Alex Rodriguez: Poster Boy for the Steroid's Era Or Scapegoat?

Andrew TongeAnalyst IIFebruary 16, 2009

Steroid use in major league baseball gets more news and attention than anything else these days. It even overshadows what is going on with the teams ,and the preparations they are making for the upcoming season.

Alex Rodriguez has now become one of the poster boys of the steroid era (rightfully or wrongfully so) along with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Bonds and Clemens may actually do jail time for lying to the feds, but A-Rod does not have that problem.

What is actually going on here though? A-Rod is on a list of a little over a hundred players that tested positive for performance enhancing drugs.  He has said he did it over a three year period that ended in 2003. 

My question is, if major league baseball was interested in policing the players and enforcing any type of standard, why did it take so long for this to come out?

Why were there no clear cut rules and punishments that said if you test positive for X, then the punishment is Y and if you have subsequent violations, you could and should be banned for life. Where was Bud Selig then? 

If players know that they can use performance enhancing drugs without anything coming of it, they will continue to use them, even if they know it is wrong to do so.  There is a lot of money at stake, and if they can get an edge on the competition, they will do so. That is human nature.

It is not right, but with so much money at stake, you can’t ask the players to police themselves. That is why we have bosses on our jobs. They have to make sure we are getting our work done, and they have to enforce the mandates of the company.

Bud Selig has failed in that regard. The players involved are taking most of the heat in the public eye—and they deserve a lot of it—but by no means should Selig, and even team management, be devoid of blame.

You have got to know that something is wrong (or may be wrong) when a player who normally hits 10 to 15 home runs comes in looking like the Hulk and proceeds to hit 25 to 30 home runs in consecutive years. Take a guy like Lenny Dykstra who was on those great Met teams in the ’80’s and later played with the Phillies.

After hitting 10 home runs just once in his first nine years in the majors, Dykstra proceeded to hit 19 in his 10th year, looking much bigger and more visibly cut than in previous years. Am I accusing him of juicing?  No. But I am saying that when the signs are there, you at least have to question it and test as necessary.

Brady Anderson went from 16 home runs in 1995 to 50 in 1996. Mark McGwire won’t come out and say for sure whether he did or didn’t.

If we took a hard look at the home run statistics of many major leaguers over the years, we could compile a pretty good list of probable suspects. But this issue goes deeper than just the players.

In 2002, the owners and the players union were in negotiations for a banned substance policy that had some teeth to it. It was done as part of the collective bargaining agreement, which was mistake No. 1.

The players union fought and negotiated for a plan that was weaker than what the owners originally wanted. Because the owners didn’t want a strike, they caved. If they would have stood up for what was right for the game, the public would have sided with them, strike or no strike.

As usual, a business decision was made based on how much money was wrapped up in their franchises and the losses that a strike would cause.  The players union was generally opposed to drug testing in it’s entirety, and that attitude didn’t help matters either.

The owners’ first proposal included a plan for in-season drug testing, instead of all year-round, as well as a policy in which first-time offenders would receive counseling instead of suspensions (again not tough enough). The players accepted that, but the union then succeeded in reducing the number of random drug tests and the severity of penalties for repeat offenders.

The players’ union also fought to have testing eliminated completely if less than five percent of tests returned positive results, meaning that even if as many as 59 players tested positive in a single season, the program would be discontinued.

While that proposal was not accepted, the owners and players reached a compromise in which punitive testing would end if less than 2.5 percent of all players tested positive in consecutive seasons.

What we have today is the fruit of both parties not doing the right thing for the game.  They chose instead to do the right thing for their pocketbooks. Looking at the facts, all parties are to blame. Not just the players. Now everyone wants to change records, ban players for life, and brand them as the worse people on earth.

That is the wrong way to look at this. What is done is done. All the parties involved did what was good for their own purse strings, or just turned a blind eye to everything.

In other words, they did what most people in our society would do, and therein lies the problem. All over our society, companies, management, and our government are selfishly doing what is in their own best interests. Financially, and for their own careers. 

Why do we hold these baseball players to a higher standard and make more noise about their indiscretions than we do about other indiscretions that affect our lives more?  Are the players that are guilty of cheating wrong? Without question. Did baseball and team management enable them?  Without question.

Unfortunately, cheating in one degree or another has permeated our society. If we take a hard look at ourselves, we find that we have failed somewhere down the line in the integrity department.

We see on a regular basis that when significant sums of money are involved, it causes people to make the wrong choices and do things that they might not ordinarily do.

It’s not a good idea to make these men out to be monsters because they have taken banned substances, as we really don’t know them outside of the baseball diamond. We have to be careful about adjusting records, putting an asterisk next to everyone’s name, and keeping people out of the Hall of Fame because of this.

If you do that, how far do you go to correct cheating and wrongs that were done?  If you try to do it with the steroid era, then you need to do it for all eras, and then you are on a slippery slope. How then do you correct the era where African Americans were not allowed to play in the major leagues?

A zero tolerance policy with loss of wages for the year and stiff suspensions would take care of this issue once and for all. It would allow us to move forward and focus on what happens between the lines.