In retrospect, it makes sense; perhaps I was blinded by the idealism of youth, or maybe I was distracted by league-leading 230 home runs.
In any case, the recent Sports Illustrated report that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids was the last piece in the puzzle.
The 2003 Rangers lineup, teeming with yoked supermen, should serve as a lasting image of baseball’s steroid-era. It doesn’t of course, at least not in a national sense, because of the small detail that the team dropped 90 games that season and finished dead-last in the AL West.
Rodriguez joins Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez as members of that 2003 lineup who have either been implicated anecdotally (Pudge, Gonzalez) or tested positive for performance enhancing drugs (A-Rod, Palmeiro).
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Rodriguez’ positive test came from that season, his last in Texas. He led the league in home runs with 47 and won the AL MVP before heading to New York.
This incident, and the incessant coverage that is sure to follow, illustrates the magnitude of this corner in baseball history. While Barry Bonds was all but convicted in the jury of public opinion (even before his forced-retirement), Rodriguez, for one reason or another, was never seriously talked about as a potential user.
Given, Rodriguez’ head didn’t grow a hat size over a 10-year span, and the jump in his numbers could be more reasonably attributed to sheer development as a player. Still, Rodriguez was somewhat of a bastion of purity in those years, proof (we thought) that there were still legitimate heroes in the game, men capable of doing unnatural things naturally.
From a national perspective, of course, these developments carry a tremendous weight. For serious Rangers’ fans, it just seems to clear the picture a bit.
As much as A-Rod was not thought of as a steroid user, he was also not thought of as a true Ranger. Namely, A-Rod testing positive doesn’t hit nearly as close to home as does the evidence against Palmeiro or Gonzalez or Pudge for Rangers’ fans.
Palmeiro remains the most notable player to be suspended for steroids. Gonzalez and Rodriguez never tested positive (that we know of), but only history will tell if that will make any difference. They were heroes during their time in Texas; were being the operative word.
Idealistic baseball fans (and there are many of those) will decry this development as proof that there is (or more accurately maybe, was, six years ago) nothing sacred in baseball. And they may be right. Such things happen when a child’s game morphs into a multibillion-dollar-a-year business. Fans (and Tom Hicks, apparently) love home runs, after all, and there are mortgages to be paid.
But Rangers’ fans could have told you that a long time ago. Alex Rodriguez is the 21st current or former Ranger to be implicated in a steroid scandal.
This is a new day, they say, and they’re probably right. A-Rod experienced a palpable drop in home run totals after MLB instilled league-wide testing, as did everyone else. Bud Selig has done well to move the game beyond this ugly period, during which we were reminded that if something is too good to be true, it usually is.
But this is a thankless, long and unsure task, one that will turn heroes into villains and fans into suspicious observers for years to come, whether justified or not. These are cloudy times.