Another report, another hero bites the dust.
The New York Times is reporting that a 2003 report names two prominent members of the 2004 World Champion Boston Red Sox as having tested positive for steroids. One, Manny Ramirez, also tested positive for steroids earlier this year and was suspended from his current team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, for 50 games.
According to the New York Times article, the other player who appears in the 2003 steroid report is David Ortiz..
The big guy who points upward after a homer to remember his late mother. The guy everyone calls Big Papi. One of my favorite players.
I have always been a baseball fan. I had no choice in this, I think a love of the game was encoded in my DNA: I was born into a household of fanatically loyal Brooklyn Dodger fans just a few weeks after the Brooklyn Dodgers won their one and only World Series title. I heard my family yell their love of the game and their team, and I must have been born cheering. Even as my two favorite teams (New York Mets and Seattle Mariners) test my patience year after year (after year, after year), I still keep rooting for them. I have said 'wait 'til next year' so often I should put it on my tombstone.
So being an underdog rooting, suffering fan appreciating, lifelong baseball fan, when the Boston Red Sox finally threw off the dreaded curse and claimed their first World Championship in 86 years in 2004 I freely admit I cried like a baby. I loved that team, the bunch of crazy idiots. I enjoyed their freewheeling style of baseball. They were a team of characters, and my favorite was Big Papi. I loved the way he pounded his hands together at the plate, those giant hands that looked like bear paws. I loved his big grin. And I loved the breathtaking moment when he connected with a baseball and the thing took flight like a 747 bound for Honolulu.
If you're not a baseball fan this might sound crazy. But it's the way I was raised - if you were a baseball fan in our house, with my baseball fanatic father, it meant you loved your players. Sure, we rooted for our team because we lived in their state but if that's all you had, if that was the only reason you rooted for them, then you were just a fly-by night fan, a johnny come lately, a 'pink shirt' (after the pink shirts with team logos on them that become quite popular after a team becomes champion, among non-fans of course). A real fan knew the players, personally. Tom Seaver, Ed Kranepool, Buddy Harrelson, Cleon Jones, Ed Charles, Donn Clendenon, these guys were like family members to me. If you think this is fanatical, OK I give you that. But it was the way I grew up, again partly because my father was a Brooklyn Dodger fan. Fans of that team really DID consider The Beloved Bums part of their family; they asked after their kids, were nice to their wives, memorized the players birthdays so they could sing Happy Birthday to them when they took the field. And the way I was raised, that's how I raised my kids. Edgar Martinez, Jay Buehner, and Ken Griffey Jr. couldn't have been more a part of our family unless they'd lived next door.
But I'm starting to flounder. My enthusiasm for the game is being smothered under the weight of needles, creams, and positive tests. I rode the McGuire/Sosa wave for one glorious summer but was crushed by the aftermath; watching Mark McGuire squirm in front of Congress a few years later made me sick to my stomach. When I watched Barry Bonds as a young man I thought his raw talent was a marvel, when he 'broke' Hank Aaron's record all I felt was disgust. Add the others, including All Stars like Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemens and Jason Giambi, and the steroid list is the who's-who of baseball for the last 10 years.
I don't know how to be a baseball fan anymore. As more and more players are shown to be cheaters, I'm having a harder and harder time rooting for anyone. Before I cheer for another player, do I have to mentally prepare myself for a day when he too is exposed? One thing for sure: I love the game too much to model myself after those Los Angeles Dodger fans who warmly welcomed Manny Ramirez back with open arms. Manny Ramirez is a cheater and a liar. His stats are phony. He willingly and knowingly took steroids in the past and again just this year. Dodger fans stood up and cheered for that? Why, exactly? I would really like to know. I would like to know what those fans were cheering for, because they certainly were not cheering for baseball.
Real baseball fans know that something's got to be done to save the game. Baseball's had a weak ineffectual excuse for a commissioner for years, an owner who's done nothing to help further the sport. His fingers-in-the-ears as long as there were butts-in-the-seats attitude toward this long-standing and long-recognized abuse has gotten us where we are today. The game needs better, now. It needs action, now. Definitive, tough action on every player proven to have taken steroids. Those who took steroids in the past, you lose your glory (Roger Clemons, give the Cy Young's back). Those who take steroids now, you are out of the game. Fifty games is not enough. Fifty years is more appropriate. Because you don't want to lose the crazy fans, the fanatical fans, the fans who consider the players part of their family. They are the ones who keep showing up, year after year. Lose them and those beautiful new stadiums that sprouted like flowers over the last decade will be sad empty monuments to a game that got lost.
So now, Big Papi. Added to the list of players that cheated at the game I thought they loved.
Well, I do love it. I can't help it, I still do. I just don't know how much more I can take.