Baseball, PEDs, and Me

Ah, baseball and steroids. No subject seems to stir up more controversy for fans, journalists, and anyone who has an opinion on baseball in general. I usually steer clear of such things. I have no control over it, it does no good to get angry at something you have no control over (I try to be as Zen as possibly about this), and steroids themselves have nothing to do with the rules and intricacies of the game I love in and of itself. The game of baseball was never planned to make room for the steroid debate; it’s just a game and like any game there are going to be players who try and bend or get around the rules. In baseball, of course, this has been going on for a long time. If it’s not holding onto runners belt loops to prevent them from advancing, it’s scuffing a ball. If it’s not scuffing a ball, it’s taking amphetamines to stay awake during the season’s rigorous schedule. If it’s not illegal drugs, it’s a deke or a balk, or something that blurs the lines to the rules and gives a player or a team an advantage.

All I know about Alex Rodriguez’s time in Seattle, I know from hearsay. I wasn’t a baseball fan when he was here, I have none of the same scars a lot of Seattle fans have from his abrupt departure to the Rangers before he went to New York. He still gets booed in Seattle, people still curse his name online, in person, and over the wall at games. Seattle fans are called “bitter” and  “jealous”. We’re told we need to get over Rodriguez’s leaving, the fact that he always said that it was never about the money, the fact that frankly, we’re not the only ones who hate him. And it’s become very fashionable to hate Alex Rodriguez.

But you know what? The guy makes it easy.

Yesterday, Tom and I took the kayaks to Rattlesnake Lake to do some paddling and get a little reprieve from a very hot sunny Monday. On the way there and back, we were inundated on KOMO and ESPN with whole sound clips and bumper snippets from a press conference both live and recorded, with Rodriguez boo-hooing his way through questions asked to him, pretending he didn’t hear parts of questions, redirecting his answers to deflect from actually having to be honest about things, all classic methods used by anyone caught doing something very wrong in a very public manner.  I’m not going to lie, we both made fun of him, mercilessly. Some of the things he was saying and the way he was saying them were just so bombastically ridiculous we didn’t have much of a choice (some of it can be found here in this article). I found myself involuntarily rolling my eyes while stuck in traffic on the way home. I yelled at the radio as I was driving, a few times so loud that I realized I might be making Tom a little uncomfortable because I sounded so angry. I did manage to clip it back a few notches, but to say I was steamed is putting it mildly.

I have decided that I am pretty much done with steroids, PEDs, or whatever the new buzzwod is for the substances players put in their bodies in an attempt to increase their ability to perform. It just needs to stop. It’s maddening to me, what they have done to this game. The fact that I am suspicious of anyone and everyone who plays well now, of any player that has a certain body type. And I can’t be the only one (as a friend of mine recently said at a game, “You can’t spell “Pedroia” without P-E-D!”). It’s frustrating that baseball has nobody to blame but itself, and the too-little-too-late actions of Bud Selig in suspending ARod for 211 games (while still allowing him to play, which only further proves they’re not all that serious about it, appeals or not) is not going to make this problem go away.  It’s also irritating to me that, while a lot of players are angry about Ryan Braun’s lies in regards to his own PED use, not nearly enough of them are coming out to speak against this situation. I wonder if they all realize how bad this makes the entirety of baseball look to the rest of the US sporting world. Baseball is already a joke to a lot of other sports fans because it’s “boring” and has no set time limit. Knowing that there are possibly countless players using drugs to improve on what looks like a pretty hit-or-miss (pardon the pun) skill to an outside observer just adds fuel to the notions that the game is not worth getting into (and spare me the “everybody does it in other sports too” line – two wrongs don’t make a right, and I’m not talking about other sports).

The thing about PEDs is not necessarily the usage itself, though these guys are doing possibly irreparable damage to their bodies with it. It’s the attitude towards the outside world that the usage seems to foster that is disgusting to me. Rodriguez’s attitude seems to be that he is untouchable. News that he basically pulled a Lance Armstrong with intimidation and attempted destruction of evidence only further proves that he was doing something he knew well and good to be wrong, but he probably figured he’d never get caught, or that he’d get yet another swat on the butt and pat on the head for his troubles. I have no sympathy for the man or his fans; he’s been caught doing it before, and was given the proverbial slap on the wrist. There has been speculation for years that he’s continued doing it, and people seem genuinely surprised that he finally got caught in such a major way.  If your punishments are so trivial when someone gets caught doing something wrong or “against the rules” when you finally decide to pay attention to the problem, don’t expect them to stop when all you do is waggle your finger at them and say “No!”. Major League Baseball is responsible for this whole thing as much as Rodriguez and the Yankees themselves. And nobody should be surprised about this. Nobody.

So what do we do about this, one might wonder? It wouldn’t be right for me to complain without presenting a solution, would it? Well, I have one. MLB must have a zero-tolerance policy on PEDs, unless those medications are medically necessary and prescribed by a team doctor (as is the case with, say, cortisone shots for inflammation). It needs to be a one-and-done situation.  This may annoy people and it may seem excessive, but it isn’t like everyone – everyone – isn’t aware of the fact that this is a rule-breaking situation. There must be a strict and strictly-updated list of banned substances to keep abreast of new medications that come out on the market, and if a player is caught with that in their system, they need to go find another job.  If you get caught using performance enhancers, it needs to mean the end of your career, period. That is the only way to clean up this game. Everything else is just lip service, smoke screens put up so that MLB doesn’t actually have to deal with the real problem at hand; that they have never put their foot down on what they will and won’t accept as methods of cheating the game, and have allowed players to bend the rules with a lot of gray area.

Alex Rodriguez, at the age of 38, is getting suspending through the 2014 season. By the time he is allowed to get back on MLB grass, he will be 40 years old, and may be facing obsolecense, as newer players have the opportunity to come up and fill the ranks.  MLB won’t give him a lifetime ban presumably because they want the Yankees to be forced to deal with his contract, thereby punishing them a little too for not cleaning up their house. He was booed in Chicago last night before he even stepped up to the plate; and will be booed again if he ever comes back after his suspension. I may have to deal with the fact that my only reward for this as a fan will come in 2015, if he attempts to play baseball again, and his skills will surely have declined considerably by then.  I can accept that, if MLB can accept that a lot of us are going to continue to be extremely skeptical of the product we’re paying for; though I’m sure that they don’t really care about that, so long as we’re paying, right?

As for me and my relationship with baseball, I appreciate the fact that Jesus Montero did not bother to try and appeal his suspension, regardless of the evidence against him. It definitely makes me wonder how much of our brilliant “find” in the trade that brought him here was actually powered by hypodermic needles and secrecy, but he’s not really my problem. His performance took a nose dive this year anyway, so perhaps that suspension will make room for farm players that really and truly want to play a clean game. Maybe we’ll go through all of this again next year or the year after that…only baseball can solve this quandary. In the meantime, I am not going to overspend on this game like in previous years. It is not lost on me that we have other players (like Michael Morse) who have also been caught or suspended at various points in their careers. I have been viewing those players with a suspicious eye as well. I hate that I have to do that, but I do have to do that. Once suspicion and proof is cast, it’s there, like it or not.  Maybe someday it will be different. I wish it was different now. I would love to some day be able to watch the game with no asterisks or footnotes hovering over players heads. That is likely asking a lot, but it’s my blog and a girl can dream.

So clean it up, jerks.

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