A-Rod nabbed as baseball’s biggest name in steroid era

It’s ironic how 10 years ago, the one aspect of the game that was supposed to save baseball has been, for the last six years, the same thing that has destroyed it. But even more true, the irony of the situation is sad. Players today live by the homerun and die by it too. Just last week, Alex Rodriguez’s admission into using performance-enhancing drugs from 2001 through 2003 while with the Texas Rangers sent shockwaves throughout baseball and all major professional sports.

Unlike Bonds and Clemens, A-Rod’s reasons for taking steroids were those that we have never heard before. Not to gain an advantage on other players, or to hit his way into the record books. He could do that on pure talent alone. In fact, he was on his way to being a baseball Hall-of-Fame candidate until now.

Rodriguez claimed that he used steroids to deal with the pressure placed upon him by members of the sports media. Pressure from playing for Texas on a ballclub that averaged 72 wins over the three seasons he was there, while finishing in last place in the American League West division in each of those seasons? No, much more like the pressure to live up to what he had become. A young phenomenon on the borderline of superstar. Possibly the greatest player to ever step foot on a Major League diamond. Or just simply, a brand. Alex Rodriguez felt the pressure immediately after he became A-Rod. And now, like Bonds and Clemens, he is the latest – and GREATEST – to fall.

“In his youth, A-Rod was the Natural,” Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated wrote. “What was possible? Hell, what wasn’t possible?”

What’s not possible is now becoming clear. Maintaining his physiological clean reputation, gaining fame as the undisputed record-holder in a multitude of statistical categories, and possibly and most importantly, denial into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

The time period of A-Rod’s usage evokes skepticism. Although he adheres to his claim that he only introduced his body to supplements for his three seasons in Texas, it is likely that he continued to use the drugs during his first few years in New York, and possibly even this past season. It would only make sense. How can you take steroids to deal with the pressure while playing in Texas, but not in New York?

To suit up in pinstripes – given the Yankees’ past tradition and illustrious legacy – and to play in the largest media market in the entire world where sports writers are more like paparazzi and the fans don’t take kindly to having “off-days” is certainly no easy task day in and day out. In fact, being a sports mega-star in the Big Apple is like living under a microscope, where the term athlete is likened to, and often exceeded by, celebrity.

Nothing seems shocking anymore. Rodriguez, Bonds, and Clemens are the biggest names to fall from grace and there are still 104 more players who have been mentioned in dabbling with illegal substances. In an era disgracefully dubbed as the “Steroid Era,” players are all given the same chance to be great. Illegal substances are distributed as widely and freely as players’ baseball cards. Everyone has equal access to them, but because they are so prevalent and the question of who’s using is often a mystery, baseball’s hallowed records are no longer about which players were better than others. Due to last week’s events, and more of the same to come in the future, nobody can say for sure who the best players are because there is no accurate way to assess a player’s talent. Is the talent pure or processed? That is the real question that will ultimately save baseball and provides accurate insight into who the great players truly are. Fans want to know not which players did take steroids, but which ones had the opportunity to take them, and didn’t.

MLB Instant Replay Long Overdue

It’s finally happened: Major League Baseball announced last Tuesday that they are implementing instant replay in professional baseball.

It was a long awaited process, but instant replay has arrived in a park near you, and it will be used to review disputed home run calls including those in question of being fair or foul, in or out of the ballpark, or affected by fan interference.

It is long overdue for Major League Baseball to join the ranks of the three other major sports organizations who have already implemented instant replay. Ideas of establishing the system have been tossed back and forth for a number of years, however Commissioner Bud Selig has greatly opposed its use because of his strong belief in the human element that has defined the tradition of baseball.

But the 2008 season has had more controversial calls regarding home runs than any other in history, forcing Selig to take immediate action.

While the decision to establish an instant replay system has actually been embraced by a number of fans and approved by many of baseball’s top players, the timing of the decision could be critical.

With the American League’s East and Central Division races and the National League’s East and West races tight going into the final month of the season, certain teams might actually be denied a playoff berth due to the lack of instant replay in games prior to last week. It would be unfortunate if a team did not win their division and missed the post-season due to a call that might have affected the outcome of the game had instant replay been available.

On a brighter note, the system will be used in this year’s post-season, which in the past has had controversial moments regarding home runs. The remainder of the 2008 season will be a trial run for the instant replay system, as it will only review disputed home run calls.

If the system succeeds in deciding crucial calls, MLB executives might face the challenge of extending instant replay to much more than just longballs.

Instant replay seems like a good idea on the surface, but if its use expands, it could cause a few problems. After all, reviewing every close play would undermine the role and authority of umpires. Excessive use of instant replay would also extend the length of games, which is the opposite of what the league is currently trying to do.

However it is used, one thing is for sure: instant replay could be up for instant criticism.