This is a topic I’ve been sitting on for sometime now, and one that has kind of faded over the past few weeks – that is, until Carlos Ruiz was nailed for using the banned substance Adderall and suspended 25 games by MLB.
Cheating to get ahead is as old as time. I’m sure bribery and unsavory tactics were used in ancient Roman times, just as they still are now. Capitol Hill is a sieve of backdoor trading and handshake deals. We could go on all day about what happens on Wall Street.
In baseball, attempting to play beyond the law of the game is commonplace. In the 20’s, Babe Ruth was thought to have injected himself with sheep testosterone for an added edge; not that he needed it.
During the era of the Second World War, amphetamines became prevalent, given to troops to help them stay alert. Eventually, those drugs found their way into baseball. “Greenies” continued to be used through the 2000’s, as were the steroids and PED’s that were rampant in the 90’s. Canseco, Bonds, Clemens, Balco; we know the stories well.
It has hit the sport hard this season, with Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Galvis, Marlon Byrd, and now, Carlos Ruiz, all caught with banned substances or masking agents in their bloodstream. National League MVP Ryan Braun was found guilty in 2011, only to be freed – albeit with doubters still abound – after a positive test that was eventually thrown out due to a technicality.
It hits home harder now that we know Ruiz’s ridiculous season was aided by a drug that has the same effect as speed.
Knowing what we know – that drug use has been as much a part of the sport as the double play – my question is, should we care? Should we worry about players trying to give themselves a competitive edge?
Personally, I don’t. Would I rather the players do it the so-called “right way”? I guess, but what is the right way? It has always been skewed. Have we ever truly known the right way?
What we thought was the right way for 100-plus years was always tainted in some way. The media just wasn’t all over every move of every professional athlete enough to make it a worldwide story.
For those pushing the “think of the kids” argument, save it. Stopping, or attempting to stop, professionals from cheating is a noble idea, but one that hasn’t worked to date and probably won’t for the foreseeable future. Unless, of course, money is taken from their pockets.
And that’s what it all comes down to, the almighty dollar. Do you blame a guy like Melky Cabrera using PED’s to try and make himself millions of dollars? It’s hard to do.
Cabrera was a middling player making $5 million per season. If you were making a modest salary for your profession and were given a way to possibly make 10 times more, setting yourself and your family up for a lifetime, would you take the risk? The Melkman did, and most of us would do the same.
Getting caught brings Cabrera back to square one, making $5 million a season and likely dancing from team to team. He’s still a serviceable player, a decent outfielder, and one that will continue to make a few million per season. But he took the chance at a 50 game suspension for a huge windfall. He fell short, but it was a risk worth taking.
It’s also sad that all MLB players will be guilty before proven as such. We’ll never really know what goes on behind the closed doors in the clubhouse, but we’ll have to assume cheating is happening. You’d be naïve not to.
Let’s say you’re a guy like Erik Kratz, a catcher who has been on the cusp of busting through to the major leagues. Do you take? Those around him are and have been. And the difference is big-time major league dollars, trips on chartered flights, and five-star hotels rooms over bus rides through middle America, breakfast buffets at the Motel 6, and, above all, the minor league money he’s been making for a decade.
How about Freddy Galvis? So close to being a major part of the Phillies on a full-time basis was enough for him to turn to a metabolite of Clostebol, a performance-enhancing drug that violates the league’s banned substance program.
In the end, I’m not sure I care what goes on because I’m loathe to believe it can change. We’re being entertained and when were we more entertained than in the 90’s when McGwire and Sosa were going head-to-head with 500-foot homers.
Just as entertainers in Hollywood call up their plastic surgeons to keep them in the game looking stronger than ever (although I’d argue Joan Rivers looks more like a corpse), professional athletes are doing the same.
I know, I know, some of the drugs baseball players are using are illegal, whereas a tummy tuck and facelift are not. But the reasons are one in the same; money and fame.
I’m not saying that MLB should not try to clean up the game, but I guess I just don’t mind what happens anymore because it’s going to continue to happen, whether I like it or not. Basically, I’ve given up hope that all MLB players will do things the right way. Ruth did it, McGwire did it, Galvis did, someone else will in the future, too.