I Hate the Bay

I can’t wait for the Cardinals to get out of San Francisco and away from Barry Bonds. Being around Bonds has forced Albert Pujols to talk about Bonds and his numbers and steroids and the other predictable topics. Pujols has said recently that Bonds “probably made some mistakes in the past” and that people “should respect the numbers he has put up” (not the man). While I am able to twist these things to mean that Pujols knows Bonds isn’t a saint, the fact is he has been extremely supportive of Bonds all things considered.
Pause while I cringe.

Now, Albert Pujols can do and say whatever he wants. I’m not one to tell people what they should say or how they should say say it. However, just talking about Bonds and steroids has caused a wave of speculation about Pujols. Last week the New York Times was saying the best thing about him was the fact that he didn’t cheat and columnists around the country couldn’t talk enough about he was exactly the type of player we needed to take us away from the “steroids era.” (Whatever that is.) Column after column, story after story, writers couldn’t explain how great he is as a person and a player in enough lavish details to possibly do him justice…according to them.

This week (especially the last two days), I’m reading nothing but “Albert is great and there is no evidence at all that he has ever done anything at all wrong and he is probably clean but there is no way we can ever really know and I’m sorry but that’s just the world we live in today and nothing can change that and human growth hormone is only detected by a blood test and MLB doesn’t do those so yeah he could be getting outside help but he is still great probably the best in the game today and it’s a shame Barry Bonds and others have tainted his accomplishments.” (Deep breath.)

I find it hard to explain my problem with all of this without getting on the topic of steroids in general, something I have no real desire to do. Yet, I proceed talking mostly in general not specifically about Pujols unless noted.

First, to those people who are concerned about Human Growth Hormone (or whatever) still being used by baseball players, I have two requests. One, acknowledge and accept that NO other major sports league has a HGH test either and yet people are able to talk about a muscular NFLer without having to launch into a boring, useless discussion on how he got the muscles. The fact is that MLB has the most strict drug test policy that can be found in professional sports today. Two, armed with your new knowledge take your conspiracy theories elsewhere. Baseball is the game I love and I will forever remain loyal to so you’ll have to excuse my bias, but unless you want to discuss how your favorite running back managed to recover so quickly from that knee injury or how Ben Wallace got to be so incredibly ripped save it, just save it. I don’t want to hear it.

No I’m not a crazy, and no I do not believe that either your favorite running back or Ben Wallace are on steroids. But my suggesting that is as careless as a person suggesting any current major leaguer is on drugs. (And no I can’t be sure you that and no one else can be either. But I choose the much more likely and more mundane belief that these are men who happen to be extremely talented and happen to work extremely hard in order to be the players they are. My sensationalizing and speculation skills, I admit, are not up to par with most of the sports world.)

Second, I love how Albert Pujols merely talking about the subject caused more rumors to swirl around him at once than the rest of his career combined. Pujols has been much more open with “the media” and he appears to be paying the price. This is not a complaint so much as an observation. No one of any importance has actually said (to my knowledge) that they believe the Cards’ first baseman is on steroids just that people always suspect home run hitter like himself these days. It’s funny that most articles I’ve read say something to the affect of “Albert has put up great numbers his whole career, but there are rumblings/rumors/whispers now about potential steroid use” but no one has actually identified any person doing the rumblings/rumors/whispers.

In other words, Albert isn’t a victim here. He isn’t be accused by anyone. He has just managed to start a string of debates about steroids all over again (if we ever got away from them) by freely discussing the subject when asked about it.

Third, I really don’t like the (sorry for the cliche) guilty until proven innocent approach people seem to be subscribing to these days. It disrupts my optimism and causes angry posts on my blog.

All of that being said, Albert said one thing I have been screaming at the TV and preaching to whoever was willing to listen for years (Geez…it really has been years…I feel old.) now. Regardless of how many steroids Bonds took/injected/smeared on, he still had to see the ball and hit it, as Albert put it. I could bulk up on steroids for the next five years, and I’m confident that I would still not be able to hit a major league home run. Furthermore, I’m confident that the same is true of millions of healthy young men who’ve ever dreamed of playing in MLB.

Here is where my internal conflict really begins. I don’t like Barry Bonds. I haven’t liked him since I knew enough about baseball to know him. I don’t like him as a human being or as a baseball player. Normally, I would shy away from typing that sentence because I’ve never met the guy and I simply don’t know him and probably never will. But for Bonds I’m willing to make an exception. His theatrics and selfishness are more than I can handle.

In addition to my already not liking him, he was one of many major league baseball players to take steroids in order to “enhance” their performance. If anyone (including Albert Pujols whom I love…seriously…LOVE) still wants to argue about whether or not Bonds is “guilty” I’m inclined to call the person crazy. He admitted to a grand jury that he took steroids unknowingly, Greg Anderson was practically chained to him, and there is a ridiculous amount of other evidence. (I’m working on reading it all and being more informed.) Nope, he has never failed a drug test, and he doesn’t need to. Jose Conseco and Ken Caminiti and Mark McGwire (I didn’t want to go there, but I did because I had to…I feel bad now.) and Sammy Sosa and Jason Giambi (who has also admitted to using steroids) never tested positive either.

A positive test isn’t needed…there is plenty of still plenty of proof. Saying that a player has to test positive in order to prove he has taken steroids is like saying no one can be convicted of a crime EVER unless they are on tape committing the crime. (Because you can’t test positive for murdering.)

SOME form of proof is still needed, however, to engage in the is-he-or-isn’t-he-on-steriods debate. With Albert Pujols there is no proof or even relevant suggestion, testable or otherwise, that he has ever been anywhere near a syringe.

I could go on, but I digress to the larger issue. Pujols says Barry probably made some mistakes, but he still had to hit the ball over the fence. Fine, ok, true, accepted.

My conclusion…as far as steroids are concerned and to this ridiculously long post which may or may not make sense to anyone because, to be honest, I’ve yet to make sense of it all myself. Some things, though, I am sure of…

——————————————————————————————–

Taking steroids, while morally wrong and dreadfully stupid, was not against the rules when it was prevalent in clubhouses.

Taking steroids (like using a corked bat for example) does not allow a person to hit home runs, but it does help a capable person hit more by way of giving them that extra bit of strength or allowing them to recover quickly from an injury that would otherwise hamper their performance. However, no one, not even the brainiest of scientists, can say how many additional dingers a drugged-up player is able to hit.

Many professional players benefited from taking performance enhancing drugs, and record were broken and re-broken by people more than probably taking substances now banned by MLB. (McGwire’s “Andro”, for example, is now banned but wasn’t in 1998.)

Players, not just including but in many cases especially those who have admitted to taking or been associated with steroids, today work extremely hard to be as good as they are. Bonds is said to have spent as many as eight hours a day working out during the off seasons he was admittedly, if unknowingly, rubbing “the clear” on his legs. (I think it is “rubbed” on. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.) Retired greats, including Hank Aaron, have regularly said that if you wanted to find them during their playing days a weight room was NOT the place to look. Lifting weights and intense conditioning period was just not a part of the game before this generation of players.

How much of Bonds, and others, success then can be attributed to pure, hard work others before them were not willing to put in? Most players today, particularly the good ones, tend to lift weights after games and do not spend the winter just staring out the window waiting for camp to convene. Bonds workouts may not have been possible for his aging body without a little help but the fact remains that he was there everyday…lifting, working, and preparing. Something has to be said for that, in my opinion, and rarely is.

Stepping into the batter’s box for a major league team is hard enough, making contact with the ball is harder, and hitting said ball over the fence is harder yet. (Especially if the pitchers you’re facing are “juiced up” as well. Just saying…that is also regularly left out of the conversation.) In the end a person still has to see the ball and hit the ball.

Now we’ve managed to make our way back to Albert Pujols and his eternal wisdom. He didn’t provide any solution to the steroids saga because there isn’t one and nothing is ever going to provide one that satisfies one and all. But at some point we are all going to have to let it go, beginning with baseball writers across America. I’m not saying we should pretend it never happened. I’m saying everyone should agree to admit it happened and now it won’t happen again and move on. Get creative. Write about the Detroit Tigers or the Chicago White Sox or write about Albert Pujols the way you were a week ago.

(Anyone else find it ironic that I’m complaining about people writing about steroids while writing about steroids myself? Thought so.)

In truth, I have fought writing this before, but always didn’t because I loathe the subject. I have spent the last two days writing this now, though, because Albert and the Cardinals have been around Barry and the Giants and now everyone, including Albert and myself, is somehow forced to talk about steroids.

I, unlike most however, choose to talk about it all in the past…where it belongs because that is the only place it can rightfully be discussed and debated until we all decide that the game of baseball has endured far worse (Players being paid to lose as compared to “cheating” to win for instance.) and yet is as popular today as it has ever been.

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6 comments

  1. SomeBallyard

    Good post. You find the complexities and paradoxes of the issue. My son and I been saying some of the same things over at Some Ballyard for awhile, and have caught quite a bit of flack. You are right, most want to bury their heads in the sand, or find an easy answer like scapegoating Bonds. PEDs are like the elephant in the room than no one wants to talk about.

    Personally I believe getting it out in the open and confronting what WE, as a baseball community, have done is not living in the past, but is the one thing that will allow us to move on. Otherwise it is like a repressed emotion that will inevitably surface again, probably in an uglier, less manageable way.

    There are blue skies and baseball ahead. Because of posts like this, I am hopeful.

    Michael Norton

    http://someballyard.mlblogs.com

  2. Jack

    Your take on Albert Pujols and the steroid issue is absolutely genius in its simplicity, honesty and intelligence.

    As for Bonds, I think the “proof” we’re all looking for comes in the form of: His personal trainer and suppliment supplier have been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of distributing illegal steroids and there is sealed grand jury testimony that implicates Bonds.

    The same evidence people have on Bonds, they also have on Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi. Sheff denied it and made very unplausible comments about flaxseed oil. Giambi has done a masterful job of moving on. He offered a very carefully worded apology for “something.” and has now shown that he always had the abilty to hit the ball, and hit the ball pretty far and most importantly in my mind:

    Like Bonds, Giambi has shown that when you have very good baseball skills to begin with, and are given a short porch to aim at, you can hit home runs.

    Everyone seems to miss that, and it bothers me. Giambi has a 314 foot porch at home, Bonds a 309 porch.

    Pujols also has a new, more hitter friendly stadium and HIS production has gone up. If you don’t think ballpark is a factor, look at guys like Brian Giles. Look at Mike Piazza at Dodger/Shea and everywhere else.

  3. Rachel

    Thanks Michael and Jack for the positive feedback and Kellia for the link. I enjoyed all, but I would like to refer Jack to my Hold Your Horses post after that last paragraph. I assume he (you…if Jack is reading this) has a blog but I’m afraid I don’t know which one.

  4. Mollie

    Amen, sister. It seems that there are quite a few of us who have had our fill of all this steroids blustering.

    I’ve been bantering with the boys over at “Bleeding Pinstripes” and Cyn at “Red Sox Chick.” enough that I was induced to write a SECOND steroids post. Check them both out if you dare (haha):

    http://turntwo.mlblogs.com/daddy_raised_a_cardinals_/2006/05/are_we_still_ta.html

    http://turntwo.mlblogs.com/daddy_raised_a_cardinals_/2006/06/a_mountain_out_.html

    Oh the pain. Oh the suffering. (It’s not the issue that I loathe so much as the “burn ’em at the stake” mentality that goes along with most of the mouthpieces associated with it.

    Intelligent post, by the way. We share a lot of the same views. But you know what they say: “Birds Of A Feather Flock Together.” (Have you noticed that Cardinals fans are the least likely to point fingers or get worked up over issues they can’t control?)

    Anyway, let’s all enjoy this day off!

    –Mollie

    http://turntwo.mlblogs.com/daddy_raised_a_cardinals_/

    P.S. Both the folks at “Bleeding Pinstripes” and at “Red Sox Chick” have valid and interesting views on the subject. I didn’t mean to insinuate otherwise. However, along with many others who have a few cents to give, I just don’t subscribe to all their contentions and conclusions.

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