'I'm Spartacus' - or, why don't the boys of summer just man up about using PEDs
Like most Red Sox fans, I was dismayed, but not shocked, to hear that David Ortiz was on the list of 100 or so MLB players who tested positive for use of performance-enhancing substances in 2003. This list is a part of a supposed to have been destroyed, supposed to have been sealed, document that MLB was using to gauge the extent of PED abuse in baseball. To date, only a few names on the list have been leaked: Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Manny Ramirez, and David Ortiz.
The Red Sox are a lightning rod organization. In large part their storied and tortured history, and their storied and glorious present, have made them media darlings in some quarters. This - plus the growing reputation of Red Sox fandom - once so hapless and lovable - as a bunch of obnoxious a-holes, second only to fans of the Yankees (or, perhaps, tied). Thus the "news" that the personable, huggable even, clutch slugger of the Red Sox successful 2004 and 2007 seasons was, at least in 2003, juiced - along with his compadre, Manny Ramirez - is prompting many to call for a re-call of the Sox championships. 'They're tainted," we hear. "Send in the asterisk."
Who knows? It could conceivably turn out the Red Sox were prime offenders, with proportionately more players on the "caught list" (which is by no means the same as the "used list").
It's also conceivable that - at least when it comes to the bad-substances-of-the-day - it's mostly a Dominican-player problem, since from what I read, you could buy PEDs in the DR as easily as you can buy candy.
"Hey, I'll have a couple of Baby Ruths, some Skittles, and why don't you throw in some fun-sized packages of testosterone."
By the way, as for the list, it's assumed that many of those on it were using over the counter "supplements" that were okay at the time but have since been banned, and not getting injected with illegal steroids.
But if you listen to the 'in the know' scuttlebutt, it would be a bit naive to believe that it's all guys with a DR connection, or that there's any professional baseball team that has not been at least a bit "tainted." (And not just by the PEDs of the "steroid era", but by the use of whatever the uppers-of the-time were that, over the years, held a lot of ballplayers together through the long seasons these guys play. Let the team that is without sin cast the first box of syringes or bottle of greenies.)
Truly, I can't even keep track of what was legal, what was banned when, but my hunch is that there were so many players doing something during the 1990's and 2000's that the playing field was likely evened. All teams likely had some combination of clean guys, gonzo juicing guys, occasional user/abusers, and morons who didn't look to closely into what was in that tasty, lip-smacking- good shake that made them so darned invincible at the plate.
And, yes, as a fan who truly enjoys the skill, drama, excitement, boredom, beauty, and poetry of baseball, I'd prefer it if the boys of summer weren't plying themselves with drugs that are doubling the size of their already big heads, and may kill them prematurely.
But those are their bodies, not mine, and the only reasons I can think why performance enhancing drugs should be banned from sports are, first and foremost, that kids will try this at home, and can damage themselves if they emulate unhealthy behavior; and that I'm not all that keen on the idea that these guys are killing themselves, at least indirectly, for my entertainment. (I wouldn't go to a bullfight, cockfight, dogfight, or prizefight, but this is okay?)
Mostly, though, the stakes are so high in terms of the loot these players can demand for their performance - for marginal players, it's the difference between languishing in the minors for chump change, or getting a shot at the bigs, where the minimum wage is $400K; for the super-stars, it's the extra millions in endorsements and merchandise sales - that there's every incentive to work any angle you can. And once one substance is banned and tested for, there'll likely be a new one to replace it.
We also can't get away from the fact that it's so much a part of the greater culture now. College students with their Adderall to stay sharp - so much more effective, I hear, than the No-Doz of my college days. Memory-enhancers for us aging boomers, which I'm probably only a few senior moments away from looking into. And don't even get me going on Viva Viagra.
But I don't think that baseball can get past its drug problem unless more of the players are willing to come forward and 'fess up.
We need more than Jose Canseco, the egoist tattle-tale who wrote a couple of books that aired the problem, and who is scorned because, well, he's such an egoist tattle-tale. We need more than the "good guys" like Andy Pettit who at least didn't try to BS his way out of it when he was caught. We need more than marginal players like Bronson Arroyo to say that, yeah, well, he bought andro at GNC and took amphetamines.
What the sport really needs is for all of these guys to come out of their drug cabinets and admit what they did during the good old days when everyone was doin' it, doin' it, doin' it.
Come on, boys of summer: man up! Mark Mcgwire, Roger Clemens, come on down off your high horses. Nomar, Derek, Albert - maybe you did, maybe you didn't. (And I really and truly hope that this trio didn't.) Come out, come out, wherever you are. Just don't bullshit us.
It really won't be like Spartacus. You're all not going to get crucified with Kirk Douglas alongside the Appian Way.
Right now, there are an awful lot of guys playing baseball, or recently retired, who have fear in their eyes - fear that they'll be outed.
But there's also something in the eyes of the fans and that's suspicion. Until we know who's guilty, it's pretty much guilt by association.
And, much as I love the game of baseball, it does take some of the joy out of watching it for me.
So man up, you big babies. Don't leave skinny little Bronson Arroyo standing out there on his own.