Apparently, baseball never had a steroid problem
Posted: Wednesday December 19, 2007 8:51PM; Updated: Thursday December 20, 2007 11:41AM
This is great news, really. It turns out baseball doesn't really have a steroid problem at all. Never did.
What it had was a lot of players who experimented with steroids, and then, upon seeing the error of their ways, repented and went back to good old hard work. And some other players used steroids or human growth hormone to recover from injuries, but not to improve their performance.
Whew. This is comforting because, you know, after all the talk of the last few years and then last week's Mitchell Report, I was beginning to think the Grand Old Game had gotten itself into a real pickle.
All those names in the report, coming on the heels of the Barry Bonds indictment and the memorable congressional hearings of March 2005 (Mark McGwire to America, "I'm not going to go into the past or talk about my past.") and various other incidents. It was scary stuff. I was thinking I might have to stop taking my Tom Seaver lunchbox to work, in protest of the whole mess.
Then I read what Andy Pettitte said in response to getting heaved under the Mitchell Bus, and I felt so much better. It turns out Pettitte only used HGH for two days in 2002 to help his recovery from elbow tendonitis. "I had heard that human growth hormone could promote faster healing for my elbow," Pettitte said in a statement issued through his agent. "I felt an obligation to get back to my team as soon as possible. For this reason, and for only this reason, for two days I tried human growth hormone. If what I did was an error in judgment on my part, I apologize. I accept responsibility for those two days."
Two days! That's like Andy hardly did anything wrong at all. Two days can't make you a better pitcher. Two days can't create all that nasty bite on a 2-2 curve ball to a left-handed hitter like David Ortiz.
Then comes Brian Roberts, the Orioles' second baseman. He saw Pettitte's two days and raised him. Roberts only used steroids once! And no sooner had the syringe been removed from his butt than Roberts was struck by an epiphany.
"In 2003, when I took one shot of steroids," said Roberts. "I immediately" -- immediately! -- "realized that this was not what I stood for or anything that I wanted to continue doing. I never used steroids, human growth hormone or any other performance-enhancing drugs prior to or since that single incident. I can honestly say before God, myself, my family and all of my fans, that steroids or any performance-enhancing drugs have never had any effect on what I have worked so hard to accomplish in the game of baseball."
This is poetry, is it not? No lie, I am puddling up, just cutting and pasting Roberts' words into this column. I can picture little Brian Roberts in the backyard, beating balls into a fence, dreaming of one day playing in the major leagues. Would that little boy use steroids to get better and make millions of dollars a year? Of course not. Who does this George Mitchell think he is, hunting down and exposing proud major league ballplayer?
We have all experimented, have we not? We have all explained behavior as a one-time aberration. How bad do you think I felt when I was home from college as a callow youth and sullied my parents' bathroom in the aftermath of a long evening of immature behavior? But like Roberts, I was just experimenting; he with steroids, me with shots of tequila, chased with, as I recall, Labatt's red. (My father was slightly more skeptical than Roberts's adoring public, which has rushed to congratulate him for "coming clean.")
Then there is Fernando Vina, the former journeyman major leaguer who now analyzes handsomely on ESPN. He was named in the report, too. But he, like Pettitte, wasn't trying to get an edge on anybody, he was just trying to recover from knee and hamstring injuries. "I tried everything rehabbing," Vina said in an interview with his employer. "I came to a point that I was desperate. For me, it was to try to get back on the field. That was the bottom line."