Let’s be clear, I get that I’m in the minority here among my peers. Most of the bloggers and baseball writers I know are really, really smart baseball fans, and I respect their opinions immensely. Which is why I feel so discombobulated when it comes to the issue of baseball players and PEDs. See, I still really care that players used (and are still using) PEDs. But most of the the baseball people I look up to don’t.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand the arguments that I shouldn’t care: MLB looked the other way at PED use for a long time for various nefarious reasons. MLB will never catch all the guys who used. There’s no proven correlation between PED use and and increase in a player’s numbers. Etc, etc. I really do understand those reasons, from an objective point of view.
But I still care that people sleep with the boss to get ahead. I still care that people cheat on standardized tests. I still care that people get jobs and opportunities based on who their parents are and who they know and how much money they’ve donated. And, whether or not it actually affects their ability to play baseball, I still care that players in the game I love intentionally cheat to try to get a leg up on other players.
Sure, there’s the argument that EVERYONE is doing it, and the fact that Alex Rodriguez has never tested positive for steroids certainly lends credibility to the belief that plenty of guys are using and just aren’t getting caught. But not everyone who shoplifts or cheats on their taxes gets caught, either. Does that mean we ignore they ones that do get caught? I don’t think so. And I won’t pretend my feelings on this issue aren’t colored by my time as a public defender, where I watched poor minority kid after poor minority kids get locked up for stealing something as simple as a candy bar or baby formula.
It offends my sense of justice that society looks down their nose at those kids, while its willing to give a pass to guys like ARod and Rafael Palmeiro. And, let me just add, none of those kids ever looked into a television camera and feigned indignation over being accused of stealing. Another negative against the players. And before you draw the line between criminal activity and PED use, let me remind you that doctor-shopping for prescription medications that are not medically necessary is absolutely a crime. And one that plenty of “regular people” wind up in jail for.
Yesterday, someone argued that the pressure on professional athletes is so intense, they have no choice but to use. He went on to say that us regular people can’t even begin to image the amount of pressures athletes face. He’s right: I probably can’t. But I spent most of my career working with the indigent population of Chicago, and I would argue that stressors over putting food on the table for your kids, having a family member locked up simply for the crime of being addictive to drugs, or worrying about how to pay for a winter coat for your child is far more stressful than worrying about whether or not people will continue to heap mountains of praise at your feet because of how far you can hit a baseball. I’ve come to believe that if you have a sufficient amount of money to be comfortable and your family is safe and healthy, most other stressors in our lives are self-inflicted.
And it’s not that I have some romanticized ideal of “the good ole days’ of baseball. I know full well that players have always done what they could to get gain advantage. I don’t like it, but I recognize it. And I’m glad I don’t know the whole story about what some of my baseball heroes did back before urine tests and the Joint Drug Agreement.
These are tough days for baseball, and even tougher days for fans. But remember that there’s room for reasonable people to disagree, and be kind to each other, baseball lovers. Here’s to hoping that brighter days are ahead.