Since we run a baseball blog, we figure it's a rite of passage that we write a steroids-related post. It kills us to do so, because we think the entire issue's been way, way overblown. And yet, here we are, fanning the flames in our own small way.
The recent news, of course, is that Sammy Sosa is reportedly among the list of names of players who tested positive in 2003's round of "anonymous" testing - the same list of 104 players that saw A-Rod dragged into this mess. Basically, if you don't remember, there's a list of names that correspond with the sample numbers on the test results. This list was supposed to be destroyed, but never was, and though it was kept separate from the results list, some people saw the two together. This then prompts the question of why the second name they chose to reveal was Sammy Sosa. If the person knows all the names on the list, you'd have to imagine there's a more provocative name on there than Sammy, right? Or perhaps the remaining 102 players are all...mediocre. Who knows.
In any event, the first thing we said upon seeing the BREAKING NEWS alert was: "Well, yeah. Of course." We get the sense that this was the general reaction; Sosa and McGwire "saved" baseball with their 1998 home run duel, and in doing so, put themselves front and center in the media-driven witch hunt that followed. As such, when steroid talk started rumbling, they were some of the first to be implicated. And, really: was there any doubt? Those guys were enormous. If you need to be refreshed, take a gander at Sosa and McGwire in their playing days. It's fun.
We're also going to mention that our indifferent reaction is not due only to the fact that we were fairly sure that Sosa had juiced, but also because, well, we don't care about steroids in general. We made it through 49 posts without mentioning steroids in any significant way, but we feel compelled to cave since one of our heroes growing up tested positive. If anything, Sosa's test should make us feel outraged and indignant and all these things that the media loves to say we should feel. But...we don't. Even when it hits close to home like this. We're not disappointed in Sosa. We're not angry with him. We don't think he tainted the game. Because here's the thing: we suspect that everyone did it. And that's fine by us. It made games more entertaining, it made us want to watch.
And furthermore, we sort of feel like we'd be more outraged if Sosa - or, say, Chipper Jones - didn't juice. Because if it was as widespread as we believe, or as Jose Canseco wants us to believe, then we would like to think that our heroes were willing to do whatever it took to stay competitive, to stay on top. If that's what the game demanded, then so be it. Is that unfair? Absolutely. But we don't think there's any moral high ground in being able to look back and say "yeah, I batted .250 in the majors, but I did it without steroids!" If you're good enough and competitive enough to get to the very top level of baseball, not only are you more disposed to take drugs that'll help you compete, but if you get that far and don't take the extra step that so many of your peers are taking, at the cost of your own career...well, we have to wonder why.
We understand the health effects of steroids. We understand that they were illegal by law, if not by the rules of the game. We understand that not everyone has access to the same kind of drugs. But if baseball wasn't interested in testing, and steroid use became widespread, and the media was just as willing as the rest of us to turn a blind eye while we all became enthralled by 100-mph fastballs and 500-foot bombs...then who's to look back now, after the fact, and say "It's Wrong! They didn't do it The Right Way!" We certainly don't feel that holier-than-thou compunction.
Oh, and one more thing. ESPN ran a reaction on Sosa's positive test from Fergie Jenkins. In it, Jenkins said that he was surprised, because he'd always thought that Sosa had accomplished what he did "through his own hard work." We feel like a lot of people believe that if you take steroids, they're just some magic substance that makes your muscles huge and lets you drop dongers with the best of 'em. But, of course, they aren't. The amount of work that guys like Sosa, McGwire, Bonds, Clemens, etc. had to put in to get where they did is incredible. Yes, steroids can make it easier to put on muscle and shorten recovery times. But you still have to put in the work in the weight room to make it happen. And just because you get big doesn't mean that you can all of a sudden hit home runs whenever you please. The degree of hand-eye coordination and pitch recognition skills that is required to hit like they did, the amount of cage work and pitching drills people were doing...it's insane. It's harder to be a pro athlete than just about anything else in the world, and all anyone who juiced was doing was trying to better their career in possibly the most physically and mentally demanding field in the world. And it's naive of us to say that we wouldn't do the same in their situation.
So, there: hopefully that's our last word on steroids. Kids: they're bad. Unless you're a professional athlete, and everyone's doing them, and the sport isn't testing for them, and you stand to make millions upon millions of dollars if you do them. In that case, go nuts.