"Tainted" Love. A Biased Yankee Fan Revisits 2004.

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(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

 

In 2003, Major League Baseball was in trouble.  There was a growing chorus of people in the media who demanded that players get tested for Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs).  Commissioner Bud Selig, in an effort to gauge how serious the problem was, decided to test players.  But in doing so, he had to promise Donald Fehr and the powerful player's union that the results from these tests would be destroyed and forever remain anonymous.

And as you guys already know, that plan worked out GREAT!

Alex Rodriguez was the first shoe to drop.  Earlier this year, his name was released as being on the list of players who (anonymously) tested positive for steroids in 2003.  A-Rod, who was supposed to lead the league into an era of clean baseball players, a player touted for his pure talent, turned out to be as guilty as Phil Spector.  
I am a Yankee fan and that one hurt.  For all of the crap we, as Yankee fans, have had to endure with the mercurial A-Rod, we reveled in the fact that we had front row seats to watch him eventually become baseball's all-time home run king.  Now what? His reputation is sullied.  He may never get into the Hall of Fame.  And his march towards the all-time home run record will be about as stimulating as being strapped into a chair and being forced to watch back-to-back episodes of Brooke Knows Best!
So when A-Rod's name became public on this list, baseball fans knew it was only a matter of time before that entire list was released and the other big name stars would have to face the heat.
Well Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz:  MEET THE HEAT!
Today we found out two more prominent names on this list when the New York Times broke the story that Ramirez and Big Papi were found to be "tainted" back in 2003.  We all knew that Manny had been involved in some shady stuff when he was suspended for 50 games back in April after testing positive for a female fertility drug. 
But what these test results prove is that Ramirez and his buddy Ortiz were likely using the stuff when they beat my Yanks in that gut-wrenching 2004 American League Championship.
As the whole world knows by now, the Boston Red Sox became the first team in MLB history to overcome a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series.  I'm dead serious when I say this.  That Yankee/Red Sox series damaged me.  It was awful.  When Game 7 ended, and the Sox were celebrating (on our f**king field!!!), it felt as if a close friend of mine had died.  I didn't talk to my friends for days.  I didn't watch one second of the Sox winning the World Series that year (they beat the St. Louis Cardinals).  In fact I can remember watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and wishing that there was a doctor I could go to who would erase the memories I had of that series.
 And who was the single most responsible person for that improbable comeback?
Was it Manny Ramirez?  NO!  Was it Curt "loudmouth" Schilling?  NO!  Was it Johnny Damon and his Passion of the Christ beard?  NO!
It was Big Papi, David Ortiz.
During Game 4 of that series (in Fenway Park), we were thisclose to sweeping the Sox. But Ortiz had other ideas, hitting a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th to win the game and save their season.  THE NEXT FREAKING GAME, Oritz did it again, hitting a single in the bottom of the 14th, bringing home Damon, and sending the Yanks back to the Bronx shell-shocked.  And after "bloody sock" Schilling pitched one of the best games of his career (in Game 6), I knew we were done.  There was no way we were going to win Game 7, especially with the maggot-infested, rotting carcass known as Kevin Brown etched in as our starting pitcher.
Let me be real.  I've hated David Ortiz since that very moment.  I wanted to know how the hell a guy who was such a bum in Minnesota that the Twins cut him, two years later morph into the greatest clutch-hitter of all time. I wanted to know how a guy could get away with sucking his whole career and then magically turning into an elite player at the ripe old age of 28.  I wanted to know how a guy who hit 58 homers in 5 years with the Twins, hit 54 with the Sox in 2006.
Of course I suspected that he was guilty of PEDs.  But all of my Boston buddies just laughed it off.
"Damn Keith.  Why you gotta be a hater?  Big Papi owns your ass.  Deal with it."
This is what drives me nuts about sports fans.  Sometimes they can be so blinded by loyalty, that it wipes out common sense and rationale.  For example, when Ramirez was found guilty of taking that female fertility drug, my Red Sox buddies all said the exact same thing:
"Doesn't prove he did anything while he was with us."
Wait.  Whaaaaaaat!  
How the hell not???  Did they think he was in some CVS in L.A. looking to buy tampons for his girlfriend when he saw some fertility drug, read the back, scratched his brow, and said, "Hmm . . . . . .?"
Welcome to the club Red Sox fans!  You are know part of a growing number of fans who have seen the pristine shine of a past championship erased by a dirty needle.
And you'll have to forgive me for rubbing it in your faces.  Because you see, once upon a time there was a man by the name of George Mitchell.  He was a United States Senator from Maine.  Two years ago, in a witch hunt that blacklisted more people than the McCarthy era, he name-dropped some 89 past and present players who he said were guilty of taking steroids.  This was supposed to be an investigation into all of baseball.  But it didn't quite work out that way did it?  No, it didn't.  Because Mitchell had a hard-on for my New York Yankees.  The headquarters for this investigation turned out to be in the Bronx.  And when he was done, the most prominent names on that list were current and former Yankees: Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Gary Sheffield, David Justice, Kevin Brown, Jason Giambi, and Chuck Knoblauch.  And what was the word coming out of Boston in regards to the four championships my team won in the 90s?
Tainted.  
George Mitchell just so happens to be a "consultant" for the Boston Red Sox.  Ironic isn't it?  No players from the Sox were named in the report.  Ironic isn't it?
Now, I get to turn it back to you, Red Sox fans.  Your bright shining moment in 2004 is now tainted because your two best players had more toxins in their bodies than Amy Winehouse.  And that's the whole point of this post.  In today's wacky world of baseball, everybody is suspicious.  So I would be real careful in acting sanctimonious about your favorite baseball player who plays for your favorite baseball team.  Take off the damn blinders and accept the fact that just because your guy hasn't been caught, doesn't mean that there is no possible way he could ever be guilty (yes I'm talking you Cardinals fans).
Sports is entertainment, not a philosophical diatribe about life.  The real Moneyball in baseball is not the Michael Lewis book about Oakland A's manager Billy Beane.  The real Moneyball comes down to the fact that these athletes pump poison in their bodies so they can get paid.  It will never stop.  Athletes will always find ways to break the rules today, the way baseball players broke the rules back in the 40s and 50s when they took amphetamines.
Oh, I'm sorry.  Baseball was "pure" back then.  My bad.  I forgot.

 

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