Manny Ramirez got whacked for 50 games and about $7.7 million in salary (the approximate GNP for some small countries), but that’s not the biggest story. As the days, weeks, months and, now, years, go by, we’re finding out that there was an entire era in which the culture of the game of baseball was that of: “Hey, I’ve got some stuff here that will make you bigger, stronger, faster and, naturally, a better player. Oh, did I mention it will help you recover from injuries faster, too? And it’s not illegal!” (yet)
It seems as though the overwhelming response by MLB’s finest (and probably, not so finest), would have been, “Are you serious? Where do I get some? There are a few guys I’ve seen bulking up real quick - guys I used to own, and now their stats make mine look like what mine used to make theirs look like. I knew they had to be doing something I wasn’t. Tell me where I can score some of this miracle stuff so I can level the playing field.”
And that’s exactly what many of us believe - that the reason steroid and performance enhancing drug use became so prevalent was because players were just looking to keep their jobs. They saw guys hit 10-12 home runs three or four years in a row and all of a sudden, erupt for 50 in a year. With apologies to Lloyd Bensten, some of the old timers were saying to these newly developed sluggers, “In Willie Mays’ best year, he hit 52 HR’s. I’ve seen Willie Mays, I played with Willie Mays. Willie Mays was a friend of mine, and, you, son, are no Willie Mays.”
Baseball’s a game in which, although a player’s longevity is greater than most of the other athletes in professional sports, as far as a career, the window for cashing in on financial security doesn’t stay open near long enough. This PED and steroid usage predated what’s currently in the CBA between the player’s union and MLB. Basically, there are three types of players: 1) the superstars, 2) the guys who will never be superstars, but will always make a team because they are either a specialist or because they can adequately fill many positions/roles and 3) the guys who, year after year, struggle to make a roster.
It would be interesting (actually, more like fascinating) to find out which one of these groups started the pill popping, butt injecting, clear smearing generation that has now become the face of baseball. Was it a scrub, who all of a sudden began turning heads with his newly sculpted bod and where-did-that-come-from-power? Or was it the middle group - the utility guy - who, all of a sudden, started dominating in the batting cage? Or could it have been the guy who already was a Hall-of-Fame to be type e.g., oh, let’s say a guy who played in a city where all the professional teams there wear the same colors - who, even though he was better than most, if not everyone, exploded and became even better than his close relatives, blood and otherwise?
Independent of the case, there would be no doubt such an improvement would cause gossip, considering the egos involved in men already playing at the highest level, but, now, wanted to surpass their peers - whether for personal records or simply, survival. I remember when I was a teenager, reading about a study in which aspiring Olympians were asked, “If you could do something that would assure you of winning a gold medal in the next Games, BUT you would lose 10 years off of your life expectancy, would you do it? 80% answered in the affirmative.
Succeeding in their chosen sport is the absolute ultimate for elite athletes - even to the point that they act irrationally. Does anyone think for a minute that these would be Olympic heroes stopped to think and question the survey, “Does that mean I’ll never marry and have children?” or “Does that mean I’ll die before my parents?” or “Does that mean I’ll leave my young kids without me as a parent in their elementary school years - or even earlier?”
None of these things were taken into account when the decision to cement their chances at athletic immortality was made. Are we to believe professionals are any different than Olympic athletes? So that gives us the answer to “WHY?”
Not as important, and if it wasn’t for the severity of the repercussions of taking PED drugs and/or steroids, they would be comical, are the answers/rationalizations/excuses these athletes spout when caught. “It was planted,” “they were my Dominican cousin’s,” “I had no idea what it was, I was just told to take it,” and Man Ram’s, “I got it from a doctor for a personal health issue and he gave me the medication” (which turned out to be a woman’s fertility drug taken by steroid users to restart natural testosterone production after coming off a cycle of use). “Unfortunately, it was on the banned substance list” (there has to be a Title IX lawsuit somewhere in there for some miserable person/people and their I’m-doing-this-so-that-justice-will-be-served, but make sure you spell my name right on the check, lawyer). “Now, that is my mistake and I’m responsible for it,” Manny so responsibly claimed.
When someone is overly passionate (or egocentric) about their career, they can’t think rationally, maybe what happens to them is a just reward. What’s so sad is they violate one of Stephen Covey’s basic tenets of responsible social behavior:
“You can’t talk yourself out of problems you behave yourself into.”