Can't tell players without a mugshot

BOB ELLIOTT, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:32 AM ET

A spring training unlike any other is about to begin in Florida and Arizona.

Rather than yelling "programs! programs!" vendors will be warming up for pre-season games yelling "Blotters, blotters! Get your police blotters."

Miguel Tejada of the Houston Astros pleaded guilty yesterday to lying to congressional staffers about using performance-enhancing drugs.

New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez admitted Sunday that he used steroids for three years beginning in 2001 when he joined the Texas Rangers.

And now former Blue Jays all-star second baseman Robbie Alomar has been hit with a $15-million US lawsuit, accused by his former girlfriend of having sex with her while he was aware he had contracted AIDS.

Then, there are the unresolved perjury charges with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

Baseball, with its ostrich-style leadership, finds itself in the eye of the perfect storm.

The Mother of all springs is upon us.

Alligators may eat their young, but baseball's greats are one-by-one managing to devour themselves.

The best home run hitters (Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Bonds and Rodriguez) may not make the Hall of Fame because of steroid allegations.

The same goes for one of the game's best starting pitchers (Clemens) and the career hits leader (Pete Rose, banned for betting).

And there are 103 other players who came up positive in 2004 in a secret test to decide if a drug-detection plan would be implemented in MLB -- whenever their names surface.

And now the status of Alomar, on the 2010 Hall of Fame ballot as one of the game's best second baseman, is in question.

After breaking up with tennis player Mary Pierce, Alomar lived for four years with Ilya Dall, 32, who runs a massage spa in Queen's, N.Y. Is this a frivolous case, as Alomar's lawyer said, a case of a woman scorned asking for money after the breakup, or was Alomar behaving recklessly, having unprotected sex when he knew that he had AIDS?

We don't know the answer to that yet.

We do know that he was the best player ever to wear a Blue Jays uniform. But a highlight reel of his five seasons with the Jays would not be accompanied by upbeat background music.

He staged a one-day sit-down strike at the trade deadline in 1995 when David Cone was dealt to a contender and he was not. That same year a woman showed at the SkyDome Hotel. She was looking for Alomar and was carrying a loaded gun.

Yet, his actions, which lit up the Jays switchboard for days, came the final weekend of the 1996 season when John Hirshbeck ruled Alomar out on a called strike three. Alomar, then with the Baltimore Orioles, returned to the dugout, was ejected and then spat on the plate umpire. The Orioles contended that Hirshbeck issued racist remarks during the argument.

With the glove, Alomar was better than Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg or Bill Mazeroski. The Jays would play the infield back, a ball would be hit to second, the runner would come jogging home from third only to be thrown out. Taking relays from short right he would throw in behind runners making too wide a turn at third to record outs.

His biggest moment, arguably the second most important homer in franchise history behind Joe Carter's home run against Mitch Williams in 1993, came in the top of the ninth when he hit a two-run homer to right off Oakland A's closer Dennis Eckersley to tie the game.

The Jays won in extras for a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven 1992 ALCS and went on to beat the Atlanta Braves.

As crimes go, is what Rodriguez did with the Rangers worse than what Bernie Madoff did with his Ponzi scheme? Sometimes with athletes on a pedestal we lose focus.

Nevertheless the snowball of ball players in trouble is rolling, gathering momentum, picking up players as it goes.

And it won't melt in the Florida or Arizona sun either.


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