Two things occurred to me yesterday and both of them were utterly profound:
1) I spend entirely too much time in my car
2) I can no longer in good conscience call myself a baseball fan.
It was just a month ago that these feelings started to manifest themselves. I was doing what anybody would do on a 25 degree day, trying to escape the bitter cold air in the confines of comfort that is my Hyundai Elantra. While inside, I was treated to a very interesting surprise, as was everyone else in New York that happened to be listened to "Mike's On".
After storming out of an arbitration hearing, Alex Rodriguez bee-lined his way to the WFAN studios to give Mike Francesca his side of the story. I was lucky enough to hear this impromptu interview and I was quite floored by it. Alex steadfastly denied any wrongdoing in the entire case, claiming he never did or purchased any illegal drugs from Biogenesis or Anthony Bosch.
Many were surprised by this bold affirmation and some were even downright angry.
"He's lying! The dude is a cheater and a fraud!" said a bunch of mindless drones that clearly didn't listen to a word that was said in the interview.
What bothered me most is that fans, journalists, and anybody that simply doesn't like A-Rod made a judgment on his case and closed their minds regardless of what information came to light. The mafia-like dealings of Major League Baseball, the refusal of commissioner Bud Selig to testify at A-Rod's hearing, the lack of evidentiary support, none of it seemed to matter in the court of public opinion. He is Alex Rodriguez and despite the fact that there was no more evidence presented against him than the other Biogenesis victims, his suspension was over 4 times as long. That seemed fair to people, simply because he's Alex Rodriguez.
I've been accused of coming to the defense of a "guilty man" due to my allegiance as a baseball fan. Yes, I'm a Yankee fan, and yes, Alex Rodriguez plays for my team, but I am a man of integrity and values, unlike most that put their fingers to keyboards and slander those who can do the things they cannot. I am writing this to stand up for wrongdoing and there's a lot of it here.
So here we are a month after that now infamous A-Rod interview and a day after the arbitrator's ruling was revealed. Again, the news broke to me as I sat in my Elantra, perhaps hinting that the world oil crisis is partly my fault (though to be fair, it is an Elantra, not a Hummer). But the bigger tragedy is that A-Rod's sentence after arbitration is one of the biggest farces in the history of American sport.
One hundred and sixty two games. The arbitrator ruled that Rodriguez's suspension should be reduced from the original 211 to 162 games. Yes, it's a reduction, but is it really? After all, the 211 games was handed down at a time that would have taken A-Rod out of baseball through the 2014 MLB season. This suspension now takes A-Rod out of baseball......through the 2014 season.
Now, maybe as fans we are not and should not be privy to all the information presented in arbitration, but I've yet to see or hear anything all that incriminating about Alex Rodriguez. If you're counting the words of Tony Bosch, including his recent interview on 60 minutes, save it. If your only evidence is the words of a drug dealer over the words of a Major League Baseball player, you've got nothing.
The case will be appealed but the damage is done. Major League Baseball found a scapegoat it could prosecute and they did so "by any means necessary". Unfortunately, baseball's arrogance and stupidity has trickled down to the writers who cover it as well.
Over the last week, stories have emerged of a Hall of Fame writer only voting for Jack Morris because he's decided that anybody who played during the "steroid era" could potentially have taken a substance and therefore do not belong in the Hall of Fame. Conversely, Dan Le Batard gave his vote to deadspin.com to protest the old writers who have such negative thought about the "steroid era". These are minor stories within the major problem though and unfortunately, it doesn't look like we're anywhere close to the right resolution.
For the second year in a row, Hall of Fame caliber players were held out of the Hall of Fame due to SUSPICION of steroid use. I highlight that word because that's all it can ever be with no tangible proof, though as we divulge further into the issue, you'll see that it shouldn't matter either way.
As it stands, we have Mike Piazza on the outside looking in because having "back-ne" gave writers reason to suspect the best hitting catcher of all time had been using performance enhancing drugs. Sure, because back-ne is completely unattainable without performance enhancing drugs. Just ask every high school guy wearing a baggy shirt.
And then we have Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. For anyone under 40, these are the two greatest players of their era, yet neither are anywhere close to getting the votes necessary for induction into the "hallowed halls" of Cooperstown while mediocrity like Craig Biggio are just mere votes away.
Ok, to be fair, Craig Biggio was very good, but I've never believed in the "Hall of Very Good" and thus don't believe he belongs. Bonds and Clemens do, but as long as we have an antiquated system of egotistical, stubborn writers having the only say, none of the best players of an era will be honored. It's an utter shame and it's going to get worse.
Now we're in an era where "performance enhancing drugs" are illegal and there are repercussions for taking them. Suspensions are the penalty yet there are writers saying that a guy who served a suspension wouldn't get their vote either?
Apparently having a penalty while you're actually playing isn't good enough for these jerks. No, you mess up once and that's it! Of course, this coming from men and women who couldn't hit a lobbed softball, let alone a 95 mile per hour fastball, yet judge these players as if what they've accomplished is "so easy" due to the drugs.
It's embarrassing that this is what has become of the sport I grew up loving. Now, don't be mistaken to think that I believe steroids were perfectly fine. You're talking to a guy with a wrestling radio show. I've seen more tragedy at the hands of steroids than I'd like to in 5 lifetimes, so it's not as though I endorse these drugs. I do, however, acknowledge that for a period of time, men in sport used them. I also acknowledge that at every point in the history of sports, people have tried to find loopholes and shortcuts to win. That's why I don't see the "steroid era" as anything more than another era in baseball.
Unfortunately, the egos of fans and writers have destroyed this time in baseball history. According to them, everything is "tainted" and some have gone so far as to want to wipe the era from existence. Take it from a wrestling fan whose seen the WWE try and erase Chris Benoit from the record books. No matter how hard you try, people won't forget.
What baseball and its fans should do is accept that it happened, accept that there's a testing policy for the now-banned substances, and move on. As we've seen with the A-Rod situation and the Hall of Fame though, that will never happen. As a result, I have no choice but to dissociate myself with the game I grew up loving.
As Madonna said, this used to be my playground. Now, it's just murky waters infested with ego, greed, and slime.