Over a year ago I wrote in my blog that I felt that the amphetamines that baseball players have taken for generations needed to be taken about of the equation that today’s narrative calls performance enhancing drugs. I received several notes taking me to task. I understood the way they felt and aprreciated personal stories that many thoughtful folks shared. Nonetheless, I still feel the same.
But I’ve never felt driven in any way to write of it again. And especially about steroids. I often wondered why I’ve kept my thoughts about this private. Carl Banks provided me some insight.
Bob Raissman-whom I rarely agree with-got it correct this morning in his column when he analyzed New York Giant great Carl Banks take when he refuesd to be dragged into a conversation regarding Jose Canseco’s innuendo about Alex Rodrigues taking steroids. Here’s the excahnge as it comes from Raissman’s piece:
Carlin tried to open the door for some spicy A-Rod yap-flapping, based on the widely held perception that Canseco – because of his first book which outed Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro – is a credible source and Jones’ opinion is worth something.
Banks slammed the door in Carlin’s face.
“I don’t want to participate in that discussion, but you’re more than welcome to create this dialogue and lead people down this road,” said Banks, the former Giants linebacker.
“Everyone is justified in their thought process because this is the culture that’s been created (in Major League Baseball),” Banks said. “If you want to suspect it, go ahead. … I won’t kill you or anyone else for having this conversation. I’m not going to do it because it’s not fair.”
I really feel that Raissman has hit a home run here. His overview of the influence of some talk radio is not positive in its influence in both sports reporting and its public perception. But as Raissman points out, thoughtful voices like that of Banks offer hope.
Raissman’s colleague at the Daily News, TJ Quinn, said in a radio interview earlier this week on Fox Radio that Canseco’s basically floating Rodriguez name to get a book deal. Canseco has no manuscript, nor does he have a proposal. According to Quinn, he doesn’t even have a proposal written. Banks realized this and doesn’t buy into the idea that just because someone floats a name, it doesn’t mean it needs to be reported as and discussed as a factual event.
The “A-Rod took steroids” story is currently an urban legend unless something much more concrete emerges. Barry Bonds is impicated by testimony in a trail, a book by two respected reporters and the fact that his former personal trainer sits in jail in Susan MacDougal fashion to keep from tesifying against him. Rodriguez is currently being victimized by a guy who may well have just gotten lucky when he fingered Rafael Palmeiro in a book. If Canseco really had the goods on Rodriguez, he would have put in in his first book as it would allowed his publishers to print a million more copies.
To be quite frank, Banks take on this has awakened my own understanding of how I feel about steroids in baseball. Yes, some have certainly taken steroids and an even greater amount have taken amphetamines. Some of these players have impeccable credentials.
An American sense of fairness is in order. Endless indignations by those with bully pulpit priveledges cannot continue to condemn an entire generation of baseball players who did not take steroids. Not without the kind of information a reasonable person could draw sensibles conclusions as with as one can with Barry Bonds.
During the late 1980’s, the general consensus among professional athletes and in sports medicine was that steroids were exteremely dangerous. Nothing has happened that changes this. Some sort of seismic shift in personal values occured very quickly in baseball during the early 90’s that I still find bewildering.
But all major league players did not take steroids and its likely a significant amount of those who tried them gained no advantage or may have done so only briefly.
However, its also becomming more clear that steroids benifit the user even more so than we once imagined. For some, vision is improved. The ability to train and recover is even greater than we believed. And the ability of fast-twitch muscle fibers to fire even more quickly that they would normally is evident as well. Just 20 years ago, we that only muscular power was involved. Only these benefits as these described above could enable the most gifted as is Bonds and possibly Mark McGwire to have shattered such records while well into their 30’s. Gaining muscular power and enabling one to train more would never have been enough.
So what to do and whom to judge? If we are to believe “Game of Shadows”-and I do-Bonds motivation was an exteremly selfish one. He was jealous of the attention that Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire received during the 1998 season where McGwire broke Roger Maris single-season homerun record. This level of narcissism and envy most people easily find despicable. We have seen the results.
But what of McGwire’s motivation? A modest and affable fellow by anyone’s standards, it should be noted that McGwire likely believed his baseball career was in perile during his 1993 and 1994 seasons when he played in only 74 games. Plagued by chronic back and knee problems, McGwire likely turned to serious weight training and fell into the use of steroids (if he indeed did so) in an attempt to overcome his injuries.
The result must have astounded even him. He hit 245 homeruns in four seasons from 1996 through 1999. This was better than half of his lifetime total of 583 he acheived in 15 major league seasons. I really believe that McGwire’s motivation was just to feel better. The results that surprised even him. McGwire’s injuries overcame him by 2001.
Although the long awaited Mitchell report will provide more answers, I don’t think that Mitchell will deal in innuendos and he said-she saids. Sadly the testimony on those who’ve had to deal with the law like former Mets clubbie Kirk Radomski and major leaguer Jason Grimsley will provide names with a supporting paper trails.
The names will be matched with statistics. Many of us find these numbers as the games holy word and it will be terribly hard to deny conclusions. However we make find that few actually benefitted numbers wise over a period of time as did Bonds and McGwire. Some likely discovered some frightening side effects and quit which may point to the isolated freak season and weight fluctuations.
As the long term effects of steroid use have not changed, what we are likely to witness is what we did 20 years ago when some NFL’s players were dying at an uncommonly young age. Its rare we learn of the premature death of a former major league player. I’m afraid this is what we may see as some of those who used steroids approach their late 40’s. Here’s where innuendo will understandably come into play again.
Like many of the kind readers of my blog, I accepted with sadness Barry Bonds passing Hank Aaron as yes, its tainted. My late father and I went to Atlanta when I was in 8th grade to experience the great moment that Aaron surpassed Babe Ruth during April of 1974. My mother had the ticket stubs boardered inside a wonderful picture of the event. Its on the wall of my son’s room now. Somehow that moment with my dad will never be the same again.
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This post was written by bobsikes on August 10, 2007