There is a lot to chew on in William Rhoden’s New York Times column about Alex Rodriguez and the Biogenesis mess. Some of it even I, a pretty reliable defender of players being accused of using PEDs, can’t sign on to.
For example, I do not think that anyone, no matter how overreaching MLB becomes, will actually “root” for A-Rod. He’s basically impossible to root for, even if you do want to see that he is given due process and a fair shake.
I also don’t believe that he or the MLBPA should mount an appeal simply for the purposes of challenging the credibility of evidence against him. Maybe it makes sense to appeal — especially if the discipline leveled is overly-harsh — but the calculation to appeal or not should mostly be one that serves the pragmatic interests of the player involved, not one of principle alone.
Finally, I doubt Rhoden’s theory that, if A-Rod does appeal, that he’d have more people rooting for him than he thinks. It’s pretty lonely in the “defend A-Rod” camp. Believe me, I know from experience.
But if it is lonely there it’s for a reason Rhoden also outlines. An idea with which I agree 100%: Baseball has pretty consciously sought out villains in its anti-PED efforts and is pretty content to let A-Rod be the villain here. That, as Rhoden notes, “the process is selective.”
Rhoden notes that, despite hundreds of players using PEDs in the 90s and early 2000s, baseball was happy to allow big power hitters like McGwire, Sosa and Bonds to be the face of PEDs. I’ll add that MLB’s primary anti-PED effort of those years — The Mitchell Report — did almost nothing to reduce or combat PEDs and almost everything to change the PED conversation from “how do we stop them” to “what are the big names doing them?” We all acknowledge that real risk of PEDs is when players are the margins are forced out by PED users taking their roster spots or are coerced by that dynamic into doing them themselves, yet we still focus on the big stars who would be in the league anyway.
So it is with A-Rod. Maybe he is orders of magnitude worse than any other Biogenesis offender. We have to take MLB’s word on that for now. But it’s also a fact that MLB is quite adept at hanging big names out to dry for the purpose of making them, as opposed to Bud Selig or the game’s overall culture or drug testing system, the face of the problem.