CLEARWATER, Fla. - Shortly after joining the Phillies in August 2006, Jamie Moyer reminisced about playing with Alex Rodriguez in Seattle.
Moyer told of how his two oldest sons, Dillon and Hutton, had idolized Rodriguez. He mentioned how much they liked visiting with Rodriguez in the clubhouse after games. He told of how thrilled the boys were when A-Rod gave them a glove, and how bewildered they became when fans booed the superstar.
Those were the days when Rodriguez appeared to be on his way to the Hall of Fame.
"I don't see how he has a chance," Moyer said yesterday. "Who in their right mind would vote for anyone who got caught taking that stuff?"
Rodriguez last week became the biggest name in baseball to confess to using steroids. He said he used them from 2001 to 2003, after he signed a 10-year, $252 million contract with the Texas Rangers. Rodriguez's confession came after Sports Illustrated reported that he was one of 104 players to test positive for steroids during what was supposed to be an anonymous survey test in 2003.
Moyer said he was disappointed in Rodriguez.
"It's about respecting the game," Moyer said. "I'd be disappointed in anybody in that situation.
"When people have had an impact on your life, you want to feel for them. But how can I feel for him? To me, if you're doing it, you know it's illegal. I commend him for coming out and saying it, but why didn't he say it seven years ago?"
Asked if his sons, now teenagers, were disappointed in Rodriguez, Moyer said: "I'm sure they are. We've talked a little about it. It's also a lesson. One day he's a Hall of Famer, and in a 24-hour period he's not because of a poor decision. That's a shame."
Rodriguez, 33, became the youngest player to reach 500 homers when he did so with the New York Yankees in 2007. He is on course to one day break Barry Bonds' career record of 762. Bonds has long been suspected of using steroids.
In addition to 553 career homers, Rodriguez has won three MVP awards.
Are those numbers tainted?
"Of course they are," Moyer said. "This changes everything - the way people look at him, the way people act toward him. It's a shame. What does he have to play for now?"
Moyer played in Seattle from 1996 through 2006. Rodriguez was a teammate from 1996 to 2000. Rodriguez said he did not use steroids before going to Texas in 2001.
"Who's going to believe him?" Moyer said. "What credibility does he have now?"
Moyer has difficulty fathoming why Rodriguez, long hailed as the game's most talented player, would start taking steroids in the first place.
"The guy has a ton of talent," Moyer said. "Why does he need that? Money? The expectations that came from the contract?
"He always exuded great talent. Why did he think he needed to make himself somebody bigger and better? Just be yourself. That's what I tell kids when I talk to them. Be yourself."
Moyer, baseball's eldest statesman at 46, has long been a passionate opponent of steroid use. In 22 seasons, the soft-tossing lefthander has won 246 games. The only juice he'd test positive for would be Welch's grape.
"Baseball should be proud of the people who haven't done steroids," Moyer said. "The ones who haven't know inside that they've done it right. I'm not extra proud of anything, but I know I'm clean. I feel like I've done it through hard work."
Moyer remarked that the start of spring training always seems to raise the issue of steroids. He's tired of it.
"It's almost embarrassing to say that you play because of things that have happened and how they've been handled," he said. "It's such a distraction. I really wish there was some way to make it all go away. I wish Major League Baseball and the [players'] union could figure out some plan to deal with all this. Whatever list [of positive 2003 tests] there is, throw the names out there or throw the list away. Start with a clean slate. It's something the industry needs. How they do it doesn't matter."
In 2004, baseball began punishing players who tested positive for steroids. A first positive test now carries a 50-game suspension. Moyer suggested toughening that.
"Implement a system where if you do it, you're taking a chance," he said. "Make the punishment stringent enough that nobody would be interested in doing it. I don't know if you could do lifetime because you're taking someone's livelihood away. But a year might be fine. One year, then if you do it again - lifetime."