Alex Rodriguez took steroids in 2003. He broke Major League Baseball’s drug policy and a couple of U.S. laws. This may shock some people, although I think most are numb to it at this point.
What might be more shocking: I don’t care. As far as I’m concerned, it is the culture in baseball, not the players themselves that are to blame for the steroid problems throughout the 90’s and the first half of this decade.
Lets clear one thing up. Rodriguez is a Hall of Famer without the steroids. Of course we don’t know for sure when he was taking them, but what he said makes sense. If we assume he took them from 2001-2003, we can honestly say that he put up some significant numbers on steroids.
However, we can also say that while passing test after test from 2004-2008, Rodriguez won two MVPs and hit almost 200 home runs. His best season, 2007, was, to our knowledge, drug free. If that resume doesn’t get someone into the Hall of Fame I don’t know what does.
In 2003 when Rodriguez tested positive for steroids the MLB drug policy was a complete joke. Yes, steroids where a banned substance. But there was no testing and no penalties for those taking them.
Everyone in baseball knew what was going on. That includes the players, owners, and Bud Selig himself. But no one wanted to do anything about it. Ratings were high, and the fans were happy.
Imagine yourself in Rodriguez’s shoes. He obviously cares deeply about what others think. He has just signed the largest contract in the history of the sport. He is under tremendous pressure to put up career numbers. He sees that pretty much everyone in the sport has tried or considered taking these drugs.
MLB doesn’t seem to care as there is no testing and no penalties. The only sane thing to do is to take them, and that’s what he did.
How much are players statistics influenced by steroids. Personally, I’d say not much. From 2001-2003 Rodriguez was 25 to 27 years old. While the normal prime for a hitter is between 26 and 32, those who get an early start like Rodriguez (he was on a Major League club at 18) generally peak earlier in their careers.
He was also hitting in the best hitters park in the American League. It's only natural that he would hit 50 home runs at that point in time, and that’s what he did. He had hit home runs in the low 40s if you look at the previous three years.
While his performance obviously got better, he was just entering his prime and again entering a better park. All this is to be expected.
How he performed after leaving Texas speaks even louder volumes of how great a player he is. He moved to less of a hitters park in New York and seemingly stoped juicing. He proceeds to win two MVP's in a five year span.
Even more impressive is his 2007 campaign. That year, at 31-years of age, he put up career highs in OBP and SLG and ended up three shy of his highest home run total, which he sat at age 26 in Arlington.
Even without the steroids, he’d probably get close to if not pass 800 home runs. Those who say the record will be tainted once again need to realize that the record is just that, a baseball record, and not some judge of A-Rod as a person.
Many will say that they can’t justify putting a player into the Hall of Fame if they are connected to steroids. That’s just stupid.
Rodriguez came into a massive culture of steroids in Major League Baseball and put up great stats against juiced pitchers before, during, and after taking steroids. Major League Baseball is to blame here.
If they wanted to stop steroids in 1998 they could have but they didn’t feel like it. They saved the game of baseball, and made Bud Selig rich. That’s all he cared about. Now we are angry at the players. The players who were sent a clear message by Major League Baseball: keep juicing.
While it is true, players who played in the 40's, 50's, 60's, and beyond did not have the steroid advantage. They also did not have to compete with players who used steroids.
It’s like a baseball glove. At times it would have been considered cheating, however with everyone using it, it’s just part of the game.
There was the dead ball era, the pitchers era, and now the steroid era. Whether you like what these players did or not, they are no different than any others. They found a competitive advantage that they league was essentially encouraging, and they exploited it. It’s what most would do, it’s what most do do.
This article was originally published at FantasyBullpen.com. Alex Geshwind can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.