Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mr. Nice Guy

I've refrained from writing about David Ortiz's positive steroid test from 2003 thus far. I suppose the reason is that I've simply grown numb to new steroid revelations. Sure, the Red Sox titles from 2004 and 2007 are now called into question. Yeah, one would have to be blind to think that any of the World Series champs of the last 10-15 years or so were steroid free. But honestly, after the Patriots spycam debacle, I've grown numb to caterwauling about the legitimacy of Boston titles as well. And honestly, I'd be an idiot and/or a total homer to reject such calls outright; it's doubtful that many champs had two superstars like David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez using PEDs.

Regardless, as the dust settled over the last week, I began to feel a tinge of... what, sorrow? I can't even really tell. Simply put, it sucked to find out that Ortiz used. Manny Ramirez less so, if only because after his suspension for PED use this year, it was safe to assume that he'd been using for some time before.

Honestly, the same could be said for Papi. No, he'd never tested positive, and he'd been rather combative in his comments about steroid users. But he fit the mold we'd seen several times before; he was a decent, slightly above average hitter who posted a career year in 2003, and saw his offensive numbers climb closer to the stratosphere each ensuing season. Then he seemed to hit something of a wall recently, dropping well below his usual hitting dominance while dealing with nagging injuries. I seriously doubt that many Red Sox fans were genuinely surprised by the revelation of Ortiz's positive test.

So why does it nag on me now? I think the answer is simple: Ortiz seemed like a good, loveable guy in perhaps the most visible baseball market in the country. He probably still is, really. Steroid use doesn't preclude one from being a good guy. But it does place an unremovable stain on the guilty party, one that may well hound them forever. Previous high profile players to be outed for their PED use hadn't been nearly as affable or popular as Big Papi. Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez and Roger Clemens all carried bad reputations for demeanor and attitude well before they had tested positive. Rafael Palmiero and Andy Pettite? Neither carried Papi's clout in the public eye. Big Papi was the face of the Red Sox, even as he struggled this year. And now, like it or not, he's been sullied in the public eye. His herculean effort in the 2004 ALCS? His team-record breaking 2006 season? No longer were they they efforts of a big, loveable lug.

So while I'm not the least bit surprised that Ortiz used, my cynicism about that era in baseball doesn't lessen the sting.

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