Thursday, May 7, 2009

Let's Stop Vilifying Steroid Users

I'm sure when you woke up this morning, you flipped on ESPN like I do everyday and saw the breaking news that Manny Ramirez was caught using performance-enhancing drugs and will be suspended for the next 50 games. You also saw all the talking heads like Peter Gammons, Buster Olney all giving their opinion on what this means, does he make the Hall of Fame, etc. Then we read guys like Kevin Kernan and Mike Lupica who condemn steroid users as if they commit murder.

The mistake Manny made was getting caught when baseball doesn't test for HGH. Why risk suspension by taking a masking agent when almost anyone who looks for the edge goes for HGH or designer steroids that aren't detechable. The excuse that a doctor gave you something that's banned doesn't fly when it's woman's fertility drug.

Having said that, I've got a newsflash: It doesn't matter!

We have become too accustomed to players testing positive or being caught with PED's and since it's quite clear that a sizable amount of players used steroids at one time or another, it has evened itself out. Talent is talent and the good players who did/do PED's are talented baseball players. The scrubs who used steroids and did almost nothing in his career were supposed to do nothing.

The biggest argument I hear when people want to kill these players who used PED's say they "tarnish the game" because Babe Ruth didn't use them and Sandy Koufax didn't use them. Well, Babe Ruth never faced black players, and Sandy Koufax pitched on a taller mound that was a benefit to pitchers. They claim steroids is bad, but when Gaylord Perry used spitballs and Phil Niekro would scuff the ball, no one cares and they get put in the Hall of Fame.

What also hurts for those who vilify all the steroids users is the fact that most fans don't join in. Yes, fans will turn against PED's user, but rarely ever for their own players. Barry Bonds was hated throughout the league, not just for steroids mind you, but in San Francisco, he was an icon. Yankees fans still loved Jason Giambi after he tested positive and have defended A-Rod much more than I thought they would, crystallizing the love-hate relationship Rodriguez and Yankees fans have. It helps that the Yankees are struggling without him, though. And if you ask Red Sox fans today, now knowing Manny's possible steroid use in 2004 and 2007, if they would do it all again, I'm certain 99 percent would. Finally, when he comes back with the Dodgers, he will most likely maintain their support, making them just like their archrivals in San Fran.

Failing a drug test for Manny is more serious than the A-Rod's, Roger Clemens' and Mark McGwire's of the world because baseball didn't have drug tests and suspensions when they are alleged to have used and Rodriguez, Clemens and Bonds never failed a drug test. Personally, I've always said in the past that those who did steroids and caught before 2003 played when there weren't rules against it. Manny unfortunately knew the rule and he's paying the price. However, you look at the NFL, they have had plenty of players test positive for steroids, yet no one cares. For example, Shawne Merriman in the year he failed a PED's drug test ended up third in the Defensive Player of the Year voting and made the Pro Bowl (though the league made a rule banning in-season drug test failed players in the future).

The main reason that people care about the baseball steroid users is because of the records. Stats matter in baseball than any other sport. 61 and 755 are important to baseball fans. Emmitt Smith's rushing record and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's point total aren't to the standard fan (hence I don't give a number). But now that we have seen so many players test positive, it's about time we stop treating the latest PED user as a huge story and a chance to easily demonize an individual who makes a mistake.

These players shouldn't live with a scarlett S for the rest of their lives when football players get to hide behind their helmets. Manny Ramirez shouldn't miss out on the Hall of Fame any more than A-Rod or Barry Bonds because they were talented enough in the first place to be in the Hall of Fame. In Bonds and Clemens case, steroids lengthened their career's, while A-Rod and Manny are great hitters who may have hit more home runs than they probably would of.

What I wanted to do was not to excuse the use of steroids by baseball players, but to give them opportunity to redeem themselves. The best idea I heard was from Ken Rosenthal, to create a cheaters wing of the Hall of Fame. This can be put in the basement in Cooperstown, include the likes of Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Clemens and Manny along with the other steroid users worthy of induction if he played he whole career clean. You can even include Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson and anyone else who decides to gamble. Personally, I wouldn't give them the glory of giving a speech, though they do get to sit behind with the other Hall of Famers.

There is a problem if all of these baseball writers keep refusing to induct steroid users. We would have a generation of players who wouldn't be in the Hall of Fame. And in twenty years, I bring my son to the Hall of Fame, do we ignore the 1990s happened. I say no; put the users in a place where they can be separated for their actions, while included for their talent.


  1. If the league can turn a blind eye to racism and induct the white players from numerous generations without a separate wing then why must there be a different wing for today's players? They are Hall of Famers regardless. I suggest to baseball writers, look at their stats prior to the alleged or proved use of enhancing drugs and then project. Guess what Bonds would still be the only 500/500 player in history and Clemens would still have been the power pitcher of a generation.
    Being from Chicago I take issue with the mention of Sammy Sosa, because guess what? There never has been anything to actually link Sosa to the drugs, unlike every other player on the list. Sosa was not a great player, but he was a Hall of Fame talent because of how he changed games with his power. 600 homers and 60 3 years in a row speak for itself. Find a test linking him and not a book by Jose Canseco before you speak with certainty about him.

  2. many players and athletes take steroid to get some hype during the games,but authorities strictly prohibited in using steroid.