Steroids Wonít Tarnish A-Rodís Legacy

Alex Rodriguez is already one of the most hated players in baseball. It started when he left Seattle for a $252 million contract in Texas. It only escalated when he went to the Evil Empire in New York, and three years later cashed in for $275 million contract after opting out of the first contract. But for the longest time, Alex Rodriguez was also still the shining hope in baseball to restore order to a tainted home run record, which he was and still in easily on pace to shatter. That is, until Feb. 7, 2009, when Sports Illustrated reporter Selena Roberts flipped Major League Baseballís world upside-down, after coming across sources that confirmed Rodriguez was one of 104 player to have failed drug tests in 2003, while still a member of the Texas Rangers. Less than two days later, Rodriguez came clean, admitting to Performance Enhancing drug use from 2001 through 2003. Call me an A-Rod apologist, but because of Rodriguez coming clean, when he breaks the All-time home run record, Major League Baseball is going to better off because of it, and unlike Bonds, there will be no asterisk required. Nor does he deserve to be grilled by the media or fans as the likes of Bonds or Clemens, whose vehement denial of performance enhancing drug use despite overwhelming evidence is a black eye on the game. Now, as we look at those players who even three years ago were sure fire Hall of Famers and heroes, how do we view their careers now? Itís more about the steroid use now, itís about not being truthful with baseball and the fans, and because we donít know exactly when they were abusing drugs, how can we judge their careers fairly? For example, Jason Giambi was never a sure fire Hall-of-Famer, but during his period of drug use, breaking out with Oakland, he was one of the best players in baseball, including bringing home the MVP before going to New York. When his steroid use was revealed during the BALCO investigation, Giambi came clean. It took a few years, and obviously he was never the same baseball player, but heís been a productive player and it almost seems like everybody has forgotten that he abused steroids. Barry Bonds, who now not only holds the most prestigious record in baseball, but perhaps in American sports, is viewed as a villain. In addition to his denial of his use of performance enhancing drugs, his character as a person and player among other things are now being brought out into the open, and Bondsí entire career legacy is ruined because of it. Unfortunately for him, no matter what, even if he came clean, his legacy would be tarnished. He wouldnít have broken the all-time home run record without using steroids, and used them during the tail end of his career for the sole purpose of boosting his career numbers, and to not be out done by players such as McGwire, Sosa, Griffey, or even A-Rod. To avoid being hypocritical on the subject, we have to look back on an interview Rodriguez did on CBSí 60 Minutes with Katie Couric. When asked if he had ever done, or even had temptations to use PEDs, Rodriguez said with a stern expression on his face and said ďNo.Ē Later explained to ESPNís Peter Gammons, A-Rod took a few different angles on this. While admitting he was naÔve and stupid in Texas, he also believed he was just going along with the loose culture in Texas, and didnít ask the right questions in finding out if what he was doing really was, or wasnít acceptable. He also flat out admitted that he ďwasnít being honest with himself at the time.Ē The true test of his character would have been if this hadnít come out at all. If he hadnít had failed that test in 2003, would we ever know? Maybe. Probably not. But the true difference here is when confronted with significant evidence, Rodriguez chose to get it off of his chest. Again, call me an A-Rod apologist if you will, but with or without the three years of steroid use, Rodriguez was going to break this record anyway. Before arriving in Texas it was abundantly clear that if he remained healthy and on the torrid pace that his first five full seasons in Seattle indicated, he had a chance at the prestigious record. Largely maintaining the 190 pounds he had coming into the league after being drafted number one overall in 1993, Rodriguez broke out in 1996 with a 36 home run season. Other than the 1997 season where he posted modest numbers of 23 home runs and 84 runs batted in when he batted second in the stacked Mariners line-up, he put up 40-plus home runs in each of his last three seasons, one and a half of those in pitcher-friendly Safeco Field. Itís hard to ignore the spike of numbers when he got to Arlington. He never hit less than 50 home runs. But could we possibly attribute something else to that or was it really the performance enhancing drugs? He only missed one game in his entire three year run in Texas, compared to only one season in Seattle where he played more than 150 games, as well as playing in Texas where he played in what is widely considered one of the best hitterís parks in baseball. Throughout his last four seasons as a Yankee, Rodriguez has won two MVPs, and in 2007 had what Rodriguez claims as the best season in his career with 54 home runs. He played half of his games in Yankee Stadium, which is far from friendly for right handed power hitters, and getting 600 at-bats in only his first two seasons in New York, compared to all three seasons in Texas where he had at least 607 at-bats. So the question begs to be asked, how much did Rodriguez really need the steroids? Donít get me wrong, Iím not trying to make excuses for A-Rod. What he did was wrong, and is disappointing in the sense that baseballís golden boy isnít so golden anymore. But, with or without steroids, Alex Rodriguez was going to break the all-time home run record by my estimation. Does this vindicate him for his mistakes? No. Rodriguez will now always have the stigma of steroids on him, especially when heís close to gunning down Bondsí record. There will surely be cries for asterisks and opposing fans making creative signs and chants for A-Rod of being a cheater. But letís be real. Rodriguez is still going to be baseballís golden boy, and because of him stepping up to the plate and admitting his wrong doings, the game will be able to move forward and the right player will have the sportís most prestigious record.