The Barry Bonds scandal was the first real stepping stone towards both Major League Baseball’s plan to crack down on performance enhancing drugs. Despite frequent reports of PED’s in baseball for nearly 2 decades, it took the games most legendary and feared hitter to be accused of using before the uproar was really newsworthy on a consistent basis. Interestingly, it was MLB that took the most scrutiny for the use of PED’s in the game, and not Bonds or any of the other players accused around the same time. While players personal reputation was tarnished, baseball as a whole was under fire. Accusations of PED’s effects almost every aspect of revenue across baseball; ticket sales, apparel sales, sponsorship, marketing just to name a few, the cost to baseball was both figurative and literal. Since then, MLB has been “cracking down” on players that are accused, and when a superstar player such as Alex Rodriguez or Ryan Braun is accused it becomes a full blown scandal.
One could argue that in order to avoid another Barry Bonds situation, where the sport itself comes under fire more than the offending player, MLB has decided to “get out in front” of any potential issues to take the image of justice seeking, baseball traditionalists. If PED’s truly create better players (which is a whole other argument I don’t agree with), why would MLB really want those players gone? They are extremely valuable commodities if they are not caught, but in order to protect themselves if there is even circumstantial evidence that links a player to PED’s, they crack down to avoid any potential backlash whatsoever, even if it means accusing players and suspending them with what can sometimes be called hearsay.
In this case, Alex Rodriguez and his lawyers have accused people within MLB and the investigation process of taking illegal routes to obtain evidence including intimidating and paying for information. Had the Rodriguez scandal reached the stage where his constant presence in the news about PED’s became a Barry Bonds like pressure for MLB to clean up. Would they have gone so far as to commit the crimes Rodriguez has accused them of? There is some credence to the idea that overall, removing and shaming a star player like Rodriguez is far less of an economic and image loss than if they were to allow him to play despite having not produced any real public evidence besides hearsay. Just like Barry Bonds, Rodriguez has been exiled despite there being no conclusive evidence to support the claims.
If this scenario is truly the case, it may be time for a 3rd party, neutral organization with no financial interests in the situation to handle all investigations. Either way, baseball has a lot of work to do before they can really recover from the PED issues.