JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

A disappointed 12-year old takes aim

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A couple of weeks ago I received an e-mail from a 12-year-old kid looking for advice about how to become a sports writer. It’s hard to offer career wisdom to someone so young, so I said little and asked Joe Yalowitz whether he’d like to write something for this blog. He accepted—and the work speaks for itself. I might not be a smart man, but I know talent when I see it. This boy’s got some skillz …

Alex Rodriguez has been the single most influential human being in my childhood. No, not my father, not my mother, not a teacher, but someone I have never once said a word to. Oh, did I mention that all of this was before February 7, 2009?

Every time Alex steps up to the plate I can’t help but think of that fateful day. Even now, as I sit at my computer, my eyes start to water. Most of you will think, it’s a game. He’s a player. I can’t tell you how wrong you are. For years, I have loved him. Mimicked his batting stance. I dreamed of being Alex Rodriguez. My friend would tell me he was on steroids, but not once did I actually process that thought. Alex Rodriguez, along with hundreds, maybe thousands, is a cheater. Modern-day baseball is telling me to juice.

The very first pitch of Alex Rodriguez’s 2009 season came and went. Into the right field bleachers of Camden Yards. The best home run hitter of all time was making his comeback. I love Alex for that, but I hate him for giving me false hope. When he breaks the all-time home run record in 2014 (and yes, he will), it will be tainted. I’ve gone over this a million times. I want to believe soooooo badly that it won’t, but whom am I fooling? Alex took steroids throughout the best home run stretch of his life. You can argue, of course. It wasn’t just the hitters on the good stuff, it was the pitchers too. But here is the thing: Home runs are an achievement of strength, for you have to hit the ball a certain distance and height. If you have a substance in your body that enables you to have more strength, than it is, without a doubt, tainted. And let’s not forget, this is a home run record.

Now that I am getting older, I can begin to see the bad in baseball. Recently Mark McGwire said, “I wish I didn’t play in the steroid era.” Mark, you, along with hundreds of others, are the steroids era. Baseball is, and has been, my passion. Playing, watching, even writing.

Now, I’m not so sure.