Steroids In Baseball

Aquarian Weekly 2/23/05 REALITY CHECK


Bloated BarryI’ve spent more time in Major League clubhouses than most people not garnering a full-time paycheck to either play the game or cover it. And I predominantly did so during what is fast being noted as the Golden Age of Steroids: 1988 to late 1994, before the great fiscal implosion when whiney owners cried poverty and greedy players harrumphed all the way to closing down the season. There was a lot of joking about “the juice” back then. Kind of a locker-room jock thing you sometimes overhear, because you’re there. That’s the nut of journalism, a professor once told me. “Half the battle is just being there,” he would say. And I was.

I talked City Lights bookstore with Will Clark, listened to Guns N’ Roses with Don Mattingly, and conversed on hitting, food, films, and fashion with George Brett, Kirby Puckett and Tony Gwynn. I chatted with Ken Griffey jr. about rap music and sports cars while Randy Johnson put his fist through a wall. I watched Lenny Dykstra nearly take a clubhouse boy’s head off with a nine iron. I did lunch with Rickey Henderson, whom I more than suspected had a crush on my girlfriend. I was even snubbed by Cal Ripken jr., David Justice and Nolan Ryan all in the same week.

Those were the fun moments in an otherwise highly competitive media circus. It wasn’t the good old days when sportswriters went “slumming” with athletes, as my friend Roger Kahn used to call it, but it seemed by the late 90s’ when I meandered back for a few seasons in the capacity of a radio reporter there was more of a lockdown on players. This was when the evolution of steroid and “performance enhancement” drugs had taken the game’s brightest talent and turned them into Greek gods, smashing baseballs and records all over the place. By then, no one joked anymore. And they sure ain’t joking now.

In the glaring light of the BLACO investigation, which provided evidence that Barry Bonds was a human chemical spill, leaked grand jury testimony from Jason Giambi, a grandstanding Senate hearing, recent FBI testimony from a decade-long investigation, spanking new revelations from Bonds’ chippy and a sensationalistic tell-all tome penned in part by recidivist goon, Jose Conseco, there has been an outcry from fans and the media to “clean up the game”.

Thing is everyone knew about steroids for a long time. The players damn well knew. The aforementioned Rickey Henderson told me the entire Oakland Athletics team laughingly dubbed the monstrous Conseco “The Bionic Cuban”, and in a more public display the late Ken Caminiti announced to Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci that he won the National League MVP award jacked to the tits on steroids. The owners knew too. Of course they knew. They had plenty of inside information and a slew of photos of bars and girls and the other off-the-field recreations of their multi-million dollar investments. Why wouldn’t they know? And as much as they loathe admitting it, the media jock-sniffers knew as well. But they were too busy falling over themselves to either worship or slander these poor bastards they covered that they ignored the obvious signs. Ignored or chose to ignore for the paycheck.

These are facts, not paranoid rantings. Look at the recent unprecedented explosion of power hitting numbers since the mid-90s’, which rivals the “Live Ball Era” in the way that this is the “Live Player Era”

The last thing I need to read right now is another sanctimonious hack-job by that bleating dwarf Mike Lupica on sadness and outrage when he made a fortune on a book celebrating the McGuire/Sosa home run chase in ’98. What a hypocritical suck ass that moron is.

Unfortunately, for me, I haven’t made a bundle from MLB. I worked for a modest, but award-winning Westchester weekly called the North County News, did some radio and hosted a baseball interview show on local television. So I was more or less free to run around decrying the bloated statistics these freaks were putting up, while my colleagues in the sports media biz like that chickenshit Lupica were calling me a paranoid cynic.

What these people failed to equate was the game’s collective insecurity about failing to compete with the more popular NFL and Michael Jordan’s game. And all the mini-ballparks, jacked balls, and lousy diluted pitching talent seemed to conveniently mask the Herculean offensive numbers that were jumping off the bats of unnaturally huge athletes, the kind of human parade floats that forced pro football to change their policy on steroids a decade earlier.

Hey, when baseball hit its first monetary crisis after the 1919 Black Sox scandal when a mobster called Arnold Rothstein fixed the World Series, the game’s patriarchs, realizing the popular impact of the newly realized home run, livened the ball. This “Live Ball Era”, of which the last Herculean freak Babe Ruth hailed, produced some of the most ridiculous offensive numbers the game has ever seen. Even in the late ’60s’ when pro football began to knock baseball off the America’s Pastime pedestal, the game invented the Designated Hitter, a clamp down on the spitball and lowered the pitching mounds to promote more homers, more runs, more cheering, and bigger heroes.

These are facts, not paranoid rantings. Look at the recent unprecedented explosion of power hitting numbers since the mid-90s’, which rivals the “Live Ball Era” in the way that this is the “Live Player Era”

Only two men ever hit 60 home runs in a season before 1998. From 1927, when Ruth hit 60 homers in a season, to 1961, when a journeyman called Roger Maris hit 61, 37 seasons passed. During that time and until the mid-90s’ only a handful of guys ever hit 50. In fact, only two, maybe three guys hit 50 from ’61 to the mid-90s’. Since then, Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, and now Barry Bonds have hit 60 or more homers six times. McGuire hit 70 in ’98 and Bonds, who claims to not realize he was taking steroids – and this from a health nut I saw tell a reporter he doesn’t shake hands because of germs in 1991 – hit 73 a few years back. And although I will not pour over the minutia of baseball statistics, I can conservatively say the 50 mark has been reached three dozen or more times during this insane run.

Where was the outrage all along? From fans? From owners? From ESPN? From that lying sack of monkey dung Bud Selig – Commissioner of the Freak Show?

Was this detonation in offensive power all crappy pitching, juiced balls, enhanced workout regimens and advanced vitamin intake?

Consider the plainest testimony of all, believing your eyes. Just look at these men. Look at them in their prime, and look at them in their mid-to-late thirties, and now forties. Can humans gain uncharted muscle mass in months? Can a human being go from a lithe, muscular form to a hulking beast in a few years, while managing to age along the way?

It’s a ridiculous mockery of common sense.

Should a man’s hat size increase while lifting weights? His complexion?

It’s a pathetic joke.

Now everyone is getting righteous and giving speeches and whipping up investigations.

Home runs are fun. Who cares if players are drugged up?

I enjoy the fruits of industry. Who cares if my water supplies are contaminated?

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