Say It Ain’t So, Alex

GUILTY!!He was supposed to save the game we love. He was supposed to be the guy who made us forget about Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Mark McGwire. When Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s homerun record, I know I was not alone when I declared to anyone who would listen, “Don’t worry about it. By 2015 or so, Alex Rodriguez will pass him and maybe even hit 800 HR. We’ll have a homerun king we can be proud of again.”

OK, maybe I spoke too soon.

As most of you are already well aware, this past Saturday, Sports Illustrated reported to the world that Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez’s name is on a list of players who, in 2003, tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, anabolic steroids, to be exact. Now, there are a few things that need to be pointed out here:

First, there were hundreds of players tested in 2003 for the purpose of seeing how many players were actually on steroids. They didn’t even call it a “drug test”, they called it a “survey”. If results came back showing that 5% or greater were taking something, then the league would initiate a program of random testing and officially make steroids a banned substance. It is reported that there are 104 names on that list, many of them were never even sniffed at in the Mitchell Report.

Next, if you read the second half of the previous paragraph, you will realize that in 2003, steroids were not a banned substance. So, while what A-Rod did may have been morally comprehensible to many, it wasn’t against league rules.

Next, the list of names was never supposed to be released to anyone, anywhere. That was the agreement that the league had with the union. It was supposed to be anonymous, with no penalties. In fact, the union had the opportunity to destroy the list after the league found out what they were looking for (that greater than 5% were taking something). For some unknown reason, they didn’t do it. The union, thought by many to be one of the best unions in the country, will take a big hit for this. And they should.

Last, A-Rod has reportedly been tested anywhere from 7-10 times a year since 2004 when MLB adopted their new policy, and has apparently come up negative each time.

The way the list was released was really an unfortunate turn of events. In 2004, a grand jury was starting to review documentation in relation to the BALCO case and subpoenaed any information that MLB had, including this list of positive test results. After much going back and forth, the union, MLB, the testing center, and the government all agreed that the only names that would be released were the 10 names on the list who were also involved in the BALCO case.

How Rodriguez’s name was released, four years later, is still a mystery. It will also be very interesting to see what other names are on that list, if and when they are leaked as well. At this point, there is no reason to believe that we won’t see that whole list in the near future.

Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, who has never been one to mince words or hide his feelings on any subject, is asking for just that. He wrote in his blog yesterday that it’s time for MLB to release the entire list so we can start putting this whole steroid debacle behind us. “In my opinion, if you don’t do that, then the other 600-700 players are going to be guilty by association, forever,” he wrote. “It appears that not only was it 104, but three of the greatest of our, or any, generation appear to be on top of this list.”

Of course, he’s talking about Barry Bonds, (762 HR, seven-time MVP), who goes on trial for perjury in just a few weeks, Roger Clemens, (354 wins, 7-time Cy Young winner) who is being investigated for perjury by the FBI, and Mark McGwire, (583 HR), undid who went to the Congressional Sub-Committee and declared that he wasn’t there to talk about the past, and now Rodriguez.

As much as I hate to say it, I agree with the big guy. Release the names, already. Let’s get the shock over with as we see some of our favorite players on the list. Sure, we’ll be hurt, and very disappointed, but it will provide some sense of closure and we can try to move on.

Now, I make no bones about the fact that I am a die-hard Red Sox fan. And, as much as I hate the Yankees (sorry, I was born that way. It’s in my DNA.), I was always an A-Rod fan. How can you not be? Yeah, he’s very hard to like from a personal level, and he’s done some very questionable things (hard to forget watching him slap the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove in the 2004 ALCS, and yes, he can’t hit in the post-season if his life depended on it), but for the most part, it was also easy to say that he is the best player in baseball and has been for several years.

If you can believe that Rodriguez has not done steroids since the league’s ban on performance enhancing drugs, then you have to believe that he should still be considered a great player. While he led the American League in HR (47) and slugging (.600) and won the AL MVP Award in 2003, he has certainly not been a slouch since then.

He actually had a better year in 2005. That season he hit 48 HR, 130 RBI, and batted .321 with a .610 slugging percentage. Oh, he won his second MVP Award, too.

Last season he belted 35 HR with 103 RBI and batted .302. Nothing wrong with those numbers, either.

So, here’s the question: Will he be able to put this behind him like Andy Pettite and Jason Giambi did? Or, will he be disgraced forever, a la Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Mark McGwire? Interestingly, the former both admitted their wrong-doing and asked for forgiveness. The latter have denied it to the death. Maybe there’s a lesson here for A-Rod, or maybe just the fact that all are considered the greatest players of this generation is reason enough to taint them forever.

NOTE: Just in from ESPN: Alex Rodriguez has admitted and apologized for taking steroids from 2001 to 2003. An interview conducted by ESPN’s Peter Gammons will air at 6 tonight.
In part, Rodriguez said in a statement:
“When I arrived in Texas in 2001, I felt an enormous amount of pressure. I needed to perform, and perform at a high level every day,” Rodriguez said. “Back then, [baseball] was a different culture. It was very loose. I was young, I was stupid, I was naïve. I wanted to prove to everyone I was worth being one of the greatest players of all time.

“I did take a banned substance. For that, I’m very sorry and deeply regretful.”