In no way does my vote condone the use of performance-enhancing drugs. To the contrary, I think steroid users had an enormous (and unfair) advantage over baseball’s law-abiding citizens. If that weren’t true, juicing wouldn’t have been as widespread as it was in the ‘90s and early 2000s.
I’ve come full circle on this issue, as I used to believe steroids were no great trespass against the game, nothing more than an outgrowth of the cocaine era in the ‘80s. Instead of snorting, players started injecting, recreational drugs giving way to PEDs.
Similarly, I used to tolerate the argument that steroids were the moral equivalent of amphetamines in the ‘50s and ‘60s. That’s now a specious argument: there was an institutional acceptance of those little pick-me-ups, which equated to an extra cup of coffee. Steroids, however, were game-changers and players who used them knew they were crossing a line.
Indeed, steroids turned baseball into a glorified video game. Through the use of pharmaceuticals, hitters gained unnatural bat speed, pitchers picked up velocity, the synapses fired more quickly – reaction time was cut. One former player told me even his vision improved after he started using steroids.
“It was unbelievable how much better I could see,” he said. “Hitting was so easy, I actually felt guilty at first.”
We all fell for the futuristic leap, until we realized it was fake. Peel away the layers of steroid magic and what’s underneath is a con. That’s why an admitted user such as Mark McGwire won’t get my vote. Nor will Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Rafael Palmeiro, ever. Still, it’s not up to the Baseball Writers’ Association of America to police the rest of the field; that’s Bud Selig’s job.