The Blame for PEDs in Baseball Begins with You

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Maury Brown is the president of the Business of Sports Network, which includes BizofBaseball.com. He is a contributor to Baseball Prospectus and Forbes.

From comments by fans for articles on the internet, to social media, to your local bar, right now someone is railing on about performance-enhancing drugs in baseball. They seethe on one side of the argument or the other, pouring out venom (and often expletives) in extra-large doses. Many times, in 140 characters or less, adjectives are sprinkled about and dripping with snark. To them, the matter is offered in black and white terms.

As if blame is ever that easy. The PED issue in baseball has plenty of blame to go around.

Start by blaming the jar of “greenies” that used to sit on the clubhouse table. We don’t talk about this much because we like to think that those players “back in the good-old days” didn’t need to performance enhance. Maybe they simply used them like one downs espresso and energy drinks but even Henry Aaron admitted to using “greenies”.

Blame the players or those that were “above 5% using steroid” as part of the survey test in 2003. When those players tested positive, it put in place the mandatory drug testing policy. While it was the first step in addressing the steroid issue, since then we’ve all become jaded. A player starts to perform above their norm—for whatever reason—and our immediate reaction is they “juiced.” Somewhere, Jeff Bagwell is nodding his head.

Blame the shifting sands on what was and wasn’t banned and how that changed the view (see androstenedione). Hate how the system was not yet fully formed at the time with testing, certification, and a case of where the MLBPA had fought tooth and nail because the rank and file hadn’t gotten any balls yet, and those that juiced had the upper hand. Who doesn’t remember Gene Orza, the former COO of the MLB Players Association, saying of steroids, “I have no doubt that they are not worse than cigarettes.”? Who can’t remember Donald Fehr fighting the battle for his constituency, the players?

Blame Commissioner Selig for either being blind to seeing it all go down, or as some think, letting it slide when McGwire and Sosa were in the midst of their historic (and PED fueled) race for the single-season home run record (I have always thought Bud simply couldn’t put 2 and 2 together on it). If, as Selig said, he really had no idea it was going on, where were those that must have seen it occurring and didn’t advise him?

Blame a large quarter of the media for being pious now, but missed it all when it was in front of them then (sans Steve Wilstein of The AP). You can’t have it both ways. Yes, it makes for great ink, but be accountable, just like the rest of us.

Blame those inside Major League Baseball that have decided that it’s somehow “good” for the game to leak information on the Biogenesis case (namely around Alex Rodriguez) to the media on a near daily basis. Congrats, whoever you are, you’ve broken the league’s own unwritten rule by having us focus in this nonsense instead of the play on the field.

Blame the investigators. The league paid for information and is willing to drop charges for Tony Bosch, speaking to both the league and Bosch’s credibility. For those outside the league, think of the millions of dollars poured down the drain by the federal investigators hell bent on getting a trophy prize in Barry Bonds. Yes, I’m speaking to you, the FDA, and Jeff Novitzky.

Blame Victor Conte, Tony Bosch, Kirk Radomski, et al, for being chemists of greed or ego. They are the devil standing on each and every player’s shoulder whispering evil thoughts in their ears. When or if you become “reformed” don’t act surprised when the league doesn’t hire you. Maggots are hard to swallow.

Blame the fans for their inability to really care about PEDs in the game. Only when it’s the high-profile player or when the sacred records or being molested do you jump up and down. You can cite records dating back to the game’s beginnings but all but a handful recount that Alex Sanchez of the then Devil Rays was the very first player suspended for PEDs in Major League Baseball. Fewer still are concerned about the near daily reports of Minor Leaguers being suspended for this drug or that. Ultimately what fans care about with PEDs is building star athletes up, and then (sadly) tearing them down.

Closer to now, blame Ryan Braun for dragging people like Dino Laurenzi Jr. through the mud and lying about PED use in the first place. If true (and this is the loop back to those sordid leaks), blame Alex Rodriguez for throwing Braun under the bus. We’re into the realm of leeching animals at this stage.

Blame the league and Commissioner Selig for over-stepping the boundaries of the Joint Drug Agreement in the Alex Rodriguez/Biogenesis case. A-Rod’s no saint, and seems to have juiced (he hasn’t denied it, nor has his team of lawyers), but you’re all in a tizzy over the fact that he wouldn’t go quietly on a 211 game suspension when there’s nothing outlined in the drug agreement, that you agreed to with the union for the players that allows for such stiff penalties. Not only does it put you in a position of looking weak should arbitrator Fredric Horowitz overturn the suspension, or more likely, lower the number of games he’s suspended for, it more importantly puts labor peace in jeopardy. Congrats. Not since the owners colluded has there been an action on your part that could potentially kill the game’s golden goose.

Blame poverty for the Latin kids who juice to want a better life. Blame the minor leaguer who’s juicing to make the show. Blame the high-profile players for greed. At every level of the game, a single source is the issue, which is…

Blame the money. Blame the salaries. Blame it on the revenues. This is what fuels it all.

Finally, blame yourself. Don’t act shocked. Don’t be aghast at the comment. Be honest. The incredible salaries which fuels this hyper-competitiveness that leads some to PEDs is what drives it all. You’re appalled, and yet like some drug addict you go to games, watch on television, and buy the merchandising. In that sense, those that are griping the loudest are those that are the biggest hypocrites. You’re the enabler. If the money stopped—if we all became Howard Beale in Network and said, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”—it would slowly subside. In the end, the issue of performance-enhancing drugs in sports is tied to you. Ultimately, that’s where the power resides. I know it. I’m one of them. The only difference is, it’s all not as simple as it’s often portrayed. All I ask is that the next time you want to lay a finger at those “lying cheaters” or call Selig “the sport’s biggest overreacher” you remember that. Be mad. Want the game to be clean (if it ever has been). But, I can’t take the easy path on it. I can’t accept the arguments. I see it as Pandora’s Box, and we’re not going back. Am I apathetic? Maybe. Am I tired of it all? I think you can read this and say, no. You can’t see it but my shirt reads, “Reality Sucks”. Welcome to reality.

  • bgilman45

    The fans should blame themselves? Really? Why should we deny ourselves the pleasure of watching a game we love in person or on TV to “make a statement” and force the game and players to police themselves?
    Sorry, that is not our job.

    • Maury Brown

      The fans should look at the issue in its complex terms. We’re great at railing on about the matter, but we rarely look at the symptoms. The point is, it’s the money that fuels the greed. That money comes from you and I. It’s hard to say that we’re all really that upset. We are, but we aren’t. It’s like the work stoppages from strikes or lockouts. Those in power know that they may lose a couple fans here or there, but most come running back. In that, we enable it to occur. Until fans really get fed up to levels where they turn their back on the matter, the problem will always exist.

      • Jhary Kenshura

        What, we should stop going NOW, after we have found out everything and the game has started to clean itself up? How does that make any sense? I’m a huge baseball fan, but in the 90′s I had no idea that it was rampant steroid use fueling everything. All the ballparks were smaller, the balls were tighter and harder, the umps had strike zones the size of a shoe box (go look at tapes of Bonds hitting 10 years ago, where strikes on the outside corner were constantly called balls), and there was an explosion of over the counter legal supplements that seemed to be game changers (remember Creatine?). Since reporters and the league didn’t care one whit about really investigating anything and getting me the truth, what else did I have to go on besides the eyeball test? The time to take my money from the game in protest was already past when we finally got the truth, but yes somehow it’s the fans fault for not having all the facts in front of us to make an informed choice a decade ago.

        • Maury Brown

          No, what I’m saying is, the problem is the problem. It’s not going away, but there are plenty seem to think hard justice will fix it all. That’s like saying the death penalty will stop all murders. The money is the motive.

          • ’0()0′

            I see. Problem is not going away so why bother?

          • http://www.chadmoriyama.com/ Chad Moriyama

            Did he say they shouldn’t bother?

            I’m thinking there’s a middle ground between painting A-Rod as the worst person in the world and saying everybody should be able to do whatever they want without judgment, no?

            Look at this comment thread. All he’s saying is that we’re all complicit in this mess, yet look at the defensiveness.

            You can tell who was busy thumping their chest about how so-and-so was a horrid person because they stuck a needle in their butt. Mirrors can suck sometimes, no?

          • ’0()0′

            >All he’s saying is that we’re all complicit in this mess

            NO. I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR STEROIDS IN BASEBALL!!!!!! That is stupid beyond belief. I am not responsible for Tim Lincecum smoking weed. I am not responsible for players drinking and driving. It is not my fault just because I CARE ABOUT BASEBALL!!!! I can’t control what other people do. All I can do is worry about myself. I don’t take steroids (anymore). I don’t smoke weed (at work). I don’t drink and drive, (very often). So quit deflecting blame. Players need to take responsibility for themselves. This is article is stupid beyond stupid.

          • http://www.chadmoriyama.com/ Chad Moriyama

            Sure you are. It’s like saying you’re disgusted with Nike and then being first in line for the new Jordans.

            What message are you really sending? Type whatever you want online, but when rubber meets the road, where do you really stand?

            Nobody is saying you personally made players do anything. Just that before you project your anger onto these guys, look to your own culpability for the culture that’s been created.

            I don’t even think you get the point. It’s like you read the title and just threw a tantrum. I mean, look at what you just admitted to me. Now you’re throwing rocks? Please.

          • ’0()0′

            No It is not like that at all. Do you have rocks between your ears? If a plane crashes is the fault of the person that bough a plane ticket? If I buy spinach laces with e. coli is that my fault too. Blame the consumer for everything because why should corporations take any responsibility? I am terrified that there are people like you actually walking around on this planet.

          • http://www.chadmoriyama.com/ Chad Moriyama

            The terrifying part is that you think the scenarios you listed are anywhere near analogous.

            Proves that you don’t get the point of this at all.

      • http://www.chadmoriyama.com/ Chad Moriyama

        Precisely. Fans say they’re mad, but how mad are they REALLY?

        Not mad enough to stop the revenue from flowing. Not mad enough to kill the game.

        And Bud Selig and the owners? They going to give back all the attention and money they made off the Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa home run chase coming off the strike? They’re not gonna do it. Faux outrage for appearances, at best.

    • Nick Kersten

      No, you’re right. Accept no responsibility at all for the product you pay for, pandered for, then complained when it was given to you in a way that didn’t suit you. Keep paying for the product as it is. That will surely bring you the change you want.

  • David Latowski

    Don’t forget that even some of the sainted greats from the past (Mantle) were using roids as well.

  • Jason Rosenberg

    Exactly, Maury… It is about the money, stupid. IIATMS. Always has been, always will be.

  • chasfh

    Nothing personal against you, Maury, because I like you, but really: Blame the fans for “not caring enough” about steroids until a superstar is involved? Or even worse, for continuing to listen to and watch and attend games at all? What a load of BS. We the fans are not the caretakers of the product. Baseball and the franchisees are. We love baseball and we simply watch the product put in front of us. Baseball are the ones using the interest fans have to justify their turning a blind eye to the dangerous drug element in the game in the service of what they believe is more profitable. I don’t even blame the players so much–rather than engaging in evil for the purpose of subverting the Game, they are only doing what they feel they have to to go all in on a career in baseball, where the difference between making it versus almost making it is the difference between achieving wealth versus living check to check, if even that. It’s a skewed incentive that few of us could resist if we were confronted with it ourselves. That’s a different discussion, though. But honestly–blaming the fans? That’s basically blaming the victim for the sin of following human nature. What a load of crap. We would be happy watching the best available product, whatever it is.

    • Maury Brown

      I rated this comment up as I believe it is thoughtful. The lover of baseball is ultimately innocent in the sense that they want the game to be the game. It’s the fan that I’m more or less targeting.

      The “fan” (short for “fanatic”), is the guy that is a Giants fan but ignored Barry Bonds (allegedly) juicing. It’s the Yankee fan that when confronted with A-Rod juicing redirects to Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz with the Red Sox. It’s the Brewers fan that in 2011 fought to say that Ryan Braun would *never* lie or cheat, and yet when confronted with it now, ignores it. It’s a systemic problem with fans. How many Penn St. fans were on Joe Paterno’s lawn protecting him when the Sandusky scandal broke? How many fans turn their heads when it’s their team, but not others? This is what I’m driving at. It’s that behavior… and the money… and the history… it’s many things. It’s not simple.

      • Steve

        Sure, “fans” who have two standards and ignore crimes their own players commit are part of the problem. But much like saying “all players take PEDs” is simplistic, sloppy, inaccurate, and ineffective….isn’t referencing “fans” when you only mean a small subsegment of them the same? I *was* a Penn St. fan for 30 years, but am no longer. Of the half dozen other Penn St. fans I know, all of them have reacted the same way. But because a few people with skewed priorities chose to camp out on Paterno’s lawn….they represent all Penn St. fans??

      • chasfh

        To be clear, I’m not saying anything like I don’t care if it’s my superstar who’s doping. I’m just saying that it’s not up to us, the fans, to police the game for Baseball and the owners who can’t or won’t police it for themselves. It’s something we fans could never do effectively, anyway, because we are a disparate of individuals, not a collective acting in unison. And since we individuals act on our own accord irrespective of how other individuals act, it’s not reasonable to lay the responsibility on us as a collective.

        Maybe this is you or maybe it’s not, but I think a lot of people expect baseball to reflect all that’s good and holy about the American way. A lot of people want baseball be a shining example of impeccable and unimpeachable truth, honesty and integrity, and above all be a good example for the children. They hold baseball and its players to this very high standard, and when the players exhibit feet of clay on any level, they take it as an affront. I think such people are just setting themselves up to be disappointed, because nobody’s perfect.

        Me, I don’t have that moral requirement of the players. I just want to see the best game possible. My expectations of baseball is to ensure that players are not undermining the competitive integrity of the game by becoming beholden to gamblers and other forces that might cause players to throw games. Of course I wouldn’t mind seeing steroids cleaned out of the game, but I don’t think it is anywhere near the threat to the game’s integrity that gambling was (or still could be). At least the druggies have been and are cheating to win; the gamblers were cheating to lose.

        I still prefer baseball to any other sport, and I like seeing the sport played at its highest level, and that’s what we have with the majors. My opinion is, let the people who own the product sort out the problems involved, as long as the games are being played. To me, that’s the most important thing. Just don’t blame me and my fellow fans for the steroids in the game. That’s just asinine. I’m not demanding super human feats of hitting and pitching, or records to fall, or anything like that. I just want to see the best game possible. It’s their responsibility to keep it clean, not the responsibility of millions of independent actors to force them to keep it clean.

  • Steve

    This article make me sick. I have loved baseball since I was 3 years old – and now, because *some* players choose to cheat I am supposed to walk away from something I love, when most of the players are clean?!? How about we put the blame where it belongs – on the people who make the decisions to cheat. Stop making excuses for liars and cheats – YOU are enabling them by saying it’s not their fault. If someone chooses to stick a needle in your behind, then THEY are at fault…no one else. It’s a classic “taking actions without accepting all the consequences” connudrum.

    • Maury Brown

      Right. As opposed to players that scuffed balls or steal signs or any of that stuff because that never was part of the problem. I should have added that in. That idea that “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying to win” mentality has been there since Day One. I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on Gaylord Perry.

      • Steve

        I’m 100% against him in the HOF, for the record. But because he got into the HOF, PEDs are OK? How does that make sense? OJ was found not guilty, so we can never prosecute another criminal? Children break curfew without getting caught, so it’s OK for them to drink and drive? Of course not. The basis for any functioning justice system is you punish those you find guilty, and realize that unfortunately some others will escape justice. The key is making sure the probability & severity of the punishment outweighs the benefits of the unwanted behavior.

        • Maury Brown

          A “death penalty” of sorts for sports. I know there are some that see the need for that. It may slow down the number of users. But, like the death penalty not being able to completely stop murder, you’re always going to have a motive (money) that will drive those to ignore the consequences.

          • Steve

            It’s not just the severity, but the frequency. Economic studies have shown that the death penalty is highly ineffective, mostly because it is so rarely used. A drug dealer is actually more likely to be killed on the streets than he or she is *after* being convicted and sentenced to death (h/t to Freakonomics). But life sentencing – severe and frequent – *does* help disuade murders. Same thing with DUI – the threat of killing yourself does not seem to be a deterrent, but the embarassment of having your license suspended does, because people see the consequences more frequently. It’s not about throwing players out for life, it’s about catching as many as you can and punishing them with something that matters when you do.

      • ’0()0′

        yeah but scuffing the ball or stealing signs isn’t illegal. It is just against the rules. Taking a drug without a prescription is illegal.

        • http://www.chadmoriyama.com/ Chad Moriyama

          So you were equally mad when Tim Lincecum was caught smoking weed?

          • ’0()0′

            Deflection.

          • http://www.chadmoriyama.com/ Chad Moriyama

            You’re the one deflecting. It’s a relevant question. Both are illegal drugs. Apples to apples.

  • ’0()0′

    Oh yeah. My fault. I guess if we all stopped watching sports you would be out of a job. So always a silver lining.

  • ’0()0′

    How does Peter Gammons attach his name to this? Is this a web site like Bleacher Report where any stupid baboon with a keyboard and a poorly thought out idea can have their say? If someone is actually paying you to write this crap than you are a better man than me. Where do I apply for your job?