Tuesday, February 10, 2009

In which I defend Alex Rodriguez, once again

(Click to enlarge.)

Not too long ago, I found myself the unlikely defender of Alex Rodriguez. Alas, I must now selflessly shame my good name by doing it again. I'm a goddamn saint. (Oxymoron points! New tag.)

Very recently, as you may have heard, Chuck broke the news that A-Rod had used steroids. In the comments, I expressed my apparently stunning lack of exhilaration at A-Rod's misfortune. In the ensuing days, I've gotten a better grasp of my feelings.

As a die-hard Mets fan and die-hard yankee hater, it feels odd having to get someone like A-Rod's back. By all logic, I should hate him and, thus, be disinclined to defend him. But the sheer number of holier-than-thou pieces from the Daily News and Post (not to mention countless yankee-haters in the blogosphere and elsewhere online) brought to mind another thought: Why won't many of these Guardians of the Sacred Game ever offer the same vitriol toward players like notorious greenie freak Mike Schmidt? Or admitted spit-baller Gaylord Perry? Those guys are Hall of Famers. So amphetamines and illegal pitches are okay while steroids are the mark of the devil?

Part of me is also just tired of the whole steroids thing. Not that it's not a legitimate issue, but over the past several years we've heard about Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and countless other not-as-significant players in the steroids controversy. Those five players would be first-ballot Hall of Famers if not for the devil juice A-Rod injected. I'm not sure exactly how to judge Bonds and Clemens, who have vigorously fought steroid accusations, against A-Rod's confession, but as I said, I'm not sure if I want to devote much energy in the attempt.

What strikes me as maybe more outrageous and deceitful than A-Rod's using steroids is the disclosure of his test results. Where's Luke's hometown New York Times columnist Doug Glanville (whose mom, the esteemed Mrs. Glanville, did give LJT a D in Geometry in high school) had a particularly thoughtful article on this issue, made especially prevalent by his playing with A-Rod in Texas during the 2001-03 seasons when A-Rod has admitted using. Read that article, it's damn good. His point of view helped clear up my initial hesitation to jump on the fuck-A-Rod bandwagon.

To me, the fact that he used steroids was one thing; but the illegal and secretive leaking of (only) A-Rod's 2003 test was a major violation of privacy. When Major League Baseball and the Players Union agreed to those tests, it was based on the condition that the tests would be anonymous. It was a "survey" to find out if steroid usage was in fact rampant enough to warrant the proposed annual (public) testing and subsequent penalties. This was before the embarrassing McGwire ("I'm not here to talk about the past.") / Sosa ("I don't speak English.") / Palmeiro (finger-pointing, "I have never used steroids, period.") Congressional hearing. It was before the Mitchell Report, which outed Clemens. Point being, as Glanville wrote:
"If the tested players had known up front that the results were going to be made public (or that there was even a chance that they might be), not a single one would have agreed to cooperate, and it has very little to do with hiding anything. It has everything to do with privacy."
My next point may sound counterintuitive, having claimed that A-Rod's privacy breach is paramount. But now that his test has been (illegally) made public, I think that the remaining 103 players who (anonymously?) tested positive should be revealed. Here's why:
  1. Alex Rodriguez, though a douchebag/cheater/liar, shouldn't be forced to bear all the scrutiny alone.
  2. Now that the supposed privacy of those 2003 tests has been breached, it is not fair to the other 1,100 players who tested clean.
  3. As more big names trickle out (which seems inevitable), all 1,200 or so players who were tested will be suspected.
  4. Those 1,100 innocent players deserve to have their name publicly cleared just as A-Rod's has been soiled.
On top of that, far too many people -- especially those who hate the yankees or maybe A-Rod personally -- are loving this whole situation far more than they would were their favorite team's best player(s) caught. If you're a Red Sox fan, you are very likely enjoying this whole A-Rod situation. But what if -- just what if -- your team's hero was revealed as a juicer? Let's be honest, the Minnesota Twins didn't think all that highly of David Ortiz before they let him go after the 2002 season. Why would they? He was an average hitter during his 1997-2002 years with the Twins. His best year, 2002, he had this line:
.272 AVG/.339 OBP/.500 SLG, 32 2B, 1 3B, 20 HR, 75 RBI, 120 OPS+
That's pretty good, and maybe Theo Epstein saw something the Twins didn't, and he knew that Ortiz was about to blow up. The very next year, Ortiz -- now on the Red Sox -- became a genuine superstar. His performance post-2002 absolutely exploded. He was astronomically better from 2003-2007 than he was 1997-2002.

Was Big Papi juicing? If you look at his production following his trade to Boston compared to his performance in Minnesota, it's not unreasonable to raise an eyebrow, at least.

I'm not claiming that Ortiz did steroids. I'm simply making the point that -- regardless of your feelings toward A-Rod -- steroid use was rampant in baseball for a long time, and we don't know the facts of who actually did or didn't use. But Red Sox fans might lose a bit of smugness upon finding out that Papi was a juicer. Just the same, if I found out David Wright tested positive, I would have to rethink my opinion of him. But either way, I'd rather know.

Schadenfreude is a lot of fun, but it shouldn't outweigh the truth.

And here's a final exercise. Following are Alex Rodriguez's career statistics (full seasons only). I have shuffled the years randomly. If you can point out which three years he used steroids, then you win the grand prize. And yes, this is granting the admitted cheater his claim that he only used during the 2001-03 seasons, but giving that, please try to pick them out:

2B  3B HR  RBI   AVG   OBP   SLG  OPS+
40 3 23 84 .300 .350 .496 120
33 0 35 103 .302 .392 .573 150
29 1 48 130 .321 .421 .610 173
34 1 52 135 .318 .399 .622 160
34 2 41 132 .316 .420 .606 162
24 2 36 106 .286 .375 .512 131
54 1 36 123 .358 .414 .631 160
30 6 47 118 .298 .396 .600 147
27 2 57 142 .300 .392 .623 158
26 1 35 121 .290 .392 .523 134
31 0 54 156 .314 .422 .645 177
25 0 42 111 .285 .357 .586 134

To view Alex Rodriguez's year-by-year stats, go here. If you got it right, you're either very lucky or you knew his stats beforehand or you're a liar. There is no blatant "steroids-induced" peak in A-Rod's performance. He was, and still is, one of the best players in the game. Perhaps the steroids taint will keep him from the Hall of Fame, but either way, if he stays healthy he's going to hit 800 home runs. And unless we know the truth about everything and everyone during the "steroids era," we really won't know how to judge A-Rod.

Or Clemens. Or Bonds. Or anyone else who played baseball from 1995-2004. So before demonizing A-Rod, let's try for a bit of perspective.

Also, Ty Cobb was a racist, Babe Ruth was an adulterous alcoholic, and Ted Williams was pretty much an all-around asshole. Just, you know, for the record.


The Notorious LJT said...

I agree with Open Bar.

First of all I want to say that Doug Glanville's mother was the absolute worst math teacher of all times. One time she actually gave us a quiz on the NEXT chapter, the one we were going to cover. To be fair, I was a poor student but she was horrendous.

Secondly, who knows who was doing what. I think we have to chalk up 1995 - 2004 as 'roid years and pretty much look at all that shit skeptically.

It's also fucked up that someone outed A-Fraud, although....

I guess the thing is that A-Rod is such a whiny, attention loving, no balls having bitch. That's why I can't stand him and enjoy the A-Rod hating going on these days.

Yelling "I got it" behind a third basemen and slapping the ball against The Sox in the playoffs are just two bitch moves coming from an alpha-bitch.

To conclude, fuck A-Rod. He's a bitch.

ChuckJerry said...

It's mad vindictive that 4 separate "anonymous sources" outed only a-rod and not the other 100 plus gies.

At this point, I'm confident that when Ken Caminiti said that 50% of major leaguers were on steroids, that he wasn't exaggerating. With that being said, we can take the whole era with a grain of salt, I guess.

Sure a-rod's a dick, but he certainly wasn't the only cheater.

Anonymous said...

Open Bar... that is a lucid, intelligent, well-thought out blog post.

LJT... didn't anybody complain to administration about a teacher who gave you a quiz on material she hadn't taught yet?