Mannywood, And My Diatribe On The Steroid Era

May 08, 2009 |

Is anyone really surprised, shocked, taken aback?  If you are I don’t know why, Manny Ramirez fits the bill perfectly as an aging superstar who’s numbers haven’t diminished in the least.  Coincidentally he is also Dominican but we will address that much later.


Here in Baltimore we have dealt with the specter of steroids for years now.  From people we know used but haven’t actually been confirmed like Brady Anderson who swung half of a tree at the plate and was still able to hit 50 homers one season (his previous high had been 21 while his post high was 24).


We’ve dealt with the liars like Rafael Palmeiro who indignantly waved his finger at a congressional committee and boldly proclaimed his innocence.  I am still not sure how he hasn’t been put in jail for that escapade.


We’ve also harbored two time cheats like Sammy Sosa.  He not only had to use steroids he also had to use a corked bat in order to produce at the major league level.  He should be completely ashamed of himself and banished from baseball forever.  His little homerun trot was ridiculous, I can still remember the time he thought he hit one out and ended up with a long single due to all the histrionics involved with his celebration.


We’ve seen the guys who were barely hanging on to their dream of playing in the majors, the never-weres, such as Larry Bigbie and Jay Gibbons.  The latter looked like he didn’t need steroids and should have just used his Sloth strength, but I guess Chunk’s parents didn’t raise him right.


We’ve had has-beens and baseball’s versions of transient nomads such as Jason Grimsley breeze through the organization tainting it with their salacious secrets.


We’ve also dealt with our star players using in the prime of their careers like Miguel Tejada and Brian Roberts.  Tejada was a complete fraud because he also lied about his age, and I love Brian Roberts as a player although he is just as guilty as the rest and should not have amnesty because of his good works off the field.


As MLB fans we have been duped by all of their attempts to explain away the problem which was festering right under our noses.  The powers that be used excuses such as the improved workout regiments the players had, or the better diets they were keeping.  In some cases it was blamed on bodily aliments like Jason Giambi’s mysterious stomach parasite.  One of my favorites was the juiced ball theory.  How big of a stretch was that one?


There were arguments about the decreasing size of ballparks and the lowering of the pitcher’s mound.  The talent was surely to blame; too much expansion they said, the pitching has been watered down.  They even looked toward meteorology for a justification which eventually introduced us non-cigar smokers to the word humidor.


Many of us swallowed these shameless reasons just like a child taking medicine.  A spoon full of sugary homeruns made it go down easier.  Perhaps if we swallowed the medicine it would make the pain of soiling America’s Pastime go away.


But of course it didn’t and we were forced to be inundated with thousands of stories about steroids, the users, the suspects, and the guys we thought could never have done them.  Then came that farce of the Mitchell Report which was supposed to end the issue once and for all but of course it stirred up more controversy than it settled.


That still wasn’t enough.  The television played out a soap opera like theme of he said, she said concerning almost every player one could think of for months on end.  We had to witness the drama unfold between that weirdo Brian McNamee and Roger Clemens.  Who saves used syringes and bloody cotton swabs anyway?  And who cares if Clemens slept with an underage country music singer except for her parents, his wife, and the police, that information wasn’t even relevant but we just had to hear about it.


Then we were made aware of the list of 104 players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball’s ’03 survey testing when someone leaked a name from said list.  It was just icing on the cake when the name turned out to be A-Rod the white night above reproach whom all the experts were eagerly anticipating to break Barry Bond’s record and reclaim baseball’s honor.  There’s a fat chance that baseball will ever recover from that black eye.  The next question was, when are we going to find out the names of the other players on the list? 


The answer is we will never find out who did, or did not use steroids during the Steroid Era.  I personally am at the point where I assume everyone did them.  It is now every player’s duty to prove that they didn’t use before I will believe they were clean.  All of the evidence suggests that everyone was using and everyone knew about it.  Some guys were using so much and so regularly that they blew up their own hearts (Ken Caminiti please stand up) or took years off of their lives in the process.


At every stage in this process there was a cover-up.  At first it was just supposed to be a few rogue guys who were turning into Mr. Olympia while secretively using.  Then the suspicion was cast on all of the players who were hitting over 40 homeruns a season.  Then it was just supposed to be those guys and guys who had problems healing from injuries (although they appear to cause more injuries than they heal).  Then we found out little speed guys and utility infielders were in on the act.  After that came the revelation that pitchers were involved.  It continued to spiral to the point we are at today where everyone is a suspect and no one is innocent.


I love the fact that the baseball establishment always tried to admonish the players who were thought to be using while protecting those groups of players on whom the light of justice had not yet shined.  I can still remember when the argument was for the poor pitchers whose ERA’s were inflated because only the hitters were using, what a croc.  All of the announcers and commentators (especially the former players) knew everyone was using.


I too fell prey to sentimentality.  Once I tried to explain to a co-worker, who happened to be a Yankee’s fan, why Brian Roberts all of a sudden started hitting homeruns a few seasons ago.  I was defending him because he was an Oriole getting bashed by a Yankees fan, but in reality I was actually fooled into believing it was real.  My argument (I will never forget it) was that he had hit more than 50 doubles the year before and over the off-season he put on some weight therefore some of those doubles turned into homeruns.  What an ignorant fool I was to actually believe baseball’s lies, how could I have been so blind.


Fool me once shame on me, fool me twice shame on you.  I even said years before the whole steroids thing came to the fore that Barry Bonds was the greatest hitter of all time.  Then I realized as an adult his head grew several hat sizes.  That just doesn’t happen naturally folks.  Whether it is HGH, steroids, or whatever cheating is cheating.


My personal pet peeve of the whole steroid debate however is when people say that there was no rule prohibiting it in baseball.  Hello, it is illegal you moron baseball shouldn’t have to say that it is bad to do steroids or create punishments for it to tell you its wrong.  All users should be prosecuted by the law.  Personally if a grown man wants to kill himself slowly and shrink his you know whats I think it is his right, as long as you are not infringing on the rights of others it’s up to them.  But the fact remains that steroids are illegal so don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.


I personally think the entire steroid issue arose from the preponderance of Latin Americans currently playing in MLB.  If you were to look at the number of players who have violated the MLB substance abuse policy more than half of them are from the Dominican Republic.  And the vast majority of the players are from Latin America in general.  In the 70’s and 80’s scouting Latin American players became en vogue because teams could sign them to cheap deals at a very young age.  When did steroids start hitting the scene, that’s right kids the 80’s.


I know there were players from Latin America far before that time that were probably clean, that isn’t my point this is not a racial argument so please don’t skew my words.  Many of the problems in the region (I am including the Caribbean in that distinction) stem from those countries being third world countries.  If you have never traveled to a third world nation before you have no clue what the word poor means.


I have personally been to several third world countries, one of which happens to be the Dominican Republic.  I know some of you may have visited and are wondering what I am talking about.  I am not referring to the tourist resorts like Punta Cana, of course it is great there or you wouldn’t spend your hard earned money to go.  Take a step outside of the resort next time and check out the countryside. 


My buddy and I went to the Dominican for two weeks last summer and I can tell you first hand how poor the people are there.  We generally refuse to do all of the touristy things that many people do when on vacation because we like the adventure.  So we rented a car and drove around the entire island from Santo Domingo to Sosua and all over in between.  We stayed in small towns and villages and meet all kinds of people.  Many families live in virtual lean-tos supported by concrete blocks.  The majority of the people there are destitute in every sense of the word.  Just riding on their roads and seeing their infrastructure you can tell how bad things are for them.


Knowing this information one can understand why they would want to take a chance with steroids in order to improve their chances of being signed by a MLB team.  Even if they don’t make it to the big leagues the money they earn in the minors will make them wealthy in the DR.  Everyone is in on it because they all hope that their family member or friend will strike it rich someday and pay it forward.  The problem is they don’t always do that.  Take Juan Uribe as an example.  He lives like a king in one of the poorest villages in the DR, he doesn’t help the local community and is even accused of trying to murder some of the other villagers. 


So the people have to try again with the next great hope.  There are no real laws in the DR in general (there are but they aren’t enforced very well) and there are even less concerning steroids.  These Dominican players can be prescribed steroid regiments by the many quack doctors practicing legally (and often illegally) there with impunity.  Often the drugs they take are veterinary drugs which aren’t even meant for human consumption.


The excuses for the prevalence of these players have already started circulating just like the excuses made to cover up the widespread usage of steroids in the first place.  They include the fact that Latin American kids can play baseball year round.  As well as the fact that they have different training methods, such as their version of long toss which builds up arm strength, and many others.  It all comes down to exploitation.  Just ask Jim Bowden about skimming off the top of contracts he arranged for several young players to see what I am talking about.


When players like Jose Canseco (Cuban by the way) started to hit everyone got worried about losing their jobs to the Latin Americans, they wanted to do anything to gain an edge and stay in the game.  Instead of saying no way Jose to steroids their use spread like wildfire.  Soon people had to use to keep up with the Joneses.  At least that is my theory.


I do find it funny that the guy who baseball vilified as a liar has come out of the whole mess smelling like a rose.  Way to go Jose Canseco you deserve a pat on the back buddy for finally telling the truth after years of cheating and lying and helping to destroy the integrity of a game thousands of people around the world love by helping to introduce steroids in the first place.


Manny Ramirez is just another guy in a long line of guys who fit the description of a steroid user.  Deal with it folks they all used and many are still trying to find ways to circumvent the rules.