Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Bagwell: III

Because my take clearly isn’t very popular here, I’ve invited one of the dissenters, Gregg Ferrara, to offer his counter. Gregg is a good guy, and I appreciate him taking the time …

After a few emails back and forth today with Jeff, he asked me to say a few words on here. I am the furthest thing in the world from a writer, I am in the IT field by trade, but I will take a stab at it. Prefaced, I am sick of the steroid talk, I think the effects on the game are unproven, and I think blaming the athletes of the past 20 years is extremely shortsighted, considering steroids have been in baseball since the late 1960’s.

When evaluating athletes, especially when we are evaluating their Hall of Fame credentials, the best thing to do in the “Steroid Era” is to compare them to their peers. Jeff Bagwell, who never failed a drug test, was implicated on any list, or had his name mentioned by a former team mate, clearly fits the bill as a Hall of Fame player. Pearlman makes the point that we have to use our own eyes. This opens a can of worms that we should leave alone. I think Joe Posnanski (in my opinion the slam dunk greatest sports columnist in the country today) said it best, “I’d rather a hundred steroid users were mistakenly voted into the Hall of Fame over keeping one non-user out.”

Just from an ethical standpoint, this is extremely dangerous on many levels. Firstly, the obvious is that Bagwell became bigger as his career progressed. This could be from steroids, or it could be from better weight training and eating. We just don’t know, and until a failed Bagwell test is dug up, we should take him at his word. We do have that little innocent until proven guilty thing in America. Before the 90’s were ushered in, weight training was not something ball clubs embraced. How many clubs had personal trainers, chefs, nutritionists, or even in house gyms?

Secondly, and the more important point is why should we even care if Bagwell took PED’s? Jose Canseco, who still has not told a proven lie, believed that 80% of MLB players were on some PED. If Bagwell was taking steroids, but facing a pitcher who was taking steroids, wouldn’t the playing field be level? We look at the game today, 10 of the last 16 players busted for PED’s have been pitchers.
I think as the years go on, the stance on Steroids will soften. Take the words from Jeff Bagwell himself regarding Andy Pettitte. “Andy came out and said, ‘Listen, my elbow was killing me. I was making $12-13 million a year, and they told me it was going to help me and all I wanted to do was pitch.’ I mean, how can you even argue that? That’s not a performance enhancer. That’s just a guy who wanted to get healthy. How do you separate ‘I want to get healthy’ from ‘I’m trying to get better because I don’t feel like I’m the same player I used to be’?”

The question I have, obviously, is how this is any different from a cortisone shot? I am guessing that the vast, vast majority of people have no idea that a cortisone shot is a fancy word for steroids. Human growth hormones, or HGH, have been proven time and time again not to help athletic performance or increase muscle mass (ie to hit home runs or throw a ball harder).

Jeff asked me, would I vote for Barry Bonds? I find it funny that the question needs to be even asked. If we are to believe all of the “facts” presented in the Game of Shadows, Bonds didn’t start taking steroids until after the 1998 season. If you threw out all seasons after ’98, Bonds is still one of the 25 or greatest players of all time. He was a superior player to Griffey Jr, and arguably the greatest player of his generation. So we can compare Barry clean, and he was the best of his peers. Supposedly on PED’s, he was elevated back to being the best amongst his peers. Wouldn’t you say the playing field was level? Do you believe Bonds was hitting those 70 HR’s off clean pitchers? Or was Canseco right, 80% of players were using, and just as many if not more pitchers were dirty.

There is too much information out there that makes you wonder just how much of the offensive explosion was steroids anyway. When you take into account expansion, new smaller stadiums, better bats, or the most interesting is changes to the ball (I implore you to take the time to read this). From 2003 – 2009, why didn’t runs and home runs fall off of a cliff? Why did it take until 2010? How did Alex Rodriguez have a career year in 2007, hitting 54 home runs in a ball park that kills righties, considering he was being tested more than normal players due to his failed test in ’03? Right, it was HGH and the lingering effects from steroids 4 years later. 🙂

I say this to Jeff all of the time, if you want to persecute Bonds and Bagwell, you better be prepared to persecute guys like Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. Hank Aaron has admitted in his own autobiography to using amphetamines (later saying it was only once, which is as believable as Ron Washington using coke once). Read the link in the opening paragraph, from Tom House explaining in detail how many baseball players used steroids in the 60’ and 70’s. The simple difference was that they didn’t have the proper nutrition and weight training information, but the intent was still there. Since the dawn of professional sports, athletes have used whatever they could get their hands on to gain an edge. I don’t blame the Bonds or A-Rod’s for one second; I would have done the same thing in a heartbeat. The game goes on, and performance enhancing drugs go on.

Gregg can be reached at