A-Rod, once considered the best player in Major League Baseball, yet is now at the center of another scandal involving performance-enhancing drugs. After his well-chronicled admission of PED use and his very public apology in 2009 following the now infamous Sports Illustrated article even his most ardent supporters, of which I am one, find it increasingly difficult to defend him and his eventual legacy with the same gusto of years past. Before addressing the issue at hand, let me be absolutely clear: cheating of any kind, is completely unacceptable.
Yet, guilt or innocence aside, it almost never fails. What, you might ask? The societal ire when Latino or African-American superstar athletes or entertainers defend themselves when charged with wrongdoing – whether in a trial or court of public opinion – while deploying vast financial resources in their vigorous pursuit of a desired outcome. This rage is further enflamed when the subject is known for being disingenuous, narcissistic, or self-aggrandizing. Ironically, much of this hate comes from the very legion of fans and team owners that cheered and revered him when his on the field exploits filled stadium seats by the thousands, delivered postseason appearances, league pennants or a World Series championship.
Though A-Rod’s on- and off-the-field incidents do not endear him to many fans (or fellow MLB players for that matter) I applaud his decision to mount an offensive against a deliberate attempt by MLB to target him exclusively under the guise of ‘leveling the playing’ field and ‘cleaning up the sport.’ My issue here is not whether MLB has empirical evidence on Rodriguez and his alleged involvement with Biogenesis; chances are they do. Or that MLB should not impose severe penalties to discourage recidivism, particularly on repeat offenders; they absolutely should. My problem is the lack of evidence that supports MLB’s claim that A-Rod and his camp obstructed their investigation by destroying material evidence or attempts to. Where’s the conclusive proof that he or anyone else bribed Biogenesis staff? Or snitched on other players to divert MLB’s attention? If you believe what MLB tells the media their 211-game ban on Alex, unprecedented for a player who ‘technically’ never tested positive for steroids in his professional career, was largely influenced by charges of bribing and obstructing an investigation.
The fact that other players caved to MLB and accepted immediate suspensions does not obligate Alex to sheepishly follow suit. Especially when rules and procedures exist that grant players rights such as permitting a suspension to be appealed. MLB is flexing its authority while expecting players to cower with little or no resistance and perhaps even waive their rights. Without presenting their findings to a mediator, MLB can dangerously brandish the triple-play weapon of judge, jury and executioner at any time on anyone. Imagine if law enforcement in every jurisdiction wielded this type of power. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network would be working overtime.