If You Weren't Juicing, You Weren't Trying

At one point in its history, the average baseball player wasn't what you'd call an athlete. He'd play the season, then spend the winter working a sales job somewhere. A couple of hunting or fishing trips were about the closest he'd come to real physical exertion.

At some point, that sort of behavior shifted from the norm to the grossly irresponsible. Guys who didn't take care of themselves... didn't lift, didn't run... had a massive disadvantage as compared with the guys who did.

The same could be said for nutrition. Clearly, there are guys who take it seriously... and those who continue to exist on steak and beer. And some of them have been very successful... but you can't help wondering... what would a guy like C.C. Sabathia... or David Wells... be able to do if he was in the same sort of shape as a Johan Santana or a Jake Peavy?

Can't we make the same case about performance-enhancing drugs?

Sure... they're illegal. So are any number of the substances that baseball players have been using for decades... from "greenies" to the stuff in the "special" pregame coffee.

Sure... they're dangerous, and can lead to long-term health problems. But then, participating in any professional sport carries risk of long-term health problems... take a look at a recent picture of Earl Campbell for a handy example -- dude can barely walk.

That aside... the fact is, they were readily available... no one was testing for them... and they make players perform better.

Put the moralizing aside, and it's hard to see why any ballplayer wouldn't experiment with the cream, the clear, the flaxseed oil and the ol' B12 shot. So forgive me if I have a little trouble getting all worked up about A-Rod, McGwire or any of the Balco poster boys.

And please, spare me the "the game is losing another hero" columns from Mike Lupica and Mitch Albom... guys, the heroes of your era were using everything up to and including horse tranquilizers to stay on the field. Spare me.

Manny, on the other hand, is a special case -- in so many ways. He did whatever he did knowing he'd have to pass a test at some point. We all drive above the speed limit. But most of us are smart enough not to do it when there's a state trooper with a radar gun on the side of the road.


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