Again with the PED’s -

Biogenesis sounds like a company in a sci-fi movie where things go horribly wrong where the best intentions are twisted by a madman.  In reality, it’s a company that took cash to ‘discretely’ provide customers with performance enhancing drugs.  It turns out that two of their alleged customers are professional baseball players who were former MVPs: Alex Rodriguez and Brian Braun.

Now, ARod has admitted to the use of ban substances before.  Braun did indeed test positive for use of PED’s however the results were overturned due to a technicality in regards to the delivery of the sample once it was out of Braun’s hands.  So, in the words of Ricky Ricardo, someone’s got’s some ‘splainin’ to do.

Now, given that I brought up this subject, I am going to say something that might surprise you: Who cares?

Now, let me take a step back.  We are all aware of the fact that the use of these now banned substances was rampant in the 90′s.  If you have any question, please feel free to peruse Brady Anderson’s career statistics year by year.  After the 1994 was called mid-season due to a Player’s Strike, baseball was taking it on the PR chin.  But a few magical things happened:

1) The New York Yankees began actually being competitive.  The most storied franchise in the sport located in the world’s media capital brought attention to the game again.  Fans who were turned off by the strike had to at least glance at what was going on as it appeared that something special was going to happen in The Bronx.  Indeed, Joe Torre would come into the fold in 1996 and take the Yankees to 5 World Series in the next 6 seasons including four championships.  Baseball was back in Pinstripes and the turnstiles could not turn fast enough around the country.

2) The Long Ball was back in a big way.  People’s appetites were awoken by Cecil Fielder’s 51 home runs in 1990 (the first player to hit over 50 home runs since George Foster did it in 1977).  Starting in 1995 (first year following the strike), it was a bonanza.  Albert Belle hit 50 home runs.  The following year it was Brady Anderson and Mark McGuire.  1998 featured four hitters with over 50 home runs (the most ever up to that point, it was done again in 2001) with McGuire and Sammy Sosa reliving the 1961 Maris/Mantle race to Babe Ruth’s home run record (see ’61*’ for more info).

Around baseball, the seats were full.  Eyes glued to the TV.  And the league, the players, the teams, and the networks laughed all the way to the bank.  People were discussing whether or not the ball was juiced (it was noted that the wind was a bit different) or whether the use of Creatine was an unfair advantage.  But everyone in the clubhouses and boardrooms knew who was juiced.  But times were good.  So no one cared.  In fact, contracts were being altered to remove wording that included drug use as means for termination (see Jason Giambi).

In fact, no one really seemed to care until the less likable players were being outed by the King of Unlikable Players – Jose Canseco.  And it was before a congressional committee that all of a sudden Jose Canseco was the most credible individual in baseball.   And the press jumped all over it.  They could now get back at Barry Bonds and all the other bullies that did not pick them in the sandlot.

And what could the teams do now?  Act like it was ok?  No, they had to state that they had no idea what was going on and denounce the use of these PED’s.  With their pockets already lined and with the knowledge that the fans would continue to come back along as they continued to produce a compelling product, they turned their backs on the players and unions that saved the sport.

I used to be upset by the players.  They ruined the sanctity of the game.  And then, while involved in a discussion on this issue, my cousin, who I truly believed was in my frame of mind, said ‘Who cares?’  And it hit me.  He was right.

Everyone involved in making money off the game of baseball should be thanking these players for saving the game and building more interest in the sport.  Check out the attendance numbers since 1995.  True, the overall number would be higher because there are more teams.  However, the average per team tells you that the fans are back to baseball.

Also, let’s say I take steroids.  Will I now be able to hit 50 home runs off major league pitching?  Look at all the players in the minors and high school who never got to the majors that have used it.  It still takes a special player to play at the highest level in the sport and an even more special one to perform at a superstar status.  It certainly provides an advantage, but the game still comes down to performance.

Before PED’s it was cocaine use that the league was trying to hide.  Before cocaine it was speed.  Spitballs, scuffing.  It will always be something.  And the thing that always stands by me is the number of players from the past that admit that they would most likely have ‘kept up with the Jones’ during the Steroid Era.

Baseball needed the Steroid Era to get to where it is today.  Without it, MLB might have dropped below the NBA in the pro sport hierarchy.  1996 also brings Major League Soccer to many of the same markets MLB during the same season.  Baseball had to hit hard to survive.  And the players answered the call.  To denounce what occurred in the league to get back on their feet is short sighted.  Look at the big picture.

Now, back to Biogenesis.  A note to the players that the Steroid Era is done.  For players that have already been in trouble to go back to the well, you deserve whatever the league or federal government will throw at you.

Time to find a new way to cheat.

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