By Mike Wise
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Alex Rodriguez shouldn't have to play the shame game alone. Expose them all, every last testosterone-infused baseball player wielding a bat or winding up for his delivery six years ago.
Release every name on every bottle of steroid-tainted urine, because that's the only way a complicit sport will ever have closure.
We have to know everyone who cheated the game, or as many as we can. We have to know who stole untold millions and fame from their clean peers, who sullied baseball and who didn't. To not do so would be to cheat the real victim of the performance-enhancing drug era in the game: the career minor leaguer, the real-life Crash Davis.
We shouldn't let Rodriguez squirm alone on camera, as he did yesterday while admitting his use of steroids in a tidy, little telenova with ESPN's Peter Gammons. A-Rod is not merely as guilty as Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens; he's as guilty as every utility infielder now selling mobile homes in Bozeman or Orlando, players whose names we don't care about because they didn't have a dalliance with Madonna or a bona fide relationship with history and Henry Aaron's authentic records.
This is what the celebrity-obsessed among us don't get: The offense perpetrated by the anonymous major leaguer is actually more damaging than that of Clemens, Bonds or A-Rod. See, the moment that player punctured a syringe in his buttocks -- or ingested a special pill, or massaged himself with a cream given him to him by a shady chemist -- his warped rationalization didn't involve keeping up with the bulging-necked Joneses of his sport; the guy on the Triple-A fence who tested positive in 2003 was a premeditated dream-killer who robbed genuine workers of their stated goal, to someday play in the big leagues.
Performance-enhancing drugs are not merely wrong because they helped Bonds and Clemens taint the game's annals; they're criminal because of how they hurt the career minor leaguer, the guy who chose correctly between right and wrong. Unlike a Jason Grimsley, he picked fair competition and the real risks of health over the spoils of fame and riches gained by an unfair advantage -- and he still lost. He knew what human growth hormone could do to his warning-track power and a first-to-third speed that was never going to advance him beyond a Toledo Mud Hens lineup card. He still decided against cheating himself and the game, and this is what he gets:
A truckload of baseball apologists who think enough is enough.
For that player, and for that matter the next generation of players who have the same dream, it's paramount that everyone on that list be exposed, that Rodriguez is not the only player who has to bear the "A-Fraud" burden.
It was beyond surprising to read my colleague Tom Boswell's plea for continued secrecy in yesterday's paper, the idea that 103 more players who tested positive in 2003 with A-Rod shouldn't have their names disclosed because it's beating a dead horse. Boswell has more genuine affinity for the game than anyone I know. He actually had the courage to write the words "Jose Canseco Milkshake" at a time many baseball writers looked the other way at the growing muscleheads in their clubhouses. But his lead paragraph from yesterday's column, "Now that the witches with the longest broomsticks have been burned, can we please call off the rest of the hunt?" deserves a response.
No, Boz, we can't.
Baseball or the federal government, which seized the list, should release the names of every player who tested positive for a banned substance in 2003, if for no reason than it would clear the names of more than 600 major league players who refused to sully the game or themselves that year.
The notion that a whole generation of players must have aspersions cast on their careers because a known number of their workforce at the time, in fact, did test positive is just plain wrong-headed.
As much as the 2005 congressional hearings on baseball embarrassed union chief Donald Fehr and Commissioner Bud Selig to come up with more stringent testing, President Obama is right in suggesting Capitol Hill shift its focus to more pressing national matters.
But if we have genuinely embarked on a new era of personal responsibility in this country, why not start with outing the people who morally and financially hijacked the grand old game? Why not go after the players so insecure about their own legacies or ability to stay in the game they had to seize the dream from others?
Rodriguez, in full confession mode, admitted he was under an "enormous amount of pressure" when he signed his record-breaking contract with the Texas Rangers. He said to Gammons, "I was young. I was stupid. I was naive," and that he "wanted to prove to everyone I was worth being one of the greatest players of all time."
To his credit, he never came down on the players union for not destroying the test results in accordance with the testing rules at the time.
Too often in this world we choose professional ethics over genuine, real-life ethics.
Enough is enough.
Release the names, all 104 of them.
It's not about meting out more justice and shame, so we can type "A-Roid" and "A-R*d" and continue to treat Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire like pariahs.
No, it's so we can clear the names of those who deserve to have everyone know they didn't fall prey to cheating's addictive lure, to the syringes, the pills and the millions they promised to bring.