Today’s column sticks in the theoretical area of sports and history. We all heard the big news yesterday regarding several big-time MLB players connected to PED’s. Headlining that story were the names Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees and Gio Gonzalez of the Washington Nationals. Gonzalez is superfluous to this discussion as he’s in the National League. (Furthermore, he didn’t pitch against the Baltimore Orioles in any of the clubs’ two interleague series’.) However Rodriguez of course plays for one of the Orioles’ archrivals. We already knew that he had used performance enhancing drugs in the past; we just didn’t know that it had continued into the present.
The fact is that the Orioles contended for the AL East pennant until the final day against New York, and fell short of the Yankees by two games. For a few days, there was even a chance that the teams would have to play a “regular season game 163” at Camden Yards on the day prior to the AL Wild Card game. So here’s my point; if in fact Rodriguez was using PED’s during the 2012 campaign, couldn’t it be argued that the Orioles were the ones most negatively affected?
I’m not naïve; I recognize that there can be no asterisk by the records or anything along those lines. The fact is that Alex Rodriguez did not directly contribute to any walk off plays for New York against the Orioles last year. However could you not argue that he was at the very least good for two or three wins at some point throughout the 2012 season? Any player that is on a big league roster should at the bare minimum be able to say that they’ve contributed to a win here or there. I’m not talking about walk off plays per se, I’m talking about saving a key run with the glove, contributing a key base hit, etc. Alex Rodriguez did that for the New York Yankees in 2012 for sure. So what I’m suggesting is that had Rodriguez been caught with PED’s in his system as he allegedly could have been, he would not have been able to play. All other things being equal, is there not a chance that the Orioles either tie with the Yankees (meaning the two teams would have played “game 163,” or beaten them outright in the standings?
Again folks, work with me here; this is all theoretical. Let’s say that ARod is suspended for a 50-game stretch and ultimately the Orioles win the AL East by two games. (This is what Doc Brown would refer to as an “alternate reality” in Back to the Future.) The Orioles would have still played the Yankees in the ALDS, although the first two games would have been in NY and the last three in Baltimore. So it’s really tough to say how things would have turned out, save for the Orioles hoisting a division title as opposed to New York. (Although you could argue that perhaps Buck Showalter would have been the Manager of the Year.) Quite frankly, even had the Orioles managed to advance in this “would-be revisionist ALDS,” odds would have been against them against Detroit in the ALCS because at the time the Tigers were playing off the charts.
In fairness to Rodriguez, Gonzalez, and the rest of the players on that list, anything short of an admission of guilt or a positive PED test should be taken as hearsay. I do firmly believe in innocent until proven guilty. However it should also be duly noted that for the most part where there’s smoke there’s been fire with regard to players having juiced in baseball. (I find it interesting that originally Alex Rodriguez was to miss only half of the season, and now suddenly they’re saying there’s a chance he could miss the entire year. Could that be to hide him from a positive test?) However in truth, we should all withhold judgment until we know more. Gio Gonzalez has already come out and said that he never did PED’s. Until proven otherwise, I have no choice but to believe him. However if his production falls off in 2013, that might cause people to scratch their heads.
Ultimately, DON’T. JUICE. EVER. To me, any player in any environment commits the ultimate act of selfishness by doing that. To the folks that say they don’t feel it’s fair that other guys juice and get paid more, my response is that you need to stand above that and do justice by the game. Because if you happen to break a record such as the single-season home run mark, you’re breaking the beloved record set by a player who did it honestly (and I’m talking about Roger Maris). That shows no regard for the game, or the guys that came before you. All players, coaches, fans, and even writers are keepers of the flame of the great American pastime of baseball. Let’s make sure that the flame is clean when it’s passed on again.