Why A-Rod Is the Face of the Steroid Era

August 5, 2013

MLB suspended Alex Rodriguez through the 2014 season Monday.

On Monday, MLB suspended 13 players for their relationship to Biogenesis of America, a defunct anti-aging clinic in Florida accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs. While 12 offenders received 50-game suspensions, Alex Rodriguez was banned through the 2014 season, starting Thursday. He is expected to appeal. MLB suspended him for the use and possession of PEDs and “for attempting to cover up his violations of the program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the office of the commissioner’s investigation.”

Rodriguez isn’t the first superstar to be linked to performance-enhancing drugs. Seven-time MVP Barry Bonds and seven-time Cy Young winner Roger Clemens didn’t come close to making the Hall of Fame this year — their first time on the ballot — because of their association to steroids. But while Bonds and Clemens — along with many other tainted stars — exemplify the steroid era, Alex Rodriguez is the face of baseball’s recent dark period. Here’s why.

The Penalty

Many of the most notable PED offenders avoided suspension because they were out of baseball before MLB implemented harsher drug testing and more severe penalties. On Monday, the league handed Rodriguez an unprecedented suspension, banning the Yankees third baseman through the end of the 2014 season for a total of 211 games. Bonds and Clemens were dragged through the courts for perjury trials, but they weren’t banned by MLB during their careers. Among baseball’s notorious penalties, Rodriguez’s may follow only Pete Rose’s lifelong ban and the Black Sox scandal.

Love to Hate

Yes, the home run record is ruined. But at least there was a time when the play of Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa captivated the nation (as naive as fans might have been back then). But what positive memory comes to mind with Rodriguez? The former No. 1 pick has a personality that has never appealed to fans, and he’s better known for his contract figures than for his stats. Playing next to the beloved Derek Jeter on the left side of the infield in New York hasn’t helped Rodriguez’s image either. The Yankees third baseman has become an easy villain.

Repeat Offender

Back when he was first caught using PEDs, Rodriguez told ESPN’s Peter Gammons, “I was young, I was stupid, I was naive and I wanted to prove to everyone that I was worth, you know, being one of the greatest players of all time. And I did take a banned substance. For that, I’m very sorry and deeply regretful.” Now he’s 38 years old. What’s his excuse going to be this time? It’s one thing to get caught once, but a repeat offender is much harder to forgive or forget. Any credibility Rodriguez may have gained from his 2009 admission is lost with these latest revelations.

All-PED team

Here’s a list of the best players at each position who have tested positive, admitted use or have been linked in some way to PEDs.
SP Roger Clemens: The seven-time Cy Young winner was listed in the 2007 Mitchell report and was accused of using PEDs by former trainer Brian McNamee.
CL Eric Gagne: The 2003 NL Cy Young winner admitted using PEDs.
C Benito Santiago: He admitted using drugs from BALCO during a grand jury testimony.
1B Mark McGwire: The 12-time All-Star came clean in 2010, admitting to using steroids when he broke the home run record in 1998.
2B Chuck Knoblauch: He was listed in the Mitchell report and linked to trainer Brian McNamee.
3B Alex Rodriguez: The three-time MVP admitted using PEDs from 2001 to 2003.
SS Miguel Tejada: The 2005 MVP pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about the use of PEDs.
OF Barry Bonds: The home run king was listed in the Mitchell report and linked to BALCO. He was convicted of obstruction of justice regarding the use of steroids.
OF Sammy Sosa: The seven-time All-Star tested positive for steroids in 2003, according to a 2009 report by The New York Times. In 2005, Sosa testified before Congress that he never took PEDs.
OF Manny Ramirez: The former batting champ served a 50-game ban in 2009 and received a 100-game suspension in 2011.
DH Rafael Palmeiro: The slugger tested positive for steroids and was suspended for 10 games in 2005.

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Rick Snider · August 5, 2013