Steroids In Baseball
Is it ethical for Athletes to use steroids? That question can be answered multiple ways depending on how you look at it and who it is coming from in my eyes and experiences with sports is becoming more and more popular pushing the average athlete to have to do such a thing to compete with the “competitor”. “These days the temptation to use steroids in sports has become too great for many young athletes.” This quote from Jim Sensennbremmer explains it well, explaining how young athletes are being pushed to reach new and untouched goals competing again other top notch athletes trying to achieve the same goals. In my opinion steroids are ethical and do not take away from the name of the game, hard work and dedication. Athletes are being pushed too hard to make organizations the big bucks which leads to the pressure to perform.
One thing that people don’t understand about this subject is that steroids weren’t always frowned upon or labeled as cheating, in the 1980’s testosterone and HGH injections were legal and even beyond that they were prescription drugs that anybody could receive including athletes. During the late 1990’s and early 2000’s MLB fanfare was at all-time high. This was also an era with all-time highs in runs scored, homeruns hit, and the record for league RBI’s. At first it was a coincidence, a testimony to how the athlete has evolved naturally over time. However, the true reason was brought to the table of American sports shortly after; steroids became known, feared, and hated. I am here to argue that hatred, stop that fear and increase your knowledge of this subject.
America’s pastime. Hotdogs, fresh cut grass, father-son bonding, the crack of the bat, and the whap of the mitt… Baseball, America’s game. The distance from home plate to the pitching mound hasn’t change in 164 years. Either has the positioning of the bases, the number of players, or the rules of the game. [SO] What has changed? I will tell you in this paper through different sources and facts that have made themselves clear throughout the baseball era [/SO]. The athlete, the strategys, the tools and the overall obsession for baseball in America are the things that have changed emensly. The athlete is bigger, faster and stronger, the strategy involves more power, the tools have gone from scrappy station-to-station baseball to hit or miss ability and speed, and the obsession for baseball in America has switched loyalties to a sport that involves even more power, big hits, and now football is taking over. During the late 1990’s and early 2000’s MLB fanfare was at all-time high. This coincided with all-time highs in runs scored, homeruns hit, and the record for league RBI’s. At first it was a coincidence, a testimony to how the athlete has evolved naturally over time. However, the true reason was brought to the table of American sports shortly after; steroids became known, feared, and hated. I am here to argue that hatred, stop that fear and increase your knowledge. [Thesis] Steroids are ethical in the game of baseball and should not be banned from the sport. [/Thesis]
During the late 1990’s and early 2000’s MLB fanfare was at all-time high. This coincided with all-time highs in runs scored, homeruns hit, and the record for league RBI’s. At first it was a coincidence, a testimony to how the athlete has evolved naturally over time. However, the true reason was brought to the table of American sports shortly after; steroids became known, feared, and hated. I am here to argue that hatred, stop that fear and increase your knowledge.However, I don’t think it is fair to attempt to compare Babe Ruth to Miguel Cabrera (Miguel Cabrera has never been accused of steroid use). Miguel Cabrera faces 90-98 MPH fastballs on a daily basis, the fastest Babe Ruth ever faced was 88 MPH thrown by Walter Johnson in that era. Miguel Cabrera faces more guys throwing 96 than he does 88, making this comparison nearly impossible even without steroids. On top of this the tools used to play the game have evolved. If you wanted a level playing field from 1847 to 2013 then we shouldn’t have changed the bats to make them harder, more aerodynamic and more balanced in weight. We shouldn’t have changed the ball to have flat, smooth seams with a hard inner core and tightly packed leather. We shouldn’t have changed the gloves so that they squeeze with one hand rather than having to trap the ball with two. Baseball historians say that the game would change too much with the addition of steroids and eliminate historical connection, but I say the game has already changed too much for all of these historical comparisons.
As a fan I am well aware that the idolization and adoration of our favorite players does not stop when the twenty-seventh out is made. We love to see what our favorites dive into off the field. whether they are on the disabled list, battling a sickness, or going through problems in their personal lives. There is an obvious health risk to steroids. It is an area of supplementation that the majority of our society knows very little about and for that reason alone fears it. According to lawyer Rick Collins, there is nothing to fear about steroids. In the 1980’s testosterone and HGH injections were legal and even beyond that they were prescription drugs. From there the steroids were soon linked to performance-enhancing drugs in sport and shortly after this connection Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson was stripped of his Olympic medals for the use of stanozolol—an injectable steroid. Ever since this point steroids have been banned from sport and feared in life. For something to be accepted as negative all we need is a crazy or unsubstantiated claim and it is widely publicized and easily becomes the accepted truth. However, for something to be accepted positively our society needs an absolute truth and without that absolute truth the opinion is never even shared. There have been countless studies on steroids and yes, just like any other drug or medication, there is a point where it can do harm. Of course, no one remembers that the American Medical Association, Drug Enforcement Administration, Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse—four groups that might know a little about substances—all sent representatives to the Capitol to testify against making steroids a controlled substance (Collins). If we educate young athletes and make them aware of the affects each type of steroid presents we as a society can stop fearing them and see the research to be proven true. Steroids in general are not a health hazard. A few types of a drug that comes in thousands of combinations are “side-effect heavy”, but not the whole group and not the combinations preferred by athletes.
As a college baseball player, I find myself to be an above average candidate to be a credible source on this topic. I have heard and seen numerous college players inject steroids. I have played on teams with kids that have been steroid users for long periods of time. These kids are bigger, faster and stronger than they used to be. They do have a higher endurance level when it comes to soreness in the elbow, shoulder and other joints, but they are not making money to play the game. Steroids didn’t get them to a better school or get them drafted. It is true that without steroids Barry Bonds most likely would not have the homerun record; it is true that without steroids we never would have witnessed the homerun battle between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, but most of society believes this for the wrong reasons. Most of society views steroids as the “Secret Stuff” from the movie spacejam and when you take them you immediately get a call from Brian Cashman to join the New York Yankees roster. The anti-steroid fan base, and the fans who do not understand the game, will argue that Barry Bonds wasn’t good enough so he needed steroids, or that Jose Canseco only would have been able to hit the ball 300 feet instead of 400 feet. The ones who understand this game and the talents we have been blessed to witness, both know that the above examples are not true. Steroids aren’t going to make that gangly, uncoordinated baseball lover a Major League superstar or even a professional for that matter. Yes, one might go from gangly to filled-out, one might increase his squat and bench press, but that gangly and uncoordinated kid isn’t falling short of being a draft pick because he can’t bench 225 lbs., he isn’t falling short of a scholarship because he weighs 167 pounds soaking wet. His career will end at the high school level because the ability required in seeing and hitting a 95 MPH fastball is something you either have or you don’t. Being able to read a ball off the bat and track it for 120 feet at full speed, dive and make a catch is something you are blessed with. Having the athletic ability to range to your right, field the ball, jump, spin, and throw the ball 110 feet at 2-foot wide target while hanging in mid-air is not something that a needle can produce. The fact that Barry Bonds got maybe one pitch to hit per game and was able to see it, swing at it, and hit it square was not due to his weekly injections. McGwire and Sosa didn’t get picture perfect swing mechanics because they used needles. Ken Griffey, Jr. is not any more talented than Bonds because he hit 630 homeruns without steroids. Bonds had just as much talent, if not more, than Griffey—read the scouting reports. Ken Griffey, Jr. was just less durable than Bonds. Bonds hit 73 homeruns in 2001 because he played more games that season than he ever had in his career. McGwire and Sosa got to battle every day for the homerun chase because they were both in the lineup every day in 1998. Steroids do not turn a person into a superstar, steroids make a superstar a superstar longer.
So how did Babe Ruth hit 714 homeruns? How did Babe Ruth make 150 starts or more in 6 seasons? Obviously Ruth is better than Bonds because he stayed durable without the steroids, right? Wrong. These are the types of questions presented by the anti-steroid population. Once again these two players cannot be compared, unless we froze the Great Bambino and can bring him back to face Randy Johnson at 101 MPH from the left side. The game has changed. It is faster, more demanding, and more physical. The length of the game has gone from an average of 107 minutes in 1927 to an average of 180 minutes in 2012 (Baseball Almanac). The strategy has changed. In 1925 pitchers threw every third day but today they throw every fifth day. In 1925 superstars didn’t sit, but in 2013 nearly every superstar gets one or two days off per month, if not more. Players are more protected due to the demanding changes the game has gone through coupled with how much more money is invested in players today. Babe Ruth could not survive a season today without a change in the way he trained, a change in the way he played and adabt to the grind of this new era of baseball. So once again we cannot compare these greatly different time periods with stat lines such as batting average, homeruns and games played with or without steroids. And no, Babe Ruth is not better than Barry Bonds because he was durable without steroids in a game that demanded far less than the game that is played today.
Baseball is America’s game. That is a statement that makes me proud to love the game I aspire to play professionally. The NFL has a total of 334 games including the pre-season, regular season and post-season. The NFL revenue in 2012 was 9.5 billion dollars (Kaplan). That means that there is an average of $28,443 being made per game in the NFL. The MLB has a total 2,430 regular season games each year. In 2012 the MLB revenue was 7.5 billion dollars (Calcaterra). That means that there is an average of $3,086 being made per game in the MLB. The monotony of baseball is hard to follow. Football fans see their team play once per week and these fans create their schedules around that game. There is a chance to build up excitement for each game in the NFL with 5 days of no game and just talk and preparation. In baseball your team plays every single day. Only the die-hard fans know what happens on a daily basis and even they are most likely getting the information from the MLB app. on their cell phone. Excitement in baseball is hard to display unless you are at the game live or there is a break between the games like in the playoffs, steroids can create more buzz. Because it gets our favorite players on the field more often and keeps our favorite players playing longer. The buzz between Sosa and McGwire had fans that didn’t even like the Cubs and the Cardinals paying for admission and turning on their tv’s. If one of those superstars would have gotten hurt in the final weeks of that chase or gotten fatigued to the point of needing days off, that historic battle would have ended and the buzz would have been ruined. In addition, runs scored in a game, homeruns hit and runs-batted-in will also elevate with this change, which is something valued in our society. The scoreboard was not created for the players. The players have all accessibility to any stat they desire. The scoreboard was created for the fans, and if you have not noticed.
Ken Griffey, Jr. and Barry Bonds both played 22 years in the Big Leagues. Barry Bonds played 2,986 games and Ken Griffey, Jr. played 2,670. Ken Griffey, Jr. hit 30 or more homeruns in 10 of those seasons. If Ken Griffey, Jr. could have been healthy enough to play in 316 more games it is safe to say he also would be in the 700 home run club. Of course, one could say that if Bonds had not taken steroids and he would have played in 300 fewer games the playing field also would have been leveled. This is true, but as I have mentioned before, what fan doesn’t want to see 50 more homeruns out of their favorite player? What fan wouldn’t want to buy every ticket to every game after Griffey hit 699 so they could be lucky enough to witness history. Steroid use does not make that history tainted, it allows the players of today to play as much as the players of before. Babe Ruth only played a 20-year career as a position player, yet has 3,001 games played—he was able to be on the field every day. Of course the comparison between Bonds and Griffey is two players of equal talent, so if Griffey would have been a user and stayed healthy then they probably would have been nearly even in statistical numbers. But, this does not mean that if Adam Dunn had used steroids he would have gone from 440 homeruns to 700. Adam Dunn has over 1,000 more strikeouts than Bonds and Griffey and isn’t nearly as talented. If Griffey had used he probably would be around 720, if Dunn had used maybe he would be at 500. There is still a consistent 200 home run gap with or without the use of steroids for these two players. This shows that the game would not be ruined and talent gaps would not be diminished. Stars would still be stars and role players would still be role players it would just be more exciting to watch.
The fear needs to be turned into curiosity, the knowledge needs to be spread, and the game needs to change. Baseball is a beautiful game. Finesse, speed, flexibility, instincts, strategy and reaction will always and forever drive this game. However, strength, power, endurance and longevity would not be negative additions to the game we all love. The history of baseball makes us believe that the introduction of steroids is disrespectful to the greats that started our game. We have tried and tried to find excuses to support our fear. It is my firm belief that Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Jackie Robinson, Walter Johnson and the rest of the greats love the game of baseball and would support a change that doesn’t alter the game, rather allows those who love the game to see who they love more often. The use of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs in the game of baseball is morally ethical and should not be banned.
America, Baseball, illus. Baseball Almanac. N.p.: n.p., 2013. Print. Collins, Rick. “Pumped.” Athlete Seminar. University of Notre Dame. Feb. 2013. Speech. Hard Ball Talk. NBC Sports, 10 Dec. 2012. Web. 5 Nov. 2013. Sports Business Daily. Sports Business Journal, 28 Jan. 2013. Web. 10 Nov. 2013. Sports Reference LLC., ed. “Stats.” Baseball Reference. USA Today Sports, n.d. Web. 9 Nov. 2013.
***ALL statistics on players were taken from the baseball reference database***