Alex Rodriguez joins Barry Bonds in baseball’s cellar

OPINION - Rodriguez was once revered. The heir apparent to great sluggers like Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, Rodriguez was supposed to break every power record in the books...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

It has been non-stop Alex Rodriguez drama the last two weeks. Questions around when he would be suspended for the use of performance enhancing drugs, what exactly he did, whether he’d be banned for life, and his ongoing public spat with the New York Yankees have made for never-ending headlines.

Yesterday finally brought some actual, concrete news, as A-Rod was suspended through the 2014 season. He’ll appeal, and he was in the Yankees’ starting lineup last night.

Rodriguez was once revered. The heir apparent to great sluggers like Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, Rodriguez was supposed to break every power record in the books.

He was also following Barry Bonds, who before Rodriguez, was the best hitter on the planet. Bonds currently holds all the legendary hitting records; but those same records that defined baseball don’t mean much to fans anymore. Bonds’ legacy is ruined thanks to steroid use.

When we talk about great athletes who go from hero to pariah, Bonds is often the cautionary tale. Bonds, by all statistical measures, was the best hitter ever. But thanks to performance enhancers, he has been largely a ghost.

He has repeatedly made it known that he wants to be a part of the game and get into coaching. But he has been left out of any baseball talk. He has become a cheat and a punchline.

The only time we do hear about Bonds is when stories like A-Rod’s break. We compare A-Rod’s career and legacy to Bonds. Two gifted players who are destined to be remembered in baseball for all of the wrong reasons.

Both players didn’t need to use the drugs in the first place. Bonds was one of the game’s best hitters well before the steroid allegations. A-Rod was predicted to be a star since he was a teenager.

And both players will have trouble ever being accepted as two of the game’s greats. Baseball isn’t a very forgiving sport – just ask Pete Rose – and the narrative has changed with steroid users. During the steroid era, pitchers and hitters were happy to do anything it took to add speed to their fastballs and punch to their bats. It was impossible to tell who was using and who wasn’t.

Now players are calling out their peers who are caught using. Nick Markakis called for more lengthy punishments for offenders. After today’s steroid suspension announcement – which included players like Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta along with A-Rod – Evan Longoria tweeted that it was a “sad day for MLB,” but “a tremendous step in the right direction for the game we love.” In June, baseball’s current homerun leader Chris Davis said that “61 is the real [homerun] record and I think most fans agree with me on that,” which essentially ignores that Bonds is the current record holder.

Bonds, and now A-Rod, will never be given the praise and adulation that we all once believed were inevitable and earned. When we think of A-Rod, we think of a cheat. Same with Bonds. Careers they worked so hard for will forever be ignored because of very poor decision-making.

The A-Rod circus will continue. Every at-bat will be scrutinized, every New York tabloid headline more scathing then the next. Eventually, we’ll get a resolution to his steroid suspension, and the noise will quiet down for a bit.

And after a few days, we’ll stop hearing about Bonds, and he’ll fall out of public consciousness again. That is, until another big hitter gets caught for performance enhancers.

Follow Stefen Lovelace on Twitter @StefenLovelace