Thursday, February 12, 2009

Just say no to suspending A-Rod for steroid use

It's scandalous. Everybody is talking about it. Purists are in a tizzy. A-Rod taking steroids? No, Westminster Kennel Club winner Stump the Sussex spaniel snubbing Sardi's restaurant!

At least there's no evidence that the 10-year-old dog (70 in human years) won the dog show by using PEDs (Pooch-Enhancing-Drugs)!

Seriously, the big story of today is about how MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is considering suspending Alex Rodriguez for admitting to steroid use in 2001-2003. In a USA Today column, Christine Brennan suggests that A-Rod should be suspended under the "best interests of the game" clause. When Brennan asked Selig if he would do that, he replied:

"It was against the law, so I would have to think about that," Selig said of possible action against Rodriguez. "It's very hard. I've got to think about all that kind of stuff."

Let me get this straight. A-Rod needs to get punished - for what, exactly? It took until 2004, over a decade into Selig's tenure, to even get a specific steroids ban in baseball. So what A-Rod took may have been illegal, but it wasn't banned by MLB at the time. Not to mention that the test A-Rod failed was 1) A survey test that was supposed to be destroyed, and 2) Was never supposed to be used to punish individual players.

True, baseball's steroid policy was shameful, but Selig had a heck of a lot to do with that. Maybe Bud can retroactively punish himself.

Oh, and while Selig may be thinking about suspending A-Rod, he doesn't appear to have given any thought to thinking about finding out the names and punishing the other 103 players who also failed the test. Or finding out why a confidential survey test was leaked to reporters.

And as for that illegality issue, Joba Chamberlain has been accused of driving drunk, but I guess I missed any worries of him being suspended from baseball if he is convicted.

So I'm just wondering - has Selig ever been on the right side of anything?

He has been MLB Commissioner since 1992, and was in charge of the game during virtually the entire Steroid Era. He looked the other way when players were puffed up to the size of bodybuilders. He didn't do anything to Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte, or Roger Clemens. He didn't really push for banning steroids until over a decade into his tenure.

But now he's thinking about suspending A-Rod - for what, exactly? For being the only one of the 104 positive tests to be exposed? For actually telling the truth a little? Unreal.

You know, we all complained about PED-using players not admitting to much of anything. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are all about denial. Mark McGwire didn't want to talk about the past. Jason Giambi apologizing for taking "stuff", but wouldn't say what the "stuff" was.

And now here's Alex Rodriguez, who not only admitted to what he was accused of, but who tried to explain about the clubhouse culture at the time. Was he telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? No. But he did tell more than anybody short of Jose Canseco.

Making an example of A-Rod here will make him a martyr. Is that what Selig wants?

If MLB does dole out some sort of punishment to Alex, don't expect any player to ever confess to anything on this steroid issue ever again. Thanks for nothing, Bud.

What do you think? Leave us a comment!


Alvaro Fernandez Ravelo said...

I've been following baseball since 1975 and back then Bowie Kuhn was the commissioner.

Bud Selig rates easily as the WORST commissioner baseball has ever had.

Pretty sure that as soon as he said he had to think about suspending A-Rod someone from the MLBPA must have called him to remind him that the survey test was supposed to be destroyed and was never intended to be used to punish players.

Anonymous said...

Lisa, I totally agree. What's good for one is good for the other 103 on the list? Shouldn't they be suspended as well? Look at it this way, Selig is doing A-Rod a favor. Making a martyr out of A-Rod is the best way for him to get his (gulp) good name back. Seriously, that list will be released some day and he will have already come clean. Although, so far, no one has volunteered to "come clean" until they were outed by someone.

Anonymous said...

This scandal is on Bud! If anybody is to be suspended, start with Bud Selig. Suspend one of 104? I'll paraphrase Lincoln with regard to Bud's comments, it is better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. The first order of business in cleaning up the game is to get a real commissioner.

Cindy R

Anonymous said...

+1 to NAM's earlier comments.

If Selig wants to suspend Alex for "the good of the game" then he should also suspend, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte and all 103 players left on that allegedly "anonymous" list that is no longer.

What Alex did is indefensible, but it is not fair for him to be the only one "punished" when we know there are others (and remember they are the ones who got "caught").

PS. Is it really true that Selig got paid $17m for his job as commissioner? I guess big bank executives aren't the only ones who are grossly overpaid.

Uncle Mike said...

Lisa, I have an idea of how A-Rod can get what's coming to him without actually being suspended.

Release him. And then let him test the job market in this economy. Just like Manny Ramirez is now doing.

My sympathy for him ran out ages ago.

However, your points about Allan H. Selig Jr. are also correct. Has he been right about anything?

Yes, he was right about expanding to Denver. But even that contains other mistakes: Expanding to Phoenix and the two Florida cities, despite all of them now having had some success on the field, hasn't brought them much success at the gate or in the boardroom.

Yes, he was right about getting baseball back to Washington, D.C. But even that contains other mistakes: It took too long, he pandered too much to Baltimore owner Peter Angelos, and he allowed the ruination and removal of the Montreal franchise, which, even as recently as 1996, was not only viable but quite competitive on the field (the Expos were second behind Atlanta that year).

Yes, he was right about instituting steroid testing. But this, too, contains mistakes: He waiting too long, and it's been as much of a mess. Baseball's steroid testing system is like the Bowl Championship Series in that it matches Winston Churchill's definition of democracy: It's the worst system ever devised... except for all the others.

Yes, he was right about trying to make the All-Star Game matter, and I like the idea of the winning league's champion get home-field advantage in the World Series. But, so far, it hasn't mattered a bit. Since it was instituted: The Marlins took 2 of 3 at Yankee Stadium, the Red Sox swept including the clinching games in St. Louis, the White Sox swept including the clinching games in Houston, the Cardinals split in Detroit and went home to win in 5, the Red Sox swept again including the clinching games in Denver, and the Phillies split in Tampa and went home to win in 5. So we still don't know if Bud's idea worked there: We haven't had a World Series Game 7 since the year before, and only in the first year has it even gone to a Game 6!

Alvaro says Selig is the worst commissioner in baseball history. There's a very good case for that, but I'm not sure it's open and shut: Bowie Kuhn was a puppet of Los Angeles owner Walter O'Malley, and was completely petulant, ruling against certain owners (Charlie Finley in Oakland being by far the worst example) simply because he didn't like them. Kuhn is in the Hall of Fame, while Finley, who built one of the best baseball teams ever, is not. Justice?

Alvaro is right that the test was never supposed to be used to punish the players. But there's a reason the test was there: Because the players weren't supposed to be cheating. I say they should be punished, because while they didn't break the rules of Major League Baseball, they did take an unfair advantage, and they did break the law. No sympathy for any of them.

NAM: I think there was one player who came clean before he had to, Jason Grimsley. Not exactly a "name player," although he was a minor member of the '98 Yankees.

Cindy: The Commissioner works for the owners. Someday, Bud will die (he's like Joe Paterno, he won't retire and they don't have the guts or the decency to fire him), and he'll be replaced with another stooge. Bart Giamatti didn't last long enough to do their bidding or disappoint them; Ford Frick, Spike Eckert, Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth did their bidding and were allowed to leave on their own terms; Happy Chandler and Fay Vincent disappointed them, and they were canned by the owners.

Uncle Mike said...

Correction: Grimsley pitched for the Yankees in 1999 and 2000, but not in 1998. I also thought he'd pitched for the steroid-ridden Orioles of 1996 and/or '97, but he didn't pitch for them until 2004. I may have had him confused with Ross Grimsley, an Oriole pitcher of the late '70s.

Anonymous said...

Right on, Lisa. I'm not taking this sitting down (or standing up).

Anonymous said...

Mike your posts are very thoughtful and insightful. I think you might know the answer to this, there was a player-a relief pitcher perhaps-on one of the Yankees championship teams who in a moment of deep depression over his steroid use contemplated suicide (I hope I'm not getting these facts wrong) and subsequently turned his life around. He became a minister and settled in Colorado (?). I believe he admitted to using without being caught or otherwise provoked to do so. His story came out about a year or so ago.


Anonymous said...

I just don't like the idea of sinlging out one player - even if it is ARod. If we need "justice" then it needs to be served as fairly as possible. If you suspend ARod then suspend the others. If you do that, then is that really fair since the Giambis of the world out there will go unpunished? I certainly don't have any sympathy for any of these guys, but I don't see what good an ARod suspension will do at this point. To punish now would effectively be punishing him for admitting it (at least that would be the perception).

Uncle Mike said...

Cindy: Thanks for the kind words, but the story you're suggesting is totally unfamiliar to me. Goose Gossage is from Colorado, but he's clearly not who you're talking about.

There have been quite a few athletes who've beaten the bottle or drugs and become counselors. I mentioned Sam McDowell, the Indians pitcher of the 1960s who led the AL in strikeouts a few times. His last chance in the majors was with the Yankees around '75 or so. Ryne Duren, the Yankee reliever of the late '50s, was another. (Ryne Sandberg was named for him.)

Quite a few ex-football players have become ministers, including recovering addicts Irving Fryar and Cris Carter. And while his only "substance abuse" problem appears to have been food, George Foreman is also ordained.

I wish I knew who you were talking about. It would make a great story if it were true, but I can't say for sure. And it certainly sounds like the kind of thing I would know, but in this case I don't.

Anonymous said...

Selig is just as guilty as the players themselves. He turned a blind eye on PED usage knowing money was going to pour into MLB with all the numbers guys were putting up. He raked in a fortune, and now his legacy is tainted as the commissioner who allowed PEDs under his watch.

He should suspend himself, otherwise he should keep his mouth shut. If anyone shamed MLB, it's everyone who turned a blind eye, not just the guys who juiced.

lb said...

Selig is a blind, money-grubbing idiot.

Anonymous said...

Mike, after I posted I thought, did I dream that or what? So I googled a couple of the facts I thought I remembered (if that even makes sense!) and it yielded nothing. So I went to Baseball Reference and looked at the World Series rosters to see if anything popped out at me and there on the 1999 roster, the relief pitcher Dan Naulty. I google his name and came across the article I read about him:

It is an amazing story. He sounds like a decent man who just got caught up in the times.

Cindy R

Anonymous said...

Mike, I meant to mention in my last comment how much I dig your historical references. Your knowledge of baseball really adds something to the Squawkers site. So much so, that despite being a Red Sox fan I love this Yankees/Mets blog! This goes to Lisa and Jon, as well as all the commenters here, you're all welcoming to the "enemy" and I feel a part of the community here! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Cindy - hands down Mike has more baseball/sports/everything knowledge than probably everyone on this blog put together.

He's literally a walking encyclopedia.

Anonymous said...

you got to remember that grandpa mike has also lived throughout all of baseball, so its history is his as well. lol

Aroid shouldn't be suspended at this time either. his punishment will be the scorn he receives from fans.

Guys are a little rough on Selig, no? granted he is only being reactionary at this point and probably views the Afraud situation as a way to take the focus off of his own ineptitude, but do we give the union a pass? they are equally culpable in perpetuating the steroid era.

Anonymous said...

No, the union certainly doesn't get any pass, or at least shouldn't. I feel everyone that was involved in some way should be held accountable.

Alvaro Fernandez Ravelo said...

Cindy, I recall reading that article you linked. It's a great read.

Now, take a look at this too:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link Alvaro. I typically avoid Maz because he treats all fans with disdain, like we're all fan-boys and girls. He did make a valid point about ARod being singled out, but you'll notice the obligatory wrist-slap at Sox fans about not expecting a team of altar boys.


Anonymous said...

it'll be a tough road ahead for A-Roid as he seeks to become A-Rod once again

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