I don’t blame Jose Bautista one bit for being tired of the questions. Tired of the whispering. Tired of the suspicions. Tired of the back-handed compliments. I’d be tired of them, too.
Especially if I was innocent.
Yes, with writers, broadcasters and fans around the country all asking about it, I’d be good and sick of it, that’s for sure.
In fact, with virtually no one celebrating my milestone, and everyone at least wondering — often loudly — if there’s a link between me and the long list of cheaters of the past, I’d be downright ticked off.
And you want to know what I’d do about it, if I were Jose Bautista?
I’d fill the cup. And I’d tell them to do whatever they wanted with it.
Then I’d lie down, make a fist and tell them to pull a tube of blood. And I’d tell them to test until their little hearts were content.
Then I’d get up and punch Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez and about a dozen other guys right in the mouth for putting me through it all.
And that is precisely what Jose Bautista should do, if he really wants us all to know the truth.
And what is the truth?
One truth is that normal men don’t go from 13 home runs as a part-time utility player one year to 52 home runs with still a week to play in the next. If you’re scoring at home, that’s four times as many homers as the year before.
Another truth is that baseball’s all-time record book is now filled with fraudulent numbers posted by men whose talent has been proven to come, in large part, from a chemistry lab.
Another truth is that baseball has attempted to control the damage and limit future cheating with a random testing program for performance-enhancing drugs — and that Jose Bautista has never tested positive for anything.
Yet another truth is that baseball does not include in its program a test for human growth hormone — one of the most prominent PEDs in the sordid “steroid era” from which baseball is still trying to emerge. A-Rod and Roger Clemens were just two of the disgraced superstars whose PED of choice included HGH.
That fact, as much as any other, is why the questions about Bautista’s sudden power surge will remain long after his season for the ages has ended. As long as there are drugs that aren’t covered in the steroid testing, and as long as there are masking agents that can be used to, ahem, muddy the water, the questions and the doubts will endure.
Personally, I have no idea whether Bautista’s explosion into the history books was a result of anything more than tweaking his batting stroke, studying pitchers or unleashing a genie while dusting off an old lamp.
However, when I look at the total body of work of this 29-year-old who has been with five different teams in parts of six major league seasons, and who has never even approached 20 home runs in a season, minor leagues included, I have to admit that I’m a doubter.
Blame me for being cynical, if you wish. I prefer to blame Canseco, Palmeiro, Ramirez and the rest. They’re the ones who have jaded all our views.
My advice to Jose Bautista: Fill the cup. And the syringe. Tell them to test for everything they can think of.
Make liars of us all. It’s the only way.
Bob Frantz is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.