Big Papi? Big Fraud.
That’s the worst of it in the latest installment of baseball and steroids, the latest new seepage of old sludge. It isn’t so much that David Ortiz once used performance-enhancing drugs. Outrage gradually has turned to numbness. Besides, only the most devout (or naive) Papi-ites among Red Sox Nation could seriously claim to be utterly shocked upon learning their hero’s name had been outed and added to the ever-growing taint list.
It’s the plain hypocrisy.
How do you muster the gall to shake a holier-than-thou fist at the cheaters when you secretly were doing the same things to gain the same advantages?
Ortiz had said just this past February, in the wake of Alex Rodriguez’s outing: “If I test positive using any kind of banned substance I’m going to disrespect the game, my family, my fans and everybody. And I don’t want to face the situation so I won’t use it.”
Oops! That was before The New York Times reported Thursday that Ortiz and former teammate Manny Ramirez are among the not-so-secret list of more than 100 players who tested positive for PEDs in 2003.
Manny Being Manny on the list surprises nobody, considering he served a 50-game suspension just this season after testing positive in the spring for a substance that is banned because it is an agent used to mask steroids.
But Ortiz got to play the Good Guy Above the Fray, got to be Beloved Papi, right up until the moment the truth was exposed.
Quick aside: Don’t let anybody, by which I mean Yankees fans, tell you the Manny/Papi revelation taints Boston’s 2004 or ’07 World Series titles, pending proof that either or both were ’roiding those seasons.
Ortiz’s apologists might note that steroids were not officially banned by baseball in 2003, the last year they were not. But that’s a flimsy distinction. He was cheating before they called it cheating, in other words. Free on a technicality, perhaps, but it still casts a cloud over Papi’s career body of work in much the same way an asterisk begs to be fixed to the home run feats of Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. They did most of their damage — to the record books and to their sport’s integrity — before the official ban, too.
Shame and wrongdoing are retroactive, even if penalties are not.
Every one of the players who tested positive in ’03 and are on that supposedly protected list should have the manhood to step forward. Try a little honesty, fellas. Look how much good “I’m not here to talk about the past” did for McGwire, who is ashamed to show his face in the city that loved him and persona non grata to Cooperstown, N.Y.
The first List Guy who fesses up, especially if he is active, will be seen as nearly heroic, an instant PR sensation.
Ortiz had the perfect chance to do that in the spring in the context of his diatribe against latter-day cheaters.
Instead, he, like everybody else on that list, gets to remain in the dark until the light snaps on.
Let us see all the names to help disperse the lingering, stubborn cloud over baseball. Then, finally, we move on.
Keep the names secret, see them exposed one by one, and the little dirt-bomb explosions like Thursday’s go on indefinitely, tethering baseball to a past it needs to get past, once and for all.