Should we pity Alex Rodriguez? The three-time MVP, owed $275 million over the next nine years, has been exposed as a steroid user, the latest in Major League Baseball’s endless series of anabolic agonists. The creative minds at the New York Post summed up the mood of the moment with one blaring headline: “A-Fraud.” ESPN senior writer Jayson Stark was no less overwrought; his headline proclaimed, “A- Rod Has Destroyed Game’s History.”
However, the list of frauds and history defamers extends far beyond the Yankee third baseman. Before we gather the torches and pitchforks, let us round up some of the real villains. When it comes to steroids, no one, as A-Rod’s alleged paramour Madonna might say, is like a virgin. For instance, there’s league commissioner Bud Selig, who touted A-Rod as the man who would replace the “unclean” Barry Bonds as the all-time leader in home runs. Then there is the Major League Baseball Players Association. Once arguably the most powerful union in the United States, the MLBPA has in its possession the infamous list of 104 players tested in 2003. That year a deal between the owners and the union was supposed to be based on anonymity and trust. If more than 5 percent of the players tested positive, more testing with suspensions would ensue. The union promised its members that it would destroy the list. Instead it inexplicably held onto the list long enough for the government to seize it for the BALCO investigations.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Steinbrenner family also have anabolic egg on their faces. They were depending on A-Rod to be the cherry atop the sundae of the new billion-dollar Yankee Stadium expected to open this year. Hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars have gone into this public works project, with specious promises of economic renewal. Now it may just set the stage for a season-long, agonizing fall from grace.
Finally, there are the owners-at-large, who have yet to have to face any kind of Congressional subcommittee, grand jury or operatic media melodrama for their role in cheapening the sport. Stark, in his piece blaming A-Rod for shredding the very fabric of baseball history, writes:
In baseball, we love our numbers. And we love our heroes. And that brings us to Alex Rodriguez, a man who has committed a crime he doesn’t even understand: a crime against the once-proud history of his sport.
What Stark and his misguided minions ignore is that if we are upset about the way numbers and hallowed records have become cheapened over the past fifteen years, ownership is the problem–and it extends far beyond steroids.