Monday, February 9, 2009

'A-Fraud' Can't Compete With Evidence

Alex Rodriguez apparently came clean today, acknowledging, in an interview with ESPN's Peter Gammons, what just about everybody already knew.

He used steroids.

Rodriguez gave the following as his excuse — he was young, he was naïve, he was under a lot of pressure to produce because of the extremely lucrative contract he signed a few years earlier.

Well, cry me a river.

Thomas Boswell wrote, in today's Washington Post, that Rodriguez needed to tell the truth and live with the consequences.

But he also suggested that, at some point, we need to finish this and move on.

Indeed we do. But this isn't finished — not until the whispers that remain about other ballplayers have stopped. And that won't be achieved unless we permit the investigations in baseball to run their course. A player's personal popularity is no measure of whether he is guilty of using steroids or not — Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire were popular with the fans, but they appear to be as guilty of steroids use as Barry Bonds, who was widely disliked and now faces perjury charges.

And Rodriguez has been generally popular, although there have always been fans who resented his enormous paycheck — and his inability to lead teams to the World Series.

Using steroids is cheating, plain and simple. Joe Posnanski is right when he writes, for Sports Illustrated, that Rodriguez didn't need to take steroids. He had an abundance of talent.

Some players with far less talent may have felt that steroids would keep them playing longer and help them play better than they might otherwise. But Rodriguez wasn't one of those players. In 2003, when he tested positive for steroids, Rodriguez was the highest-paid player in baseball, by far, and he was widely viewed to be a natural talent. He was still in his 20s, and people were speaking of him in the same way they speak of the legendary players of the past.

Well, Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron and Willie Mays combined for more than 2,000 home runs, and none of them ever took steroids. They accomplished things with their natural talents. Many others may have wished they had those skills, and some may have resented the fact that Ruth and Aaron and Mays had those skills, and they did not.

But that's the way life is. Some people have natural skills — whether those skills are for hitting a baseball or playing a musical instrument or performing on the silver screen — that have the potential to produce a lot of income. Most do not.

It is good, as Barack Obama said tonight, that baseball is taking this issue seriously — at last. It has taken 20 years, but perhaps now baseball is sending an unmistakable signal to the young people of America that "there are no shortcuts." That may be the only good thing to come of this, but, if so, it may be sufficient.

For baseball to restore its integrity, it must rid itself of the cheaters — just as it did in the wake of the "Black Sox Scandal" 90 years ago.

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