Et Tu A-Rod?

Baseball’s latest steroid revelation now fingering the Yankee’s Alex Rodriguez leaves me with a lot of questions. Such as: Why only A-Rod? Who else is on the list of 104 players who allegedly tested positive for steroids in 2003? Who leaked the details of the test results to Sports Illustrated and why? Why weren’t the test results destroyed when ballplayers were promised absolute anonymity? Are the Feds to blame? They are ones who seized urine samples and documents in 2004 from the testing labs in pursuit of the BALCO case. When does the steroid witch-hunt end?

I could go on. There are dozens of unanswered questions. And I’m sure we’ll never get a straight answer to any of them. The point is there is no way to know for sure about anyone or anything regarding steroid use in major league baseball. Its all speculation and innuendo. All we do know is that players used steroids. We don’t know how many used and we don’t know when they used. That’s all we know – that’s all we’re likely to know.

Here’s one question that baseball historians will surely be uncomfortable with and likely dismiss without much consideration – But I ask it to make a point that I hope will cause you to pause and think: Why are we so sure that former single season home run champion Roger Maris never used steroids when in fact steroids were indeed available in 1961? Why are we so sure that Maris never used steroids when in fact he only hit 275 career home runs and only hit more than 30 home runs 3 times in his career (all in a statistically unusual three-year period including the record setting season in which he hit 61)? Baseball dealt with Maris’ statistical aberration by granting him an asterisk for the home run record, and never voting him into the Hall of Fame.

I bring up Maris as red-flag waving example of how unproven speculation can lead to innuendo and character assassination. That’s what’s going on now. A-Rod has had quite a few huge statistical seasons and remains the odds on favorite to eventually eclipse Barry Bonds all-time home-run record. But until yesterday very few people publicly speculated that A-Rod was a steroid user. Most believed that he was the savior in waiting who would one day erase the “stain” of Bonds. Now based on unnamed sources and test results that we will likely never have confirmation about, A-Rod takes a very public fall. But what have we gained? What do we really know? Nothing.

We’ll never know for sure about Roger Maris and others from his era because there was no testing back then. And there was also no suspicion. But we’ll also never know when baseball’s so-called steroid era really began. Did it begin when the first group of players began hitting more than 50 home runs on a regular basis? Did it begin when an increasing number of pitchers began throwing more than 98 miles per hour? Did it begin at some point after the development and approval of the first steroid drugs in the 1950s?

I’m not defending the use of steroids or other performance enhancing drugs in any way. But this witch-hunt has gone on for far too long. Not one thing has truly been accomplished. Only fingers have been pointed. And only at a select few individuals. There is a level of hypocrisy about this that is shameful. I say let’s grant all the players past and present blanket amnesty for indiscretions involving performance enhancing drugs up to today, and move forward from here. Without amnesty everyone loses, Baseball most of all.

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