By Michael Parente
At the risk of offending everything and everyone associated with the city of Boston, from Marathon bombing victims, to Whitey Bulger, to incoming mayor Marty Walsh, allow me to break from Major League Baseball’s regularly-scheduled Alex Rodriguez witch-hunt to focus on someone more relevant.
In its haste to rid the sport of performance-enhancing drugs and the cheaters associated with said drugs, MLB is putting all its eggs in the wrong basket, going through great lengths – some illegal – to erase Rodriguez from its memory when it should be targeting the player who arguably had the biggest impact on the outcome of this past season.
At 37 years old with a surgically-repaired hip and a batting average rapidly plummeting toward Steve Balboni territory, Rodriguez hasn’t been relevant since the inception of the iPhone. A-Rod hasn’t even played a full season since 2005, yet commissioner Bud Selig continues to pour millions into the public humiliation of a player who, by the way, has already admitted he used steroids while another well-known player who failed MLB’s supposedly anonymous survey test 11 years ago is currently touring the late-night talk show circuit yucking it up with David Letterman as if he was running for president.
You’d think MLB would cast its judgmental glance at the player who just batted .688 in the World Series with a retarded 1.948 OPS and single-handedly sent St. Louis home for the winter, but, no, David Ortiz is instead America’s hero, one of the few players in this generation who’s gotten away with being linked to steroid use without so much as having to make an uncomfortable court appearance or serve even the most delicate of suspensions.
When Ortiz’s name surfaced on MLB’s list of players who failed its 2003 survey test, Ortiz feigned ignorance, claimed he drank a tainted protein shake in the Dominican Republic and then went along his merry way for the next decade, which included an epic performance in 2006 in which he led the league in home runs (54) and runs batted in (137). Major League Baseball, presumably satisfied with Ortiz’s half-assed explanation, dropped the case, even as Ortiz began to break down and deteriorate right around the same time everyone else linked to steroid use began their inevitable decline. Things got so bad for Ortiz in 2010 that then-manager Terry Francona began pinch-hitting for “Big Papi” in key spots during regular-season games, an unheard-of precedent for a player who just five years prior to that was given a fake trophy at Fenway Park for being “the greatest clutch hitter in the history of the Boston Red Sox.”
You could call me a hypocrite for unleashing my own convenient witch-hunt on Ortiz, but I’d prefer to liken it to calling a spade a spade. Just about everyone whose name has popped up on a list of steroid cheats, drug users or players associated with shady, underground drug dealers, has turned out to be guilty of the accused crime, whether it’s guys like Ryan Braun, who lied through his teeth until he got caught again, or an otherwise decent guy like Andy Pettitte, who didn’t admit his drug use until he got caught.
I’d even go as far as to say 75 to 80 percent of the players on these lists – the Mitchell Report, Victor Conte’s black book, whatever – have been guilty, and that’s probably a generous, low-ball estimate. Do we really think Ortiz is part of the minority victimized by some technicality? The same Ortiz who just cranked out a slash line of .309/.395/.564 at the age of 37 after being left for dead riding the pine on Francona’s bench three years ago?
At the end of the day, our opinions and who we decide to implicate in the court of public opinion doesn’t matter, but we should be disturbed that Major League Baseball would knowingly purchase illegal documents and go to such great lengths to make an example out of one player – an irrelevant, broken-down player who hasn’t hit more than 18 home runs in three years – when there are far more egregious examples of malfeasance right before our eyes. You can find one of them on Conan O’Brien’s couch fist-bumping Andy Richter.
If we care about the game – and, let’s be honest, most of us don’t beyond rooting for our favorite team – we should demand Major League Baseball go after the players who are currently making the biggest impact on the game as we know it, not going back in time to retroactively punish players who’ve long since faded into oblivion or further trying to bury those who’ve already admitted wrongdoing. As usual, Selig’s efforts to clean up the game are disingenuous at best. His one-man war against A-Rod is nothing more than a glorified resume-builder, an effort to put one more feather in his cap so he can walk away from his post as commissioner in 2015 as the one who snuffed out the greatest player of our generation.
The only problem is Selig will – and should – be remembered by most rational fans as the one who let this get out of hand in the first place, way back during baseball’s halcyon days when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were circle-jerking one another into the record books. The random, in-season blood testing is a nice touch, but it’s way past too late for Selig to close the barn door.
With a chance to cut the real cheaters off at the knees, MLB is once again dropping the ball, instead investing its time and money into desecrating the graves of past greats. The only thing more disturbing than baseball’s ill-advised witch-hunt is the lack of outrage among the fans who’ve demanded change for the past 10 years. This Bud is not for you.
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