I’m about to turn 43.
Roger Clemens is 48. Mark McGwire is 47. Barry Bonds and Rafael Palmeiro are both 46. Sammy Sosa is 42 and Andy Pettitte is 39.
These are the names most commonly associated with Major League Baseball’s steroid era. For one reason or another – most likely to perpetuate their careers and gain increased fame and fortune – these players have all been linked to some sort of performance enhancing drug which enabled them to run faster, hit harder and throw farther.
Just like those guys, I grew up playing baseball and judging by our ages, probably right around the same time frame. It’s safe to say they had a little more success on the diamond.
But let’s say, hypothetically, I made it to the bigs.
Bare with me here.
I end up making my college team, get picked up on a fluke by a Major League squad and end up having a relatively successful career, not necessarily to the extent these guys did, but you’d have heard of me.
I reach my mid to late thirties and am staring a contract extension in the face. My numbers are down, my power has declined and I don’t have the same range I used to some years ago.
I know there’s an easy fix. It comes in the form of a needle. I also know such actions are unofficially condoned in the clubhouse. I’m told by my “physician” that there are no drawbacks, unless re-signing for another fifty million dollars can be considered a drawback.
I’ve always thought myself to be a person of high moral fiber, relatively speaking, but why wouldn’t I at least consider taking a performance enhancer if the consequences were minimal and the good far outweighed the bad? Seems like a no-brainer to me.
It’s not like I’m an Olympian. Nobody’s stripping me of my gold medal. I’ve passed every drug test I’ve ever taken. The only other factor at risk is my legacy in the minds of others. Is that really worth fifty million dollars? Why wouldn’t I add a wrinkle to my work out regimen if it makes me feel better, run faster, throw harder and hit longer? Suddenly, I’ve gained an entirely new fan base, extended my career and I’m rich! Let those with a conscience bat .227.
Just food for thought.
I’ve never come down hard on players who chose to go that route. My high horse is parked firmly in its stable, grazing on oats and looking to take a nice, long nap. Steroids were part of the game, part of the culture. In the cutthroat world of professional sports, only the strong survive.
Most fans agree that Major League Baseball turned a blind eye to its rampant drug use but in a few years, we’ll be approaching the point where the aforementioned players are all eligible for the Hall of Fame. Bonds, Clemens and Sosa become eligible in 2013. Judging by the back of their baseball cards, they are all first ballot Hall-of-Famers. Stigma is not a statistic found on the back of that card. Neither are court appearances nor perjury charges.
We all have our opinions on whether these guys should receive an invite and I’m not looking to change your mind.
All I’m saying is when I work back-to-back, twelve hour days, I often need the help of ibuprofen and a Red Bull or two to get me by. Those products, of course, are FDA approved. Steroids are not. Neither is entry into the Hall of Fame for the greatest players of this generation.