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Rodriguez*



I played some baseball (but mostly softball) growing up. I was actually a pretty decent pitcher (I was in several leagues where we had "anything goes" rules for pitching and I was better than ok, plus I was a very good hitter, I never had a home run but had plenty of doubles).

Baseball is a very complicated game. There's a lot to all of the elements of it. The fielding and throwing elements of defense is a very different skill from the batting, hitting and running the bases elements of offense. They're almost two separate games.

I mention this because even though I knew I would never even try out for a chance to play for a minor league team, I do have a bit of experience in playing the game that I love, and still love, despite the news of these past few days.

Now, nothing occurs in a vacuum. Rodriguez didn't just choose to take performance enhancing drugs on a whim. This goes back a ways... all the way back to 1994.

See, in that year, there was a baseball strike in the middle of the season and it effectively canceled the playoffs and World Series. That occurred because the owners wanted a Salary Cap for spending on players, claiming they weren't able to afford to pay some of these multi-million dollar contracts. The Player's union wouldn't give in and that's where the strike began.

The fans saw this as greed coming from both sides, and it seemed like this could destroy the game entirely, or at least do some serious damage for a very long time.

Bud Selig, who was part owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, became Commissioner, but fans at the start of the 1995 season were extremely angry and many refused to come to support what seemed like a bunch of spoiled brats who couldn't settle their differences.

Selig needed something to draw fans back. He needed to capture the imagination of the supporters of these teams.

Almost magically, he got his answer in 1998: a home run chase between Chicago Cubs Outfielder Sammy Sosa and St. Louis Cardinal First Baseman Mark McGwire to try and catch Roger Maris and his record of 61 home runs in a single season.

Two very different, yet very likable players from rival teams, each gunning to get that 62nd homer and break the record that had stood 37 years.

It worked! Fans started showing up. Interest in the game picked up. People were excited and fascinated by the chase and attendance rose everywhere. The owners had to have been pleased, and the players were likely also excited about it.

But, as we now know (whether or not they admit it) Sosa and McGwire were both on steroids at the time of their chase, and where Maris had an asterisk attached to his 61 homer record (because the season was extended to 162 games from 154 when Babe Ruth held the record of 60 homers in a season), the * should have gone to this.

The owners were more forthcoming with money, cable television contracts meant a lot more cash to go around and a profit-sharing deal created with the "Big Market" teams (like the Yankees, Dodgers, and Cubs) and the "Small Market" teams (like the Pirates, Indians and Royals) allowed more competitive opportunity for all. Plus with three divisions and a "wild card" more teams had more chances to make the playoffs and maybe get to the big game. Certainly a lot more teams were still in the running to make it, and that meant that more people were buying more tickets to see games in September, as they hoped their team would make it to October.

Eventually, we had more homers, more muscles, more everything. Barry Bonds broke McGwire's record, then broke the all-time home run record. But everyone knew by then that Bonds was on the juice.

Of course, Jose Canseco wrote his infamous book, Juiced in 2005, where he outed the steroid scandal, admitted to using himself and pointed the finger at several high profile players he claimed he himself knew were users.

This could no longer be ignored. Clearly, someone in the Major League Baseball offices knew that all of this had been going on, and going on for quite some time, but no one did anything about it, no one had any advice or suggestions for how to fix this issue and no one even acknowledged what was happening. The Canseco book forced MLB to respond.

On the players' side of it, you can see what's going on. They want to do well, they want to succeed and help their teams, they want to get the accolades of fame and the monetary rewards that come with it: big money contracts and endorsement deals with corporations.

And, in a sense, it's not a surprise that someone like Rodriguez would cave to this. Being the top player in the game, he wanted to be certain he stayed there. He wanted to make sure he lived up to the money he was being paid. Not to make excuses for him, but just to be able to understand his thinking.

There is a lot of pressure to do well in the game, especially if you are expected to do well.

As far as we know, Rodriguez never tested positive for substance as a Yankee. But personally, I think he probably did use while in pinstripes. It might explain why he played well during the season but never did so in the playoffs. It would be like him to not shoot up in October, trying to keep at least those records pure.

But ultimately, all records have been muddied through this era of MLB. Where do you draw the line? Who used and who didn't? How can you sort it all out? There were 103 other players named in this allegation besides Rodriguez. Who are they and why aren't they being named?

I still believe it all goes back to Selig, who had to have known about what was happening way back in 1998 and turned a blind eye to it because it was helping make money for the game. If Selig didn't know, he's even more incompetent than I would have guessed.

The final results from all of this are yet to be determined, but this story will not be going away anytime soon. You'll be hearing about this right up until opening day, and beyond, as we take a long, hard look at what these players are doing, how they are performing and whether the test results on any of them come back positive.

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
wbahner
Feb. 10th, 2009 12:35 am (UTC)
Maybe it's naivete, but I will admit a little bit of surprise to hear A-Rod got busted for steroids.

I will say, though, that I was glad to see him come right out and admit it, and not take the Bonds/Clemens route.

Who are they and why aren't they being named?

That is an excellent question, but the main answer is probably because the other 103 aren't named Alex Rodriguez....

penpusher
Feb. 10th, 2009 12:52 am (UTC)
I wonder whether the top players began using when other, lower down the list players started using to try and catch up to these superstars. That's why all of this is so troubling and will be so very difficult to sort out.

Yes, the top players are the ones who get the focus, because they are the ones who get the awards and the rings (though ironically, Rodriguez and Bonds have never been on a World Series champ).

Full credit for admitting using, so maybe that will help his case, though I wouldn't want to be him at his first trip to Fenway this season (assuming he's going to even play).
wbahner
Feb. 10th, 2009 12:57 am (UTC)
The Boston fans are salivating as we speak....
crushdmb
Feb. 10th, 2009 12:53 am (UTC)
meeeh, to be honest i can't seem to care about the steroid use any longer. i know it's ultimately unfair (to those who don't want to or can't use) but whatever, it's just baseball! i'm just glad that football season is over lol.
penpusher
Feb. 10th, 2009 01:33 am (UTC)
I know this is going to be a big story, especially as big name players are revealed as participating. It will continue.
crushdmb
Feb. 10th, 2009 01:36 am (UTC)
oh i know. almost in time for the season to start!
herwonderfulday
Feb. 13th, 2009 01:35 am (UTC)
Off topic:

A friend of mine sent me a mixed CD of fun songs and one of the tracks is Movin' Right Along by the Muppets.

For some reason, I think of you. You must have a Muppet icon or have talked about Muppets before.

I totally thought of you when I heard the lyrics:

Movin' right along, do I see signs of men?
Yeah, "welcome" on the same post that says "come back again."
Movin' right along, foot-loose and fancy free.
You're ready for the big time, is it ready for me?


I can so picture you piling friends in a car and caravanning to LA to make it big. I say the Big Time is ready for Dean!
penpusher
Feb. 13th, 2009 03:05 am (UTC)
Hm. You do know I got to be Kermit for one day... and I used to interact with a bunch of people at FAO Schwarz as Kermit back in the day...

And I have talked about The Muppets probably more often than I should have!

Now, if I could remember where I parked that Studebaker...
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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