By Rob Bradford
"Greenies" - the amphetamines passed around major league clubhouses for years - are no longer an accepted way of life. Last offseason, under the shadow of the steroid controversy, baseball stated it was to start testing for amphetamines for the first time.
While players formerly reliant on greenies might have been able to get by through the first few months of this season, they are now entering what was always considered the peak of greenie season.
"I don't know how much greenies will have an effect on the numbers, but it is about how guys feel about themselves," said one American League relief pitcher. "I do think there will be lower scores. Guys' hands get heavy, their bats get heavy and they're worn out. Then again, the pitcher is worn out, too.
"For bullpen guys, you're beat down, your arm is tired and you need that little extra. This is the time of year you're really beat down, and you need a little extra."
The reliever, who agreed to talk about the state of amphetamines in baseball on the condition of anonymity, insists that 75 percent of the players were greenie users last season, whereas this year he estimates the number at just 10 percent.
But if there is testing, how can 10 percent of the players remain reliant on the pills?
"Starting pitchers can still take them because they pitch once every five days, and by the time they're tested it's out of their system and they're fine," the reliever said. "I know a lot of starting pitchers take one before their start, drink a lot of water and hope for the best. Plus, you get a freebie the first time."
The "freebie" is in reference to Major League Baseball's punishment system. If a player tests positive for amphetamines, he is sent to counseling. The second offense, however, results in a 25-game suspension.
So, for many throughout baseball, the race is on to find the answer to MLB's new testing policy.
Any over-the-counter supplement used by a player has to have it approved by an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company, NSF International, which has been contracted by the league and players' association to certify that a product is up to standards.
"If we were smart, we would have all bought stock in Red Bull," the reliever said in reference to the caffeine-laced energy drink that has been much more prevalent in clubhouses this season.
Yet as much as an energy drink or over-the-counter nutritional supplement might help in the short term, they reportedly can't match the effectiveness supplied by one greenie.
"A greenie is like being coked up for four hours," said the reliever. "You're wide awake, you're focused, you're body stops hurting, you have energy and you feel good. It's almost like a Superman-type pill.
"Red Bull is like a cup of coffee. It gets you up and gets you going, but a half hour later you're more tired than you were before."
Another solution has been an increased amount of players being diagnosed for attention deficit disorder, which is often treated with amphetamine-like stimulants such as Adderall and Ritalin.
"A lot of guys have developed ADD," he said. "A lot of guys are on Adderall and stuff like that because you can get it legally.
"There are some guys who thought they couldn't play without (greenies), but as the season has gone on they've found other ways to go about it."