Let me be clear from the beginning. I am sick to death of Alex Rodriguez and his antics--both on and off the field. As a baseball fan, I want cheaters out of the game, period. As a Yankees fan, I want them out of baseball even if they wear pinstripes.
But don't get your hopes up that this is going to happen any time soon. For one thing, performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) are part and parcel of American culture. PEDs are not just used by professional athletes. Many Americans take medication which improves the quality of life, and enhances our ability to perform all kinds of basic tasks--some of these work-related. Some will say, "that's not PED use," but I'm not so sure this is an easy call. In fact, it is the wide-spread and accepted use of PEDs throughout our culture, which explains why so many are tempted to use banned and illegal PEDs (especially if they work better than legal ones).
What will MLB do? Many who specialize in such things, point out that MLB's case against these ballplayers is actually quite weak. The New York Post's Joel Sherman, explains why the twenty men named will not go away quietly (PED users will fight back), and a noted labor attorney points out that MLB has a very weak case based on a very questionable witness with little support in the way of laboratory science (MLB's weak case). If you think the twenty or so players supposedly in the cross-hairs of MLB's attempt to suspend them, will go quietly into the night and take their punishment (and their pay-cuts) like men, well then, I've got some land in Stanton I want to sell you.
We should also give some consideration to just how deeply PEDs are now ingrained in American life and culture. I know a guy (I'm sure you know someone just like him) who constantly berates me for being a Yankees fan. He's always griping about A-Rod's ridiculous contract (BTW--I agree with him), and how the Yankees "buy pennants" (something which, if true, isn't working very well of late).
This same man who rants about PED use in baseball has also made it widely known that he uses Cialis. He claims it is a wonder drug (he has had some health issues) but he also complains about its cost, and lets just say he laments that this wonder drug puts "the romantic mood on the clock." He's married, and you can figure out what he is lamenting.
I understand that his PED use is not the same as a professional athlete--he's not being paid to perform (well, lets hope not), and he's not using something which is illegal or banned by his union. This medication was prescribed by his doctor, and it brings intimacy and satisfaction to both himself and his wife. But nevertheless he still uses a medication to enhance performance and nobody (including him) thinks twice about it. How many of you reading this have ever taken Tylenol PM when you have a big day ahead at work and cannot sleep? What about taking a pain reliever to get through a day's work? Or a pain reliever the next day because you did too much the day before? And just how many commercials have we watched in which some drug company was telling us how their pill will improve our lives, despite all the side effects mentioned?
PED use runs very deep in American life. This is why we should not in any sense be surprised that professional athletes would turn to performance enhancing substances (even banned and illegal ones) to recover from injury quicker, stave-off the effects of aging (like most Cialis users), and even to improve current performance because it means a pile of money. If MLB owners are going to pay these guys millions to perform, what do they expect?
I'm not attempting to justify professional athletes procuring illegal PEDs, or violating the terms of their contracts by using substances banned by MLB. Athletes who do so should pay the piper. But I am saying that our culture is a PED using culture, so we surely understand why someone would be tempted to seek to gain an edge they otherwise would not have.
As for MLB and the current hubbub, sad to say, I am afraid the Yankees and their fans are stuck with A-Rod for the balance of his contract (unless his hip injury forces him to retire). Cheaters do prosper in professional sports because ours is a PED using culture.
We do indeed live in a brave (and PED filled) new world.