Tell me you're not really surprised that A-Rod tested positive for steroids in 2003, while he was winning an MVP for the Rangers. By now, nothing should surprise us when it comes to steroids. Take any Who's Who list of the game's best players from the late '90s through 2003, throw a dart and the probability is, you're going to hit a steroids user right between the eyes.
None of us were naive enough to think that it was only Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and a handful of other power hitters, right? The late Ken Caminiti (another user) may have been exaggerating some when he said 80 percent of big league players were juicing, but maybe not as much as MLB and the Players Association would like us to think.
Alex Rodriguez's inability to be genuine led to his A-Fraud nickname quickly spreading into the Yankee clubhouse. Now we learn that it may also apply to his best-player-in-the-game numbers, at least in 2003 and perhaps for several years before that, too.
The shame of it is that A-Rod has more natural baseball talent than perhaps anyone we've seen in the game since Willie Mays. He didn't need steroids to be a five-tool star. He could do it all from the time he broke in with Seattle as a 19-year-old rookie in 1994.
But when one player starts juicing and his numbers begin climbing, the pressure is on for everyone else to keep up. If you believe Game of Shadows it was Bonds' resentment of McGwire and Sammy Sosa that led him to get heavily into banned substances. A-Rod, for all his insecurities, has always felt compelled to be the best. If hitting 40 homers wasn't enough, then it shouldn't be surprising to learn that he'd do whatever it took to get to 50 and beyond.
It's important to keep in mind that his positive test -- and why wasn't it kept anonymous when all baseball was trying to do in 2003 was determine how many players were on the juice? -- came before penalties were set in place for illegal steroid use. There is no evidence that says A-Rod used steroids after that, when full testing and penalties for positive tests were in place beginning in 2004.
Behind that cool, suave, corporate facade that A-Rod likes to show us is an insecure young man. He is already dealing with the hottest spotlight in sports playing for the Yankees. It just got turned up another 100 degrees or so.
With spring training less than a week away, A-Rod is about to feel the heat like never before.
-- Jim Reeves