As the ever-increasing list of steroid users in Major League Baseball is leaked I, and thousands of 30-something year-old men like me, am reminded of the overweight, mustachioed, baseball card shop owner. A man who convinced us, in earnest, to invest in Mark McGwire rookie cards when we were scarcely ten years old. We flocked to the card shop and spent our hard-earned, lawn mowing and toilet cleaning money by the truck load and we were glad to do so. We had dreams you see, dreams of owning a piece of history, dreams of giving our collection of rare and valuable cards to our sons, and using that as a bonding experience. At least most of us did, David Ruiz used to bend them around the spoke of his bicycle tire and enjoy the flapping noise it made when he rode his bike.
But most of us were excited by the high powered young players of the era.
“These guys are changing the game,” we would say.
“The combination of speed and power these players hold is unheard of,” we said.
“Five tools! Five Tools!” we screamed!
From the age of 10 to the age of 24 I spent over $1000.00 collecting future “legends” like Roger Clemens, Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa. I had a collection that during the height of the home run era was worth well over $10,000.00. I was flying high! I had a speech prepared for my future son about the skill and patience needed to build a classic collection, I wore a monopoly man costume for Halloween, I thought I was a genius, the king of bubble gum stained cardboard. I laughed at David Ruiz, “How could you waste a $45.00 Juan Gonzales card on your bike? It’s sad how you loved that ridiculous noise!”
If only I knew that this unheard of greatness was because those bastards were cheating. One by one, my precious cards faltered. With each new investigation came new names. The witch-hunt was on and I was losing. But still, all was not lost, sure, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were toast but I had Alex Rodriguez! He was pure, he was clean! He shall save baseball and my card collection in simultaneous triumph! Until we found out that he wouldn’t, because he wasn’t.
Now it’s just a matter of time before those collections are barely worth the paper on which they are printed. If Ken Griffey Jr.’s name is ever leaked then I will have more value in my sons diaper then in the baseball card collection I had planned to give him. I am disappointed, frustrated and even irate; not so much at steroids or at my government for starting this witch-hunt, but at Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez and the like. These were good ballplayers. Maybe they wouldn’t have been the best ever without steroids but they probably would have been hall of famers and legends anyway. If not them then someone else in my collection would have been. But they were larger than life, perhaps even bigger than the game and so their magnified decisions made the entire era suspect and the cards that I, and so many others, collected suffered the consequences.
So I have made a decision, I have decided that when my son is old enough I’ll give ol’ David Ruiz a call and tell him what a genius he was. Then I’ll fold my $2.00 Juan Gonzales rookie card over my son’s bicycle wheel spoke and let him listen to the beautiful rhythmic melody of its flapping noise, and then I’ll have peace.