The Real Losers of PEDs

By on August 6, 2013

 

Some people have some questions for you AROD (Eddie Michels photo)

With everything going on with Alex “A-Rod” “A-God” “A-Roid” Rodriguez (depending on which Alex you view him as) the world has once again seen the many flaws of baseball and its problem with performance-enhancing drugs. Twelve players, including Rodriguez, were suspended Monday August 5 for 50 games, but Rodriguez for 211.

 

Anabolic steroids, testosterone supplements, human growth hormone and whatever the next big drug is are all considered to be “bad”. They’re bad for the purity of the game and create a culture of cheating that has become acceptable among the many players who have taken PEDs. Other than a morally corrupt culture of cheating that is brought into the game, who is seriously and unavoidably hurt by PEDs?

 

It’s not Major League Baseball. People want to stand on their soapbox and shout about how the game has been corrupt. That corruption hasn’t hurt MLB and if anything for a short time steroids may have been one of the best things to financially happen to baseball.

Does this guy love the media attention or what? Just answer the PED question already (Eddie Michels photo)

 

Remember 1998? Coming into that season baseball had been suffering. Baseball had taken a backseat after the 1994 strike. The NFL had risen in popularity to the most popular sport in America. Michael Jordan’s Bulls took the NBA to new heights after Magic Johnson and Larry Bird revitalized the league in the ‘80s. Baseball was on the downs, but then came the magical summer of ’98 when “Slammin” Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire combined for 136 homers and brought back the mass media attention MLB had been craving.

 

We now know it was artificial. The home runs and media frenzy were both real, but each was the result of two players who most believe were steroid abusers. When the pair took the stand in front of Congress seven years later McGwire was determined not to speak about the past and Sosa had apparently forgotten the English language and asked for an interpreter. Although 2005 was a major embarrassment for baseball, the sport profited off of that ‘roided up home run race of ‘98 and made a comeback.

 

Do the teams suffer from steroids? No. We all know the Yankees will be the Yankees regardless of what happens with A-Rod, so let’s look at another guy suspended more than 50 games recently, Ryan Braun. His club, the Milwaukee Brewers, won’t even miss him. The Brewers were awful this year and Braun was hurt for the majority of this year anyways. Now he gets to sit back and get ready for 2014.

 

But for the Brewers, he has been a great player and no one can undo what he has done for Milwaukee. Braun was the 2011 MVP and failed a drug test that year, which was overturned due to a technicality. He has since been suspended in connection with the Biogenesis lab investigation. Braun is still the MVP for 2011. He helped sell out Miller Park and the Brewers won’t be giving back that money any time soon. Plus, unless Milwaukee residents boycott the Brewers because of Braun, people will be giving the organization their money in large part because of Braun.

 

So do the players who take steroids suffer? Hell no. The only thing we hear about is how steroids allegedly break down your body with repeated use and they decrease the essence of your man (if you know what I mean). Still, when you hear about broken down former athletes it’s all from football, while guys like Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire are still in phenomenal shape.

 

But forget the potential health risk from steroids, let’s look at the monetary impact. Melky Cabrera, who was suspended for taking PEDs last year, became a free agent this past offseason. When teams were evaluating him, they weren’t considering his 50-game suspension as much as they were looking at his .346 average in 113 games and a wins above replacement stat of 4.6 in 2012, the highest of his career. Cabrera cashed in with a two-year $16 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays this season. All that money was made after he was suspended for steroids. Expect a similar situation this offseason for free-agent OF Nelson Cruz, suspended from the Texas Rangers Monday. He cheated the game and took steroids and will still make big dollars this offseason.

 

So who really suffers at the hands of the PED bad guys? Every single athlete who doesn’t use steroids, especially other baseball guys suffer when a group of guys cheat the game. With many marquee guys being suspended for steroids it seems that every baseball player takes PEDs. The reality of it is of the many baseball players since 2005 there have only been 31 suspensions related to steroids as of 2012 according to this ESPN multimedia report.  This doesn’t include the 12 suspended Monday or Braun or McGwire, Sosa, Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds or others who played the majority of their careers before there was a stringent testing policy for PEDs in baseball. Still, let’s say that’s 50 guys who have been caught juicing since 2005. In that same span there have been more than 1200 players (40-man roster times 30 teams and there’ve been many more since 2005 than just those). So at most 4% of major leaguers are confirmed juicers.

 

On top of ruining the reputation of the majority of players, careers are ruined by PED-users for those who opted to cleanly pursue a major league career. Not just in a scenario where an ERA is inflated because a pitcher faced Rodriguez and Rafael Palmeiro and Sosa in consecutive starts, but guys in direct competition for one spot lose out to a guy who took steroids. That guy suffers the most. One such a case occurred between relief pitchers Dan Meyer and Antonio Bastardo when Bastardo beat out Meyer for a pitching spot in the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies bullpen. Meyer was not too pleased when he heard Bastardo was suspended for steroids and vented of twitter with this tweet.

So who suffers the most from steroids? In my opinion it’s the guys who competed against all the PED abusers. The fans suffer a bit, but since baseball has taken a stand against steroids the game has taken a hit in popularity, which peaked in 1998. Although the game was tainted, the product pleased the casual fans a bit more when steroids were running rampant and guys were averaging 50 home runs a year. The guys who use will take a hit to their credibility, but many of the high profile guys who ‘roided are well compensated (and no one would feel bad if their careers suffered). Clearly baseball didn’t suffer as much at the time. Now looking back we can say that the game lost its purity which hurts any true fan of the game. A true baseball fan will watch whether the major league sluggers are hitting 50 or 20 home runs and those fans were punished. Although we can all admit cheating the game is a shame and is despicable, it’s those guys who lost money directly to the guys who cheated who lost the most.

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