The information that we receive is constantly filtered and skewed, often multiple times over, by the time it gets to us. Because of the same, what is defined as "news" is often nothing more than an editorial or work of fiction that is being thrusted upon us. You put on the television and listen to two different channels and the explanation of the "facts" is partially to entirely divergent from one to the other, the difference of which, is largely defined by the political bent of the channels. When it comes to the analysis of issues, sports news is no different then regular news in that regard. Notably, one of the biggest issues that has been pervading the baseball headlines, is the use of PEDs. However, what is more significant than the issue of PEDs use, is that the issue itself is a big scam.
Of significance, I said one of the biggest issues that has been "pervading..baseball," not "pervading...sports." Only in baseball does anyone care if a player used PEDs. In football, a guy tests positive for PEDs, it barely gets noticed. Yes there is a punishment but once that punishment is over, the issue subsides as if it never happened. Has anyone asked themselves why? If anything, the used of PEDs in football is more concerning because of how it affects a player's ability to hurt other players. Baseball is a sport with such minimal contact that the benefits of PEDs, while plausible, is much less dangerous to the participants. Now maybe in football, because it is a physical sport, no one really cares or it is more expected. Yet, that still brings up the same point. Why is PEDs such a big issue in baseball?
After baseball returned from its most recent work stoppage, many fans were bitter about the game, hesitant to mentally or financially invest themselves in a past-time that betrayed them. However, bolstering the resurrection of the sport was the campaign between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa to top Roger Maris' seasonal home run mark. That campaign was so exciting and substantial that, in large part, it reinvigorating the sport and the fans. What no one talked about though was, how these two guys all of sudden became superheroes (both in size and performance.) While McGwire and Sosa both were power hitters from the outset of their careers, both entered a whole new echelon in musculature and power hitting, unlike any surge in the history of the sport for any extended period of time. Though obvious even then that chemistry was involved, no one cared. Did Bud Selig launch any investigation then? Were any players complaining about the disparity? The answer to both questions is no. Again the question is why? The answer is simple, no one cared. It was all about the baseball product. The product was exciting and making a lots of money. So the question then becomes, what changed?
Jose Canseco is what changed. Embittered about his purported exile from the sport, he lashed out against the sport by publishing a book, which by the way, made him some significant coin. That book, among other things, cast the sport in a bad light by pushing the PEDs issue on the forefront, compelling Congress to waste more money to try to fix a mess that was clearly more important than anything that actually affected people's lives. (Yes I am being sarcastic.) A witch hunt ensued where the Congress demanded investigation and accountability (as if a shut down is an event that speaks to accountability.) That witch hunt caused two things to happen. First, baseball did everything it could to act as if the issue was of real concern. Second, the media got caught up in the hype and never stopped.
Fast forward through the years, and now every guy who has played from the Canseco era through the present, who is tied to steroids, is treated like a leper, and told that he should be ashamed of himself. The media meanwhile states all the reasons that the player is a let down, that his career a sham and that he does not belong in the Hall of Fame. Or more succinctly, anyone who played baseball, whose name was associated with the use of steroids, regardless of the source and who played from the Jose Canseco era or afterward, is the whole problem. Really? What about all the guys drinking from the "leaded" coffee or beverage containers filled with amphetamines? What about all the guys already in the Hall of Fame who either admitted using some illegal substance or PED or who was discovered to have used some illegal drug or PED but in an era in which the media was less sophisticated and testing non-existent? Are we to understand that PED use only matters if it involves something non openly distributed by management? Are we even to assume that management had no part in the use of steroids or HGH? Cocaine users get a pass but PEDs users do not, even though the former is not only illegal and has been illegal for much longer but also is actually detrimental in every way, including to the team? Trying to do your best is worse than self or team sabotage?
Retrospectively, I am not here to say that PEDs are okay. However, the notion that PED users have been singled out while we stand in judgment, handing out free passes to the drug dealers and executives who have perpetuated this environment is ridiculous. Further, people have this idea in their heads that someone like Barry Bonds or Alex Rodriguez do not belong in Hall of Fame because they used PEDs and that is the end of discussion. So then Mickey Mantle gets a pass? How about Willie Mays? How about Willlie Stargell? etc. I named these guys because these guys have all confessed to or were at some point found to have done some form of PEDs. I do not hear about anyone wanting to revamp the Hall of Fame. But then again, how could they? We might have to kick out the majority of its members.
Notably, we have come to this belief that PEDs have turned ordinary players into Hall of Famers. That proposition is much too ambiguous to support. Jose Canseco did steroids but then again so did his twin brother Ozzie. The former was a perennial all star while the latter did nothing of consequence. Why? Maybe because PEDs cannot teach someone how to hit a baseball or hand eye coordination. Does that make it okay? No. However, who are we to say that Willie Mays was not any more or less a cheater than Canseco or Bonds? What about all the guys who were not outed by drug dealers who were caught and offered plea bargains to rat on their consumers? Does anyone really believe that the majority of PEDs users are known to us? Does anyone believe that Willie Mays or Willie Stargell decided to use PEDs without learning from anyone else who also used it or knew someone else who did?
If baseball and the rest of those interested in this are being sincere, the only thing that we can say is that it was only recently that baseball tried to clean up its image and limit the use of non-prescription drugs. Is that a good thing? Of course? However, let's no longer pretend like a handful of players are these singular bad guys in an otherwise clean history of the sport. Let's not pretend that a handful of guys in an isolated time frame had this huge advantage over the rest of the field or the greats from the past.