Did Alex Rodriguez pave the way for Future Steroid Users? Absolutely.
Don't fret Alex, you could be the Best Steroid User of All Time; although if you keep making steroids less taboo like this, you're going to ruin the fun for everybody.
If you're like me, you have a fantasy sports draft with your friends consisting of a steroid-only player pool—Barry Bonds...Lance Armstrong...Slammin' Sammy Sosa...Ben Johnson. Every year someone tries to include Jesse the Body Ventura or Debo from Friday just to get rumors and conversation started.
Until recently, A-Rod was on the human list and he was highly ranked. For instance, crowds of Barry Bonds' haters were warily jumping on to Alex's sturdy shoulders hoping that HE would break Barry's home run mark, only NOW, if he does, it won't be quite so nice.
Alex's life-long fans won't be able to use the steroid argument against Bonds when vying for A-Rod to be the top Sherpa on baseball's home run mountain.
So, enter A-Rod into the fantasy steroid user player pool. The general consensus, so far, is that the top two Steroid Users of all Time are Barry Bonds and Lance Armstrong. But what are the criteria that we use? How do we compare one versus the other?
Here are my suggestions:
1. You gotta love you some steroids and you have to be crazy good
Let's face it; playing baseball without taking steroids is like going through a conversation with a beautiful woman and not looking at her breasts. You tell yourself that you're doing the right thing, but that devil on your shoulder is telling you that doing the right thing is not worth it.
For Alex, he had already signed a 10-year, $250 million dollar contract before he got to Texas, where the Steroid shots "began." If his story is true, he could have done the right thing, enjoyed his contract, played baseball for a living, and yada, yada (yawn). How boring.
Instead, A-Rod decided to stare right at the proverbial breasts, challenging her to see how long he could look without getting caught.
To his credit, he didn't get caught immediately. Basically our woman of proverb said, "Did he just?" and her friend said, "He was totally staring at your breasts."
Alex had his way with the juicy topic and hit 156 home runs in three years—winning a MVP award for an awful team. That never happens.
Who knows how much the needle affected his playing years outside this window, but the man has a serious resume. If he played for a contender in that three-year span, he could have been MVP each year. In MVP voting, he came in sixth, second, and first in TEXAS.
Hence the Bonds' comparisons, there is a period toward the end of Barry's career in which he seemed to get bigger and more dominant and most people point out this to be Barry's dance with the juice, but you can only wonder how long he really was taking the stuff.
Both Barry and A-Rod love them some steroids, and both of them, at least during specific windows, were crazy good.
2. You should be a bit of a jerk—keep it fun for the fans
This is where Bonds and Lance Armstrong get their high marks. You've never seen an interview with Bonds that made you want to send him an e-vite to your summer cookout.
When he had his show on ESPN, "Bonds on Bonds," you would watch to see if he would kick any children in the face on his way to the ballpark—and then spit at them—and then spit at their mother.
In cycling, Greg LeMond threatened how Armstrong looked in a tight yellow shirt and Lance went off on LeMonde, according to ESPN's Outside The Lines. He seemed to always have the cancer argument to hide behind when people were too critical.
Whether he said it or not, there always seemed to be that "watch what you say about the cancer survivor" aspect to his persona and grandeur. As much as it made him more legendary, it saved him from more scrutiny—whether deservedly so or not.
He certainly didn't seem to complain much about having that PR shield when he did all but test positive for steroids on his way to winning the Tour De France year after year after year. So, whether you like him or hate him, you can see that he comes across as a bit of a jerk, making him perfect for our fantasy league.
So, where does A-Rod fit in? He's got the notoriety, but it's hard to say whether he's a jerk. You'll remember that he pulled the "castle" move with Madonna—made famous in chess and having affairs in British castles.
Perhaps, both are applicable here. Some would argue that this move broke up two marriages and brought a lot of unnecessary attention to his teammates.
What about the opt-out move during the '07 World Series? Some say he was trying to make a story when Boston was playing against Colorado, but most people didn't care and he fired Scott Boras. So, how much of a jerk can he be?
What about the reports of "A-Fraud" in Torre's book? What about slapping the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's glove during the playoffs or yelling when another player was about catch a fly ball? What about mouthing off to Arroyo and forgetting that Varitek was right behind him?
Does the guy have some character flaws? Sure—(I'm a Red Sox fan and I will be VERY VOCAL this season at Fenway when A-Rod come in to town) but is the guy a jerk? If so, does he compare with Bonds and Armstrong?
It's a tough one. He sure has notoriety, though, and that's worth something.
3. So what's the tiebreaker? It can NOT be candor; I know this much.
Lets step back for a moment.
The term steroids has been rolled out broader than the American flag at Fenway Park on Opening Day and has just as many holes in it. We can't say for sure which ones are dangerous anymore, so as a public health conscious, baseball society, the safety for children issue has been devalued.
What's worse, as more people do it, we are losing the power behind the words, "You cheat at baseball."
There are less and less stones to throw, and if a player tells the truth, we can't use the classics like the "Palmeiro" or the "Sosa" or even the "Mark McGwire" to cast hypocrisy on them. Hypocrisy, if you remember, was treated much more severely than the act itself, at least publicly if not legally also.
So what's the most we can pin on A-Rod? That he took steroids? That's about it. The dust will settle, he'll keep playing, debates will die down, and he could be the best baseball player of all time.
The only verdict will be delivered in what, FIFTEEN years when Alex is on his first Hall of Fame Ballot, when he's one of the wealthiest athletes in the world, and when the steroid era is accepted, and he can walk right in.
Players are learning that the penalty for lying is much worse than the penalty for telling the truth. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that he came completely clean by his own volition.
I'm sure there are plenty of details that he's hiding. BUT, you need a great lie or controversy to be at the top of our list, and Alex lessened the shock for the next guy by moving the taboo away from steroid use.
In the meantime, he's not facing allegations of tax fraud keeping him out of the game, and whatever is happening to Roger Clemens over there in That's Just Awful, Texas, is staying away from Alex...for now.
So, he can keep playing, he can work on his resume, and he'll turn this in to a positive for many because let's face it, the headhunting for steroid users in baseball has toned down a little bit. It's not as shocking, and it's not as culpable as it used to be.
Our fantasy league of steroid users needs really bad, embarrassing villains or the league just isn't as fun. So for this list, he ruined the fun for us a bit.
On the bright side, maybe staring at breasts during conversations will be more accepted someday, too, if you acknowledge that you are doing it...or maybe, women won't mind as much if you're making $25 million a year.
Read more from Greg Sheehan at www.turningtwo.com
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