I am a Red Sox fan. Besides certain historic events in 2004 and 2007, there was probably no greater moment for me than when news broke that A-Rod tested positive for steroids in 2003. (In case you don’t recall, that was the year the Red Sox were supposed to win the World Series.) I knew the Yankees were going to have a tough year ahead of them with Madonna in the stands, but this? I never expected this to emerge … so soon.
And then I thought about it. And now I am creased.
To be honest, I am not upset about what A-Rod’s steroid use means for the record books. I don’t care that he remains the most overpaid player in the game. I can say I am relieved he never played for Boston. What has me riled is what this means for the players who are clean. And yes, I do believe there are some out there. I am angry that A-Rod’s steroid use has impacted the contracts of the players who didn’t cave to the pressure, who didn’t wager their health and reputation for a bigger paycheck, who played fair.
When I saw A-Rod’s cheesy interview with Peter Gammons I was reminded of a certain GQ story published back in 2000 featuring the league’s best shortstops in the game: Nomar, Jeter and A-Rod. I know the cover well – I hung it on my wall for the entire baseball season. At the time, Nomar had the lowest salary of the three and was playing for the bargain price of about $3.7 million. And in my biased opinion, he was the best of the three. The next year A-Rod would sign with the Rangers for $22 million a season – about $10 million more than Jeter, and nearly double what Nomar was bringing in.
Now, if you don’t think that caused some friction between Nomar and the Red Sox front office you are delusional. I would guess executives at the top compared his run production to A-Rod’s and explained the disparity in paycheck accordingly. We now have learned that A-Rod admits to using steroids during that interval. I am willing to bet you Nomar threw up a little in his mouth after hearing the news.
I will admit. I don’t know if Nomar truly wanted to stay in Boston. I don’t know if he felt undervalued by the front office. I don’t know if his paycheck was his biggest issue with the team. All I know is that I was devastated when he was traded and I would have loved for him to have been on the field celebrating in 2004. I hold A-Rod – at least partially -to blame for hijacking this possibility.
I understand that it is not just A-Rod who is spoiling the game. It’s all of the players who lie to themselves and their teammates and their fans. Their numbers taint the record books. And their false denials taint every player in the game’s reputation. All are suspect.
For the rest of the 103 players who tested positive for steroids, know that your time will come. And for the remaining clean players in the game – I would argue that a lawsuit to release the names of positive players is in order. Your paychecks and reputations depend on it. Only after the names are released can baseball begin to purge the clubhouses of illegal substances. Only then can player contracts be fair.