I like to see this site as a place where the status quo is taken on. As much as I dislike Barry Bonds the person, I hate watching anyone end up being the scapegoat for a large group of offenders. We have all heard the rumors of future Hall of Fame pitchers who used steroids, let alone most of the top power hitters of the past 2 decades. I’ve been of the mindset that as soon at MLB starting testing for them, throw the book at any players who found using PED’s. But to treat players like pariahs, who used prior to testing is wrong, as they were just competing in the marketplace where it was encouraged.
And then we come to the idea that the past greats wouldn’t have used steroids. From reading Lawrence Ritter’s Glory of Their Times, I feel pretty confident that many of the top players during the turn of their century would have thrown their Mother* down a flight of stairs, if it would have given them 10 points on their batting average. (*Lou Gehrig was definitely an exception.) We know from Jim Bouton’s Ball Four that greenies (amphetamines) were prevelant in the clubhouse during the time he played. During the Pittsburgh Drug Trials of the 1980’s, Bonds’ Godfather, Willie Mays, and another Hall of Famer, Willie Stargell were described as providers of the drug. An excellent piece written by the Dallas Morning News’ Gerry Fraley discussed much of the history of amphetamines in MLB, featuring an illuminating quote from David Wells’ book Perfect I’m Not.
Those little buggers will open your eyes, sharpen your focus and get your blood moving on demand over and over again. I won’t ever object to a sleepy-eyed infielder beaning up to help me win.
While speed doesn’t show the physical effects that steroids do, it is hard to argue that they haven’t given an edge to many players. While it appears that I was erroneous in stating that Tim Raines’ career was enhanced by cocaine, as Jay Jaffe torched me on Baseball Prospectus for, I do think the question of benefits that players from who used the drug is being underrated. Jaffe brings up an interesting question in his Unfiltered piece.
…while there may possibly be some short-term performance benefit to using cocaine, the high potential for addiction, the rapid buildup of tolerance requiring greater quantities, and the deleterious physical effects of continued usage make this a route of performance enhancement that can’t be taken seriously. Think about it another way: of the hundreds of professional athletes who have found trouble with the white lady, wouldn’t you think at least one ego-inflated Canseco type would come forward to tell us how it improved his career?
Here are some names of players from Raines’ playing era that were at least alleged (if not convicted) of having had involvement with cocaine: Lonnie Smith, Vince Coleman, Tony Phillips, and Willie Wilson. What benefit would a player get from offering up that cocaine helped me play better? At least, with steroids, it is drug that is prescribed by doctors and is not seen as the scourge of society.
Jaffe’s article is well-done and does a great job of outlining Raines’ career being a slam dunk Hall of Fame career, which I agree with wholeheartedly. The one minor point I have a problem with in Jaffe’s effort to campaign for Raines is when he speaks about Raines’ "youthful dalliance" with cocaine. I have to say that carrying coke in the pocket of your uniform and not sliding feet first because you are worried about breaking the vials of powder in your pocket seems a bit more than a dalliance.
Finally, let me offer up to people that want to go to a online journal which discusses PED’s in sports, check out Steroid Nation, which is written by Gary Gaffney, an M.D. from the University of Iowa’s College of Medicine. In September he discusses an interview done with Jim Bouton. Gaffney brings up an important point on the subject of drugs and athletes:
Amphetamines certainly constitute a performance enhancer. Stimulants improve concentration and motor coordination. There is little room for a hierarchy in PED rankings.
While using Tim Raines’ as an example seems to be improper, I still believe the notion that cocaine and amphetamines has helped players achieve better results on the field. I’m sure that there were players who were negatively impacted by these drugs, as well, but the same I’m sure can be said for steroids. There is a reason that people in many different professions have used these substances and that is because of the energy boost they provide. Athletes have taken short-cuts to achieve success for as long as they have been available for them to use. We might not like this, but it is fact of life and it isn’t going to change just because of drug testing, which can’t even detect some PED’s.