Alex Rodriguez, pioneer?

Over the weekend Alex Rodriguez received the Babe Ruth Award for his dominant postseason. Alex hasn’t received much attention for winning an award meant to celebrate the best player in the playoffs, but he should have, and not for the reason many fans might think.

A list of players with legitimate Hall-of-Fame resumes whose association with steroids might prevent their election would look roughly like this:

Barry Bonds
Roger Clemens
Sammy Sosa
Mark McGwire
Rafael Palmeiro
Manny Ramirez
Alex Rodriguez

The above list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, but at a moment’s notice that is the list of players most fans would probably think of whose accomplishments on the field would get them elected into Cooperstown on the first ballot, except for the steroids implications.

All but two of these players are retired. Of them, Sosa is the only one who didn’t either lie to Congress (really, never a good idea) or put himself into a legally treacherous position. And if you believe his “me no speak English” excuse then I have a bridge in Alaska I’d like to sell you.

The combination of dishonesty and inactivity makes it difficult for these players to work their way back into the game’s good graces. They are no longer playing in what is now perceived to be a cleaner MLB. These players can’t point to several years of solid numbers and good behavior to make the (probably true) argument that steroids helped them heal, but didn’t help them hit big league curveballs. That each one of them decided to lie despite solid evidence of PED abuse adds fuel to the fire in this witch hunt.

Manny Ramirez is active, and probably the best all-around righthanded hitter of the last 40 or so years. He’s also universally reviled in the baseball media. Even before the steroids taint hit him articles had been published arguing against Manny’s HOF cred for his reputation as a bad teammate. Then, he committed the only sin I’d hold against a PED user: he got caught, and missed 50 games. This seems worse than being implicated in the scandal five or six years after the fact, which Manny was; the combination of failed tests leaves him looking like more of a cheater than many of his peers.

That leaves A-Rod. There is no silver bullet to extricate one’s self from the steroid scandal in the eyes of a crazily hypocritical baseball media, but the next best thing is to admit it, move on, and for the love of god don’t get caught again. So far A-Rod is 3-3. He’s also continuing to put up HOF numbers now that he is hopefully clean. Unlike Manny, no one has also ever accused A-Rod of being a bad person for any other reasons. He may not be the most popular guy in the clubhouse, but being a prima donna is a far cry from mailing in entire games, at least as far as baseball’s MSM is concerned.

The BBWAA votes on the Babe Ruth Award. That’s why it’s interesting to see A-Rod, and not, say, Hideki Matsui, walking away with it. Receiving this award is a far cry from being enshrined in Cooperstown, but it does offer some evidence that great players have a path to redemption, again, as far as the touchy-feely baseball writers are concerned.

Well done, Alex. Now, for the love of god, don’t get caught.