I’ve been reading a lot of late how steroids and HGH in baseball are no big deal; how we’re making a big stink of nothing; how this is merely entertainment, and how performance enhancers can’t help a person hit a baseball. What’s the line? “I could get steroids for three years, and it wouldn’t help me hit a baseball 500 feet …” Blah, blah, blah.
On all of this, I cry bulls***.
My closest athlete friend is a former major league catcher named Brian Johnson. A former quarterback at Stanford in the early 1990s, Brian enjoyed a solid eight-year, six-team career that ended in 2001 when he was released by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Brian was 33-years old, and his knees were shot. In other words, his baseball life ended when it was supposed to end. You’re nearing your mid-30s, your body is breaking down, younger guys are coming along. It happens.
Had he chosen to use performance enhancers, however, there’s little doubt Brian could have continued. With steroids, his bat speed could have remained at a high level. With HGH, he’d recover easier from injury. Every team likes a solid defensive backstop, and Brian was more than solid.
Yet instead of using, Brian decided to hang up his mask. Others, though, chose a different route. Just read the Mitchell Reportâ€”10 catchers listed, from Todd Hundley to Todd Pratt to Benito Santiago. Those are jobs others deserved; jobs that were illegally taken away. See, steroids don’t merely cheat the fans by giving them a bullsh-t product, or cheat pitchers who have to face muscled-up batters (or vice versa). They cheat hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of clean players who work and work to make it, only to have their paths blocked by guys who have no natural business hanging on.
Who knows? Perhaps Alex Rodriguez would be this good sans steroids. But maybe, sans juice, he would have been a broken-down, over-the-hill 17-home run backup infielder. We’ll never know.
But we should.
PS: I’m often asked to name people who definitely didn’t use. I even felt comfortable offering up names. But no longer. Ever since David Bell (pictured above) made the list, I’ve been at a loss.