Saturday, February 07, 2009

Zen Dayley: Get out the A-Roid headlines and try not to learn anything

One can still look at Alex Rodriguez the same way one did 24 hours ago and believe everything in Sports Illustrated.

He is a pawn in a political game. The real subtext is deeper than a three-time MVP, the shining beacon, the one who said, "we're in a non-trusting era with the fans," being outed as a 'roidoid.

Major League Baseball has had its towline cut today in terms of management-union relations and terms of trust between MLB and union, players and fans, any two entities you want to name. The testing where Rodriguez was nailed was supposed to be anonymous, except for the part where he was tipped off by his union. ("I knew it wasn't anonymous," ex-Jay David Segui said on MLB Home Plate this morning.) It does no good to get hung up on why Rodriguez's name was the first of the 104 who tested positive to get out. Go ask Ben Johnson about being that big skin on the wall.

This will have ramifications in what yours truly jokingly calls the Labour War of 2012. Marvin Miller, back in early 2005, said MLB was risking losing the players' trust permanently. The union might have lost some players. Miller was right all along, just like Jose Canseco. As well, John Brattain points out that the players' agents are villains in this for looking out for the almighty buck and throwing due process to the wind.

On another level, you might want to focus on Rodriguez as villain. He's going to get booed with great gusto, as well he should. Please bear in mind Major League Baseball has handled the steroids problem by selling out its athletes in ones and twos, while the enablers, the agents and owners, get off scott-free. It's such a cynical hand-washing exercise by the moneymen that it has to be rationalized away, unless you're of a mind that stupid reality should never intrude on your sports-following (not entirely unreasonable, given the state of the world).

It beats playing the I-knew-it-I-knew-it-I-knew-it game, or wondering who will be the next big name to suffer a takedown. To be completely honest, the reflexive stance for a baseball nut which has evolved over the past 10 years is just to assume everyone is kinda suspect, the same way you're cool with your favourite authors, actors and musicians are wasted, wired, stoned, bombed, hammered, smashed and shitfaced.

The question I have for everyone, have always had, is why people look at sports differently than other forms of entertainment.

It's too funny to sit here listening to XM Radio, hearing host Casey Stern on MLB Home Plate citing Rodriguez' 60 Minutes interview with Katie Couric, where he said he did not feel he needed steroids to be a better ballplayer. It was a soft focus piece on a commercial network, barely a step up from the stage-managed pieces on Entertainment Tonight. It was, in Earl McRae's phrase, "disco journalism," indicative of sweet FA.

However, it all comes back to the word "trust." People, to put a twist on one of the late Jack Buck's iconic calls, want to believe what they just saw.

You can lose yourself in fiction, but sports still has to be seen as legitimate. There is probably no getting past that in our lifetimes. The view has hardened that Henry Aaron is the clean home run champion. Aaron hit 755 home runs legitimately, while Barry Bonds hit 762 semi-illegitimately, even though in Hammerin' Hank's case, to quote Mike Wilner from a few days ago, "From about the 1950s, maybe earlier, until last year PRETTY MUCH EVERY PLAYER IN THE MAJOR LEAGUES WAS ON SPEED. Sorry, that's just the way it was."

Rodriguez was supposed to be the one who would reclaim the record for the good guys. Well, sorry, that's a kindergarten view of the world. It ignores a lot of what has been going on for 15 years, as John notes.
"Everybody profited big time from this: Bud Selig makes almost $18 million a year, Don Fehr is among the wealthiest union leaders in the country, player agents like Scott Boras looked the other way and reaped obscene commissions off the players that injected themselves with these substances and there is no escaping it – the 'steroid boom' caused revenues to spike and this in turn showered money on all parties.

"The dollar will never fall as low as the means people will stoop to acquire it. Greed won the day and it wasn’t just the players that were responsible – they had a lot of accomplices."
At least Rodriguez and his handlers can keep this at an arm's length than others have. They have learned from Roger Clemens' legendarily bad example how to conduct a defence in the court of public opinion. He'll be booed in every ballpark he visits, except the new Yankee Stadium. You want it make this about Alex Rodriguez alone, fair enough, but it is not. Look at the guys who get to play forever, because it's their ball.

Sources tell SI Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003 (Selena Roberts and David Epstein,

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