MLB commissioner’s refusal to act sooner allowed PED users like A-Rod to taint the game longer than they should have.
Commissioner Bud Selig did Monday what all the rumors said he would do: He suspended Alex Rodriguez until the 2015 season. Selig punished 12 other ballplayers as well Monday for their link to Biogenesis and its exotic cocktail of performance-enhancing drugs, but the commissioner wanted Rodriguez.
In a sport where the taint of PEDs and steroids has left a permanent imprint, Selig needed to take a heavy hand to those men who disregarded the game’s drug policy, but he also seemed bent on doing what he didn’t do with the first wave of PED users: exact revenge.
And what Selig did was pure revenge — revenge for all the ballplayers before Rodriguez who had sullied the game forever. Selig needed a scapegoat and found one in Alex Rodriguez, the least sympathetic character around.
No one can doubt that his profile is high; no one can doubt that Rodriguez has done little, despite his enormous talent, to endear himself to baseball fans. He is all that is bad about a professional athlete. He is a phony; he is self-absorbed; and he is, we now know, a liar.
Pete Rose, a man with his own baseball skeletons, had advised Rodriguez and the other ballplayers Selig suspended to confess their wrongdoings and beg for mercy. Nobody heeded Rose’s advice.
In this era of PEDs and steroids, few athletes have been forthright about gaming the rules. Most of the big names in Major League Baseball – athletes like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire – have remained silent or fought the allegations all the way through the courts.
But the “Steroids Era” was well on its way before Selig, the man who lords over the game like Bozo the Clown, acted. He saw the era unfold throughout the ’90s and did nothing until the summer of 1998 to make fans wake up and take notice. Homers were flying out of ballparks as if tied to drones and Rodriguez was hitting them as far and as often as almost anybody else.
Use of PEDs isn’t as naked now as it was in the 1990s, but they aren’t as easily detected now as they were then. Companies like Biogenesis, a wellness clinic in South Florida, traffic in products that give a ballplayer an edge. Its clients might have gotten away with using them had Anthony Bosch, the company president, not sang to Selig like a songbird.
At some point, Selig had to take action. He slapped around some lesser names; all will retain fat contracts that will pay them next season. Rodriguez, though, will lose more than $35 million during his 211-game suspension if his appeal fails.
Yet what Selig did to the unrepentant Rodriguez wasn’t about the millions. Baseball can afford inflated contracts like Rodriguez’s. But his suspension was revenge for the sins of others, a Mike Tyson blow to the solar plexus for all the years Selig endured widespread PED use.
Someone had to pay for what happened to Major League Baseball, its sacred records and its integrity. It now is obvious that “the someone” is Alex Rodriguez. Who better for Selig to give that role to than a star nobody likes?
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