When MLB fans first found out about the widespread use of performance enhancing drugs, many were shocked. Weren’t they just hitting the gym real hard? Wasn’t that why home run records were falling left and right?
Boston Red Sox fans naturally grew defensive of their star players too. Nomar Garciaparra‘s topless photo in Sports Illustrated just showed that he’d been benching more, right? Manny Ramirez couldn’t possibly be on steroids. He doesn’t have bulging muscles everywhere like Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire, and Barry Bonds. He’s just a great hitter.
And David Ortiz? No way! Big Papi is such a nice guy; he would never do that.
In this country, we are used to the concept of innocent until proven guilty. However, professional baseball players have given up that right in the court of public opinion. For years, the player’s union fought tooth and nail against PED testing. Only an act of Congress could force them to acquiesce.
For me and many others now, it is guilty until proven innocent.
Boston Globe reporter Dan Shaughnessy has been widely criticized for daring to suggest that Big Papi has been a steroid user for a long time. While these apologists will label Shaughnessy as a demagogue for his unproven allegations and scathing questions, I commend him for asking the questions that other reporters are afraid to ask to one of Boston’s most popular sports icons.
Ortiz fits the profile of a juicer in every way. His name appeared on a list of players who failed a PED test in 2003. He seems to be getting better as he approaches age 40. He missed all of spring training this year, yet has torn the cover off the ball since his return from injury. Oh yea, and his continued production has brought him great personal wealth in the form of lucrative multi-million dollar contracts and endorsements.
In short, Papi has had every conceivable reason to juice.
The Shaughnessy interview with Ortiz on Tuesday casts more suspicion. Papi naturally became very defensive when he was asked about steroids. He pointed out that he passed multiple blood and urine tests, some without warning. However, many admitted users have said that players are often “tipped off” about upcoming tests and use their connections to obtain whatever it takes to ensure a clean test.
The ”clean tests” excuse proves very little. When asked how he seemed to be getting better with age, Ortiz said that while getting older, “you can get worse or get better; one or the other.”
And this is supposed to convince fans he’s clean? Ortiz fails to acknowledge how unusual this really is. When Shaughnessy confronted Ortiz about this he replied, “I bench 400 pounds, every other day.”
Once again, declaring that you can bench more than many NFL players doesn’t exactly make me feel less suspicious. Obviously, steroids would drastically increase your bench press.
Ortiz went on to talk about all of the hard work he’s put in to get better with age. However, we’ve heard all of these excuses before. Manny may have been lazy in the field, but he was the ultimate student of the game at the plate. Manny studied hours of game tapes and spent more time in the batting cages than anyone.
He also did steroids, which certainly didn’t hurt.
As a Red Sox fan, I was fine with Manny juicing. It was part of the culture, so they all did it, and the Red Sox got two World Series Championships out of it. Most likely, Papi is doing it as well and as a Red Sox fan, I really don’t care.
Just don’t get caught.
What do you think? Is David Ortiz clean? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section to keep the conversation going.
Aidan Kearney also writes for his own blog, aidanfromworcester.com. Follow him on Twitter @aidanfromworc