So it’s finally working! After years and years of dancing around the issue, it seems Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Player’s Association (MLBPA) have finally put together a drug policy that works. The recent five-day run of out-of-this-world pitching that included a perfect game and three one-hitters - a feat considered unfathomable just ten years ago - got me wondering. After a 15 years period that will always be remembered as the Steroid Era, I wondered if we were now entering the Pitching Era. Unfortunately, after giving it a great deal of thought, I truly believe this recent trend has much more to do with the lack of steroids than it does the greatness of modern-day pitching. Please hear me out…
Anyone who genuinely believes steroids made no difference in baseball in simply naïve. They may say, “Well, steroids can’t teach you how to hit.” Well yes, I’ll give you that point. But what steroids can do it makes the average player good, the good player great, and the great player elite. Steroids can make you bigger, stronger, faster, and able to recover more quickly. One of the biggest factors in being a successful baseball player is one’s ability to recover on a day to day basis. The baseball season is a war of attrition. If one’s body is able to unnaturally recover at a greater rate than his opponent, then he has an advantage. If one’s strength increases so his 40 doubles last season becomes 20 homeruns and 20 doubles the next, then he also has an advantage over his oppenent. Steroids make a difference, that’s why people use them.
In the early 2000’s, when baseball pretended to police the ever-growing issue of steroid-usage, it first did so by implementing drug testing in the minor leagues. God forbid they begin at the top of the food chain – where big leaguers were making millions of dollars and had plenty of disposable income! MLB instead chose to test rookie-ball players who were making $850 a month in an effort to prove to the public they were taking steps in the right direction. Nevertheless, as the public outcry for drug testing grew louder, MLB did a ‘survey’ to find out how many of its major league players were using steroids. This ‘survey’ was meant only to gauge to see if a problem even existed, not punish those whom tested positive. I should also remind you, this test did not ‘survey’ for Human Growth Hormone (HGH), but only for the most simple, cheapest forms of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). Even with this large HGH loophole, MLB announced between 5-7% of the tests came back positive. There was a huge problem on MLB’s hands.
MLB quickly implemented a new policy to cure baseball of this epidemic. MLB was so adamant about correcting this outbreak that they issued a 10-game suspension any player testing positive for PEDs. Reminder: 10 games in baseball about 6% of the season. For comparisons sake, the NFL suspends a drug policy violator for four games, or 25% of their season. Baseball obviously didn’t care that much… But nevertheless, baseball believed it was making a difference. In 2005, Commissioner Selig announced only 1-2% of players failed the second set of testing. Nice work MLB, right? Not so much.
You see, MLB players are wealthy. They can afford nice things. So if MLB was only going to test for the cheap stuff, then the players would simply use the expensive drugs. After all, what was a couple thousands of dollars to them if using PEDs was going to help make them millions? An investment well worth it in their minds… But by the mid-2000’s, even though very few players were failing MLB’s new drug testing policy, several players were busted by Federal Investigators for illegally obtaining HGH. Players would test clean for MLB one day, yet have the Feds knocking on their doors the next. You must remember, even the most-prominent players who have since admitted to using PEDs – Mark McGwire, Andy Pettite, Miguel Tajeda – never once tested positive in MLB’s testing. Nice job, baseball.
So how did we finally get to a point where the drug testing policy is effective? In 2008, MLB and MLBPA finally agreed to a new, more-stringent drug policy – one that includes the testing of insulin-like growth factor, gonadotropins, aromatase inhibitors, selective estrogen receptor modulators and antiestrogens, including clomid. Players can no longer use their excessive income to get around an incapable system. The system has finally caught up to these cheats and the game has changed – dramatically.
Even the most elementary of stats can tell this damning story. In 2000, the average MLB team scored 5.14 per game. In 2006, 4.86 runs per game. In 2012, 4.29 runs per game. In just 12 seasons, each team is now averaging .85 less runs per game. In totality, that’s over 4100 less runs per season in the MLB now when compared to the year 2000. You still believe steroids don’t make a difference? It’s not that hitters have forgotten how to hit, it’s just offensive stats have digressed back to the norm. Baseball is once again the war of attrition it was meant to be – free of drugs and the cheats who tainted it. This is not the Era of the Pitcher, this is the Era of Drug Testing. That’s that.
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