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When it comes to MLB’s anti-PED efforts, “the process is selective”

Aug 2, 2013, 12:18 PM EDT

alex rodriguez getty Getty Images

There is a lot to chew on in William Rhoden’s New York Times column about Alex Rodriguez and the Biogenesis mess.  Some of it even I, a pretty reliable defender of players being accused of using PEDs, can’t sign on to.

For example, I do not think that anyone, no matter how overreaching MLB becomes, will actually “root” for A-Rod. He’s basically impossible to root for, even if you do want to see that he is given due process and a fair shake.

I also don’t believe that he or the MLBPA should mount an appeal simply for the purposes of challenging the credibility of evidence against him. Maybe it makes sense to appeal — especially if the discipline leveled is overly-harsh — but the calculation to appeal or not should mostly be one that serves the pragmatic interests of the player involved, not one of principle alone.

Finally, I doubt Rhoden’s theory that, if A-Rod does appeal, that he’d have more people rooting for him than he thinks. It’s pretty lonely in the “defend A-Rod” camp. Believe me, I know from experience.

But if it is lonely there it’s for a reason Rhoden also outlines. An idea with which I agree 100%: Baseball has pretty consciously sought out villains in its anti-PED efforts and is pretty content to let A-Rod be the villain here. That, as Rhoden notes, “the process is selective.”

Rhoden notes that, despite hundreds of players using PEDs in the 90s and early 2000s, baseball was happy to allow big power hitters like McGwire, Sosa and Bonds to be the face of PEDs. I’ll add that MLB’s primary anti-PED effort of those years — The Mitchell Report — did almost nothing to reduce or combat PEDs and almost everything to change the PED conversation from “how do we stop them” to “what are the big names doing them?” We all acknowledge that real risk of PEDs is when players are the margins are forced out by PED users taking their roster spots or are coerced by that dynamic into doing them themselves, yet we still focus on the big stars who would be in the league anyway.


So it is with A-Rod. Maybe he is orders of magnitude worse than any other Biogenesis offender. We have to take MLB’s word on that for now. But it’s also a fact that MLB is quite adept at hanging big names out to dry for the purpose of making them, as opposed to Bud Selig or the game’s overall culture or drug testing system, the face of the problem.

  1. buffal0sportsfan - Aug 2, 2013 at 12:22 PM

    When did anyone besides Yankee fans EVER root for A-Rod?

    • wineman2u - Aug 2, 2013 at 12:37 PM

      When did Yankee fans ever really root for A-Rod?

      • buffal0sportsfan - Aug 2, 2013 at 12:41 PM

        Well the occasional bandwagon Yankee fan would just because he was “good”.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 2, 2013 at 1:07 PM

        I always did and still do now, and I’ve been a fan since the early 90s.

      • yankee172 - Aug 2, 2013 at 1:35 PM

        If he’s on the field and wearing a yankee uniform, I’ll be rooting for him.

        Pretty simple.

    • ditto65 - Aug 2, 2013 at 12:45 PM

      Why would you root for a player on a team you are not a fan of?

    • Roger Moore - Aug 2, 2013 at 7:52 PM

      I’m pretty sure some Mariners fans were rooting for him when he played in Seattle and some Rangers fans when he was in Texas.

  2. buffal0sportsfan - Aug 2, 2013 at 12:25 PM

    Who ever did root for A-Rod in the first place?

    • buffal0sportsfan - Aug 2, 2013 at 12:26 PM

      Thumbs down for the double post my bad

    • oregoncoastdailynews - Aug 2, 2013 at 12:38 PM

      He was a very popular player in Seattle.

  3. mudhead123 - Aug 2, 2013 at 12:34 PM

    New to baseball? AROD wasn’t hated until he signed a huge contract with TX

    • dondada10 - Aug 2, 2013 at 12:37 PM

      Maybe not the mainstream public. But I seem to remember former Mets GM Steve Phillips accusing A-Rod of being a 24+1 type of player back in 2001.

      • dondada10 - Aug 2, 2013 at 12:38 PM

        Found it:

        “It’s about 25 players working as a team,” general manager Steve Phillips said. “The 24-plus- one-man structure really doesn’t work. I don’t mean to cast aspersions on Alex Rodriguez. . .But I don’t think you can give different rules and separate one player from the rest of the team.”

      • uyf1950 - Aug 2, 2013 at 12:41 PM

        …And Steve Phillips should be the one to criticize anyone for anything.

      • paperlions - Aug 2, 2013 at 12:43 PM

        Ah, Steve Phillips. Both a quality GM and person.

      • roadryder - Aug 2, 2013 at 12:51 PM

        Do you mean Steve Phillips they guy who though he was special enough to bang his front office underlings with the Mets and his production assistant at ESPN?

      • natslady - Aug 2, 2013 at 2:31 PM

        That is a very interesting article. Beyond the question of whether Rodriguez gets office space in the stadium or a private suite, there’s this,

        Rodriguez is looking for a 12-year contract worth at least $20 million annually. He also wants escalator clauses built into the deal to ensure that his salary doesn’t fall behind other players and out clauses that let him leave if the team can no longer compete.

        Who gets an out clause if “the team can no longer compete”? Who decides that? At the beginning of the season–yeah, who predicted Cleveland or the Pirates? Mid-season–go by the playoff odds, 10%, 5%???

      • Kevin S. - Aug 2, 2013 at 3:06 PM

        No, I think they’re just regular out clauses – potential non-competitiveness would be A-Rod’s stated reason for wanting them available to him. Same thing where Sabathia got the opt-out after three years “in case he didn’t like New York.” He liked New York just fine, but he used the opt-out to leverage an extra $30 million onto his deal all the same.

  4. Bob Loblaw - Aug 2, 2013 at 12:51 PM

    I think it is ludicrous to say that Bonds was not treated as a pariah when he was not signed by a single GM after having the following season…

    28 HRs (Broke the career HR record). Led the league in Walks. Led the league in OBP. Had a 1.045 OPS.

    The only difference between Bonds and A-Rod is that A-Rod has a huge contract and Bonds did not. Otherwise, both men are being treated exactly the same by MLB. Bonds, they didn’t have to do anything because the owners colluded to keep him out. A-Rod’s situation has to be fixed by MLB because of his huge contract.

    • paperlions - Aug 2, 2013 at 1:48 PM

      Yep, he was obviously black-balled by MLB. If anyone cared enough, collusion charged may have been filed…but there is no way there weren’t teams interested in his services, he was still fantastic at baseball.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 2, 2013 at 1:59 PM

        On twitter, Bill linked a Jayson Stark article from 2008 that said Bond’s agent was offering Bonds for the league minimum (think it was like $375K) and he still got zero offers.

      • paperlions - Aug 2, 2013 at 2:09 PM

        Yep, I remember that….he repeatedly advertised that he would play for any amount of money. No one even called. From a baseball perspective, that makes no sense at all….from a political perspective, it makes a lot of sense.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 2, 2013 at 2:17 PM

        In 2008 the Yanks finished 6 games behind the Sox for the WC. Could Bonds have won them 6 more games? Yanks received:

        DH – Matsui – 108 OPS+; 9 HR, 45 RBI in 93 Games
        LF – Damon – 118 OPS+; 17 HR, 71 RBI in 143 Games
        RF – Abreu – 120 OPS+; 20 HR, 100 RBI in 156 Games
        CF – Cabrera – 68 OPS+; 8 HR, 37 RBI in 129 Games

        Bonds in 2007 – 169 OPS+, 28 HR, 66 RBI in 126 Games

        Who knows what could have happened. Matsui was huge in the ’09 Playoffs for the Yanks, but you can’t deny he wasn’t better than any else the Yanks put out there. While Cano had his worst year as a professional, how would Bonds’ line looked when the team could have gone Damon > Jeter > Giambi > Arod > Bonds > Cano?

      • paperlions - Aug 2, 2013 at 2:47 PM

        I guy that gets on base nearly 1/2 his PAs could have helped any team…especially AL teams that could DH him.

      • Kevin S. - Aug 2, 2013 at 2:50 PM

        Could Bonds have helped the Yankees? Certainly.

        Were the Yankees going to play Matsui in left and Damon in center to get Bonds in as their DH? Not with the offensive season Matsui was coming off of and the defensive liabilities both players had turned into. Tampa (if they had any idea they were about to go worst to first) or Anaheim would have been better examples of teams that really could have used Bonds’ bat at DH.

    • Jack Marshall - Aug 2, 2013 at 2:20 PM

      Prove it. There is zero evidence of collusion. Bonds was an obvious steroid abuser, and any team signing him would have been walking into a buzz-saw and giving the OK for young players to cheat. If there was any evidence of collusion at all, you can bet we would have heard about it, and loudly.

      Keith Law, among others, absolutely roasted me for a Hardball Times ethics essay in which I predicted that nobody would hire Bonds because it would be seen as a hypocritical endorsement of steroids and cheating. I also made the assertion on an MLB radio talk show, and the host laughed at me. Of course someone will hire Bonds! If they don’t, then it will be because of collusion! This is a “no true Scotsman” argument, and it was proven wrong.

      Conspiracies get discovered—when the owners have colluded, they have been caught, and paid dearly. Bonds was rejected for the right reasons.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 2, 2013 at 3:13 PM

        What do you call it when the owners collectively decide that a player that was better than 50% of baseball isn’t worth signing at the league minimum?

      • American of African Descent - Aug 2, 2013 at 3:19 PM

        There is zero evidence of collusion? Are you serious?

        The most destructive offensive force ever is available, has just come off of another great season, and is willing to play for league minimum and there are no takers.

        res ipsa loquitur.

    • coloradogolfcoupons - Aug 2, 2013 at 2:27 PM

      There was no reasonable explanation for ANY team, including San Fran, to sign Bonds. Bonds led the league in Circus-clown reporters following the team around, asking clown questions, bro. And just when the circus was about to leave town, here came another elephant in the room,,,another Bonds angle on PEDS, his ‘trainer’, his mistress…blah blah same shit different supporting cast. What freaking team in their right mind could afford THAT PR nightmare, when Bonds was universally DESPISED EVERY BIT AS BAD AS AROD outside of San Fran? These Mego-Ego players get a persecution complex that they are being treated unfairly when the only reason they end up getting treated like a pariah is their own actions, which they refuse to acknowledge. They just hire another team of lawyers. When has Bonds or Clemons ever apologized for anything? Arod tried to dodge in 09 with a lame mea culpa only after being outed by SI, and it took McGuire years to admit it. Palmeiro? Still waiting. Sosa? No speakee eengleish. It makes me sick to see all the records broken by these steroid monsters who continue to cheat despite new testing. The best chemist wins.

  5. banger60 - Aug 2, 2013 at 12:54 PM

    let’s get this crap over with, this has taking longer then both Kardashian and the Royal Baby!!!!!

    • buffal0sportsfan - Aug 2, 2013 at 12:58 PM

      It’s going to take much longer because we have a beautiful thing called the appealing process.

  6. sdelmonte - Aug 2, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    There have been times that I was tempted to root for A-Rod just to be contrarian. Everyone hates him, so I would say “well, wouldn’t it be funny if he hit .750 in October and won everything single-handed?” I never root for the Yankees, mind you, so this was more or less a thought experiment. To suggest that we should just the player by what he does on the field above all else.

    But I think he’s just made even that sort of thing impossible. It’s not just the PEDs now (which never bothered me as much they most). It’s the whole package. He’s not fun to root for. Or against. He’s just a black hole on the diamond, sucking everything in. And even if he came clean today, I have to suspect he would manage to sound as immature as he has all year. He’s just too far gone.

  7. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 2, 2013 at 1:09 PM

    For example, I do not think that anyone, no matter how overreaching MLB becomes, will actually “root” for A-Rod. He’s basically impossible to root for, even if you do want to see that he is given due process and a fair shake.

    Bet you can’t defend this. I rooted for him before, I’m rooting for him now, and I’ll be rooting for him in the future when he laces up for the Yanks.

    • chiadam - Aug 2, 2013 at 1:13 PM

      Are you a steroid dealer or some sort of mental patient?

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 2, 2013 at 1:16 PM

        I’m neither, but why would I have to be either to root for someone?

  8. rathipon - Aug 2, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    Hating on A-Rod is what the cool kids do.

    • chiadam - Aug 2, 2013 at 1:12 PM

      Shortsleeve shirts under longsleeve shirts under shortsleeve shirts.

  9. royalintx - Aug 2, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    This is shocking!!!
    Somebody is actually still paying Rhoden to write and there are actually people who read it.

  10. jtorrey13 - Aug 2, 2013 at 1:27 PM

    I’ll admit, I still root for ARod. Here are the two main reasons why:

    1) The cult of clutch – as a Cardinals fan, I get to hear about this in relation to Matt Holliday all the time it seems like. As a baseball fan, I got to hear about it all the time as it always seemed like it was harped upon as the main difference between ARod and Captain Jetes. ARod has 326 ABs in the post-season. Jeter has 734 ABs. ARod’s OPS – .833. Jeter’s OPS – .838. Five one-thousanths of a point. (Just so you don’t think it’s a straw man, and

    Now, looking at career stats, I’ll admit, ARod should be higher than Jeter. However, the amount of playoff games Jeter played in his prime and in his youth (from when he was 22-30) was 110 games. When ARod was between 19 and 30, he played in 35 games, or about a little over an April’s worth of games. (Does that mean that baseball, gasp, is a team game? No. Can’t be. Ooops, dammit, straw man erected.)

    2) People like to be right – I’m also a movie fan and I love to hear people talk about this actor or that actress as being bad at acting. Perfect example – Keanu Reeves. Now, he may not be Al Pacino in the 70s, but he is capable. However, comedy is found by making fun of his acting talents. (Just like George W. Bush is an idiot and Bill Clinton f**ks everything that moves.) When he does do well, like in “The Matrix,” it’s not his performance, it’s that “he was meant for the role” or “the role wasn’t that tough.” No matter what Keanu (or whatever actor you want to suggest, be it Nicolas Cage, Tom Cruise or Nicole Kidman) does, he’ll always be the same punchline. ARod is another example of that. (I’m not going to look for examples of this as it is probably anecdotal and from friends that love mumblecore and Dogme 95 films.)

    I kind of hope that ARod has another great season. I hope Tiger wins another major. I love that Phil Mickelson in his 40s won the British Open. I hope that the NFL has a team that goes undefeated and wins the Super Bowl again.

    Right now in the world of columns regarding ARod and PEDs, there are very few amazing people at writing interesting posts. So in the artificially constructed “Press vs. ARod” battle, I’ll take the guy that doesn’t make me retch. When people are amazing at what they do, it’s much more interesting to see them succeed rather than fail.

  11. uyf1950 - Aug 2, 2013 at 1:32 PM

    If fans will allow me to just make a couple of quick comments about the money we are talking about for both A-Rod, Yankees and MLB. Let’s assume that MLB and A-Rod agree on a suspension of: 50 games this season and 108 games next season (exactly 2/3 of the 2014 season).

    It will cost A-Rod: $9MM this year and $17.3MM in 2014 lost salary = $26.3MM
    Yankees Benefit: $9MM this year plus $3.8MM that they won’t have to pay in luxury tax plus $17.3MM in 2014 plus and additional $6MM since it would very unlikely that missing that much time in 2014 that A-Rod would be able to reach his 1st milestone incentive. Total Yankees savings/benefit $36MM +/-. *
    What MLB loses: At least $3.8MM in luxury tax dollars for the 2013 season and potentially a lot in 2014 had the Yankees not been able to or chose not to get under the tax threshold in 2014 Prior to MLB suspending A-Rod in my scenario.

    * I’ve not assumed any Yankee benefit in luxury tax savings for the 2014 season whether or not A-Rod is suspended because of the Steinbrenner’s stated position to get under the tax threshold in 2014 regardless.

  12. dparker713 - Aug 2, 2013 at 2:04 PM

    When a millionaire is fighting multiple billionaires, I generally side with the millionaire.

  13. chip56 - Aug 2, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    MLB was complacent with the steroid era of the 90s and early 2000s that is true. What is also true is that the Union at that time wanted nothing to do with testing or a JDA and was vehemently protecting steroid users just the same as MLB was turning a blind eye to it.

    If Don Fehr was still head of the Union I do not believe any of what’s gone on now (whether you agree with it or not) would be possible.

  14. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 2, 2013 at 3:32 PM

    Btw if people have legal questions about the JDA/CBA and want it answered by a few attorneys with sports backgrounds, deadspin is doing a live chat right now:

  15. stlouis1baseball - Aug 2, 2013 at 3:32 PM

    When it comes to PED news (be it MLB, the Players Union, the Media, etc…)…
    I feel like a whipped puppy. This shit is exhausting.

  16. lessick - Aug 2, 2013 at 4:20 PM

    Rhoden may be right. While it’s hard to find people who “root” for A-Rod, if Selig tries to implement a lifetime ban, I’d be on his side in that fight.

  17. moogro - Aug 2, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    “but the calculation to appeal or not should mostly be one that serves the pragmatic interests of the player involved, not one of principle alone.”

    Huh? The union should defend every bit of the contract. If not, they set a poor precedent. At the very least, it would force Selig to take ownership of any decision.

  18. CyclePower - Aug 2, 2013 at 7:32 PM

    “We all acknowledge that real risk of PEDs is when players are the margins are forced out by PED users taking their roster spots or are coerced by that dynamic into doing them themselves”

    I will acknowledge that this part of the damage PEDs do to baseball, but “we all” and “real risk,” i.e only risk, incorrectly speaks for me and completely misses the real corrosive effect PEDs have on the believability that the sport I’m watching is actually real. You really don’t get that. Personallly, the mid 90s to the mid 2000s were pretty much a lost decade for me as a fan, and I tuned out, because the game I knew had become a farcical caricature of baseball. It’s important to aggressively try to root out PEDs for the same reason it’s important to root out any hint of gambling. If you pay money on the assumption that what you are watching is real, but in fact the outcome is manipulated and you are effectively lied to, then you’re not going to continue to pay to watch. …and don’t play that equivalency game where Gaylord Perry’s spitballs and Bond’s neck are morally the same.

    …and I know you’ve argued differently, but there are similarities between Lance Armstrong and Arod. Armstrong’s US Postal teammates, although they doped just as much, were granted complete immunity in exchange for giving sworn testimony to Lance’s doping. Floyd Landis could wind up being a multimillionaire for just being a whistleblower. Why Lance was singled out and George Hincapie, a very accomplished cyclist in his own right, was not? Lance became an unlikable figure in the sport. Tygart’s single-minded focus was to nail him and ban him for life, and he did. Does USADA even have actual jurisdiction over the Tour de France, or can it prevent someone from forever earning a living from cycling?

  19. ilovegspot - Aug 2, 2013 at 8:09 PM

    arod kissed a mirror, nuff said

  20. jollyjoker2 - Aug 3, 2013 at 12:09 AM

    let them all use drugs, anything they want. …..

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