Rodriguez knows this — if he does not, then he would not have thought it necessary to meet with newly minted MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred so he could clear the air before embarking on what will be his 21st season in the majors. Reports indicate that the exchange between the two was a positive one, but Rodriguez was not so lucky when he reached out to the Yankees. The team members informed him that they did not care what he had to say and that they would see him in spring training.
More than 20 years have passed since the MLB’s last labor stoppage, but a consensus on how to view the careers of PEDs users remains as elusive as ever. This issue takes on a greater level of significance during the weeks leading up to the writers’ annual vote for the National Baseball Hall of Fame, as the voting guidelines are ambiguous when addressing players with tainted careers. While I fully understand the instinct to decry the offending players for their transgressions, to do so is shortsighted and does far more harm than good.
One could argue that it is the fault of the athletes for getting involved in PEDs, but the fact of the matter is that humans will always attempt to gain an edge in a competitive system. When this happens, it is the responsibility of the institution to impose strict penalties on the offenders and make sure that the problem doesn’t get out of hand. Outgoing Commissioner Bud Selig and those involved with this regime failed to do that until it was far too late. In the 90s, baseball’s popularity was at an all-time low, so those in power worked every angle in order to nudge the sport back into the spotlight. The use of steroids was widespread and obvious, but the increasing amount of home runs was drawing new fans, so Selig and his brain trust were more than happy to turn a blind eye to what was quickly spiraling out of control. It all came to a head in 2001, when Barry Bonds hit a ludicrous 73 home runs. Soon after, he was linked to PEDs, and the MLB began to give out suspensions to those who tested positive.
Indeed, the stigma of steroids does not just affect the individual players — almost every single person who played an inning of professional baseball in the 90s is assumed to have at least experimented with PEDs. This means that players like Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza are progressing toward the Hall of Fame at a slower rate than they should. Even though neither man has ever failed a drug test nor been mentioned in any official report, rumors still swirl among the voters, and, inevitably, reputations are damaged. The did-he-or-didn’t-he mentality of writers is unfair to those who played the game clean.
To deny the players who are linked to PEDs entry into the Hall of Fame is to deny the fact that the Steroid Era was a massively important part of the history of baseball. They should be recognized for what they are — terrific athletes that once towered over the sport and succeeded in the context of their era.
Every year, much is made about those players that chose to get involved with PEDs, so it is surprising that the idea of forgiveness is discussed so little. Cheating is always unethical, but unethical behavior should not dash a player’s hopes of ever again being on his team’s good side. After all, cutting corners is as much a part of our national pastime as hotdogs and the seventh inning stretch; some pitchers are known to frequently use pine tar — a banned substance — to improve their grip on the ball. At the end of the day, people’s general refusal to move on from a player’s past mistakes is one of the most striking aspects of the controversy. While Yankees fans’ wounds from the Biogenesis scandal are still fresh, Rodriguez’s extension of an olive branch bodes well for their relationship going forward. Now that he has served his time, he wants another chance. He, along with the other greats of the Steroid Era, deserves one.
Sam Belden, FCRH ’17, is a communications and media studies major from Guiford, CT.