Imagine this scenario: It’s February, 2009. Alex Rodriguez is entering his 15th year in Seattle. He’s a beloved homegrown player with 553 career home runs, he’s still just 33 years old, and he’s already established himself as one of the best shortstops — yes, shortstops — of all time. The idea that Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Jeter are anywhere near as good as he has long been put to rest. Maybe he even helped the 116-win Mariners win the pennant and/or World Series in 2001, and the Texas interview in which he downplayed Jeter’s offensive value never happened.
Then comes the ESPN article outing him as one of the 104 players who tested positive for steroids in 2003. He apologizes, citing a “tremendous pressure to perform” and to live up to the huge contract Seattle gave him. He promises never to do it again. The rest of the country decries him as a cheater, but his hometown fans in Seattle are quick to forgive him, especially after the 30-HR/100 RBI season he puts up in 2009 coming back from hip surgery.
The Mariners are surprisingly good that year, and A-Rod’s performance helps them edge out the Angels for the AL West title. He then spends his remaining years in Seattle loathed by opposing fans and adored by his own, not unlike Barry Bonds in San Francisco. Maybe the biogenesis scandal still happens. Maybe A-Rod is still suspended for the entire 2014 season and he still hires lawyers that later sue him for not paying his legal fees. Maybe he ruins and rebuilds his reputation in exactly the same fashion.
But he does it all as a Mariner.
Two weeks ago, Robinson Canó was suspended 80 games for steroids. [Yes, technically he was suspended for a peeing drug that covers up steroid use, but that’s not the point.] When former Yankee teammate Mark Teixeira was asked about Canó getting caught for steroids, Teixeira said he wasn’t surprised. “Look at who his friends were.”
Canó played with A-Rod for nine years in New York, and he and former Yankee Melky Cabrera were known for following A-Rod around like puppies. Puppies who wanted to learn all of his secrets, which apparently included taking puppy steroids.
Would Canó have taken steroids had he not been a disciple of a Hall-of-Fame-caliber juicer? We’ll never know, but Rodriguez influenced Canó immensely in all aspects of the game. Heck, even that 10-year/$240 million contract he signed with the Mariners (ironically) is a play right out of the A-Rod handbook. It’s hard to fault a guy for not wanting to turn down an extra $65 million, but I have a hard time imagining Derek Jeter or Cal Ripken doing that. Just as A-Rod gave up the chance to be the face of baseball in Seattle forever, Canó gave up the chance to be a Yankee legend. He gave up the chance to be remembered as the best of his era at his position without an asterisk. And, in all likelihood, he just gave up his chance to get into Cooperstown.