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Thomas Boswell: Rodriguez Faces Search for Truth

Alex Rodriguez couldn't escape reminders of Madonna last year.
Alex Rodriguez couldn't escape reminders of Madonna last year. (By Adrian Wyld -- Canadian Press Via Associated Press)
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By Thomas Boswell
Monday, February 9, 2009

Now that the witches with the longest broomsticks have been burned, can we please call off the rest of the hunt?

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Or do we need to expose the other 103 baseball players, in addition to Alex Rodriguez, who allegedly failed steroid tests -- six years ago?

Until we hang every investment banker, until we unseat everybody who pimped for sub-prime loans, until we force into the street every citizen who lied on a mortgage application, I say we've pilloried enough ballplayers to make the point that, when a sport says, "This is cheating," you shouldn't do it.

Underneath the big contracts and a defaced Hall of Fame and a record book that will forever be a bowl of stat spaghetti, that's what this was about: Just don't cheat.

But if you do, and get caught, don't lie. And if you do cheat and you do lie, then at some point tell the truth. Then, if you're lucky, you may get a semi-fresh start, like Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte. Confession may or may not be good for the soul. But it is definitely good career strategy.

Is there a cutoff point for outrage over pro games? Is there a moment when we say, "That's enough." Maybe not. But turning Alex Rodriguez into A-R*d seems sufficient.

The report by SI.com that Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in '03, while playing for the Texas Rangers, feels like the beginning of a final act, the culmination of more than 20 years of baseball dirt.

It's been an interminably long road. In '88, Fenway Park fans chanted "steroids, steroids" at Jose Canseco, an embarrassment baseball chose to ignore for more than a decade. Steroids? No steroids here. So, the epidemic metastasized until the greatest stars became toxic assets.

Now, 21 years later, the last of the superstars that Canseco claims to have taught how to juice or, in A-Rod's case, introduced to a trainer/steroid-supplier, has been tarnished beyond recognition. "A-Fraud," the term former manager Joe Torre says Yankees teammates use to describe Rodriguez, now has a whole new spin. With the last of Jose's chemistry class unmasked, are we entering the last chapter?

Sometimes, we need to step back and apply common sense. In three weeks, Barry Bonds goes on trial for perjury. Roger Clemens is being investigated by a federal grand jury. And Rodriguez now faces nine more years in a contract that may make the new Yankee Stadium feel more like Rikers Island. With good behavior, he's out in '18.

And spring training starts Saturday. Yes, perfect baseball timing. We get it. The game was very, very bad. For many years nobody in the sport cared who cheated. So, many did. For deals of up to $250 million, would any group of humans in history stay totally clean, just to play a game by its stated, but completely unenforced, rules? Of course not.

Even for those of us who thought the steroid era was terrible for the long-term health of players, unfair to those like Hank Aaron who set records within the rules and an awful example of public hypocrisy, enough is enough. Baseball should continue to push for the toughest possible drug testing rules. Catch all you can. Leave the rest alone.

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