Dear past or present MLB performance enhancing drug user,
So I’m guessing by know you’ve heard about the report in the New York Times that Manny and Big Papi tested positive for a performance enhancing substance back in 2003. Actually, seeing as how you are on the “inside,” this probably was not news to you. And honestly, I think I speak for the overwhelming majority of baseball fans and observers when I say that it wasn’t really news to us either.
Just like the sun rising in the East every morning, and people complaining about taxes come March and April, and the White Sox struggling to win in the Metrodome…reports of great individual baseball feats from the 90s and early 2000s being tainted by drug use are just something we’ve all come to expect. We’re numb to it now.
When the reports about ARod came out earlier this year, there was still some shock and surprise left. Remember when everyone thought that ARod would be the one to supplant all of the cheaters in the record books and restore integrity to the top of the home run charts? Yeah, not so much.
And even when Manny Ramirez was suspended for 50 games earlier this year, the news was met with some jaw drops only because it was the first time that a star of Manny’s magnitude had been suspended for PED use under the new testing policy. The surprise was not really that Manny was using, only that he’d be foolish and/or arrogant enough to use with the knowledge that he’d be tested. But still, there was at least some surprise.
But yesterday is the day when news of performance enhancing drug use in baseball finally reached the tipping point where it stopped really being “breaking news” in the sense that we intrinsically think about breaking news. You don’t see TV reporters covering the sunrise each morning do you? Of course not. We just expect it. It would be news now if the sun didn’t rise.
That is exactly where I feel like we are with PEDs and baseball.
Sure, it’s “news” that someone leaked the assertion that Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz were on the infamous 2003 list. But stories such as these now have the same ho-hum quality as watching the recap of a baseball game during the morning SportsCenter that you watched the previous night. When I saw Dewayne Wise’s walk-off single from last night’s game this morning, I didn’t flinch. I just watched and enjoyed it for a brief moment.
When the story broke yesterday that Manny and Papi tested positive in 2003, it was the same thing (minus the enjoyment). I didn’t flinch. I just read the story and shrugged my shoulders, and realized that I wasn’t even really mad, upset, or disappointed that they tested positive in 2003. I was numb.
What I remain mad, upset, and disappointed about it is the continued arrogance and complete dearth of respect that so many of you have for me and my fellow fans. Yeah, remember us? The ones who indirectly pay all of your baseball salaries? The ones who fawn over you like gods, thus making your endorsement income possible too?
I know, there are millions of us and only a few of you, which makes it much easier for you all to carry on your self-aggrandizing notions of invincibility and omnipotence. But do you think that, just once, you could close your lying mouths, open up your eyes and ears, and listen to the thoughts, words, and feelings of the people whose opinions should mean as much or more to you as anyone?
And if you want to know what the growing and perhaps nearly complete consensus is among baseball fans when it comes to who did or did not use steroids, here it is:
We don’t fucking care anymore!
That’s right. We don’t care. Or maybe a more apt way to put it is that we can’t care and shouldn’t care anymore.
We know that you played in an era in which being on a level playing field meant using, not the other way around.
We know that for many of you baseball is all you know, and that sticking needless in your rear might have been the only way to hang onto your chosen lot in life.
We know that many of you can probably relate with Jim Parque, who saw the best opportunity he had to give his family a great life slipping away.
We know that part of the reason for your greatness is the massive ego and pride that drives you and that those two factors also drive the decision to use performance enhancers.
I could go on and on. But what’s the point? By now, it’s really just the obvious; or at least, what should be the obvious. But the sad part is, I don’t think the vast majority of you PED users get it.
Because if you did, you’d stop the sad, pathetic charade of lies and rationalizations and faux outrage and just be honest. Yes, honest. I realize that for many of you this is a foreign concept, or at least a concept that can be conveniently forgotten when it serves your personal self-interest, but bear with me, if you will. I’ve done the same for you through this whole shady mess of an era, so I don’t think it’s too much to ask.
How about instead of going into hiding and shirking your responsibility to the fans who cheered you, and supported you, and bought jerseys with your name stitched on the back, you step up and just tell us what you did? How about instead of offering a consistent stream of outright lies before and after reports like yesterday’s come out, you simply offer one forthright statement of fact?
I mean really, what the hell are you so afraid of?
Years and years of lies and yanking the proverbial carpet from underneath our feet has numbed us to all feelings of outrage and surprise anyway. And perhaps that was the unspoken collective goal among you all along.
Well guess what, if that is the case then you have succeeded.
For so many of us who love baseball, we’ve found a way to rationalize PED use in our mind so that we can still enjoy the game. A major part of that rationalization is simply accepting it all as a way to move forward.
The final element of truly moving forward is forgiveness, as is the case in any situation in which deceit has led to a breach of trust. We have done our part, by reaching a level of acceptance. Now you need to do your part by giving us an opportunity to forgive. And there is only way to achieve forgiveness in the wake of lying, cheating, and dishonesty:
Tell the truth. The whole truth. And nothing but the truth.
I think you’ll all be pleasantly shocked at the outcome.
Ask yourself how David Ortiz would have been received had he, at some point before yesterday, called a press conference to say that yes, he did in fact use steroids at one time. If he had explained that at 27, after being released by the Twins, he saw his career flashing before his eyes and felt compelled to jumped on the steroids train in an effort to save his fledgling career. And then how becoming “Big Papi”, and receiving so much love from the fans, and experiencing so much success, blurred his sense of reality and made him rationalize his use as okay and his lies as the only path he saw to sustain it and protect his image.
Really ask yourself, how do you think people would have responded?
Harsh, bad, and disappointing truths, especially those that revolve around the uncovering of deceit, always hurt when you hear them for the first time. But in the grand scheme of it all they usually hurt and disappoint a lot less when being explained directly from the source.
One of the main reasons why is because when the deceiver is doing the explaining, he or she is also simultaneously taking the first step towards the remedy for all involved. And the remedy, of course, is forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a two-way street. It requires contrition and the swallowing of pride on one side, then understanding, acceptance, and an open mind on the other side. Some things cannot be forgiven, all depending on the individual and their values and beliefs. But most things can and are forgiven when the two-way street of forgiveness is walked with genuine steps by both parties.
Performance enhancing drug use in baseball and all sports is, as I see it, a very forgivable offense. And I think if more of you really respected the fans, rather than simply paid lip service to it, you would realize that.
We want to root for you, we want to believe in you, we want to cheer for you, and we want to forgive you. But you can’t expect us to walk a one-way street to get there. The only possible outcome of that would be to forget. Yet, considering how much we all care about the game, plus the fact that names will continue to be leaked, forgetting is not likely.
The story of performance enhancing drug use in baseball will not go away.
The only question is whether the true reason why it remains a story will ever go away. And the answer to that question lies solely with you, because it is entirely a function of your deceit and lies.
So all I am asking you is this: if you used PEDs in the past, just come forward and admit it before your name gets leaked or you are forced to address specific allegations. Take the lead and take control. Let us hear it from your mouth first. And even if your name has already been whispered or bandied about as a probable user, just step up and explain it honestly.
I guarantee you that while you may face an initial wall of negative reaction or consternation, it will pass quickly.
Most importantly, be honest about your reasons for using (we’ll understand) and honest about how it helped you (we already know). Not only will it lift what has to be a huge weight from your shoulders, as well as hopefully provide leadership that compels others to do the same, it will be one more step down the two-way street we all have to travel to get past this tired, annoying, and disheartening story.
We respect your talents and achievements enough to continue loyally supporting a game that provided you with a lucrative career, and one that most likely fulfilled all of your wildest dreams. Is it that much to ask for you to respect us enough to simply step up and be honest? I don’t think it is, but you are the only one who can answer that question.
If you care only about yourself, you’ll keep on lying and hoping the truth is never uncovered or that the rumors are never confirmed. If you care about the fans and integrity, however, you’ll step forward and be honest on your own accord. Either way, I’ll keep loving baseball today, tomorrow, and forever. But the game will never be as great as it should and could be until the relationship between the players and fans is repaired.
There is a tear that was created by lies and deceit, and it can be patched back up with honesty and truth. It’s really that simple.
So I, and every other baseball fan, will just be here waiting like we’ve always been for either a) the next name to be leaked or b) someone to actually step forward and be honest. The former will set us all back again while the latter can actually help us move forward.
The choice is yours.
Hopefully you’ll make the right one. Sadly, with history as my guide, I have no faith that any of you will.
Update: Time to give a little credit where credit is due. Just caught an article on ESPN.com in which Bronson Arroyo says that he wouldn’t be surprised if his name was on “the list” because of substances he took (andro) which we were found to be laced with steroids.
“Arroyo, who pitched for the Red Sox from 2003 to 2005, said he took androstenedione, which was banned in 2004, as well as amphetamines, which were banned in 2006, according to the Herald report. He said he gave up taking andro, a steroid precursor, when a rumor spread through baseball that due to lax production standards, some of it was laced with steroids.
Mandatory testing for performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball began in 2004.
‘Before 2004, none of us paid any attention to anything we took,’ he said, according to the Herald. ‘Now they don’t want us to take anything unless it’s approved. But back then, who knows what was in stuff? The FDA wasn’t regulating stuff, not unless it was killing people or people were dying from it.’
Arroyo said he started taking taking andro after 1998, after a season with the Pirates’ Double-A affiliate. ‘Andro made me feel great, I felt like a monster. I felt like I could jump and hit my head on the basketball rim,’ he said, according to the report.”
Hmm…I wonder what the reaction will be now if Arroyo’s name does someday come out on the list. Is it really so difficult to just step up and explain things exactly how Arroyo did here? Hopefully more players will follow suit.