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Is the Need to Be the Best Indirectly Killing Baseball?

By Scott Clinco
On March 8, 2013

  • Alex Rodriguez, Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi at the press conference in 2009 when Alex Rodriguez admitted to PED use from 2001-2003. Photo courtesy of http

On January 29th, a report surfaced from the Miami New Timesthat alleged that a couple major league baseball players had received performance enhancing drugs from doctor Anthony Bosch who works at a clinic in Miami that had been indicted for providing them.

Among those implicated were Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez.  This isn't Rodriguez's first scandal with Ped's.  In 2009, after being implicated by Sports Illustrated, Rodriguez held a news conference at the Yankees spring training facility in Florida at which he admitted to using performance enhancing drugs from the years 2001-2003 while he was a member of the Texas Rangers.

Rodriguez wasn't the only player mentioned in the report.  Nationals pitcher Gio Gonzalez headlined the list of people named in the report.  Gonzalez finished third in the CY voting this year.  Also named in the report was Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz.  Additionally, former Yankee outfielder Melky Cabrera and catcher Yasmani Grandal were implicated in the report.  Both of those players had positive tests for performance enhancing drugs at some point during the 2012 season giving the report a little bit of credibility.

If it feels like over the last five to seven years the topics of major league baseball and steroids and other performance enhancing drugs have gone hand at hand, it's because they have.  When Jose Canseco first implicated guys such as Mark McGwire and himself, it opened a can of worms for baseball that  has yet to be  shut. Additionally, multiple congressional hearings have been held, and on top of that, two players, who without allegedly using performance enhancing drugs would've been enshrined in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, were put on trial for lying to the grand jury about their use of the substances.

Since that time though, major league baseball has been front and center in attempts to combat this issue.  They have adopted the strictest test for performance enhancing drugs among the four major sports.  On top of that, starting this season they will begin testing for HGH (Human Growth Hormone) for the first time.  They are the first of the four major leagues to introduce a test for this substance.

Analysts seem to think that as long as using the drugs provides a potential payoff for the player; they will be tempted and sometimes use the substance probably thinking they can beat baseballs tests.  Last year, major league baseball busted seven people for use of performance enhancing drugs.  Right now, the first penalty for players caught using a performance enhancing drug is a 50 game suspension.  Some of those same analysts think a way to combat the issue would be to make the first punishment longer, possibly 100 games. 

Steroids and other performance enhancing drugs are also beginning to impact that Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.  Players from the steroid era in baseball who have been retired for a little while are now eligible for the Hall of Fame.  This year's ballot, the most star studded in years was topped by Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Mike Piazza.  This year, was also the first time since 1996 that the BWAA didn't elect a single person to the Hall of Fame.  The consensus seems to be that this happened for a multitude of reasons.  The two biggest being that, a lot of writers who can vote don't like to vote for guys on the first ballot, secondly the cloud of performance enhancing drugs among the candidates proved to be too much for any of them to get the votes. 

Someone like former Mets catcher Mike Piazza unfortunately falls into this category.  Piazza, who except for some rumblings has never been officially linked to any sort of performance enhancing drugs wasn't elected this year mostly because of guilt by association.  It is widely believed that he will be elected within the next couple years however.  Whereas, someone like Mark McGwire who has been on the ballot for a couple years now and has never gotten more then 20-25% of the vote will likely never get in.  For those that aren't aware, 75% of the vote from the writers is what a player needs to get elected to the Hall of Fame.

The eligibility of players like Bonds and Clemens has drawn strong reactions from former players who are now Hall of Famers.  In an interview in the beginning of January, former Yankee pitcher and Hall of Famer Goose Gossage had this to stay to CBS sports, "If any of these guys [ped users] ever get in, I probably will never go back to the Hall of Fame."  If Gossage feels like that, it's not a stretch to think some of his colleagues feel like that because they share the mindset of people who played in that era.

It will be nice when baseball fans can just worry about baseball again instead of having the constant suspicion of whether or not someone is using something.  Baseball has done a pretty good job trying to combat the issue; they need to do a better job though because the fans deserve it.

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