Steroids in baseball: Who cares?

If steroids were legal, the market would likely come up with safe versions of them.

Some years ago, I am not sure how long ago it was, I was a baseball fan. My fanaticism survived the 1994 players’ strike. It was even slightly renewed by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa’s race to 62 home runs in 1998. Between then and approximately my second or third freshman year, I lost all interest in Major League Baseball.

It seemed the game had gotten too glittery. Home runs had become a plague. Pitchers’ ERAs ballooned like Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy’s head. The game had gotten too clean. You say the phrase “Charlie Hustle” and many young fans have no idea what you’re talking about. No longer could players such as Enos Slaughter succeed. Hustling would just not be enough.

You would need huge arms with ridiculous bat speed or hand-eye coordination statistically beyond what would have gotten you into the majors 30 or 40 years ago. Baseball had turned into power matches that could be more efficiently played as home-run derbies. 

In a way, it is unfortunate that I have parted ways with baseball. George Will, a columnist for The Washington Times, describes this as the true golden age of baseball. The game is more popular now, there is a greater variety of venues to enjoy the game and attendance is up for most teams. In the National League, all the teams play their games on grass. The last five years have seen five different World Series champions. 

Baseball is also one of the leading sports for diversity; there are players from the Dominican Republic, Aruba, the Korean peninsula and Japan, and that’s just on the Seattle Mariners. For baseball, it’s as good as it gets.

I guess that’s the reason people are so upset about the present steroids scandal. The fans who left after the 1994 strike have returned or been replaced, and they have made baseball the national pastime again.

Everyone likes to think the requirements for playing professional baseball are ability, work ethic and heart. To find out baseball players use steroids makes it seem unfair to all of the players who have played by the rules, and it seems assuredly unfair to those who follow them now. I would call it a general trend that people don’t like losing to cheaters. 

For this reason, I believe baseball should legalize steroids. If you legalize steroids, it’s no longer cheating. Level the playing field for all participants. Steroids will always be used. Every time medicine comes up with a new test, there will be a new steroid that cannot be found with that test. This cat-and-mouse game has been going on for quite some time in professional football. All you need to do is take the occasional trip to a Mexican pharmacy, and they’ll sell you anything you want.

Sure, legalization sounds bad, and it’s not exactly plausible. Doctors still need to prescribe these drugs, and it’s questionable if the Food and Drug Administration would approve such medicines for performance enhancement. But if you look to the game’s current successes, high attendance, high competition and high player diversity, how can you argue about where the game is headed? 

There are going to be medical problems with players who use steroids too much. But by legalizing steroids, you place it into the medical marketplace. Soon after, there will be training regimens and designer steroids that enhance performance without sacrificing longevity. If anything, we’ll continue to have good baseball and popular baseball. And really, isn’t that the point?

Marty Andrade welcomes comments at [email protected]