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LOVERRO: Baseball’s steroid era steeped in myths and lies
The damage from the steroid era is still being felt in baseball. It manifested itself this weekend when one of seemingly the greatest players in modern baseball history — Alex Rodriguez — lost his battle against baseball in the Biogenesis case, suspended for a full season by an arbitrator.
A-Rod, already an admitted performance-enhancing drug user in a 2009 confession, is a two-time loser now, probably baseball’s biggest pariah who continued to cheat even after baseball imposed stricter drug testing.
His 654 home runs, his 1,969 RBI, his 14 All Star appearances — all devalued in disgrace.
Coming on the heels of the debate over Hall of Fame voting, and the failure of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and others to garner much support on the ballot, the A-Rod suspension is either the height or the depth of a tarnished era, depending on your point of view.
Point of view is part of the poisonous residue left behind from the steroid era, because many of those views from a generation of baseball fans are steeped in myths and lies.
Baseball owners wanted steroids. They ignored the problem and were gleeful that players were using steroids to inflate outrageous numbers.
That’s about as true as Sammy Sosa’s 609 career home runs.
The facts are that baseball owners wanted stricter drug testing as far back as 1994 — four years before the “Summer of ‘98” that people believe saved baseball. They pushed for it in negotiations with the players’ union, but were rebuffed. Given that the game went on strike in 1994 and the World Series and postseason was cancelled, it was not a battle that the owners were going to go to the mattresses for.
This was still a time when the players’ union was powerful enough to tell the owners to take their specimen cups and put them where the sun doesn’t shine.
Former pitcher David Cone, one of the key members of the players’ union during the 1994 strike, told reporters in 2008 that he felt guilty about the union’s role in the steroid era. “Certainly in retrospect, I think there’s plenty of blame to go around,” he said. “Certainly I share some of that blame as being involved with the players’ association at that time. It’s something I’m not proud of. It’s humbling. It’s embarrassing.”
The players’ union finally agreed to stricter testing when it found its members dragged before Congress and shamed on national television, putting some at risk for perjury.
Another lie: steroids saved baseball. The home run battle between Sosa and Mark McGwire in 1998, vying to break Roger Maris’ single season home run mark of 61, brought fans back to the game, and steroids put behinds in the seats.
That’s as true as Rafael Palmeiro shaking his finger and declaring, “I have never used steroids. Period.”
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
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