On August 7 a ‘hush hush’ topic of the baseball steroid era finally raised its head. But instead of making a subtle reference to this taboo subject, Yankees GM Brian Cashman decided to address it with a swagger usually reserved for how the winning hand of the World Series of poker might be revealed.
This Fox Sports story describes the scene perfectly:
“During the press conference Sunday, Yankees GM Brian Cashman was asked a pointed question about how A-Rod should be remembered — as one of the best ever or a cheater — and deftly dodged it, instead taking the 2009 World Series ring off his finger and laying it on the table in front of reporters. He then responded…
‘Well, I’m wearing this 2009 World Series ring right here. I’ll take it off and put it right in front of you guys so you can take a look at it. That’s the ’09 ring — that doesn’t come along to this franchise’s trophy case without Alex’s contributions, significant contributions’”.
There you have it: the first time a team has attributed the contributions of a convicted PED user as a key to winning the World Series. But Cashman even goes further than this. He says that the championship would not have even happened “without A-Rod’s contributions”.
The World Series ring is quite a prop. I wonder if Cashman considered a bat flip or a touchdown dance after his statement?
Because the championship being referenced by Cashman is the World Series of baseball, and not the World Series of poker, this is quite a revealing statement by Cashman. It demonstrates the institutional apathy of baseball’s front offices towards PEDS users, as well as an almost grateful acceptance of what they achieve. However, it also shines light on a solution to the PEDS problem in professional sports.
On the surface, Cashman’s statement on the 2009 Yankees could seem unrelated to A-Rod’s actual PED usage. Technically, A-Rod has only admitted to using PEDS from 2001-2003, and then, according to the DEA’s report of investigation, from late 2010 to October 2012. But if you think those are the only times A-Rod ever went this PEDestrian route, you may also still think that Obama has a fake American birth certificate.
I can’t imagine Cashman really thinking that A-Rod only used PEDS in pinstripes during the admitted windows of time.
It turns out that A-Rod’s first ‘gotcha’ moment occurred before the formal testing process had even started in baseball. In 2003, a test was given but players were assured that this test was anonymous and only being done for research purposes. The results would have remained secret but the names were leaked.
After a tearful apology, that conveniently occurred as the TV cameras were rolling, A-Rod was caught a second time without actually even failing an MLB drug test. Of course, a slight limitation of these so-called drug tests were that they did not test for HGH or account for how quickly testosterone goes through your system. But the savvy A-Rod had researched these flaws in the test like a Nobel prize winning scientist. Unfortunately for A-Rod, he still got busted for HGH and testosterone because his doctor was raided by the DEA and the paper trail led directly to him. Talk about bad luck.
But now talk about good luck, Cashman now credits A-Rod for the Yankees 2009 Championship.
Assume that A-Rod gets the benefit of the doubt because it’s not a proven fact that he used PEDS in 2009. Who cares that in 2009 the MLB did not test for HGH. Who cares that MLB had the same drug testing policy in 2009 that A-Rod was able to avoid the very next season while admittedly using PEDS. Who even cares that Selena Roberts of Sports Illustrated at the time reported that A-Rod starting using steroids way back in high school, making his entire career a potential fraud.
Whether A-Rod was dirty or clean in 2009, Cashman is still giving the credit for the World Series win to someone who was convicted of using PEDS both before 2009 and after 2009, and this is a fact.
Why would Cashman do this? Did Cashman want to remind everyone that he and the Yankees have actually won a World Series after the year 2000? Was he in a giving mood because he was so happy that A-Rod was finally going to be gone from his clubhouse? Or, does winning a World Series behind a serial juicer not even matter to the team’s front office?
Cashman appears to be making the latter statement, and this shows the flaw in how MLB polices PED use, and also how it can be improved.
It’s hard to believe that right now MLB teams receive no penalty at all if their players get caught using PEDS. Teams have very little incentive to care if their players use PEDS. A team can win with these players and profit off their performance and not fear any consequences. This is ridiculous!
Cashman may have chosen to focus on A-Rod’s 2009 contributions rather than A-Rod’s cheating because that is how Cashman’s boss sets up his comp plan.
Until the team gets severely penalized for one of its players doing PEDS, teams will continue to pretend to care and continue to reap the benefits of the PEDS, whether these benefits are victories or revenue.
If teams faced the prospect of retroactively having their World Series championship erased from the record books, or being fined for every dollar they made during that timeframe, front offices would have an incentive to use their resources to suit up PED free players. If teams focused on building rosters that are PED free with the same vigor they focus on harnessing speed, pitching, and defense, an entire culture would emerge against PEDs, from a fear of letting down teammates to the reality of taking money out of the bosses pocket.
Because Cashman believes that A-Rod should be remembered for his 2009 World Series contributions and not his rampant cheating, Cashman is showing what the owners and general managers value. Until this changes, the next A-Rod may be entering the big leagues right now, always one step ahead of the drug testing policy.
Well, I’m not sure anyone could ever equal A-Rod in his shameless pursuit of cheating, but you get my point. And maybe A-Rod’s bosses even appreciate the lengths he went to in order to be the best player science could buy.