Has the media ever heard the saying “In order to move forward, you have to put the past behind you?” Every time I turn on the radio it’s a new talk show personality, baseball expert or one of Alex Rodriguez’s past teammates chiming in on A Rod’s recent confession of using steroids.
In case you’ve been living on an island or lost your ability to read or listen over the past week. Sports Illustrated broke the story over the weekend & reported that Alex Rodriguez was part of the “Anonymous 104 (I made this up)” that tested positive for steroid abuse while playing for the Rangers from 2001 thru 2003.
Alex justified using the banned growth hormone by saying “Back then was a different era” & went on to say that “It was very loose. I was young. I was stupid. I was naive, and I wanted to prove to everyone that, you know, I was worth, you know — and being one of the greatest players of all time.”
I have to admit, I agree with Alex’s statements to a degree, but also believe he’s putting way too much blame on himself because he was part of a generation that was created by everyone involved with Major League Baseball at the time!
Rodriguez was just a victim of Major League Baseball’s all out efforts to resurrect a game that was slowly fading away & in serious jeopardy of becoming “America’s Pastime”! Front office executives, team owners, coach’s, farm hands and scouts are really the ones to blame because they all turned a blind eye to what was going on in MLB club houses for over a decade!
Major League Baseball is responsible for creating the “Steroid Era Monsters” & used them as their pawns to resurrect a game from the dark abyss it was rapidly sinking in. They saw that players were getting stronger, bigger, faster and moodier, but never stepped in because this new breed of MLB product that was taking over stadiums across the country were doing some very special things that most fans never seen before!
George Foster was the last guy to hit 50+ (52 to be exact) home runs in over 12 years until 1990 came around when Big Cecil Fielder pounded out 51 while playing for the Detroit Tigers. I found that hitting 50 Home Runs was almost impossible and only came around as frequent as Haley’s Comet before the mid 90’s.
It wasn’t till 1995 when Albert Belle hit 50 home runs for the Tribe that chartered flights of Rawling baseball’s started leaving the ballpark at a staggering rate of 2.5 + times per game compared to 1.5 times before the steroid era begun in the mid 90’s! If that wasn’t a red flag that something was up, I don’t know what would have been!
40 Home Runs seemed so passé and 50 was the new number that made baseball’s new breed of bombers seem almost immortal. Big Mac won the Home Run Title in 1996 for hitting 52 Home Runs when he was with Oakland & a man that we’ve all come to know as Jr. cleared the fences 56 times in 1997 with the Mariners.
Then the “Summer of Long Balls” came when Sammy & “Big Mac” electrified crowds with their frequency of colossal tape measure shots that sparked a Beatles like atmosphere at every ballpark they played in & launched the infamous saying “Chicks Dig The Long Ball”. Anyone who was fortunate enough to watch what both these players accomplished during the ’98 baseball season will never forget how special it was to witness. Big Mac was setting new distance records everyday and Sammy’s home run hop became mocked by every little leaguer & weekend softball warrior around the country. Big Mac ended up hitting 70 Home Runs that summer and Sammy Sosa came in close second by hitting 66.
After the “Summer Of Long Balls” was over in 1998 & interest in the game was rejuvenitated thanks to Slam’n Sammy & Mark McQuire’s record setting year; Selig & crew all had to look at one another & used Carol Anne’s famous Quote from Poltergeist….”We’re Baaaaack!”
An addict is someone who is addicted to an activity, habit or substance. There three two addicts created after that summer. Players found they had to get bigger, faster & stronger in order to gain an edge vs. their opponents. MLB’s front office found a super product that was going to save their game and they would do everything necessary to protect it’s origin at all costs & fans were hooked on the long ball pill and came to expect a myriad of home runs every time they went to the ball park or turned on ESPN to see who went yard that day.
Home Run statistics ballooned overnight and players that normally hit 15 to 20 home runs annually were hitting 30 to 40 home runs. Players that were hitting 20 to 30 home runs a year were all of a sudden putting the ball in orbit 40 to 50 + times in a season.
You heard rumors that the ball was wound tighter to make it fly out of the park like a golf ball, that Barry Bonds new bat made from rock maple wood was making the ball go farther anything else on the market & players were corking their bats to make their bats more solid (Sammy Sosa confirmed that rumor). Then you heard rumors that these statistics were skewed because of players using performance enhancing drugs.
You could see a difference product on the field starting in the mid 90’s all the way to 2005. Players of all shapes, sizes & positions were all becoming Jose Canseco Clones. Hitters were gaining bulk to improve their power and bat speed. Pitchers started using human growth enhancements to help their bodies heal quicker, strengthen their arms and make their fast ball even nastier.
Barry Bonds 73 Home Runs in 2001 didn’t receive half the praise or media attention as Big Mac’s did in the summer of ’98 because everyone knew by that time it was all because of the special sauce he was injecting into his body to reach this once cherished milestone.
Prior to December 16th, 2007 there were little answers or confirmations as to why these power statistics became so inflated. It wasn’t until that very day when The Mitchell Report, the result of George Mitchell’s investigation into performance enhancing drug use by major league players, was made public. The usual suspects like Barry Bonds, Ken Caminiti, Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmero, David Justice, Jose Canseco, Jason Giambi, Garry Sheffield, Barry Bonds and Matt Williams were all linked to the initial probe.
The laundry list of names on the Mitchell report is too long to mention, but the conjecture that day was that steroid in major league baseball became a widespread pandemic that everyone was hooked on. There’s no way that it could have gone unnoticed for that long & Major League Baseball’s don’t ask & don’t tell policy to the topic is the main reason why it reached the levels that it did.
I’m reluctant to castrate A.Rod like everyone else has in recent weeks (actually his entire career) because he was just a product of his own environment. He simply took advantage of a substance that was readily made available to him & did what was necessary to appease both himself and his fans at the time.
Widespread cheating has been synonymous with sports since its inception and it will continue to go on as long as chemists can cook up a product that will go undetected. It’s up to Major League Baseball & the players union to put in place a full proof testing apparatus that will prevent such widespread abuse from ever happening again. If they don’t, players will always be tempted to take advantage of HGH substances that will provide them that edge vs. their peers.