The season-long suspension of New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez for the use of performance-enhancing drugs is both gratifying — and sad.
It is reassuring to see Major League Baseball, which initially turned a blind eye to widespread doping, act forcefully to protect the integrity of the game.
The ruling by baseball’s chief arbitrator does cut the 211-game suspension Commissioner Bud Selig imposed on Rodriguez last year. Nevertheless, it still stands as the longest drug-related suspension yet. Rodriguez maintains he is innocent and filed suit in federal court on Monday, but his prospects are not promising.
The 13 other players tied to the South Florida clinic that allegedly provided them performance-enhancing drugs all accepted their suspensions and did not deny using drugs.
On “60 Minutes” Sunday, clinic founder Anthony Bosch described developing an extensive drug-use protocol for Rodriguez and even personally giving him injections.
“60 Minutes” reported it had more than 500 BlackBerry messages between Bosch and Rodriguez, many of which seemed to refer to drug use. Rodriguez’s attorney insists they concern nutrition.
Bosch does indeed appear to be a shady character, but that only makes Rodriguez’s claims more suspect. Why would the highest-paid player in baseball go to such an individual for nutritional advice?
The scandal represents a devastating blow to Rodriguez’s reputation and legacy.
In 2009 at a news conference at the Yankees’ Tampa complex, he said he took the drugs in the early 2000s because he was “immature and stupid.” The 38-year-old can make no such excuse now.
Bosch told “60 Minutes” Rodriguez wanted the drugs to help him hit 800 home runs, a feat no MLB player has accomplished. But the widespread use of steroid and other drugs has devalued many of baseball’s hallowed records. Now, like Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa and others, all of Rodriguez’s mighty accomplishments will be forever tarnished.
Things could have been much different.
We admired Rodriguez’s acknowledgment in 2005 that he saw a therapist to help him deal with emotional scars, such as the abandonment of his family by his father. His openness showed kids there was nothing weak about seeking counseling.
It’s unfortunate he did not similarly commit himself to showing youngsters how to respond to the pitfalls of being “immature and stupid” — and the importance of fair play both on and off the field.
Instead, Rodriguez looks to have tried to shortcut his way into the record book. Nobody will find inspiration in his example.