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JULY 31, 2009 9:39AM

Positive Papi (Duh)

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ortizAt 2 pm yesterday afternoon, the New York Times broke news that Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz tested positive for steroids in 2003, making them them the sixth and seventh names to come to light as being on that list.  In case you don't know, this list is the result of a test that Major League Baseball conducted to see if it needed to implement league-wide testing for performance enhancers, enough players tested positive in that 2003 survey for the league to start cracking down on the problem and testing regularly.  (I wrote a little more about it in this February article about Alex (A-Rod) Rodriguez's admission of guilt, if you need some more info.)  Needless to say, this is devastating news to the people of Red Sox Nation (I'm not a member), as two beloved members of the 2004 team that broke the curse have now fallen, though Ramirez has recently lost some of his luster after serving a 50 game suspension this season for testing positive for a female fertility drug, the kind of drug that one would take if they needed their body to restart the production of testosterone.  Either way, it doesn't seem like baseball's steroid problem is going to go away any time soon, and it's probably going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

There's no longer any question that tons of major league players were at some point using performance enhancers.  All kinds of players have gotten caught, it doesn't make a difference if they're a big star or a guy doing whatever it takes to stay in the Majors.  Baseball is mired in a major quagmire right now, this is no longer up for debate.  Changes need to happen, and they need to happen right now.  There are two things that Major League Baseball should do to change the course of the sport: 1) release the names of everyone on that list and 2) tell Bud Selig to take a hike.

Even though the test and its results were supposed to remain anonymous, that 2003 list of the first steroid offenders is haunting the game right now.  I don't know how or why it wasn't destroyed, as the Commissioner's office had promised at the time, but it's too late to destroy it now, as it is in the hands of federal prosecutors.  In order to avoid a situation where the game gets dragged back to 2003 every six months or so, the names on that list need to be made public.  The league has already established the precedent of not suspending players for being on that list because A-Rod wasn't suspended, and no one listed in the Mitchell Report was suspended as a result of having his name in that document.  But, these guys need to take their lumps, make their veiled apologies and we all need to move on.  It's never gonna be over until it's over, and by being in a situation where "anonymous sources" leak a name or two every few months, or whenever the sports news cycle shows a sign of slowing down.  I'm not a lawyer and I don't know what the legality of this might be, the Deadspin post on the subject remarked that the anonymous source might have broken some laws by leaking the names, but it's really the only way.

And Bud Selig has to go.  I don't understand how he has held his job this long anyway, but it's really time for someone else to come in and change the culture.  Bud is too entrenched in his product at this point, and he's not able to look rationally at what's happening.  Maybe it's that he's more worried about profitability than integrity, and the league is quite profitable, and maybe he's just too much a member of some old boys network.  Either way, his time has passed.  How much more do we, as fans, have to take?  From the World Series-canceling strike of 1994 to the Expos/Nationals wandering franchise to the consistent talk of contraction in the late 90's and early Aughts to the steroid issue that has plagued the league for the last twenty years, enough is enough.  I'm not blaming it all on Selig, but it's time for him to step down for the sake of the league.  The league needs someone totally transparent and new to make clear that the time when we all looked the other way as players bulked up to ridiculous degrees and blasted home runs is over.  Baseball needs a new direction, and it starts at the top, with replacing Selig.

As for Ortiz testing positive, this one is gonna hurt a lot of people.  The amazing irony of all the steroid admissions is that, while many high profile names have come out, there hasn't been a widely loved player on the list, until now.  Sure, San Francisco Giants fans loved Barry Bonds, but most everyone else found him to be an asshole.  The same is true for players like A-Rod and Roger Clemens, they had both built up enough ill will throughout the course of their careers that they were not iconic anymore.  Ortiz is a little different, he's still loved by everyone who roots for the Red Sox, and he's always had an incredibly lovable aura surrounding him.  What's worse, he is on record as wanting a really harsh penalty for steroid users, making him not just a de facto liar for using them, but a hypocrite as well.  Oh yeah, and a cheater.

In a certain way, this news makes us have to face, once again, the disparity between who we think these athletes are and who they really are.  We've seen before players who have ruined their good guy reps by engaging in sketchy off-field behavior (Kirby Puckett, anyone?), but this is a little different because now (as much as ever) we've got to accept that this is cheating and these guys are cheaters, no matter how many names come out.  A very basic and schoolyard-esque rule has been broken, and for some reason, the more players who come out as having broken it, the more necessary that rule seems.  Which is to say, an aberration is one thing, but an epidemic is something completely different.  On the bright side, sometimes cheating only costs you your reputation; unfortunately and tragically for Steve McNair, cheating can sometimes cost you your life.

The steroid issue is never going to be truly behind everyone, not unless there is a major sea change within the game or we stop caring about it entirely.  In all likelihood, it's the latter that will happen first, and if the Ortiz revelation proves anything it might be that, indeed, such a vast majority of players are on performance enhancers that it will take several generations of players to weed it all out.  I don't really believe that this is a realistic expectation, and I think maybe it's time to accept that this is the state of the game.  No star is above suspicion, no fan base will remain unaffected by future leaks, the Hall of Fame will eventually (and might already) include steroid users.  We need to learn to get used to it because that's just the way it is, and it's probably the way it will always be.  Whether or not it has to be that way is an entirely different discussion.

 

 

**concurrently posted today at stevesword.com

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Big Poppy...say it ain't so! Red Sox nation is in tears... You're entirely right. Good post
umm...I hate to point to the obvious..but this is an EP. I'm the 2'nd comment. Nobody cares anymore.

Not about you...MLB is a farce. Say it isn't so Joe? Are you kidding? We know it isn't so. Just another TMZ 30 second quip.
Why don't they just release all the names? Why is it trickling out like this? Just give it to us; let us try to get over it; and for heaven's sake, enforce the damn rules from here on out.

Like the Globe said today, all we have left in Red Sox nation now is "Our cheaters were better than your cheaters" for 2004. I spose Johnny Damon is next :-(
Baseball is mired in a major quagmire right now, this is no longer up for debate. Changes need to happen, and they need to happen right now.

I thought you were going to talk about the salary cap thing. I just got back from an Indians win, sans Victor Martinez. I just can't stand the stupid, unfair nature of baseball's financing. The players' union is too strong. It's the only sport left that doesn't grow up and get with the program. LeBron James, for example, will never have to leave the Cavs because he can get more money somewhere else.

As for the steroids thing, I don't know why but it's not on my radar as much as others'. But yeah, your two suggestions sound good.
As is often the case, Lainey has said it sooner and better than me. I am so glad you brought this issue to light as well, Lainey - it's the one that rings down the years for me. But I agree w/ the points in this post. I am highly invessted in a Selig replacement. Baseball will always, always be my best loved sport, and I hate to see what has happened to it. I was so lucky to live in southern Illinois during the height of Whitey ball! Back to fundamentals, that's what he'd say.
To the media: Thanks for the dirtbag "journalism".

The results of the 2003 tests were to be kept sealed. Where is the Player's Association? Can't they spell LAWSUIT?

Who cares about 2003 tests anyway - except the media of course. The media should grow a conscience, learn some common decency and live up to the role it is supposed to bring to our democracy instead money grubbing muckraking.
Damn. I was going to use the "say it ain't so" line, but yekdeli got their first. Red Sox fans take heart: There's no reason to think your team had more cheaters than other teams...

Incidentally, I thought this post would be about economy. From what I can tell from watching ESPN overseas, the bleachers seem two-thirds empty at most games. Have ticket prices gone crazy, or is it just a general lack of interest?

Back to the doping issue: Is it just my European prejudice (and I'm being serious here, for a change), or have US sports generally been lax in testing for drugs? It seems to me that such scandals have been a common feature of most European sports for ages (football/soccer being an ominous exception). While you may see that as a bad thing, I see it as a sign that the powers that be are aggressively pursuing the cheaters. Am I right when I get the impression that baseball authorities have never really bothered checking the players before? The very idea that offenders are not even suspended seems ridiculous. A two year suspension should be a no-brainer, like it is in most international sports.

But there is a silver lining in this story: They have to start doing something about it now that the cat is out of the bag. You may have noticed that a sport like cycling is going through a painful process of cleaning up their act right now. That causes several major scandals, but it could lead to better times in the long run. Maybe someday, I will actually believe that the winner of the Tour de France climbed those mountains without artificial aid.
You are so right about Bud Selig, but the owners keep him in because he keeps sweeping this under the rug and the owners like that.

In a way, the problem is that the fans put up with this too. Attendance is not down that much, and people blame it on the tough economy. What we need is for a lot of people to get mad as hell and not take it anymore. As in stop buying tickets and going to games until baseball can prove results.

If attendance were to drop down to nothing across the board because of millions of people saying they won't go until baseball is clean, THEN Selig and company would take a break from counting their money and do something.

Instead, baseball teams continue to sell corporate tickets and sponsorships to people who mis-managed the banks and other large businesses, and fans who are supporting cheating and illegal drug use are buying the rest of the tickets.
For all the talk of the shame and taint of the game, it's still going strong. Of course, attendance is down, but that's due to the economy.

Look, if lockouts and strikes couldn't kill baseball, a few juiced athletes won't. And let's keep in mind that back when these tests were done, the use of these drugs was allowed by MLB. If they do them now, they deserve what they get. But using them back then was allowed under MLB's rules.

It ain't cheating if it's allowed by the rules.