Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
February 10, 2009

Ben wrote largely the point I was going to make on A-Rod: he's probably the straw that breaks the camel's back as far as being able to point fingers at individual steroid users rather than just throw your hands up at the culture of the era. Which is, of course, great news for Bonds and McGwire.

To use a political analogy, it was one thing when Douglas Ginsburg could be bounced from his nomination to the Supreme Court (where Judge Ginsburg would have been a fine Justice, BTW) because he smoked pot; it was a political flap but not fatal when Bill Clinton finally admitted smoking pot, but really by the time of Clinton it was more about whether he'd been honest about it, and by then, Clarence Thomas was already on the Supreme Court having admitted to smoking pot. And then, we found out that Newt Gingrich had smoked pot, and Al Gore had smoked pot, and George W. Bush wouldn't even tell us what he'd done, and by 2008 we elected a President who admitted using cocaine and it wasn't even an issue, and there was even serious talk about hiring a guy to run a federal agency who'd been busted for heroin.

And the same defining-deviancy-down dynamic (in Pat Moynihan's words) is at issue here; we're about at the critical mass of MVPs and Cy Young winners with a steroid asterisk next to their names that we don't even notice the asterisk anymore, just as we have stopped even mentally discounting all the records set since the 162 game schedule's arrival in 1961. The story will get more play for a while, since A-Rod is still active, hugely unpopular, plays in the game's biggest media market and was dishonest about it to boot; but we'll probably look back and see that he was the moment when, behind the noise, we stopped really caring who took steroids and who didn't.

UPDATE: Looks like federal prosecutors are not among those who don't care, as they are charging Miguel Tejada with perjury for lying to Congress about steroids.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:35 PM | Baseball 2009 • | Politics 2009 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)

I think the more interesting part of this story is the man himself; I posted this afternoon on a fascinating (and sad) A-Rod anecdote posted by longtime Mariner beat writer Larry LaRue, one that I think tells us a lot about who Alex Rodriguez is (and isn't). The thing that struck me is--what Barack Obama is in politics (or was on January 20, anyway), A-Rod once was in baseball: the Golden Boy who can do no wrong. But once people decide you're a fake . . .

Posted by: The Ancient Mariner at February 10, 2009 2:05 PM

BTW, if you think Judge Ginsburg would have been a "fine justice," you must be basing that on pure ideology without any apparent awareness of his jursprudence.

Posted by: Magrooder at February 10, 2009 2:30 PM

Two things-1) Magrooder-Ginsburg has been a fine judge and would have been a "fine justice', since, as far as I know, he is still sitting and issuing good opinions from the second highest court in the land, for now over 20 years. 2) As far as I am concerned Aaron and Maris are still the real record holders of the single season and career HR records.

Posted by: dch at February 10, 2009 3:21 PM

dch - The home run record belongs to the guy who hits the most home runs. You're free to decide who's home runs are the most impressive (as people have been doing for decades) but it's not a record.

I think what will likely happen in the long run is people will draw a line in the sand between 2003 (when the steroid policy was still "Don't do steroids or we'll say don't do steroids again"), and 2004, when actual testing with consequnces began (which is why Palmiero is still screwed). I think ultimately, people will accept that from 1994-2003, steroids were part of the field on which the game was played.

Posted by: Jerry at February 10, 2009 6:18 PM

The part of the story that gets underplayed is the owners' and fans' and prosecutors' complicity. Talk of steroids in baseball had been bouncing around openly since the late 80's , and actual use extends back to the 70's to hear Tom House tell it. But you didnt see jack for prosecutions; it was a law that never got enforced like many laws on the books. Roid use was tactitly tolerated and although it was done behind the scenes people throughout the game at all levels knew what was going on. And yet the owners collected the record profits in 1998 as Mac and Sammy went at it, and fans came by the bushel to see the home runs, and people openly suspected ANDRO at a minimum was involved. The stuff only really hit the fan after that when members of Congress got on their high horse and started conducting investigations and threatening to remove the antitrust exemption. By golly the owners went from tactit approval to blaming the players overnight, but they tried to claim it was just Bonds and a few others. Well it was pretty much everyone, including pitchers' like clemens, which undermines the "its a few cheaters gaining advantage" meme. Bonds soared above his competition and played within the culture and traditions of his time; he hit homers versus pitchers on roids, as did ARod. Their greatness as ballplayers is not watered down in my opinion one iota. As men, that's another story.

Posted by: seth soothsayer at February 10, 2009 7:10 PM

Jerry,obviously Bonds owns both records officially, I am just giving my personal subjective opinion.

I just have a question how is Pete Rose still not allowed to be voted into HOF for his work as a player for his misconduct, as I understand it, as a manager? Was any of his betting alleged to occur while he was a player or player/manager. Also using the presumed Bonds argument, wasn't he a HOFamer before his alleged misconduct?

Posted by: dch at February 10, 2009 8:18 PM

By rule, if you are on the permanently inelligible list, you cannot be elected.

Posted by: Jerry at February 10, 2009 9:09 PM

I guess my question to those who want to put Maris and Aaron back on top (a group that includes Tony Kornheiser, who has openly called for Bud to do something in that vein), how exactly will you do that? I mean, are you going to get specific and disallow only some of Bonds's home runs? Only specific seasons? All of them? What about Sosa and Mac? Only those three? If they hit their home runs off a pitcher who is later "found" (whatever that means, I mean, that's a whole nother ball o' wax) to have been juicing, does the homer then count?

And why only homers? Are we rewriting the strikeout records? The hits, the RBIs, the rest? I'm sorry, I know it feels good emotionally to say "It'll always be Aaron in my heart" but officially, it'll never happen, nor should it. Let's not fix some potential cheating with what would assuredly be an arbitrary, half-assed "solution".

Posted by: Linus at February 11, 2009 12:26 AM

You're going with 2008 and a President using cocaine? I think you're off by 8 years.

Posted by: jim at February 11, 2009 12:01 PM


I'm not sure your 2003 dividing line works. A-Rod chose to "admit" to that time period likely for the reasons on which you make the distinction. As far as I'm concerned, until a player who used PEDs comes out and admits it BEFORE the story has already broken, none of these "confessors" are worthy of respect.

Let's assume the truth of the raionales being offered for A-Rod -- he just signed the huge contract and felt the need to prove himself worthy. Seems plausible to me. Wouldn't it stand to reason that at least the same level of pressure would be on him after the trade to NY? But, he didn't use then? I don't believe it.

Posted by: Magrooder at February 12, 2009 9:43 AM

I agree with you to a large extent on the Pete Rose HOF issue. In fact, I know the exact day he should be admitted. That is exactly one day after Joe Jackson is admitted.!
Bob K.

Posted by: Bob K. at February 12, 2009 10:22 AM

I said my bit on Rose and Jackson back in 2000. Not much has changed, other than the fact that we got confirmation in the intervening years of the scope of Rose's betting on his own team.

Posted by: Crank at February 12, 2009 10:28 AM
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