Is Alex Rodriguez Now Baseball's Biggest Cheater Ever?
According to an "Outside the Lines" report from ESPN, Alex Rodriguez's issues with PEDs are far from over. In fact, regardless of whether or not Tony Bosch's cooperation with Major League Baseball is enough to suspend A-Rod, Ryan Braun and friends, the three-time AL MVP is guilty in the court of public opinion.
The news cycle of 2013, Steroid Era of the '90s and Rodriguez's personality have combined to form a storm cloud around his career, clouding the judgment of his place in baseball history, among both ex-stars and cheaters.
Alex Rodriguez - the worst cheater in the history of sports #Yankees— KFC (@KFCBarstool) April 12, 2013
In the technical sense, Rodriguez is an admitted cheater. Dating back to 2009, he admitted to using PEDs during his time with the Texas Rangers, but vowed that was his only transgression, damning neither his early days in Seattle as a phenom or more recent MVP campaigns in New York.
Of course, the original Miami New Times report in January put a dent in those claims, either exposing Rodriguez as a liar or born again cheater after the initial admission in 2009.
The matter of an impending suspension aside, baseball fans will long remember A-Rod for steroids, PEDs, lies and off-field issues more than his ability as perhaps the greatest infielder in baseball history.
When assessing his place among the biggest cheaters in baseball history, it's hard to imagine much context being placed in the past.
Over a century ago, John McGraw was known to cheat on the field by grabbing the belt buckles of base runners as they ran past him, tripping them up to cause an out.
Gaylord Perry, enshrined in Cooperstown, garnered a plaque in upstate New York largely on the merits of a Vaseline ball. In 1982, he was suspended for his transgressions, a distinction Braun nor Rodriguez has yet endured. Of course, that didn't stop the celebration that same year for his 300th career victory.
Joe Niekro, the 22-year pitching lifer, was suspended in 1987 when an emery board and sandpaper flew out of his uniform. The physics-defying slider darting to and away from opposing hitters that night cost Niekro a 10-game suspension.
When it comes to generating boost with the bat, Sammy Sosa, Albert Belle, Norm Cash and Amos Otis were all guilty of the corked bat phenomenon.
Perry and Niekro weren't alone in "scuffing" the baseball. Whitey Ford was heard to have used his wedding ring to cut the ball or mud to throw something referred to as a "gunk" ball.
While the Pine Tar Game will go down in Yankees-Royals lore, the bottom line remains: George Brett was cheating by using pine tar too far up his bat.
Last, but certainly not least, was the generation of amphetamine users baseball encountered in the '60s, '70s and '80s. To be clear, "greenies" were deemed illegal and banned from use in baseball in 2006. Any player who used from that moment on was cheating the game, regardless of how you compare or contrast their impact against steroid use.
The key, when assessing A-Rod's place among the all-time cheaters, is exposure and perception.
For Rodriguez, his name, pictures, quotes and video have probably been posted in print and online —including sites like Bleacher Report—thousands of times since the news broke last evening. Every moment of his career, the good, the bad and the ugly, is just a click away.
On the flip side, the world didn't revolve around sports and entertainment, nor provide those who did care an outlet to share it beyond the next day's local paper when McGraw was grabbing belt buckles or Norm Cash was corking his bat.
For the older crowd, as in the cases of Perry and Niekro, time heals all wounds. For those who have taken or been exposed to amphetamines, the narrative of their impact in comparison to steroids seems to be enough of a dividing line for blame.
Is Alex Rodriguez the biggest cheater in the history of baseball?
Logically, no. It's not even really close.
If you choose to ignore the past, focus on headlines in 2013 and deem PEDs the biggest crime an athlete can ever commit, then yes, Rodriguez is the villain he's made out to be.
Should Alex Rodriguez always be remembered as a cheater?
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