Say it ain’t so, two of baseball’s best sluggers have been named in the PED probe centered in Miami. Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez seemed to have little in common besides their ability to hit a baseball. But like two sluggers of a generation ago, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, they now are inextricably linked. As McGwire and Sosa, along with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were the headliners of the so-called “Steroid Era” of baseball, Braun and Rodriguez may be the new faces of PED’s in baseball.
Many media members and fans thought the “Steroid Era” could be relegated to a certain spot in time, with only occasional reminders of the past. However a decrease in the amount of positive results and the creeping resurgence of offensive numbers should have been a warning. Blood testing will not stop PED use any more than police using radar can eradicate speeding. As long as ego, money and human nature are involved, there will always be the temptation to gain an unethical advantage in sport. The sad is that the news no longer shocks or surprises, many of baseball’s stars and heroes have been exposed as frauds.
For Rodriguez and Braun, the damage to their reputation and the perception of their careers is irreversible. A contrite Rodriguez’s offered a mea culpa following a 2009 Sports Illustrated expose, claiming he only used PED’s in the early 2000’s. Following his admission, A Rod helped lead the Yankees to the World Series title in 2009, winning the Series MVP along the way. Rodriguez seemed to have been partially vindicated. Nobody would have ever gone back to using so fast, and he was so forthcoming in his admission. Now, could Rodriguez’s entire career be viewed as a fraud, possibly using since his high school days at Westminster Christian, following the lead of fellow Miami native Jose Canseco?
For Braun, his explanation is at once plausible and damning. Braun claims to have sought the services of Anthony Bosch as a consultant during his suspension appeal. Braun tested positive for synthetic testosterone following his 2011 MVP season. Those that followed his case knew that the overturning of his positive test result was based on technicality involving testing procedure rather than Braun disputing the actual finding of the test. Who better to seek advice from than an expert at avoiding PED detection and deflecting blame than a snake oil salesman like Bosch. No matter the final result of the Biogenesis investigation, the public will better understand the facts of Braun’s 2011 appeal.
The names of Bobby Estalella and Randy Velarde are not well remembered in the BALCO case a generation ago,just as the names of Francisco Cervelli and Danny Valencia will be little more than a footnote in this episode. Rodriguez and Braun will not suffer the same fate. As more players possibly become implicated in the investigation, MVP’s Braun and Rodriguez are cast as the headliners. Rodriguez and Braun may never face a 50 game suspension for first time PED offenders, they have not generated a positive test result. But the damage to their credibility and their perceived guilt in the court of public opinion will haunt them, like it has haunted Bonds and Clemens, for the rest of their careers.