Alex Rodriquez has movie star good looks, dated celebrities like Madonna and Cameron Diaz, and graced the pages of US Magazine nearly as much as he did Sports Illustrated. Perhaps because of his fame off the diamond, some of my friends say they feel sorry for Rodriguez because Major League Baseball plans to suspend him later this week – likely long enough to end his career – for his role in the Biogenesis scandal. (For those who don’t know, Biogenesis was a clinic that supplied illegal performance enhancing drugs to Major League Baseball players). If you ask a big baseball fan like me, though, Rodriquez is getting everything he deserves.
The use of performance enhancing drugs by players like Rodriquez has been a big problem in baseball for over twenty years, but I’m not sure everyone realizes just how many people have been negatively affected by it. There’s the major league record holders, for example, like Roger Maris, who set the record for most home runs in a season with sixty-one in 1961. Thirty-seven years later his family looked on as his hard earned record was stolen by an admitted cheater, Mark McGwire.
It wasn’t just older players like Maris who were affected, though. The clean players who played alongside the cheaters like Rodriquez (and Bonds, Sosa, McGwire, Clemens, etc.) suffered, too. My husband always points to his favorite player, Will Clark, who, before performance enhancing drugs became an epidemic, lead the league with 109 RBIs in 1988. A few years later Manny Ramirez (who would eventually test positive for PEDs), drove in 165 runs! Clark’s 109 RBIs suddenly didn’t look so impressive, and his accomplishments continued to be overshadowed by those of cheating players for the rest his career. Clark could have made the decision to cheat as well, but he didn’t, and it likely kept him from making it into the Hall of Fame.
The players most affected were the minor leaguers. There have been hundreds – if not thousands – of clean players who would have made it to the majors if it weren’t for the fact their spots on major league rosters were taken by players with less integrity who cheated.
The most upsetting part of this mess, though, is that a whole generation of kids grew up seeing players who cheated reap the rewards while players who did the right thing suffered. What kind of messed up lesson was that for kids?
Baseball is a huge passion in my family. I grew up rooting for the Dodgers, and my daughter Annabel already loves to go to baseball games. When my son and daughter are old enough to really love baseball, I want them to be able to look up to the players and see hard work and skill rewarded, not cheating. For that future to become a reality for our kids, an example has to be made out of players who abused performance enhancing drugs – even “cute” ones like Alex Rodriguez.