It’s not news.
You’ll see wall-to-wall coverage for the next week of the news about David Ortiz, the New York Times report that the Red Sox slugger’s name was one of 103 names on the notorious – and supposedly anonymous – list of performance-enhancing drug users from 2003. From NESN to ESPN to CNN, you’ll hear so much about Ortiz and the steroid report over the next few days that you’ll wish someone would switch the focus back to Michael Jackson.
But it’s not news.
Ortiz has joined a club that includes such luminaries as Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Alex Rodriguez – not to mention Manny Ramirez, who played with Ortiz with the Red Sox and whose name also was included in yesterday’s New York Times report. The club also includes not-so-luminary names like Larry Bigbie, Mike Lansing, Matt Lawton and Fernando Vina.
No name being connected with steroid use possibly could surprise anyone anymore. If you still believed, after all the other players whose names have been associated with performance enhancers in recent years, that Ortiz was clean, well, you might want to see someone about your chronic delusion.
The level of surprise among the average baseball fan yesterday almost certainly registered somewhere between, “The sun came up this morning” and “My toaster didn’t explode overnight.”
The only possible discussion point left is how the revelation will impact the legacy of both Ortiz and the Red Sox. It won’t.
It’s not going to taint anything about the magical October of 2004. For one thing, the Red Sox rallied to win the American League Championship Series against a New York Yankees team that included Rodriguez, Jason Giambi and Gary Sheffield, all connected in various ways with performance-enhancing drugs.
For another, baseball fans have grown so numb to steroid revelations that every new name further buries the last. Ramirez, the latest to topple from his pedestal, received a standing ovation from a full house – on the road, no less – when he made his return from his 50-game suspension.
Even Rodriguez, whose use of performance enhancers sent shock waves through the baseball world in spring training, appears to have seen his life and career settle back into its regular routine. (From the New York Daily News on Sunday: “A-Rod, Kate Hudson kiss at Yankee Stadium.” Ah, normalcy.)
All this revelation does is deepen the urgency for the clean players from that era – if indeed there were any – to push for a wider transparency of information. More than 100 players tested positive for performance enhancers in 2003, but that means 600 or 700 did not test positive.
We just don’t know who’s on that list. We can make educated guesses, but we just don’t know. Ken Griffey Jr. has been held up as the poster child for unenhanced success, and Greg Maddux won 300 games more on movement and deception than on arm strength. It’s hard to believe Tim Wakefield needed any juice to push his knuckleball up to 67 miles an hour.
Albert Pujols even made emphatic declarations in a recent Sports Illustrated story. The story was met with a shrug and a “Who really knows?” from most fans.
Unless the clean players of this generation take a stand against the dirty players of this generation, we’re just going to keep hearing names leaking out – and not one of them is going to surprise us.