This summer, Nike released this ad in celebration of Derek Jeter’s final season. It quickly went viral, and soon enough, #RE2PECT was plastered all over every social media site imaginable. Not surprisingly, people got tired of all the Jeter worship and The Onion started publishing articles like this, mocking the fact that people were talking about him as if he were dying. While I agree that the marketing and discussion regarding his retirement got a little old, the Yankee fan in me let it slide. Jeter was a winner and a fantastic player, but most of all was an excellent role model and person-something that his contemporary Alex Rodriguez never was.
Fast forward to last week, when the World Series ended and Alex Rodriguez was reinstated after serving a 162 game (full season) suspension. Almost instantaneously, people began to reference the infamous Jeter commercial, and “Bald Vinny,” a Yankees fan famous for his hilarious ramblings and entrepreneurial pursuits, released these #FORG1V3 shirts. Obviously this is just a tongue-and-cheek response to the overblown Jeter coverage, but it does raise an interesting question: Is what Alex Rodriguez did forgivable? Was his involvement with Biogenesis and performance enhancing drugs bad enough to make him one of the most disliked athletes in the country?
When Rodriguez entered Major League Baseball in 1994, there were no official policies regarding testing for performance enhancing drugs. In the context of steroids, baseball operated in a way similar to the Hobbesian state of nature. Hobbes argues that with equality of ability “ariseth equality of hope in the attaining of our ends.” For professional baseball players in the 1990s and early 2000s, using steroids were a way of attaining those ends. Steroids made players stronger and faster, which in turn led to more playing time and bigger contracts. As long as there was no testing, every player had a strong monetary incentive to use performance enhancing drugs. Players were constantly in competition with each other for resources, just as Hobbes describes when talking about his state of nature, and those who did not use steroids were not protecting themselves from losing those resources to another player. Obviously players were not actively looking to harm one another in the way that Hobbes describes, but they were doing whatever was in their power to help their own causes.
In 2009, it was reported that Rodriguez was one of 104 players who tested positive for steroids on a drug test conducted in 2003. Since the test was administered the year before testing became mandatory, he received no penalty. In wake of the test, he admitted to using performance enhancing drugs early in his career, but never after 2004, when the testing became mandatory. Had he actually stopped using the drugs then, I would be able to #FORG1V3. He was using them to compete with numerous other players who were doing the same things, trying to protect his position and property in accordance with Hobbes’s state of nature. However, he did not stop then, as he was suspended in 2013 for his connections to Biogenesis, and recently admitted that he used performance enhancing drugs that they provided him.
The mandatory testing in 2004 emerged out of a 2002 agreement between the Players Association and owners to try to curb steroid abuse. In a Hobbesian sense, this agreement can be seen as a covenant among players. As a group, they gave up their right to use performance enhancing drugs, ensuring that no one would gain an unfair advantage. Major League Baseball acted as the commonwealth, providing punishment for positive tests to encourage players to stay clean. When Rodriguez began using steroids again in 2010, the post-covenant era, he betrayed the trust of his fellow players and attempted to take advantage of them. By violating his covenant with those in his community, he tried to promote the “successful wickedness” that Hobbes warns about, and for that reason, I will not be able to #FORG1V3.
While I do think that Rodriguez’s actions are unforgivable, I still do not understand why he has become the most vilified baseball player in recent memory. Plenty of other players used steroids after 2003, and none of them have been subject to the hatred that Rodriguez has. In fact, people hardly remember other players who tested positive. He became the scapegoat for all users, and was the only player to be suspended for an entire season for the Biogenisis scandal. Major League Baseball (the commonwealth) was right in punishing him, but did not necessarily act justly.