Rodriguez and His Enemies

Alex Rodriguez may be the most loathed man in sports, and so writing a post entitled Rodriguez and His Enemies may require a bit of narrowing down. He’s got Derek Jeter, the Boston Red Sox (Jason Varitek and Ryan Dempster specifically), most of the Yankees’ front office, Dallas Braden, Howie Clark, John McDonald, Jose Canseco, Reggie Jackson, Joe Torre, Selena Roberts, Bill Simmons, Tom Hicks, his ex-wife, and just about everyone else across America.

One person who happens to be a member of that final group is Bud Selig, the current commissioner of Major League Baseball.

Earlier today, speaking to Mike Francesca on New York’s WFAN sports radio, Rodriguez basically said that Bud Selig was out to get him. He insinuated that Selig disliked him personally, denied taking steroids (this time), and made a few appeals to his love of New York and the commissioner’s alleged disdain for the city.  It was mostly cynical, transparent, media-playing from Alex Rodriguez, who played to the fact that he had a sycophantic blob interviewing him.

That said, the loathsomeness of Alex Rodriguez isn’t what’s under discussion here. There’s a question about whether he broke the rules of baseball, and by all reports, Major League Baseball’s case is something along the lines of a piece of paper that says “guys i sold drugs” that includes his name.

The steroid era in baseball has been built by date rapists, crooked doctors, bad trainers, and drug dealers. Players who were made Gods by the media are now believed less often than convicted criminals who trade their ties to the stars to the federal government in exchange for a lighter sentence. After it all ends, guys who have been accused with literally no evidence find themselves wanting for as much due process as was given to O.J. Simpson or Saddam Hussein.

But maybe A-Rod did take steroids. Let’s take drug-dealing Miami Doctor Anthony Bosch at his word. Rodriguez is facing a 211 game suspension despite the 50 game suspensions handed out to Jhonny Peralta, Nelson Cruz, Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon, Everth Cabrera, Jesus Montero, Ryan Braun, and others.

Of course, these players all made the promise not to appeal. They decided to sit back and take it, and not drag out the process, and that suited Major League Baseball’s purposes. Alex Rodriguez insisted on his innocence, demanded to be heard, and got a “fuck you” of 162 extra games for it. There’s the rationale that he failed a test, once, ten years ago before. The fact that anyone knows that he failed said test is, of course, in violation of the agreement between Major League Baseball and the Players Association that allowed the test to be taken place. It also is not supposed to label him a repeat offender. That didn’t matter to Major League Baseball.

Why is this? Because everyone already hates Alex Rodriguez. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire have been allowed to skulk off and disappear, and sometimes even appear at Major League stadiums, but Major League Baseball is sticking it to Alex Rodriguez, and the federal government is going after Barry Bonds because they’re obnoxious jerks. It makes it easier to make them the face of the steroid era, and move on. If we demonize the already loathed, Major League Baseball never has to accept responsibility for not enforcing drug rules (and according to some, including Jose Canseco, actively encouraging steroid use), and the media backlash that it inspired.

I’m not big on the steroid witch hunt in general. It’s mostly the product of grumpy old men scared of seeing their heroes replaced. Every aging sports fans loves to rationalize away the accomplishments of modern athletes, and this is the biggest, best excuse to keep names the names of Aaron, Mays, and Mantle in the record books. Hank Aaron, for the record, is a close personal friend of commissioner Selig. These angry old men have done everything they can to erase the baseball I grew up watching. Instead of the stars of my childhood being replaced by time and age, they’re being ignored by the Hall of Fame, Major League Baseball, and congress. How much do personal ties and affection play a role in the steroid scandal? The two least named teams in the Mitchell Report were the Boston Red Sox and Florida Marlins, both teams Senator Mitchell previously worked for (despite several names coming up later). The most named team was Boston’s rivals, the New York Yankees, with a special emphasis on Red Sox turncoat Roger Clemens.

But at the time, it wasn’t a big deal. Major League Baseball made millions off the Sosa/McGwire home run chase, and according to Jose Canseco, Major League Baseball organizations knew all along. Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman is said to have made comments lamenting Jason Giambi’s play making a reference to his steroid use. The second things got inconvenient for them, mostly because of congress and the media, they changed tunes completely, like a Democrat in 1964, and pretended that they had always cared about drug use.

That all said, Major League Baseball has a bad history of enforcing the rules when it comes to actual repugnant crimes, like spousal abuse, rape, more spousal abuse, drunk driving, and assault, the Majors are a forgiving place. In fact, it can serve as a source of redemption as long as you’re just committing rape instead instead of using a controlled substance without a prescription.

But Alex Rodriguez is old, he’s not worth his contract anymore, and he’s already well loathed. It’s easy to pin the systemic failings of Major League Baseball’s drug policy on him and pretend you’ve moved on, (until Ryan Braun gets caught again) than to give him a fair shake. Right now it can be just A-Rod, just like it was once just Ken Camminiti, just Camminiti and Canseco, just them and Sosa, McGwire, Bonds, and Palmeiro, before an outlier season couldn’t be had without questions being raised.

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