Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Frank Thomas vs. Alex Rodriguez: The Big Hurt v. The Big Fraud

Before I get to the heart of this, I've gotta preemptively clear my conscience because Alex Rodriguez shouldn't even be in this position. The fact that he had to hold a press conference to address all the nitty-gritty details of his performance-enhancing drug use is ridiculous. I don't know how anyone in that room can consider himself or herself anything more than a moral fiber or two above the paparazzi who shamelessly hound celebrities.

Don't give me that catharsis, we-need-to-know-to-move-forward horse droppings.

What we need to know to move forward is how prevalent the problem was, how endemic it still is, and whether steps are in place to eliminate PED use since that seems to be the consensus as to the direction Major League Baseball should go.

We do NOT need to know that A-Rod's cousin hooked him up or that he injected however often or where he got it. That information needs to be shared, but the general public doesn't need it.

Want? Oh yeah. But need? Nope.

That's why nobody's clamoring for the same to be shared about Jason Grimsley or David Segui or Neifi Perez or any of the other cups of coffee who juiced.

So it's absolute nonsense that Rodriguez had to deliver his public confession/mea culpa. This is just another instance of the vaunted media—the same people who promised to be vigilant as the voice/ethos of the average fan—getting its fangs into a revenue-driving story and holding on for dear life.

It's much easier to torment a caged animal than go out and hunt another. Why waste all that energy when you've already got one right here?

Unfortunately, Alex Rodriguez volunteered for the gig. Actually, he demanded it, so my sympathy is fleeting. Especially in the face of that equally nonsensical and horribly contrived monologue.

C'mon, does the guy really think the general public is gonna be as compliant as most of the media?

None of us missed that—when the subject of PEDs came up—Alex yanked his cousin under the bus with him and did everything he could to spread the blame around. My cousin introduced me to it, it was his understanding the effects, we decided it was a good idea, he injected me, we did this, we did that, baseball is bigger than me, blah, blah, blah.

My personal favorites are these little gems:

1. "I had been among the players from which people might conclude that I tested positive...there were a number of players on that list who might not have actually tested positive."

2. "My style is not to challenge anything."

Well played sir, well played.

In the face of all that personal deflection, forgive me if the rest of his contrition seems a little false. And all his claims to be clean now? Lo siento pero creo que no (I think not). First, if he'd actually stopped taking PEDs, then he wouldn't have tried to sell it so hard by linking it to some supposedly life-threatening injury. To MLB's highest paid player. That flew under the radar.

Do you remember hearing anything about that? Because I don't.

As for his claims to have passed all of MLB's tests since the new policy was instituted, great. I think we've pretty much proven that means squat. And the blood tests for the World Baseball Classic? Notice A-Rod stupidly said he would take it next week.

If you know when it's coming, that kinda defeats the purpose because human growth hormone flushes pretty quickly as I understand it. You know, since your body produces it naturally.

So, yeah, Alex Rodriguez has further (and unfairly) revealed himself as one of MLB's biggest frauds. Right up there with Bud Selig and Donald Fehr. For the record, I mean fraud because of his off-field antics—I couldn't care less about his PED use nor do I think that makes his numbers fraudulent since most of baseball was doping.

Except Frank Thomas.

You wanna know what a player who is above suspicion looks like? It's the Big Hurt.

Not because he's one of the best players before the Steroid Era dawned in earnest. Not because he fell back to the pack during its peak. Not because he's huge. All those things help, but what sells me on his "innocence" is the following:

"As early as 1995, he advocated steroid testing for major-league players. He was the only active player who volunteered to be interviewed for the Mitchell Report."

In all honesty, that actually doesn't put him above suspicion. But it does mean that, if Frank Thomas was juicing, it was against his will—out of necessity to compete with the rising and enhanced tide.

I remember hearing about how Frank Thomas was a cancer in the Chicago White Sox dugout. About how the Oakland Athletics got him for a song because he was such a malcontent and a duplicitous one at that. About how Kenny Williams was so glad to be rid of the Big Hurt.

I also remember Alex Rodriguez was generally liked and respected by Major League Baseball's insiders. By his teammates and the other players around the Show.

And now I think I'll forget all of it.

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