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Alex Rodriguez and the Last Great Baseball Doping Letdown

August 10th, 2016 · No Comments · Baseball, Drugs

More than a decade ago, in an attempt to make myself — and perhaps some readers — feel better as Barry Bonds slugged his way into the record books, I suggested that a certain third baseman for the New York Yankees, Alex Rodriguez, would deliver us from evil in a decade or so.

I suggested he was hitting home runs with enough frequency that he would pass Barry Bonds and recapture the career homer title for a drug-free player — like Henry Aaron and Babe Ruth, who held the “most homers” title before the cartoonishly puffed-up, late-career Bonds came along.

But that was based on two faulty assumptions: That, 1) Rodriguez would, like Bonds, continue to hit 30-plus home runs a season nonstop into his 40s and 2) that he was “clean” — not an abuser of performance-enhancing substances.

Neither of those assumptions proved accurate.

I feel silly now. For a lot of things, but for some reason I remember writing the “hang on, A-Rod is coming to the rescue” piece. And feeling very foolish a few years later.

When I wrote it, maybe around 2006, 2007, A-Rod had never been linked with illicit substances, and he didn’t look like a drug user — not like the swollen Barry Bonds, anyway. And I just decided he must be clean.

As for catching Bonds … Rodriguez had 553 home runs through his age 33 season, and if he could average 30 for eight more seasons, he would have 793 — eclipsing Bonds and his 762.

Then the penny dropped.

In 2009, Rodriguez conceded in a TV interview he had been a drug cheat from the 2001 through 2003 seasons, while he was with the Texas Rangers and felt pressure to produce. Looking back, he hit 52, 57 and 47 homers in those season, his three most productive to that point. Better hitting through chemistry.

His 2009 confession was merely prelude for what was to come — his suspension for the whole of the 2014 season for his involvement in the Biogenesis doping scandal.

Rodriguez returned to the Yankees in 2015. Many figured he would get plenty of abuse from fans as well as journalists, and would be hard-pressed to be a productive hitter, after sitting out a season late in his career.

But he hit 33 home runs and, if he didn’t make it a habit to regret his doping past, he didn’t flaunt it, either, and fans were not as nasty as they could have been … perhaps from the sense that he had been been so significantly (and publicly) punished.

He might even have made it to the end of his 10-year, $270 million contract, except that he has been horrible this season, and the Yankees do not appear to have a lot of sympathy for him if he is not putting balls in the seats.

Over the weekend, the Yankees announced Rodriguez’s final game with them would be this coming Friday, after which he would become a “special adviser and instructor” with the team.

At that point Rodriguez seemed to go along with the idea — even though he is very close to some baseball milestones — four homers short of 700, and 18 homers short of Ruth.

Since the Yankees announcement, some have suggested another team might take a look at the player, now 41, who is known for being very aware of historical milestones.

I hope he takes off the uniform, as of Friday.

He had the talent to be great without cheating but he chose to go down the crooked path, as did Bonds before him.

The sooner he is out of the game the sooner we can get on with ignoring him for the Hall of Fame, like Bonds, and get on with the business of forgetting him — and the hopes some of us foolishly attached to him.




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