So here we are once again at that most famous crossroads in sports, where shame always meets blame. Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez are exposed as chemically enhanced fakes, and the only response from loyal sycophants and misguided apologists is to fall back on an old, but always reliable tactic:
Don’t accept responsibility. Just blame the messenger.
In Los Angeles, columnists and sports talk radio hosts are being bombarded with hateful screeds, vicious e-mails and threats of bodily harm for having the audacity to chastise Ramirez, the Dodgers slugger, for becoming the latest in a lengthy line of baseball superstars who violated the sports rules on performance-enhancing drugs.
While all over the country, author Selena Roberts — a veteran of 23 years worth of fine reporting for the New York Times and Sports Illustrated — is actually having her credibility questioned, while being characterized as some man-hating feminist for writing a scathing biography about A-Rod that paints him as — gasp and swoon — a narcissistic drug cheat.
But please, let’s not let the truth get in the way of a good story. It’s always the media’s fault. Never mind that A-Rod is a narcissistic drug cheat, or that this latest episode with Ramirez gives a whole new (and extremely twisted) meaning to the phrase “Manny being Manny.”
Because in this case, “Manny being Manny” means that Major League Baseball has accused him of ingesting a female fertility drug called HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), which of course has no use to a professional baseball player unless he’s a she trying to get pregnant, or he’s a steroid user trying to kick-start his body’s testosterone production after cycling off his latest ’roid binge.
Fortunately, not everyone is falling for the hustle. Jack Clark doesn’t play that game. The former Cardinals slugger, who spent 17 years in the majors and now spends his time as a studio commentator for Fox Sports Midwest’s Cardinals pregame and postgame shows, refuses to play along. While so many of his contemporaries stand mum on the sidelines, Jack the Ripper is speaking out, and good for him.
“You want to pay to watch something special,” Clark said. “But now you watch these guys, and it’s not special, it’s not fun. And you never know where (the next revelation) is coming from. And they always have a story. No one ever ’fesses up to it. No one did anything wrong. It was always the doctor’s fault or their mother’s fault or someone else’s fault. But they always took the money and everything was happy. But when it comes down to being a man and standing up to it, they cower and whimper away and blame someone else.”
Clark refuses to join the silent majority of former players who played in an era before steroids took over the sport. He says he keeps hearing the old legends of baseball take a pass on criticizing the drug cheats of today. “They keep saying they’re going to wait until they get more information,” Clark said Monday morning on my radio show. “But the only information that keeps coming in is bad.”
We need to hear more voices like this, angry voices from the past and clean voices from the present who are tired of being forced to suffer under the cloud of suspicion that the likes of Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, A-Rod and Manny have created.