I overheard an interesting question between two fans at the opening of the Red Sox v. Astros series last week. “You think he’s back on steroids?” someone asked about Ortiz as he stood at-bat. I thought about how unlikely that would be. What does Ortiz have to gain by using steroids? So he can leave baseball at the top? That’s quite a risk for someone who has already been mentioned in rumors about usage. But on a larger level I have to ask myself, “Do steroids even matter anymore?”
A lot of people will say yes, they matter a lot. They say that steroid usage is cheating because it prolongs a player’s career, makes him unnaturally strong, and gives a team an unbalanced advantage over another. But it’s not like PEDs haven’t been around for years. Jim Bouton’s book Ball Four details amphetamine use in baseball in the 1960s and 70s. Players would take them by the handful before a game to stay energized. In fact, it wasn’t uncommon to find bowls of the stuff in locker rooms throughout baseball. So when the question of whether to induct Roger Clemens comes up, why don’t the same critics who point to his alleged steroid usage also call out the Hall of Famers who took amphetamines over fifty years ago? What’s the difference between a guy like Barry Bonds, and Willie Mays, who allegedly kept a liquid form of amphetamines in his locker during his final days with the Mets? I honestly think it comes down to its label. “…if there was a pill that could guarantee you would win 20 games but would take five years off of your life, players would take it,” Boutin added. “The only thing I didn’t know at the time was the name.” In the 1960s, no one really knew what amphetamines were, much less thought about the ethics of taking them. So there was no proper noun to speak of that people could use as a weapon to label players they didn’t like.
So Do Steroids Even Matter?
On one hand, I don’t think players who routinely took and depended on steroids during their careers should immediately be inducted in the Hall of Fame, including Roger Clemens. It’s not just because of their usage, but also because of the tremendous amount of arrogance they displayed when using. The humbleness that has often been consistent with baseball was absent in their demeanor. Combine that aspect with a disregard for rules, and the general disregard for their own bodies is enough for me to keep them out of the Hall of Fame. Not to mention they’re terrible role models for teens who don’t understand what steroids can really do to your body. On the other hand, it’s not fair that players like Willie Mays used amphetamines and were never criticized, while Ortiz and Clemens are continually condemned for their alleged usage. So what does it come down to nowadays? “[Steroids] matter in terms of players are still getting suspended for it and can cost their team,” says Christopher Cooper, a personal trainer and co-owner of Active Movement & Performance in Massapequa Park, NY. “They can disappoint fans, but it’s not as much in the limelight as they were a few years ago. So it’s almost as if they don’t matter, unless your team’s player gets caught.”
So do steroids even matter anymore? To loyal fanboys the answer is no; they’ll stay loyal to their favorite player. But to opposing fans, it most certainly does. It’s a label that will always be used as a weapon to attack the opposition.