A Crumbling Empire: How Can MLB Recover from a New Firestorm?

Vincent JacksonCorrespondent IFebruary 7, 2009

When I saw ESPN's "Breaking News" alert at the bottom of the screen during College Gameday this morning, I didn't think much of it, but nothing prepared me for the words that soon crawled across.

Sports Illustrated had found information through many reliable sources that current New York Yankees third baseman and three-time American League MVP Alex Rodriguez had tested positive for two anabolic steroids during his first MVP campaign in 2003 with the Texas Rangers, hitting .298 with 47 home runs and 118 RBI.

News like this to the baseball world is both troubling and disturbing.

Rodriguez currently has some of the best numbers in the sport and these findings now put an asterisk on some of his gaudy accomplishments.

The fallout from this current situation could go a long way in determining A-Rod's Hall of Fame credentials should he set the all-time home run record currently held by Barry Bonds, another member of the "juiced" club.

Baseball looked to be on its way back in the summer of 1998. Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were locked in an epic home-run race, the likes of which have not been seen since.

Attendance was through the roof and people became captivated with the historical achievement.

Sosa finished with 66 (and the NL MVP award) while McGwire set the then-record at 70. 

It was only starting in 2001 that the veil of secrecy began to be uncovered. Through years of investigation, the first hearings about the uses of steroids in baseball took place in March 2004 on Capitol Hill.

Not much was said that day. Roger Clemens, Sosa, McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro all aggressively denied using steroids in front of a nationwide audience.

Our heroes were forced to spill any and all information they knew about drugs that had taken or distributed to others as well as knowledge about BALCO.

We thought the steroid era was behind us but our worst fears have reared their ugly heads at us all.

It is hard to fathom that so many players that kids have looked up to have been using drugs to boost their stats and egos. Millions of kids either attend baseball games or play baseball themselves and they must now grow up watching a sport that to many, is officially dirty.

The sanctity of the game itself has been damaged and trust between fan and player is in huge jeopardy.

No one can turn on a television now and not doubt if their favorite player is clean or not. Home runs now go from a wondrous event to a giant question mark.

In his 60 Minutes interview in December 2007, which took place three days after the Mitchell Report was made public, Rodriguez over and over again denied that he indeed was on steroids.

Jose Canseco in an interview with SportsNet New York (SNY) back in April 2008 said that Rodriguez's denial was a clear admission of guilt, a claim many thought to be highly unlikely.

I guess no one's laughing at him now.

The Yankees enter spring training with the proverbial target on their backs as they are the favorites to represent the American League in the World Series; they have not won a title since 2000.

This season will be unlike any other in recent memory for the Bronx Bombers. 

Although Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte did indeed confess and apologize to using HGH in the past, A-Rod himself is a much bigger name and his iconic status will only bring more than the usual scrutiny he faces from the relentless New York media.

I've been reading a ton of message boards today. Some believe this is the beginning of the end of baseball, while others say baseball will still survive through this new situation as it has many times in the past.

Many parents are outraged over today's events. They say they will not bring their children to another baseball game again and are fed up with the endless talk of steroids and drug use in a game they wanted to see make their kids grow into better people. 

As a baseball fan, I will continue to watch the game I grew up loving although this news is quite the low blow. I did not grow up in the 1970s when drug use in baseball was basically as common as drinking water. 

I remember catching McGwire hitting his 62nd home run off of Steve Traschel in September 1998 in the thick of a crazy Wild Card race thinking, "Wow, this is incredible."

A little over a decade later, that man is almost no where to be seen and America's past time while strong is faced with a somewhat questionable future.

Players like B.J. Upton, Jacoby Ellsbury and Russell Martin ensure that future of baseball is in its exciting youth but even they cannot escape the dark cloud that now hovers over America's oldest sport.

Can baseball recover from this?

I believe they will but as long as this cloud of suspicion hangs over the sport, every pitch, hit and home run will be viewed with doubt, scrutiny and mistrust.

As for A-Rod, a huge black eye has been put on his legacy.

The Hall of Fame should be calling his name...but after today, I'm not sure if even a walkoff home run will save him from the hell is about to go through.