's been clean since then because MLB tests now? Please. The whole Balco scandal was about rich athletes paying scientists to develop drugs to help them beat tests. Very strict Olympic tests, in many cases. We're to believe this doesn't still go on? That for the past five years, while baseball has been testing its players, nobody's come up with a drug that beats the tests? And that a player as wealthy and driven as Alex Rodriguez wouldn't pay for such a drug? Sorry, Scott. Your man, if guilty, deserves every shred of suspicion that comes his way, whether it's about his career before, during or after 2003.

-What should Alex do? Well, he should come clean, of course. He won't, but he should. They all should. The Giambis, Bondses, Sheffields, Clemenses...all of them. A full public admission by those players -- what they did, why they did it, when and for how long -- would do so much to help baseball move on, it would be incalculable. But as long as the players who were caught do no more than the bare minimum -- either lie/deny or admit to only that for which they were caught -- this stuff is gong to keep happening. Every few months, another name will surface, and all of the ugliness of the "Steroid Era" will rise up and swallow the game again. Plus, the American public is a sucker for contrition. If Alex said he did it and was sorry, fans would go a lot easier on him than they will if he denies and hides.

-The Hall of Fame question, or "Why it sucks to be a Hall of Fame voter from here on out." My answer is no. If I believe Alex Rodriguez used steroids, I will not vote for him for the Hall of Fame. That's my personal position, as of Feb. 8, 2009 -- if I believe a player used steroids, I won't vote for him. That goes for McGwire, Bonds, Sheffield, Clemens...the lot. Is that fair? Maybe not, but it's where I am as a voter.

Some voters have said they'll vote based on the numbers, since we can't know every name of every cheater and they don't feel comfortable punishing only a few of the guilty. This is a valid viewpoint, though I dispute it. I mean, if you get caught speeding and tell the cop, "Everybody else is speeding," does he not give you a ticket?

Some voters have said they'll vote for no one from this era, for fear that they'll vote somebody in only to find out later that they elected a cheater. And I share this fear. I fully expect that, at some point, I'll cast a vote for somebody and later find out that he cheated. And some will cry hypocrisy. And that will be unfortunate.

But the way I feel as a voter is that all we can do is our very best with each individual case. If I have steroid-related doubts about a guy, I'm holding off. If those doubts get erased somehow, I reserve the right to change my mind and vote for the guy if he's still on the ballot. If I have no steroid-related doubts, and I believe the guy to be a Hall of Famer on the numbers, I'll vote for him. Because that's all I think we can do -- examine each individual case every year, applying all of the information we have available to us, and make the best decision we can based on the totality of that information.

Which means, assuming this stuff is true (and the story really offers no good reason to doubt its veracity), A-Rod's a no for me, 800 homers or not.

4 Responses to "Feb. 8 -- A-ssorted A-Rod thoughts"

February 8, 2009 at 10:42 AM
Dan, I agree with every word. As a Yankee fan, this, surprisingly, feels liberating. I can now stop pretending to like him. He's a Yankee, so I will cheer when he hits a home run, but now I'm not afraid to boo him either.
Kalel9 said :
February 8, 2009 at 12:33 PM
Graz,

You rock, but where were you and the rest of the press when the steroid epidemic was in force in the `80's, `90's and early years of this decade? You reporters didn't report it and now you're participating in a witch hunt. So, instead of deploring ARod and bemoaning past moans, why not go get the other 103 names that ARod may have tested positive with so we can begin to contextualize this.
Justin said :
February 8, 2009 at 1:52 PM
I agree with Proctor's arm, I have defended this guy for far too long. Now I have Teixeira and Sabathia to admire for the right reasons. When A-Rod performs I will not hesitate to cheer for him and the Yankees, but when he does not I will not have his back against his detractors...because I will be one of them. Nice post.
DT said :
February 8, 2009 at 11:21 PM
I thought today how could this get worse for baseball and those who cover it –

Here is how. The anonymous report contains players who played in 2003. What would happen if that list of players was released and the name “Ricky Henderson” popped up?

Would he still get in the HOF? How would baseball handle that mess? What a fun induction ceremony that would be.

The writers could say they voted with the knowledge they had at the time – but it would be ugly.
The problem with going back 6 years to “name names” is that you don’t know what kind of dirt you may dig up.

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