Take a look at photos of Alex Rodriguez in 1998 and Barry Bonds in 1992. Now look at photos of the same athletes from 2005. In my opinion, it doesn’t take much more than a simple photo comparison to plainly discern that both Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds used steroids with at least some degree of regularity. Not surprisingly, hungry, savvy journalists sought out those involved in Bonds and A-Rod’s performance enhancement and have turned heads and profits off of their published findings. The Barry Bonds book, A Game of Shadows, delves into the whys and wherefores of Bonds’ involvement in the performance enhancement industry, revealing a gazillion dollar business that serves high-income, high-performance clientele. No one remembers or cares about the names of the authors, and I can assure you that those men now employ several accountants to keep track of their shiny baubles.
However, the spoils that the Barry Bonds scandal created (and continues to create) for the writers of A Game of Shadows, were deserved: good journalism based around fact-finding created a book that not only explored the on-field results of Bonds’ drug use, but the whole of the operation and clubhouse culture that put the syringe in Bonds’ hands in the first place. Conversely, the A-Rod book appears to be a step in the wrong direction, sensationalizing the accusations levied at Rodriguez with even more sensational, speculative evidence provided in significant part by that wholesome bastion of morality, justice, and truth we know by the name of Jose Canseco.
To be sure, I haven’t seen Canseco as a worthwhile human being since that ball bounced off his head and into the stands for a Home Run, and, after he released his snitch-fest of a book, I lost all respect for the man. Sure, Canseco might have a valid opinion of A-Rod and the needle based on personal experience. But the point is that this book, as opposed to the Bonds book, does nothing more than point a 300-page-long finger at A-Rod. And the finger is being pointed by none other than Canseco, baseball’s equivalent of Sammy Gravano. More importantly, there’s no hidden business to be discovered here, no earth-shattering scandal, no BALCO, no Greg Lewis, no subsequent Roger Clemens investigation–only piles and piles of cash flowing into the author’s bank account, more face time for Canseco, more clubhouse issues for Girardi and the Yanks. The dude juiced. So did Adam Piatt and FP Santangelo and Eric Gagne and all the rest. I can appreciate that A-Rod’s fame almost dictates that an expose be written. I simply see this book as more major progress toward a book that might be titled “Steroids and Still Mediocre: the Marvin Benard Story”, something I think all purists would like to avoid. The game needs level-headed investigations conducted by clever minds, seeking to re-legitimize the game and make the national pastime whole again. What baseball certainly doesn’t need is tabloid-style, needle-chasing journalism that looks for the short-term buck, rather than the long-term good of the game.