manny ramirez is suspended for 50 games because he tested positive for some drug. not a steroid. not anything hallucinogenic or anything like that. some sort of estrogen drug which his doc prescribed for a "personal heath matter". and it also happens to be the same sort of drug the juicers take to restore natural testosterone levels when they're done with a steroid cycle. that's certainly not why manny was using it. maybe.
i'm really an avid baseball fan. i've followed baseball, and more specifically the boston red sox closely since i was nine years old. i cheered and gestured with carlton fisk when he hit his nearly foul home run in 1975. i spent a month in a mandatory state of depression in 1986 when billy buckner let the ground ball roll between his legs that allowed the mets to go on and win the world series. and i rejoiced in 2004 and 2007 when our boys not only succeeded in breaking the curse of the bambino, but did it twice.
but baseball in the last 20 years or so has been a different game. to recognize this all one needs to do is look at the best in the game over that period. barry bonds. mark mcgwire. roger clemens. just to name a few. and maybe sammy sosa and alex rodriguez. and who knows who else. all these baseball superstars have served to make these last twenty years bad for baseball. as bad as, according to some, the strike year. and, as bad as, according to others, the black sox scandal.
the trouble is, we really don't know who "used" and who didn't. we've got some pretty good ideas in some cases. and some pretty strong speculation in others. and while much has been made of all this - should mcgwire be allowed allowed to enter the hall of fame? how about roger the rocket? well, i just feel the need to share my feelings.
first off, i'm sure not a fan of barry bonds. i can't deny that he was a great ball player. but he's also a jerk. he didn't get along well with teammates. he was rude and crude to his fans (got that from his godfather, willie mays, no doubt. i met him and he was really abusive to his young fans). but he was a great ball player.
and i'm no longer a fan of roger clemens. i was, of course. back when he wore the red sox. but as a fan i was probably blind to his arrogance. i defended him when he threw the broken bat piece at, hmmm, who was it, piazza? and i defended him when he first was accused of using steroids. but boy, he sure painted himself into a corner. and maybe he's telling the truth and everyone else is lying. but if he's not, he certainly is a brash individual for his vehement denials. but he was a great pitcher.
raphael palmiero? he sat in the senate and swore he'd never touched anything remotely resembling a steroid. then a few months later tested positive for usage. how stupid is that? but he was a pretty talented ball player.
but in looking over all this in a logical fashion . . . did they really do wrong? should their baseball achievements, and records, where they exist, be tainted?
consider this: the "performance enhancing drugs" they took, when they were taking them (at least prior to 2002, were not specifically banned from usage by major league baseball. most were not even illegal in the united states. so what gives baseball the right to dole out punishment if the infractions were prior to the ban on substance usage? in my mind, they don't.
i've recently watched historical baseball documentaries covering various "eras" of the sport. there was the black sox era, the babe ruth era (which was immediately following the black sox era, and helped to restore fan following after the scandal), the dimaggio era, the yankee era, etc., etc., etc. but the babe ruth story was what really gave me cause to question all that's going on right now.
babe ruth began his career as a pitcher. who happened to also be a pretty good hitter. so when he was acquired by the yankees, they felt his bat was more valuable than his arm, so moved him into right field. and he started hitting home runs. before long he was at 30, 40, 50 home runs in a season. then he fell flat. average dropped. home run production dropped. for two full seasons. in fact, in the 1924 world series manager john mcgraw even benched him.
then in the off-season babe took it upon himself to get back into shape. he said he quit drinking. he said he ate better. he said he trained. and in 1926 he came back. lots more home runs. better average. overall better play. then came 1927, and we all know what he did then.
but what did ruth really do to make himself great again? is it not possible that he found some sort of performance enhancing substance that allowed himself to regain his old playing form? possibly? could other players of that generation, guys that hit 400 frequently, pictures that started 40 or 50 games a season, have found some type of naturally, or otherwise, enhancing secret? i would bet that, even then, or maybe particularly then, if they had something to use for that purpose, they'd take it.
when i was a teen guys i knew who wanted to play football, lift weights, build up, would take things like wheat germ. there were others things too, but look at me. i obviously didn't use any of them, so i can't remember what they all were. if steroids were available, and maybe they were in some form, back then, many would have taken them. just to improve their appearance. or maybe their athletic performance. even way back then.
so my point is, one has to believe that baseball players, along with football players, basketball players, and who knows what other athletes (certainly race horses) have long been using any and every substance they could find that might give them an edge. and likely as not, most were not illegal when they were popularly used. so how can baseball now condemn a few for using enhancing products when there is absolutely no way they can be assured this type of thing didn't happen way back when.
let it go, baseball. put it behind us. make it illegal from now forward and quit trying to punish those who you cannot prove did anything wrong.
pete rose, on the other hand . . .