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So it turns out A-Rod used steroids, just like at least 103 other players in 2003, and I’m not surprised. I think I would’ve been more surprised if he played his whole career and came back with clean tests all the way. After all, baseball has created a culture of “Do anything possible to stay relevant” and A-Rod has proven that while he’s smart on the field, off the field he often leaves his brain behind. What I find fascinating is people’s reactions to the whole scenario.
It’s amazing how people are willing to believe that this is the first generation of players to be guilty of using supplements and thus say that the game no longer has sanctity. Maybe this is the first generation to use products that we know what the effects of controlled usage of them are, but this is far from the first generation of players to try and gain advantages in whatever way possible.
After all, Don Mattingly, Hank Aaron, and many others used amphetamines to try and gain an advantage. They may not have gained a muscular advantage, instead an endurance or awareness advantage, but the point remains the same. What about the spitball and scuffing the ball? The game has always been far from clean and the rule makers have been chasing the so-called cheaters.
But does it really make sense to get more outraged about this than those with legitimate issues? Ugueth Urbina essentially killed two men in Venezuela and there was more outrage about Alex Rodriguez testing positive for steroids. There was less outrage about Plaxico Burress’ gun incident, instead just a lot of talk of “another stupid football player.”
Speaking of football, the players have even more unreal physiques (especially the linemen) that are more likely contributing to the growing number of injuries in the game, but there’s no outrage there (If you don’t believe me about the football bit, there are numerous accounts of how a team hooked up accelerometers to their players to measure impacts and upon getting the initial readings were so freaked out by the numbers, that they immediately removed the chips. While the science of hitting another player has improved, obviously having a 350 lb guy able to run like a 275 lb guy of 15 years ago did makes a big difference). Essentially, baseball is the only sport that we put on a pedestal as if there’s something holy to it.
I think that’s silly, though. A player is damned if he doesn’t live up to his contract, and damned if he uses a supplement to try and do so. But, if he goes the clean route and fails, he’s a bum who doesn’t work hard enough, unless he’s so universally loved like Derek Jeter that those with a mainstream outlet can ignore declining production. Tom Hicks was unhappy by A-Rod’s steroid usage. Why, I’m not sure, other than publicly it looks good. After all, doesn’t his usage imply he did everything possible to increase his output and, thus, help the team win?
Why is it that baseball is the sport where players are role models for kids? Any figure on TV is likely not to be a good role model for kids as TV these days is driven by controversy and generating enough viewership to justify ad sales.
Most baseball players have odd quirks to them. Any sports league that contains less than .01% of the population is going to have people so far on from the mean that they’d be more than two standard deviations away, meaning they’re very unlikely to be representative of the average person. That makes them more likely to have some very odd personality quirks (see: Clemens, Roger and his testicles before a game, according to Torre, Joe).
So before the next scandal in baseball comes and the phony outrage is drummed up, remember that without 750 identical robots playing against each other, there will never be a level playing field. Enjoy what happens on the field and remember these are odd humans who are so far removed from being normal people and ones who are so competitive that they often take “do whatever necessary to win” to crazy extremes.