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Sosa’s positive test is no surprise to me

June 22, 2009

by Matt Kane

A report came out last week saying Sammy Sosa was one of the players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003.

What a shocker.

Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Rafael Palmeiro are already on the list of players we fans think of having used the juice, and now Sosa is on the list.

Actually, I think Sosa’s name was always on the list, thanks to his sudden lack of being able to speak the English language at a Congressional hearing in 2005.

Thinking back, I, as a baseball fan, am ashamed that I fell into the trap of the 1998 home run race between Mark McGwire and Sosa. I guess chicks and us guys really do dig the long ball, and we all got suckered into treating these two players like gods during the year-long home run derby that season.

I can’t remember if steroids or any other kind of performance-enhancing drugs were discussed 11 seasons ago, when McGwire and Sosa stole front page headlines because of their clout, but I keep wondering how we fans could be so naive.

I think that naiveness is exactly what Major League Baseball wanted out of its fans.

Following the strike of 1994, baseball needed to do something to reclaim fans who were turned off by millionaire players fighting over money with billionaire owners.

Cal Ripken Jr. certainly helped with his chase of Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played streak during the 1995 season.

But eclipsing the feat of playing in 2,131 consecutive games isn’t nearly as sexy to sports fans as home runs. Because of this, I believe Major League Baseball turned a blind eye on the issue of steroids, and actually encouraged its players to grow, by any means, into cartoonish sluggers, who could hit home runs almost at will.

McGwire and Sosa’s pursuit of Roger Maris’ single-season home run mark of 61 made baseball the talk of the country again, and that’s exactly what Major League Baseball wanted and needed.

It appears now that the monster baseball built in the 1990s is coming back to bite the hand that fed it.

The problem, though, is that the reveal of probable steroid users doesn’t seem to hurt the game of baseball. Fans are still showing up, despite the probability that half the players on the field could be cycling on and off some type of juice, and teams, like the Los Angeles Dodgers, are still promoting players, like Ramirez, to sell tickets.

I remember before Manny was caught using women’s hormones how commentators and baseball know-it-alls praised him for the great work ethic that produced such a great swing.

I understand those commentators were probably just giving Manny the benefit of the doubt, and I suppose we should do that with all players, but how can we?

I don’t think we can look at a player without wondering if he once took something illegal to boost his performance.

I want to believe that Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard and even Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are and always were clean players, but I can no longer just assume it is true.

As for Sosa, maybe all those kisses and peace signs to the heart he used to relay to fans were actually signals to his pharmaceutical representative, telling him, ‘Thanks’ for making him a part of one of the biggest frauds in Major League Baseball history — the home run chase of 1998.