by Suzie Raven
New York Yankees 3rd baseman Alex (A-Rod) Rodriguez hit 35 home runs a season during the last 12 consecutive seasons, tying Babe Ruth’s record. The difference is that A-Rod used steroids from 2001-2003 while with the Texas Rangers, but Babe Ruth did not take performance-enhancing drugs.
Some fans have excused A-Rod’s steroid use because he appeared on ESPN this week with an admission and an apology. I don’t consider this to be a so-called “admission” or forthright. He spoke out two days after Sports Illustrated published the leaked the results of his failed drug test from 2003. Forthright would have been admitting his mistake before SI published the article. He handled the situation far better than Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, but that’s not saying much.
What will the repercussions be for A-Rod? Nike might not renew his contract after it expires in 2010, but the $6 million a year he makes in sponsorships is a fraction of the $25 million a year he makes for playing. Losing Nike won’t put him in financial trouble.
Major League Baseball (MLB) can’t punish A-Rod because it didn’t start penalizing steroid use until 2004, the year after he stopped. I understand that A-Rod can’t be suspended in 2009 for something he did in 2003. That’s fine. But counting A-Rod's statistics for 2001-2003 is not fair to the players who never used steroids.
"Maybe they can have two sets of records — one for those who used steroids and one for those of us who didn't," Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller suggested.
I’d like to take it further than Feller. The statistics of steroid users should be separated and the records invalidated. There shouldn’t be one list saying that A-Rod led the American League (AL) in homeruns in 2003 and another with Carlos Delgado’s 42 at the top. The homeruns A-Rod hit from 2001-2003 should not help make him the youngest player to hit 500 homeruns or the shortstop with the most homeruns. He’s chasing Barry Bonds' homerun record, but neither he nor Bonds deserve the title of Homerun King.
It’s harder to take away a player’s Gold Glove or MVP awards, because MLB can’t redo votes from years ago. However, A-Rod barely edged out Delgado for the 2003 AL MVP award. Now that we know A-Rod used steroids that year, in retrospect, Delgado should have been granted the honor.
A-Rod has nine more years left on his contract with the Yankees. He’s an impressive player when not on steroids. In 2007, Rodriguez hit .314 with 54 homeruns. Assuming he stays clean, he still has the time and ability to post a long list of impressive statistics that can restore his good name and possibly earn him a place in baseball’s Hall of Fame.
For more on Rodriguez and steroids, please see last season's post on the topic: "Baseball Controversy: Steroids, Canseco & A-Rod." For other posts about baseball and steroids, please see these from the archives:
(The photo of Alex Rodriguez is from 2004; the photo is by Randy Oostdyk, using a GNU Free Documentation license. To see a portion of the ESPN interview with Rodriguez, please check below.)
New York Yankees
War on Drugs
Major League Baseball
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by Suzie Raven