Surprisingly, we’re not discussing his batting in October, nor his treatment of the fans, or his “respect for the game”. Alex Rodriguez, the most unlikable player on the most villainous team, had the chance to impact baseball in a positive way. He gave up that chance this morning.
Right now we approach steroids the way a conservative sitcom father approaches drugs. “Son, did you do the pot? Did you smoke the drugs?” The general public couldn’t tell you which steroid is meant to be injected or rubbed on or swallowed in pill form. We don’t know which ones are the really bad ones, which ones kinda help with injuries, and which fall in the gray area of both. Why don’t we know this? Apparently we don’t need to. The MLB brass decides for the public how severe each substance abuse violation is; only this time, they were wrong.
I hate Alex Rodriguez. I think he’s a smug prick. He seems like the type of player to snub a leukemia patient’s request for an autograph. But he was veritably in the right here. Yes, he probably did cheat, but that’s not what was on trial here. The murkiness lay in the due process after he was handed a ban that was less codified in MLB law and more like a number out of a hat. 211 games? Why not 212? Or 6?
Because of Alex’s decision to withdraw his lawsuit, the public no longer has to care that the first offense is a 50 game suspension, the next 100 games, and the third a probable lifetime ban. This douche in pinstripes has tested positive exactly zero times, and we can’t move forward in steroidal knowledge/law because the players have as much clout in the hearings as B.J. Upton at the plate last year.
Weirdly enough, A-Rod could have been an unlikely hero to the game. He allegedly withdrew his lawsuits because expenses were ballooning into the tens of millions and his future in broadcasting was at risk. But if anyone has the contract to back a legitimate lawsuit, it’s him. I am not surprised that his self-interest kept him from seeing the larger picture—or more likely, ignoring the larger picture. In exchange for being a schmuck on the YES Network (jk New York would riot), he could have held Selig’s feet to the fire for legal accountability. Selig, the commissioner who finally decided to take the reins after an insane amount of juicing. The facts are these: a doctor went on 60 Minutes and confirmed that he injected A-Rod many times. Irrelevant, because the impetus for a suspension is not allegations or doctors stepping forward. It’s blood work. But aha, we have A-Rod’s blood work! With steroids! And a…clause of anonymity. If that’s the basis of the suspension, it breaks my heart as a Rockies fan to wonder how big Todd Helton’s suspension will be, since he was also on that list.
What seems to be at the heart of steroid hate is a cult of personality. A suddenly penitent Ryan Braun got 50 games. Big Papi got nothing. Helton got nothing. And the MLB was generous in reducing 211 games to a full season for A-Rod? Give me a fucking break. An ESPN column already chose A-Rod’s two career paths for him, following the withdrawal: Braun or Pete Rose. It was meant to forecast his future in baseball—a born-again sinner or a pariah—but it could be spun in a much more important way. He could be Pete Rose in the sense that baseball did him an injustice that we’ll argue over forever. (Although we care because he was everything A-Rod wasn’t as a player and as a person.) If A-Rod had not withdrawn his lawsuit, we’d have to put aside our feelings for the most hated face in New York and examine the judicial process. We’d perhaps see the ludicrous ointment that is a legally unsubstantiated 211-game suspension on the gaping wound of cheating. His was a witch hunt of the highest profile and would have been the most resounding hypothetical defeat in court.
But the drum of every professional sport beats on: the players have no voice.