Predictably, the reaction from the media and fans toward Alex Rodriguez hasn't exactly been supportive. He's not a sympathetic character, but very few questioned the severity of the 211-game suspension levied upon him. Here is what they're saying:
I'll start with Joe Sheehan, who has been doing some of the best writing on the subject, a rare contrarian among the masses:
It seems to me that where you stand on this issue comes down to whether you trust authority, and more than that, whether you trust Bud Selig. Certainly the national media does, as does the New York media that, in recent weeks, as functioned as a cross between Selig's mouthpiece and his id. The fans, getting their information from those sources, conditioned to dislike the rich, hate the druggies and attack the weak, have lined up against Rodriguez as if he were violating their women and stealing their children. It's easy, and I say that in the most disdainful way, to hate Rodriguez.
Me, I don't trust Bud Selig. Maybe I'm the only person to whom it matters, but his history matters a great deal to me. He participated eagerly in a violation of anti-trust law; he orchestrated a labor strategy that crippled baseball and was deemed a violation of labor law; he threatened to kill two franchises as part of a labor strategy. That's just the stuff I can pin on him for sure. Throw in the minor collusion of 2001-03, extensive lying about the game's financial health, serving as the game's foremost anti-marketer and, finally, turning MLB into a decade-long episode of "Miami Vice".
Joe is asking the tough question that few seem to be asking: What is Selig's motivation? If it's fair to question A-Rod's motivation for using PEDs, isn't fair to ask why the commissioner just handed out a 211-game suspension when the Joint Drug Agreement with the union calls for a 50-game suspension for a first-time offender?
Joe frames his argument as Rodriguez versus Selig. Maybe that's too narrow but if you want to frame it that way it's fair to suggest that Selig has as many skeletons in his closet as A-Rod.
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Me, I would have handed A-Rod three consecutive life sentences Monday.
One for being a serial cheater, gobbling PEDs as if they were Flintstones vitamins.
One for being so dishonest and disingenuous that he makes pathological liars look like honest, God-fearing men.
And one for being a delusional, deranged dope who long ago should have forfeited the privilege to play major league baseball. And yes, as in whatever job you're working, A-Rod's gig is a privilege. Not a right.
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If they cared -- if fair play, a respect for the guys who play the game clean, was an issue for them -- they wouldn't have doped (some repeatedly).
But cheating makes sense.
This is especially true for the Latin players, who dominated Monday's role call of Biogenesis/steroid violators. It's always been said of players from the Caribbean that you get off the island swinging the bat. But there's more to it, apparently. If you come from nothing, if you come from some small, desperate town in the Dominican Republic, and you have a chance to support yourself and your family and set them up for life, are you going to let anything get in your way?
Ask Nelson Cruz of the Texas Rangers. He will be suspended 50 games, which means he will return at season's end and enter the winter as a high-priced free agent.
Melky Cabrera, who was suspended 50 games last year while with the San Francisco Giants, got a two-year, $16 million contract to sign this past year with the Toronto Blue Jays.
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But unless A-Rod wins his appeal, nothing he does at the plate anymore can save him. Up until this case, I was among those willing to vote him into Cooperstown as a member of the With or Without Club, as another Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens -- players I believe were so exceptional that they would've been Hall of Famers with or without drugs.
Rodriguez has Willie Mays numbers, after all, with 647 homers, 1,950 RBIs, a career batting average of .300 and an on-base percentage of .384. But he no longer qualifies for the Hall after his pathetic behavior here. Man, if A-Rod could do everything baseball said he did in a desperate attempt to keep his job, he would've done anything over his 19 years to maintain his standing in the game.
I now believe Rodriguez used PEDs his entire career, an automatic no-go for the Hall.
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Bob Nightengale, USA Today, quoting former commissioner Fay Vincent:
"There are a lot of similarities between this and (Pete) Rose. They were very delusional. They lied. They misbehaved," he said.
"Baseball has to stand for things. It just can't have these drugs. If chemists win, baseball is finished. Otherwise, we'd have the Yankees and Red Sox buying up chemistry departments and not caring about who is pitching.
"Baseball really is going to have to ratchet the deterrent, and make it one-and-done, because anybody who says the (drug) testing is working is crazy. It's not working. You use these performance-enhancing drugs just once, you should be banned for life."
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Lance Armstrong, one of the great bums in the history of sports, still has his money and fame. So does Alex Rodriguez. They still come up phonies and losers in front of the world. You know who wins? People who love sports, and still think it is not some cynical joke for sports to be on the level. You wonder if the next generation of cheats are paying attention, at last.
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But to justify a lifetime ban, MLB would need to prove that Rodriguez’s sins were far more egregious than those of Melky Cabrera – who tested positive for PEDs last year and tried to deceive MLB officials by creating a phony website. Or of Ryan Braun, who tested positive in 2011, attacked the integrity of the drug-testing program, reportedly appeared in the Biogenesis records, and lied repeatedly about PEDs.
Cabrera’s sentence was 50 games. Braun’s was 65. They doped, got caught, and went to great lengths in an effort to cover it up – which, come to think of it, sounds similar to what Rodriguez supposedly did. So it would be incongruous, perhaps even unfair, for A-Rod to be sent away for good.
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Selig scoffs publicly at the idea that he is doing this for his legacy – that levying a 211-game suspension on Rodriguez is not the commissioner's equivalent of a manhood-measuring contest. There is no reason to deny this. Of course he is doing this for his legacy, just as every man or woman in a position of power and authority has, dating back to the dinosaurs. Leaders wanted their names scratched into the walls of caves with great glory, and Bud Selig wants his similarly scrawled into the annals of baseball. He wants his triumphs to overwhelm his foibles, and at 79 years old he is taking bold steps that turn him into as polarizing a figure as the man he's prosecuting and, many would say, persecuting.
Jeff is from a younger generation of writers, a generation that isn't so revolted by PEDs, that believes there are multiple layers to a complex story. You don't have to defend A-Rod to question Selig or question the punishment.