Saturday, February 14, 2009

Phelps vs. A-Rod

This is from a couple of days ago, but I could not get the chance to post it. Enjoy.

Phelps gets suspended, A-Rod gets ... nothing

On the surface, this statement is correct…at least for now. It has only been two days since the story broke. We do not know if any of Alex Rodriguez’s sponsors will drop him like Kellogg’s did to Michael Phelps.

So why does it seem like A-Rod is getting off scot-free? Glad you asked.

My opinion on this is the fact that A-Rod actually came out and said that he did in fact take steroids. Roger Clemens did nothing but deny, deny, deny that he took steroids. Barry Bonds claims he did not know what he was taking or putting on his body. Mark McGwire pleaded the Fifth Amendment before Congress. Rafael Palmeiro testified before Congress he did not take steroids and then tested positive the next year.

A-Rod bucked the trend of other current and former players and owned up to the fact he did it and why he did it. He did not do anything illegal under Major League Baseball rules at the time. Baseball did not suspend players for a positive steroids test in 2003. It was frowned upon but that is MLB’s fault for not implementing a stricter steroids policy sooner.

Phelps got caught doing something illegal in smoking marijuana, something he could have gone to jail over (and possibly still could). The IOC is extremely strict on any drug use. Phelps knew this. Yes, this is minor compared to if he had taken steroids. However, marijuana is a banned substance by the IOC. It shouldn’t be a shock to him or anyone else.

The league knew that this was going on, but Bud Selig and the other owners did nothing about it. They were profiting from the boom in attendance because of the home run races of McGwire, Bonds and Sammy Sosa. After the strike in 1994, the league and owners were happy to have fans flocking back to baseball. Only after a few elected representative threatened to look into revoking MLB’s anti-trust exemption did they finally start cracking down on steroids.

Had A-Rod came out and denied he took steroids or stated he may have taken something but didn’t know what was in it and he would be dragged through the streets and tarred and feathered if it was proved he had knowingly taken them. We will not know the full extent of any backlash from this coming out for a while. Will this have any effect on his potential Hall of Fame voting? No one can really say at this point. The HOF voters have shown intolerance to known or suspected steroids users up to this point, but they are going to have to face the fact that there was wide use of the drug for that baseball era. They will be forced to either blacklist the entire group from that timeframe or judge the players by a different set of criteria.

Another influence on the lack of impact on A-Rod is the fact only his name was released from the list of 104 players who tested positive for steroids in 2003. Since only he was outed by Sports Illustrated, I believe that may have minimized some of the retribution against him. Likewise, who knows how he would have been affected if all 104 names had been released and what other superstars may be on that list?

Were A-Rod and Michael Phelps subject to different standards? Yes. However, that is due to the different standards between the IOC now and MLB then. Phelps is still a young athlete who did something incredibly stupid in smoking marijuana and even more stupid in getting his picture taken doing something illegal! Olympic athletes are expected to be squeaky clean and the sponsors of Olympic athletes also expect that. MLB athletes can get away with a lot more in the media. That’s just the way it is. I don’t think the punishment of Phelps was too extreme and I do not feel that the lack of punishment of A-Rod is too lenient either.

One other tidbit that rankles me. Why do sports media writers continue to think that if you take steroids your numbers should drastically increase? Athletes do not take steroids just to potentially increase their power number. They also take them to help recover faster in the case of pitchers or more endurance over the entire season. Oh, maybe that is why you work for ESPN. They hire morons and put them on TV.

You may think I am way off-base on this but I’m sure that is nothing new. Opinions are like assholes – everybody has one.

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