With LeBron James parading the fullness of his ESPN-embroidered majesty through NBA free agency, with the World Cup boiling over and with it most of Brazil and certainly with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds sniffing out the longest winning streak of the season (two games), it’s no wonder the latest revelations about banned baseball basher Alex Rodriguez could barely sustain themselves through one full news cycle.
But I suppose it wasn’t so much the context as the content in the case of these underplayed revelations, which got tucked into Sports Illustrated’s annual “Where Are They Now” edition as excerpts from a new book by Tim Elfrink and Gus Garcia-Roberts.
Given the 162-game suspension of A-Fraud in progress, it might not seem like a revelation at all that Rodriguez was using performance enhancing drugs in 2007, and the book, “BLOOD SPORT: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis, and the Quest to End Baseball’s Steroid Era,” likely faces an uphill struggle with a baseball audience that had no difficulty voting Baltimore Orioles’ banger Nelson Cruz into the All-Star Game less than a year after he accepted a 50-game suspension — 50 games he accepted because he might have gotten 100 upon appeal.
But Rodriguez had a truly unbelievable season in 2007, which I’ve said before, and I meant literally, physiologically, metabolically unbelievable, which I’ve also said before. And much as I detest having to say I told you so (all right ‘detest’ might be too strong), I found it satisfyingly interesting that the authors reported in this segment that testimony from a confidential arbitration hearing indicates that Rodriguez not only used testosterone in 2007 but did so thanks to a medical protocol to which MLB had willingly agreed.
A-Fraud’s story had always been that he used PEDs in Texas from 2001-03 as a babe in the PED woods, not much understanding how or why. Total bull. In those years, the babe (small “b”) averaged 52 homers and 131 runs batted in. Then he arrives in New York at the dawn of MLB drug testing and, for the next three years, averages 40 and 119 as the Yankees string postseason failures together back-to-back-to-back. Then suddenly, in 2007, he went back to his personal statistical Texas: 54 homers, 156 runs batted in, MVP on 26 of 28 ballots.
And that was three years before he got involved with Biogenesis, the shady Florida wellness clinic that baseball was eventually able to show trafficked 19 different performance enhancers to A-Fraud and other players he actively recruited for Tony Bosch’s Juice Bar.
The more pressing issue for the moment is the urgently needed amendment to baseball’s Joint Drug Agreement with the players union, the one that serves as a loophole through which A-Fraud tried to drive to Cooperstown, or at least to 800 homers.
According to the authors, Rodriguez applied for and was granted a so-called therapeutic use exemption to use testosterone, a powerful anabolic, for one year. The protocol states that such exemptions can be granted by an independent program administrator, who somehow determined that A-Fraud needed testosterone therapy. Never mind that the main reason young healthy males most often need testosterone therapy is that their bodies aren’t producing enough testosterone naturally as a result of — all together now — steroid use.
Baseball was forced to issue a statement on this stupidity, and it was a dilly:
“All decisions regarding whether a player shall receive a therapeutic use exemption [TUE] under the Joint Drug Program are made by the Independent Program Administrator [IPA] in consultation with outside medical experts, with no input by either the Office of the [c]ommissioner or the [p]layers [a]ssociation. The process is confidentially administered by the IPA, and MLB and the MLBPA are not even made aware of which players applied for TUE’s.”
That makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?
Why should Major League Baseball or the Major League Players Association need to be aware of which baseball players want to take steroids as therapy? None of their business, evidently
I don’t want to say that these ridiculous provisions of the JDA are among the dumbest agreements commissioner Bud Selig has entered into because we’re coming up on the World Series-impacting All-Star Game and that’s his chief boneheaded legacy, but the progress baseball has undeniably made on the drug front needs constant review and diligence.
Baseball still needs a rule for teams that sign players fresh off drug suspensions as well. If, for example, Cruz is suspended again, the Orioles can’t just strike his $8 million salary from the books. They’ve got to write a check for the balance to Major League Baseball’s drug enforcement and education arm.
That would be a start toward better diligence. So far it’s a nonstarter, unlike Cruz in the All-Star Game.
Gene Collier: firstname.lastname@example.org.