For months they waited and waited. They read the stories, they watched the awkward press conference, and they cursed the fact that A-Rod will be a Yankee for nine more years. Yet, when Alex finally took the field Friday night and deposited the first pitch he saw this season into the seats, Yankee fans cheered. Sure, a lot of it was simply relief. The team hadn’t had a lead in a game for almost a week and was on a five-game losing streak, but it was also the natural reaction of a Yankee fan, like every other sports fan—you root for your team.
We learned this week that another major star had been caught doing something wrong. Manny Ramirez was suspended 50 games for using a banned substance. While he wasn’t caught using steroids, he was caught using a drug that is well known for cloaking steroid use. Does that make him guilty of cheating like A-Rod? Does it matter?
The fact is baseball doesn’t have an effective drug policy. The urine tests for steroids are a great step, but only a blood test can detect HGH and they don’t test blood. And HGH use could be rampant in the game. The Mitchell Report suggested it was and also uncovered some users of it like Andy Pettitte. Barry Bonds and his enormous head, Mark McGwire and his enormous arms, these are guys you can easily imagine using PED’s, but Andy Pettitte? Pettitte doesn’t look big and that’s the scary thing, these drugs are so sophisticated that athletes can use them and not get cartoonishly big like they used to. You simply can’t tell who is doping and who isn’t without a blood test.
A writer for the New York Times said the other day that he wouldn’t be surprised if news came out that Derek Jeter or Cal Ripken, Jr. used a PED. Sadly, that’s a totally reasonable position to take. We have to be cynical of everything we see on the diamond; as great as Evan Longoria, Derek Jeter and Jose Reyes are, we have been burned too many times to totally believe that they are doing it without chemical enhancement.
Does it mean we should stop watching? Should we care less? Rationally, it absolutely does, but sports fans are not rational. We sit on the edge of our seat and pray for that big hit, we scream when our player strikes out in a big spot and we curse the opposing pitcher. We are not going to stop caring we are not going to stop rooting. It doesn’t matter who wears it or what they have done off the field; as long as they are wearing our team’s colors, we will continue to cheer.