Boston Sports Radio – Red Sox Nation Betrayed?

The Red Sox Nation, Betrayed

By CHARLES McGRATH  – Article Courtesy of:  New York Times

Article Courtesy of The New York Times

SUCH is the gloomy, guilt-ridden New England conscience that within hours after a report that Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz had tested positive for steroid use in 2003, Red Sox fans were already feeling miserable again.

By 6 on Friday morning, the lines at the sports radio station WEEI, Boston’s equivalent of New York’s WFAN, were jammed with breast-beating callers, phoning in to say that the Sox World Series victories in 2004 and 2007 were tainted — too good to be true, and now a source of shame. We should have known: you can’t shake off the Curse in a mere 86 years.

Left, John Bazemore/Associated Press; right, Brian Snyder, via Reuters

SAY IT AIN’T SO Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz have both been linked to steroids.

Related New York Times Articles:

Reflections of a Yankee Fan (August 2, 2009)
News Analysis: If Every Team Was Doping, Why Use Asterisks? (July 31, 2009)
Ramirez and Ortiz Tune Out Allegations (August 1, 2009)

A lot of fans appeared to feel personally betrayed by Ortiz, or Big Papi, as he is known to Red Sox Nation — an immensely personable and popular figure, not to mention the greatest clutch hitter in the team’s history, who had steadfastly denied using performance-enhancing drugs. Almost no mention was made of the flaky and mercurial Ramirez, traded to the Dodgers last season and now just back with them after a 50-game suspension for recently taking a fertility drug banned by baseball. Manny who?

But if the Red Sox record is tainted, it’s no more tainted than that of any other team. In this respect, at least, it’s clear that the field was level. Not every player used steroids, but enough did, it appears, that no clubhouse was remotely a drug-free zone. Not to shift the blame, but the list of Yankees who have either admitted to or are accused of doping includes Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte, Gary Sheffield, Chuck Knoblauch, Jason Giambi, Jason Grimsley and Roger Clemens. And if they did, the juice doesn’t seem to have done much good in the years in question. We played better.

If you’re an ungenerous Red Sox fan, what you’re really hoping right now is that Derek Jeter will get fingered. He’s the Big Papi of the Yankees, the soul of the team, and if he were to get caught using, it would finally end all the sanctimony and the pretense that the problem was confined to a few bad apples. Alas, that’s unlikely to happen — Jeter really does seem to be a straight-shooter — but who can say for sure? No one seems completely above suspicion anymore.

Meanwhile, some of the finger-wagging should surely be redirected at Major League Baseball itself, which, together with the players union, for a long while chose to look the other way when the steroid question came up. The tests in 2003 were never intended to catch people, and the results were not supposed to be made public at all, let alone dribbled out in a way that seems designed to make headlines. Those early tests were an exercise in fact finding; the results shouldn’t have surprised anyone.

Nor should Congress get off the hook. The steroid hearings in Washington were exercises in moralizing and pontification that did little to shed light on the problem. For a start, we don’t know for certain how and whether steroids do much more than retard the effects of aging. And if that is the case, let’s ban them in the clubhouse but make them freely available to the middle-aged! Nor, despite all the horror stories, has it been scientifically proved how harmful steroids are — at least, the way baseball players use them. About all we know is that it’s just about impossible to design a foolproof test.

So what do we do? Hard to say, except that “cheating,” like it or not, has always been a part of baseball — before there were syringes there were amphetamines, or “greenies,” and bats that were corked — and that for the Boston faithful it makes little sense to dwell in the past or don sackcloth and pack up the World Series banners. We fans deserve them, even if the players don’t. And whom should we send them to, anyway? The Yankees? Don’t think so.

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