A-Rod saga should leave us all feeling a little dirty

January 13, 2014|Peter Schmuck

There wasn't much in Sunday night’s "60 Minutes" report on baseball's Alex Rodriguez investigation that could truly shock anyone at this point in the sport’s tawdry PED era. Everyone knows that anabolic steroids and other sophisticated performance-enhancing substances have been rampant in baseball for decades.

The thing that was most revealing about the interview with Biogenesis snake oil salesman Anthony Bosch and the documentary evidence presented was the lengths that athletes will go to gain some advantage over the competition and the lengths that Major League Baseball was willing to go -- in this case -- to build a case against one of the most celebrated of the alleged steroid offenders.

It was already known that MLB paid big bucks to acquire evidence supporting its case against Rodriguez, but it still was a bit shocking to watch CEO and longtime chief counsel Rob Manfred document that on national television and admit that he personally took part in a clandestine meeting with Bosch at a South Florida restaurant.

Maybe that was the only way to get to the bottom of a case that involves the richest player in the game and enough attorneys to start their own Bar Association, but it certainly helps A-Rod make the public case that Major League Baseball would stop at nothing to discredit him.

This is, after all, more about the respective legacies of Rodriguez and baseball commissioner Bud Selig than it is about the actual facts of a case that will be settled one way or the other in federal court.

Rodriguez appears to be taking the Roger Clemens approach in a desperate attempt to rescue his reputation. He continues to deny any illicit involvement with Biogenesis and seems willing to do whatever it takes to create some measure of plausible deniability that might allow him someday to be viewed as this era’s "Shoeless" Joe Jackson.

Jackson, of course, was banned from the major leagues for life after the “Black Sox” scandal, in which a number of Chicago White Sox players conspired to throw the 1919 World Series. Jackson’s part in the conspiracy has long been in dispute, and he is viewed by many baseball history buffs as a victim of overzealous disciplinary action by first baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis.

What is not in doubt in this case is that A-Rod did use steroids earlier in his career and admitted to that. He also does not deny paying Bosch $12,000 a month to fashion a supplement program for him and -- according to documents produced by “60 Minutes” -- wire transferred $49,000 in alleged hush money to Bosch’s attorney.

I suppose that when you make $25 million per year, you could pay a ridiculous amount of money to someone to go to GNC for you, but it still defies logic that A-Rod would give $144,000 a year to a guy with scant medical expertise to provide him legal supplements when he could afford to hire the greatest nutritionists on the planet. It also requires an amazing leap of faith to believe that all those other well-known baseball clients of Biogenesis were getting the illegal stuff and Rodriguez just wanted the flaxseed oil.

Selig has staked his long tenure as commissioner on a no-holds-barred attempt to eradicate PEDs from Major (and minor) League Baseball, which is a noble crusade that has succeeded in establishing the toughest anti-PED policy of any major professional sport. He commissioned the Mitchell Report to uncover the extent of steroid abuse in baseball and fought hard to enlist the Major League Baseball Players Association in the effort to create an effective testing regimen for all types of illegal performance-enhancing substances.

That effort has been largely successful, but the Biogenesis scandal pulled back the curtain on another seedy level of the steroid-PED scourge and left Selig feeling he had little choice but to pursue the high-profile offenders with a zeal reminiscent of Captain Ahab and his allegorical white whale.

Selig is fighting the good fight, but the fact that Major League Baseball felt it had to get into bed with the likes of Anthony Bosch to win that fight should give us all pause. Maybe it was the only way for the sport to come out of this clean, but it still feels a little dirty.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, “The Schmuck Stops Here,” at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog and listen when he co-hosts “The Week in Review” on Friday mornings at 9 on WBAL (1090 AM) and at wbal.com.

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