March 10, 2010

Ortiz owes Sox fans an explanation

— The List. It hangs over baseball like a pending avalanche. Back in 2003, more than 100 major league players tested positive for performance enhancing drugs.

The tests were said to be anonymous, and the players testing positive were promised immunity.

Instead, the list and accompanying samples have been sitting in legal limbo. Federal investigators, as they continue their search for steroid suppliers, want to question the players named on the list.

The players have sued to get the list and samples destroyed, looking for fulfillment of the promises for anonymity.

While it all plays out in the courts, names continue to trickle out. Sources, for reasons only known to them, are whispering names to media members.

Some of the biggest names in the game over the past 10 years have been linked to the list. Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, and Sammy Sosa have all been connected to positive tests in 2003.

And now, the list has dropped into Red Sox Nation like a bombshell. A New York Times article last week put David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez on that list.

Since, Ortiz has acknowledged his name is on it. He says he will talk to the media once he has learned more about the test.

Were you surprised by the news? Did you think the Red Sox would be immune to the dirty details of the steroids era?

The answer to both questions is probably no. At this point, fans shouldn't be shocked to hear that any player doped.

But, please, hold onto the ''I told you Ortiz was on the juice'' e-mail.

Fans around New England have been screaming about Big Papi's lack of power this season, many saying it is a clear sign that he was once on steroids and is now clean. They say that's why his numbers have dropped off so dramatically.

Is it possible? Of course. Does that mean we can sit and assume any player who has a dramatic increase (or decrease) in production has gone on (or off) steroids? No. While it is fair to have doubts about everyone playing the game, it is completely unfair to cast those suspicions on an individual player without proof. To call the game's integrity into question is not only fair, it is demanded in the wake of what we've learned. That doesn't mean we can serve as judge and jury on the accomplishments of individuals without any proof.

Now there is proof. The one-two offensive punch so important to the world championships in 2004 and 2007 is dirty. The report of a positive test for Ortiz in 2003 has been confirmed. Big Papi cheated that year, the year before there were strict rules against their use.

Some fans may feel cheated that the 2004 title will be seen by some as tainted. Just don't forget that there were undoubtedly players on teams around the game using performance enhancing drugs at that time.

There may not have been much shock accompanying last week's news, but there is plenty of sadness. Big Papi was the team's most beloved figure, a player who spoke out against doping in February. Now, the clock is ticking as we wait for Ortiz to tell us why. Until he talks, we can only assume the worst.

Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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