Thursday, January 29, 2009

Juiced !

I began my college baseball career at small, Division 3, college in northern New Jersey in the fall of 2001. I came from Beachwood High School, which, for those of you who don't know, is not a sports powerhouse. Our men's sports programs were 'small' on average. As a student body we did not have very big kids. There were very few 'physical specimens.' We produced Division 1 athletes, but they were few and far between. I was one of the bigger kids in my class, and on the baseball team.

From the moment I stepped into the first meeting prior to the beginning of our Fall Season at school, I was somewhat shocked. The players were enormous. I was tiny compared to the lot of them. The ones who were shorter and weighed less than I did were jacked. I am not saying that steroids were rampant throughout my college career, but there were a solid number of players that were juicing. The number was certainly in double figures. One of our first conference trips my freshman year was a double header vs. a pretty dam good team. Said team was ranked in the country, and later would earn a spot in the Division 3 World Series that year(they lost to Marietta in that tournament). Watching them take batting practice was no different than going to Jacobs Field in the mid to late 90s. Balls were flying out of their stadium, launched into orbit. These kids were a different breed.

After getting off the bus that night, a few of my freshman friends and I were eating dinner, discussing steroids. They were easily accessible. The testing by the school and the NCAA was not so sophisticated that it wasn't beatable. In fact, the only drawback to it seemed to be that they were pretty damn expensive in my opinion. What triggered this conversation? The fact that it was so commonplace among these athletes. I distinctly remember thinking 'damn if I ever really want to see the field, how can I not do it.'

Now the purpose of this article is not to shed light on the rampant steroid use going on in small college athletics, in fact it is very far from it. Thankfully, I did not choose to inject myself(even after my coach called me naturally weak, and redshirting my freshman season), and I had a pretty successful career, and ultimately played professionally overseas. After the 2005 season I read Jose Canseco's tell most-of-it-all memoirs, his fine piece of literature, the book Juiced!. My first impressions of this book was that it was hilarious. Basically a 280 page commercial for steroids, I couldn't get enough of it. My take aways were as follows: if you use steroids in moderation they are perfectly good for you, if Canseco did not take steroids he would not have won the MVP award and therefore would not have landed a $3 million contract, and the player that finished in second place in the voting was rewarded with a $500k contract.

In CC Sabathia money, $2.5 million is a little bit more than chump change. Obviously, the player making $500k was not hurting, but if you gave him 6x that amount, I think he would be ecstatic. Canseco claims that is what steroids did for him. Taking a look at the cycle (no pun intended), the best player in the league roids up. A few others follow him. The players that still want to be All Stars need to keep up. The fringe players, trying to stay in the show feel the need to juice in order to stay in the league, and essentially feed their families (I am not too sure the other skills that Guillermo Mota possesses aside from throwing baseballs, but I am fairly confident he is not going to earn as much money selling insurance as he is striking guys out). This is all going on WHILE NOT TESTING AT ALL FOR THE STUFF. Baseball players are notorious for cheating. And by the way if your not cheating, your not trying, and its only cheating if you get caught. Corking bats, scuffing balls, crisco, bardol, vagisil...

This is why, and I may take some flack for this, I do not hold taking steroids in the supposed 'steroid era' against any of the players. If you are sitting at your desk job, and all of a sudden guys were banging out TPS report after TPS report, while you were still trying to find the cover for your first one, you may have a sense of insecurity regarding your future employment. Then the guy that just got promoted comes to and says 'man, I couldn't have gotten that extra 40k without this cocaine to keep me awake and moving, you gotta try it...' An extra 40k, or the possibility of being unemployed... the majority of people would not kid themselves into thinking that wouldn't at least consider it, and eventually perhaps dabble in it, if the circumstances got so dire.

I am not condoning killing your body, and judging by the boobs that now adorn some of former teammates' former chests, steroids take their toll. But I do not fault guys for keeping up. There is no doubt in my mind that over 85% of players from this era were on some sort of 'performance enhancing drugs.' Shit happens. Guys make mistakes.

Now, forgive me, but I may start to whine. I woke up this morning pumped because I knew I didn't have to go to work. I read a little bit of my latest book, "Boys will be Boys," and then flipped on ESPN, where the latest on Barry Bonds using something other than the clean and the clear have been found in his 6 year old urine. Pardon me, but I don't give a shit. I don't need 20 minutes of my day devoted to Bonds anymore. He is not entertaining anymore. He is known to be a former user of steroids. Can we move on? If he committed perjury so be it, go to jail and that is it. Too much money is being spent on this. Too much time is being wasted on this. Mark McGwire's brother is coming out and selling him out? That's real respectable dude. He is your brother, I don't care if he is estranged, if he wants to talk about what happened in the past, he will when he is good and ready. It is not your responsibility. Kirk Radomski told us that David Justice and Glenallen Hill received steroids from him. Damn. Two former Indians. Maybe those steroids helped Justice be able to perform his patented check swing. Or maybe... just maybe Justice was juicing when he hit that fateful homerun off Jim Poole in game six. That motherfucker !... oh wait, the cork was in Albert Belle's bicep right? and Jim Thome was a scrawny third baseman then too? and with those guys we wouldn't have been in the series to begin with? ohhh yeaaaa. Basically the Mitchell Report has turned Kirk Radomski, former batboy, and Brian McNamee, former Clemens lackey, into rich men in the media limelight.

The night when McGwire hit number 62 was magical. It still is magical. I was 15 years old and still have the VHS I recorded of this night. The guy that was pushing him throughout the summer was playing against him that night. That rarely happens. McGwire and Sosa were on a level playing field that summer. Chances are the majority of pitchers who gave up those jacks were having their performances enhanced in some way as well. All the time, energy, and money devoted to this is stupid in my opinion. Hannah Storm just told me Greg Anderson's mother in law's house was raided in connection with Bonds. Please comment and tell me if you care.

2 comments:

Alvaro Espinoza said...

Baerga,

Interesting read from an inside perspective. You'd put everyone in the Hall of Fame I'd assume then?

I think you really have to put everyone in personally. In a lot of respect the Hall of Fame takes on the feel of a lot of personal vendettas playing out.

By Land By Sea Baerga said...

i think the majority should get in. i dont think that certain numbers are automatic passes anymore, but as much as i hate clemens, he was dominant. same with bonds, and mcgwire, etc. are you going to keep palmeiro with 3000 hits and 500hr out of the hall of fame because hes been caught already, but let thome in because he hasnt been yet?