When Alex Rodriguez arrives at Camden Yards on Friday with the New York Yankees, maybe he can explain to us what would possess fellow superstar Manny Ramirez to ingest a substance questionable enough to cost him 50 games and nearly a third of his $25 million salary.
A-Rod should know, because he recently admitted to years of steroid abuse while he was making $25 million per season with the Texas Rangers. Ramirez isn't admitting to more than bad judgment for taking a nonsteroidal substance he claims was prescribed by a doctor in Miami to treat a legitimate medical problem. But it's fair to wonder how the two highest-paid players in the history of professional baseball find themselves at the same chemical crossroads at approximately the same time.
It's also fair to ask, if you've been in the Baltimore area for any length of time, how the winding road that is baseball's performance-enhancement scandal always seems to find its way back to our doorstep.
This is, remember, the place where the first high-profile major league player was suspended for violating the evolving Major League Baseball steroid policy. Rafael Palmeiro claimed in 2005 he unwittingly took a supplement containing the banned steroid stanozolol, perhaps from a contaminated vial of injectable vitamin B-12 he received from teammate Miguel Tejada. Then came the sting operation that led to the Arizona home of former Orioles relief pitcher Jason Grimsley and cast the steroid spotlight on several of his Orioles teammates.
Charm City wasn't the center of the steroid universe back then, because the two high-profile federal investigations were being conducted from the San Francisco area and upstate New York, but Baltimore was very much in the ballgame.
Fortunately, A-Rod is just passing through, so Orioles fans can voice any residual steroid-related resentment at him from the stands. The last time the Yankees were here, Mark Teixeira was the target of the fans' wrath, though for entirely different reasons. In fact, there were people in the Yankees' traveling party who said they felt that Teixeira was booed so heavily during opening series of the regular season in part because Rodriguez was not there to take his share of the anti-Yankees abuse.
Don't know whether Tex will get a break this weekend, but Rodriguez isn't likely to get any slack on any of the Yankees' road stops for the foreseeable future. The report of his positive steroid test in 2003 was a bombshell similar to Thursday's news about Ramirez, and his subsequent admission to three years of steroid use in Texas didn't pass the smell test for a growing legion of A-Rod skeptics. Now, his tarnished image is taking another big hit with the release of A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez by Sports Illustrated reporter Selena Roberts.
Roberts, who broke the news that Rodriguez had tested positive for steroids during MLB's steroid survey testing in 2003, implies in the book that A-Rod might have taken steroids as early as high school and quotes an unidentified player alleging that Rodriguez tipped pitches to opposing hitters in the hope of getting the same courtesy when he came to the plate.
Rodriguez has been on the disabled list - and largely out of the public eye - since undergoing hip surgery soon after the steroid scandal broke. He has been working his way back into shape at the Yankees' training facility in Tampa, Fla., and reportedly is ready to rejoin the team for the weekend series against the Orioles. He isn't expected to shed light on anything other than his on-field performance, though he has to be thrilled that another big star has come under the media microscope at the same time he's moving back into the national spotlight.
Ramirez, meanwhile, remains in his own little world. He has always kept largely to himself and usually seems oblivious to all the hoopla going on around him. That doesn't figure to change after this strange episode, which already has taken a couple of strange turns.
Yahoo Sports is reporting that a source close to Ramirez is claiming that the substance that ran afoul of Major League Baseball's restricted list was actually a drug prescribed to treat a sexual dysfunction problem. ESPN has quoted a pair of sources saying that the substance is a female fertility drug that is used by athletes at the end of their steroid cycles. The fun never stops.
I'm guessing that when Palmeiro reads that, he's going to kick himself for missing the erectile dysfunction angle, because he was the pitchman for Viagra before the steroid scandal pushed him off the major league stage - and perhaps out of consideration for the Hall of Fame.
Palmeiro has remained under the radar since then. He insisted at the time that he was too far along in his storied career to put it at risk by intentionally using a banned substance, an argument that seemed more plausible after Tejada's name started to come up in the steroid conversation. Ramirez could probably lean on the same logic, but he has chosen to accept responsibility for what he has cast as an unintentional violation - essentially pleading guilty and innocent at the same time.
A-Rod has made the most far-reaching admission of guilt of any of the high-profile offenders other than Jose Canseco, and yet he's being cast as a greater villain than any of them.
Guess he'll find out soon whether the American public is as forgiving as advertised.
Baltimore will be an interesting barometer.
Listen to Peter Schmuck every weeknight on WBAL (1090 AM) and today at noon on "The Week in Review."