I hesitated to write this piece. Believe me I didn’t want to write it. I don’t want to think about it. However, in this day and age, there is no way to avoid performance enhancing drugs which have become synonymous with Major League Baseball.
Here are some of my own tweets from the @BaseballGuys account from Wednesday when I started to lay out my thoughts on PED’s.
Players cheated last week, they are cheating right now, they will be cheating next week. That’s the truth.
I’m amazed at how many folks I’ve heard from that think this is an issue that’s only been around since Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro. Folks, players have always used whatever advantage they could from stealing signs, to doctoring baseball, to pine tar, to corking bats. Players used “greenies” for years, basically uppers or amphetamines, before baseball finally put an end to it. Players will always try to get whatever edge they can. Once the powers that be get a handle on what is going on, the players move on to something else.
Never failing a test does NOT mean you’ve never cheated. Just ask Lance Armstrong.
This is my favorite one. We all “know” that Bonds, Clemens and McGwire used PED’s. How many tests did they fail? Combined they failed one fewer test than Carlos Ruiz‘s one.
The fact is we have NO idea who cheated or who is cheating. You can get mad at those that were caught, but… Realize that players you are cheering for right now, guys you look up to, are cheating. Just the fact.
Folks seem to think that if a guy adds 15 lb of muscle he is on PED’s. They seem to think that if a guy goes from 15 to 30 homers he’s on PEDs. They NEVER seem to think that a guy on PED’s is struggling (I never hear anyone say that Justin Upton is on PED’s but there are continual whispers that Chris Davis might be). Face facts – you have NO idea who is doing PED’s. None. Zip. Zilch. Nada. No clue. So why don’t you just stop your unsubstantiated witch hunts? I mean it’s like the Salem Witch Trials out there right now. Any time someone improves there is always a chorus of chants ‘he must be on something…’
Truth = PEDs are wrong and users should be punished. Unknown = How much PEDs help on field performance.
The second part of that statement is a tough one for some people to grasp, but it’s true. Having muscles doesn’t make you a good baseball player. You want examples? How about Rich Harden or Gabe Kapler? Those guys look great on the beach with all their muscles, and they’ve both had their moments, but come on now. It’s not like either has been a consistent high level performer just cause they have muscles (and to be clear, I am not insinuating that either has done anything illegal). The fact is that there is no quantifiable way to explain how much PED’s help a player’s performance. Need some examples that show us we have no idea? Here is a smattering of players listed in the Mitchell Report:
I bet half of you reading that list, if you were honest, would admit to yourself that you don’t even know half those names. Do you know who the first player every suspended for PED’s was? It was Alex Sanchez who was suspended on April 2, 2005. Sanchez hit six home runs in 427 career games. Using PED’s DOES NOT GUARANTEE SUCCESS. It’s as simple as that. I’m not going to argue that they don’t help a player, if nothing else many PED’s have been proven to help the body to recovery (a key when playing every day for six months), but the truth is we don’t know how much it helps. Big biceps or strong legs don’t allow you to square up a baseball and hit a line drive. Huge shoulders and hips don’t protect you from needing Tommy John surgery when you stretch your UCL.
I’m not here to be an apologist for cheaters. If I played I wouldn’t use PED’s. There is no place in the game for them. But facts are facts. Humans are fallible. Raise your hand if you’ve ever cheated on your taxes? Did you ever use a friends “help” while taking a test in high school? Have you ever used ‘inside information’ to sway a potential mate into liking you (I admit to trying all the time). We’ve all cheated. The lure of the prize is too great. Ask yourself this. If you knew that using PED’s would help you to the point that some major league team would give you a $40 million contract, would you do it? If you were that AAAA player who just couldn’t get over the hump, would you try PED’s? I bet many of you would answer yes to both of those questions.
They cheat in baseball.
I understand that numbers mean more in baseball than they do in other sports. We cherish .400, 56, 501 and 755, and when the records fall we want them to be “earned.” That’s admirable. But the truth is they are just benchmarks. Back when Babe Ruth was swatting homers there were only white players and teams traveled by train. Is it really fair to compare his efforts to those of today? How good would Ruth have been if he hired a personal trainer, learned the importance of taking care of his body, and spent time studying his swing in the film room? Conversely, could a guy like Marlon Byrd have had any success in the 1920′s without the advances he’s enjoyed? That’s certainly a debatable question.
In the end we all need to accept this fact. Players cheat. Period.
They cheat in baseball.
They cheat in basketball.
They cheat in football.
Baseball doesn’t know who’s cheating.
You don’t know who’s cheating.
I don’t know who’s cheating.
No matter what walk of life you are in people are cheating. Doesn’t make it right, but it’s just the way it is. I applaud MLB for trying to clean up their game. I wish them luck in returning the luster to the game I love more than any other.
By Ray Flowers
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