In my time writing for MoreThanFan.net, I have spent more words on the subject of PEDs than any other topic, but I feel that it is with good reason. PEDs are a blight on the games we enjoy watching, and on their collective record books.
Now to be fair, not all the record books are the same. In importance to what they mean to their respective sport, I would rank them thusly:
2.) Every other sport
Now, this is not to say that fans of specific sports might not care about their record book, or that even casual fans might not get caught up in a record chase in one of our other major sports. As fans of sport, of course both of those statements are true.
However, there’s just something about MLB and its historical record keeping. There’s a reason why a site like Retrosheet.org is viable: baseball lives through its history. The more we find out about its past, the more we think we’ll understand what’s going on in today’s game. As fans of the game, we crave to find out and dissect each and every single morsel of information that may exist.
There’s a reason why when Terrance Mann says (in part):
…The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.
in Field of Dreams that we all know exactly what he means. There’s magic in baseball, and we want to believe in it, and that is the biggest reason I am so outspoken against PEDs: it takes away part of the magic that is baseball.
I had a conversation with my friend Mike last week, and the topic turned to guys who we knew had never taken PEDs in MLB. The first two names that popped in to my head were Greg Maddux and Pedro Martinez. I had watched both pitchers for their entire careers, and there was no way in the world that anyone could ever convince me that either one of them had juiced.
Mike agreed with me, right off the bat, but then he paused. “If someone were to say that Pedro had juiced, there’d be no way to for you to argue that he had not, though.”
For a few moments, I felt as if I couldn’t breathe. The room was going black, I nearly lost consciousness. Surely he had not just uttered those words. He had watched Pedro with me, he had seen all the miraculous things he had done, and yet, with that one sentence, he completely destroyed my memories of Pedro Martinez, at least for that moment.
Gone was October 11, 1999- the day that Pedro heroically came out of the bullpen and quite literally put his career on the line to pitch 6 no-hit innings for the Red Sox against the Cleveland Indians in Game 5 of the ALDS. September 10, 1999 never existed. All those superlative words that the hated Yankees heaped on him after he decimated their lineup with a 1-hit, 17 strikeout performance that to this day remains the best-pitched game I’ve ever seen were deleted. The Red Sox magical 2004 comeback against those same Yankees, along with their first World Series championship in 86 years also would go by the boards.
It would have been far less painful if he had simply cut my heart out of chest, dropped it to the floor and stomped on it. I had no reply to what he had said, however. If someone was to make a serious allegation against Pedro, I wouldn’t have a verifiable way to prove that he had not cheated, and that is pure b.s. I should be able to have an iron-clad defense for the greatest pitcher that I’ve ever seen, but I don’t. I could mention that he never failed a drug test, or that his name was never linked to any PEDs, but really, what would that prove? No one suspected Rafael Palmeiro, either, until he was suspended. Perhaps Pedro was once again several steps ahead of the game.
Right there- that should be enough for any fan of the game to call for stricter penalties with far more frequent testing. Part of the beauty of sport is believing that what you are watching is real, that players through their own ability and determination are able to battle through and overcome the longest of odds. As fans, we shouldn’t have to wonder if the product on the field is tainted or not, we should know. We deserve that.
In an era of multi-billion dollar t.v. deals, there’s no sane reason that this has not been resolved, unless the parties involved wish it to remain that way. It’s not about what it will cost in terms of dollars and cents to implement a year-round testing policy for all players, because that’s inconsequential. What it is about is protecting the game’s history, and our shared memories of what we watch on the field.
Has the PED issue reached a tipping point? Do PEDs affect the game’s history?
Let me know: