A blogger suggests a player’s late-career surge is suspicious because of you-know-what. The player — Raul Ibanez of Philadelphia — calls the blogger “some 42-year-old typing in his mother’s basement.” Old Media (meaning John Gonzalez of the Philadelphia Inquirer) takes Ibanez’s side. New Media takes a hit. And I say …
The blogger in question — Jerod Morris of Midwest Sports Fans, who says he’s 27, FYI — was clumsy in method but correct in thesis. This is baseball. Baseball has a steroids issue. Did Morris have a shred of evidence, other than generic numbers about hitting stats in certain ballparks and some data regarding Ibanez’s history of first-half hitting, to implicate this player? Nope. (So far as I can discern, Morris has never met Ibanez.) But is Morris accurate when he says baseball players are now guilty until proven innocent? Yes indeed.
How many happy baseball stories have soured? McGwire and Sosa were saviors. Now they’re pariahs. Barry Bonds was the greatest hitter ever. Now he’s the biggest cheat. Roger Clemens was the holder of seven Cy Young awards. Now he’s one shameful dissembler. A-Rod was supposed to reclaim the home-run record in the name of virtue. Now he’s A-Roid. Manny was being Manny until it was discovered he needed a female fertility drug to help him be Mann(l)y.
This isn’t, as ESPN’s Outside the Lines sough to have it, about Old Media vs. New Media. It’s about MLB against itself. (Confession: I’ve been working for newspapers for 31 years, five months and three days. I’m so old-school my institution of learning had a wood stove and a schoolmarm.)
Part of me wants to be moved by Ibanez’s impassioned denial — “You can have my urine, my hair, my blood, my stool, anything you can test,” he told Jim Salisbury of the Inquirer — but my cynical side recalls Rafael Palmeiro making an impassioned denial before Congress before he tested positive. Indignation isn’t nearly so righteous as it once was.
Is it unfair Ibanez’s name even gets mentioned in the context of steroids? Absolutely. But Ibanez’s game, sad to say, got itself where it is by turning a blind eye to blatant unfairness. Nobody knows what was real and what wasn’t. And nobody, whether he’s sitting in the commissioner’s office or snuggled up in his mom’s basement, can see a way out of this mess. Nobody, I say.