Thursday, August 9, 2007

Steroids Week: Bonus Coverage 5

Chipper Jones answered a question about A-Rod and steroid use and the answer has been blown way out of proportion. Peter Abraham, at his excellent blog, addresses just how out of proportion the reaction is, and in doing so, says this:

I cannot tell you categorically that Rodriguez has never used PEDs. But I can tell you this: I’ve never witnessed a baseball player who works harder at being good. I used to get to Legends Field around 7:45 a.m. most mornings in spring training and A-Rod was always on a back field taking grounders. Not sometimes. Always.

During the season, we’re allowed in the clubhouse 3.5 hours before the game and he is always there, either having finished working out or on his way. He also lifts weights after games. The Yankee coaches marvel at this work ethic and hold him up as an example to their younger players.

Alex was heavier last season, especially in his upper body, and it cost him on the field. He has dropped at least 15 pounds this season and has more range and quickness at third base and much quicker bat speed.

Along with the working out, he radically changed his diet. It’s to the point where he brings his own food to the stadium and calls ahead to restaurants to find out what’s on their menus.

There’s no reason to feel badly for a guy with that kind of talent and a contract that will change the lives of his great, great grandkids. But in this case, Rodriguez is being treated unfairly.

Do you see what Mr. Abraham has done? A-Rod works hard, therefore he is a good guy and less likely to use steroids. A-Rod's suspicion level is mitigated by Peter Abraham's perception of how hard A-Rod works at his craft.

Now, if I had to venture a guess, I'd wager that Barry Bonds works harder than one can possibly imagine to be a great hitter. In fact, as I hope to touch on at a later date, if Bonds is using steroids, he may be working harder than he normally would because steroids enable him to push his body harder when training.

PED use and hard work are not mutually exclusive. PED use is that strange kind of cheating where you actually have to work harder when cheating than you do when not cheating. It can be driven by fear of failure or by desire to succeed, but either way you have to be driven to care enough to use PEDs.

Yet, we often throw up guys as examples of non-users just because they are hard working, affable guys. Because we perceive these guys playing the right way and being gritty and hustling and working hard, we elevate them beyond reproach. Bonds is a surly son of a bitch, so he doesn't get the benefit of the doubt.

But Pete Rose? He was a baseball hero, until it turned out he actually wasn't.

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