One of the great things about sports is its ability to surprise us and enthrall us with spectacular performances and with someone rising to the occasion that we didn’t expect to see leading his team. But the flip side of that is what we are seeing right now with the suspensions of the San Francisco Giants’ Melky Cabrera and the Oakland A’s’ Bartolo Colon for 50 games each because they got caught using performance-enhancing drugs.
That flip side is that if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. But that’s where our dilemma comes in. Baseball history is full of single-season performances that seemed outside the norm of a player’s career, loaded with comebacks by guys we were sure were wished up. We used to call one group one-year wonders. Now we wonder if they cheat. We nominated the other guys for Comeback Player of the Year. Now we have to wonder if the comeback is chemically aided.
Just last week we were disappointed to see Cabrera get nailed by Major League baseball for drug use. He had been an average player when he broke in with the New York Yankees, but had shown two straight seasons of improvement at a prime age, and although his 2012 season was by far his best it didn’t seem totally out of line with his 2011 season. Yes, we did have those passing th0ughts of “How is he doing it?” But it didn’t seem impossible. Turns out Cabrera wanted to be an All-Star more than he wanted to stick to an ethical life path.
Colon is a different story. For him, taking drugs at age 39 was probably the difference between sitting on the porch in retirement in the Dominican Republic and being a regular member of the A’s rotation. Colon was good enough to win a Cy Young Award for the Angels in 2005, but age and injuries combined to make him an iffy addition to any team’s roster since then. He has had some good moments and bad moments as he drifted from team to team. It was obvious his best seasons were behind him.
Colon was out of the game altogether in 2010 and it was a big surprise when he made a comeback in 2011 and was able to do some useful work for the Yankees in 2011, though after a fast start he ended up 8-10. The A’s were a new stop for Colon this year and he was sitting on a record of 10-9 and a 3.43 earned run average when the law caught up to him the other day. Until then we had been watching the 5-foot-11, 265-pound Colon bring a pretty good fastball and were saying, “Boy, the big guy’s still got it.”
What we are left to surmise was that the big guy no longer had it and the only way he could stay in the majors was to use performance-enhancing drugs. Synthetic testosterone was the culprit substance mentioned in both players’ cases. Doesn’t sound as if it even tastes good.
Anyway, Colon helped Oakland to this point in the season, and leaves them in the lurch needing a starter as the pennant and playoff races heat up. Colon will be watching on TV as the A’s seek a wildcard playoff spot.
And as hard as he tried to keep his career alive, Colon has probably cheated himself right out of the game.