I’d like to go on record as saying that EVERYONE is at fault for the use of steroids in major league baseball. The individual player who takes the steroids is most at fault. The league is at fault. The player’s union is at fault.
The player’s union has an opportunity here. They can allow more stringent drug testing and clear the players’ names. They can use it as a concession to get something they want from the owners; I don’t care. This is the time for the union to step up and put it all to rest. Why won’t they do that?
1) It would probably show that at least 5 percent, and possibly more like 20 percent, of players use some sort of banned performance enhancing drug (my estimates, no source). That would be damning and irrefutable and would probably upset fans to the point that they would, as a collective, spend a little less money on baseball. Which means reductions in salaries.
2) The salary structure in baseball is driven by the high end of salaries. Bigger salaries at the top mean bigger salaries for middling free-agents and higher arbitration settlements, which means happier players and a stronger union. If they announce that they’re implementing a real drug testing policy, the Jason Giambis will put up slightly smaller numbers. That means slightly smaller contracts. If you add thirty pounds of muscle to your already proven major league ability, you are able to increase your bat speed, which increases your margin of error when hitting deep fly balls. If five deep fly balls clear the fence, you’re a 50 homer man instead of a 45′er. If fifteen more screaming line drives shoot through the gaps due to an extra 2 miles per hour generated by more muscle power increasing bat speed, you’re a .300 hitter instead of a .285 hitter. That makes a difference in salaries.
So it’s not going to happen. Perhaps the current token drug policy will be upgraded to a token drug policy with a frown, but nothing will change.
I have given the players the benefit of doubt until recently. If I were nineteen years old and I could hit a curve ball with projected 15-20 homer power as a major leaguer in 4 years, and I had the chance, with a rigid workout regime, healthy eating, and lots of batting practice, to upgrade to a 30 homer guy, I’d do it. If I could take all of that and take steroids and turn my career from that of a very good player into an all-star, I’d do it because I’m nineteen and invincible. When I’m forty I’ll pay the price. Fortunately, I have slow reflexes and no discipline, so the opportunity never came up. If it did, however, I’d be hard-pressed to resist the lure of steroids, especially when I could see immediate results such as steroids give.
But it would be my fault if I did it. It was my choice. Ken Caminiti, Jason Giambi, and who knows who else — look at the guys with unnaturally muscular builds, like Sosa, McGwire, Sheffield, Bonds, and so on, and I think it’s okay at this point to smell a rat.
I am lazy and haven’t finished the Wimpy awards. Stay tuned. Bako’s place in Wimpiness will be documented, I swear it!