LONGSHOTS: Ortiz and Manny’s steroid story tests fans as well
by Dave Long
I love it when politicians emphatically talk about their “principles” and “convictions.” I especially get a kick out of hearing many in the family values crowd, like Newt Gingrich, Brazilian-crazed South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, Nevada Senator John Ensign, Idaho’s Larry Craig or ex-Florida congressman Mark Foley tell us all how to live morally. And so the fair and balanced network doesn’t get out of sorts over East Coast, left-wing media elite bias, the biggest hypocrite of them all, former crime-busting prosecutor Eliot Spitzer, goes here as well.
And while Bill Clinton and John Edwards are serious dogs too, they don’t quite make the list because they didn’t use FVs as a marketing device to get elected. But all pale in comparison to former president of the National Association of Evangelicals Ted Haggard telling his flock of 2 million or so to fly the straight and narrow while he was doing crystal meth and cavorting with a male prostitute and later emerging from rehab saying he’s cured of being gay. And people actually allowed to vote in elections bought it too — Yikes!
In the end there are two kinds of convictions: the kind pols use to get gullible, intellectually lazy people to automatically vote for them and real ones — which are what you do at the moment of truth. As Cleveland Indians great Bob Feller did the day after the Pearl Harbor attack by joining the Navy. Ditto for Pat Tillman after 9-11.
So why am I bringing this up? Because pols ain’t the only ones who talk a good game and don’t deliver at the moment of truth and Red Sox Nation is at one of those at the crossroads with the news David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez tested positive for steroids in 2003. The Nation is a highly baseball- intelligent and loyal group. But the question is, is it principled?
Given my limited faith that for too many the ends justify the means when winning comes into the equation and that I’ve said all along that the vast majority don’t care about steroids, I think the Nation is going to let Big Papi walk on this. A second less forgiving group will fall in line after a PR maven somewhere finally convinces him to throw himself on the mercy of the court and confess. And that will happen despite repeated denials and his famous “users should get a year suspension” harangue during spring training.
You know what they say — sometimes the best defense is a good offense.
Sorry. I didn’t buy it then, I don’t buy it now and I believe he was lying to us when he says he didn’t know he was on the list. I didn’t have any proof until Thursday, but I knew. It’s like Denny Crain saying on Boston Legal, “I don’t need to know anything about this case to try it.” From Raphael Palmiero wagging his finger, to Sammy Sosa forgetting how to speak English at the same hearing, to Pete Rose saying he didn’t bet on the Reds, to “I did not have sex with that woman” I’ve just seen it enough times that, like Special Agent Jethro Gibbs, my gut knows when it’s hearing a story. And I can’t remember the last time it was wrong.
Now while I said the majority of fans don’t care about this issue, I didn’t say the media didn’t care. Many care a great deal and they hold the Hall of Fame card that makes folks like Sosa, Palmiero, Manny, Roger Clemens, A-Rod, Barry Bonds and others vulnerable. And some Hall of Famers don’t like it either, like Harmon Killebrew, who recently spoke up. Who can blame him, as three suspected users (Bonds, Sosa and Mark McGwire) have driven his 573 homers to ninth all-time, while first A-Rod and then Manny will catch him too. With many still a long way from being voted on, this will come up every January and July for at least 10 years, so it’s a good time to figure out how to deal with it.
As for me, while it’s wrong, I’m not nuts over it. Maybe it’s because rules, equipment and whole stadiums have changed through the years to alter the record books. If they hadn’t juiced the ball in 1920 Ty Cobb might still be thought of as the power hitter he was back in the day when his now minuscule 117 lifetime homers were Ruthian. But as Babe Ruth’s popularity rose, the ball got juiced. And the enormously high mound of 1968 led to the remarkable the Year of the Pitcher. Or maybe I agree with Bob Gibson (an incredible 1.12 ERA in 1968) that, from amphetamines in his day to Gaylord Perry’s spitball to Elston Howard scuffing balls that Whitey Ford could make sail, cheating in various forms has been around forever and ‘roids are a high-tech version. What does bother me, though, is that changing perceptions here will move the bar on cheating. As it moves bit by bit farther away from what’s right, attitudes become more accepting.
As I said earlier I suspect hypocrisy will reign in the Nation over favored son Ortiz. If you need evidence, just go to the VERY day the news broke when he got a standing ovation for homering in a much needed win. The same Nation that had signs galore at Fenway for A-Rod when the Yanks were in town, including a guy who held up a big asterisk every time he came to bat.
And that’s where the diatribe about political hypocrites comes in. If A-Rod’s a bad guy for this, so is Ortiz. But I don’t think people will see it that way. Because as Matt Leite said on my radio show Saturday, you’ve got to support your team no matter what. And my friend not so liberal Lou DeMato says I’m a turncoat for quitting George Steinbrenner’s Yankees because he hired gambler and soon to be felon Howard Spira to dig up dirt to make Dave Winfield look bad.
It violated my standards and so do Papi’s actions. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like him or think the owners weren’t as culpable in this mess. So here’s what I think we should do. For the duration of the year Boston should boo him every time he comes to the plate. No standing Os or wild cheering, to say you’re grounded young man because you acted badly, and let’s see how he responds. And here’s what he and everyone on the list should do — act like men. Tell the public you did it and why, like Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte did.
But they won’t do the right thing and neither will many fans, which puts all in the same boat as the hypocrites at the top of this story who talk a great game but don’t live up to it when the real moment arrives.
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.