Performance-enhancing drugs are back in the news, with the Biogenesis scandal allegedly involving 20 major leaguers and Major League Baseball reportedly intending to issue suspensions. The dark prince of baseball, Alex Rodriguez, is named again, as is former MVP Ryan Braun.
ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” first reported the possible punitive action, which it says could be the largest group suspension in sports history.
America’s Pastime has become a medical “CSI” and a legal nightmare.
Are you sick and tired of Major League Baseball going after steroid users?
That question was asked of more than 100 randomly chosen fans at Fenway Park last weekend. The answer was a resounding no.
Of those polled, 76 percent said they want MLB to clean up the game, and 24 percent said they want MLB to move on. Four fans could not answer yes or no, and their “undecided” votes weren’t included in the final tabulations.
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David Medina of Arlington, Texas, is not surprised at the results. He has biceps bigger than baseballs, which he says he got from working out without any performance-enhancing drugs. Sitting atop the Green Monster, he strongly supports the MLB policies.
“There needs to be a level playing field,” he says. “They don’t need to cheat. They’re already making millions of dollars.”
Nancy Hollomon of Brookline has a twinkle in her eye when she talks about Dwight Evans and the good old days.
“I grew up before the steroid time, and baseball players were my heroes and I’d like to keep them my heroes,” she says. “I’d like to know they’re honest ballplayers and the stats that other people made without steroids are still valid.”
Steve Mele, whose father, Sam, played with the Red Sox in the 1940s and ’50s, is taking his son to his first game.
“I’m not sick of it, no way,” says Mele. “In those days, they just played. Now they need to clean it up. You don’t want to have two sets of rules.”
Some fans said the MLB investigation into the Miami anti-aging clinic and its client list is wearing them down, and it is depending too much on testimony from shaky individuals.
“I don’t see digging things up in the past really benefiting the game going forward,” says David Ames, of Sparta, N.J.
Says Rick Francis of North Danville, Vt., “Is it tiring? Yes. Is it necessary? Yes. I believe that anyone who truly loves the game and cares for the game shouldn’t be using steroids.”
Myron Zimmerman of Needham (no relation to Robert Zimmerman, a.k.a. Bob Dylan), who is attending the game with his son, says, “No, I’m not sick of it. They should set a good example for the kids coming up. If there’s evidence there, then they should pursue it.”
But his son says the times they are a-changin’.
“Juice ’em up so they can beam them out of the park,” says Mark Zimmerman. “I don’t care. Whatever makes a better show.”
Doug Black of London, Ontario, says baseball still isn’t doing enough.
“Owners want those guys in there,” he says. “If they’re not going to [police] it, then let everybody do it. Let’s have Superman and Iron Man and everybody do it and let’s see what happens.”
Witch hunt or justice?
Rodriguez, the Yankees third baseman who hasn’t played this season after having hip surgery, got zero support from these fans at Fenway. In 2009, Rodriguez admitted to steroid use during a three-year span beginning in 2001.
“You can’t have someone using, playing against someone who is clean, especially if that someone is A-Rod making $252 million,” says Stefan Hodenpel of Acton. “When Babe Ruth was playing, what was he on? Maybe something from the sausage guy.’’
In 2011, Braun successfully appealed a 50-game suspension on the grounds that his urine sample was not shipped promptly.
“Braun got away with it on a technicality,” says Pat Canty of Chandler, Ariz., “and hopefully he’ll be held accountable this time.”
But others say it’s a witch hunt.
“How many times are you going to go after him and ruin his reputation?” says Bill Galgan of Chicago.
Some fans want the rules applied unevenly.
“I want them to go after the cheaters,’’ says Martin Litt with a smile. “Especially if they’re Yankees.”
Joe Shea of St. Louis lived through Mark McGwire’s 70-home run season in 1998, and he suspected something was up.
“I said, ‘He’s on something,’ ” says Shea. “My friends said, ‘Who cares? He’s our guy on steroids.’ It ain’t right.”
Three out of four polled said to stay the course, even though there are always new drugs and ways to mask them.
That’s not news to Vince Iannone of Syracuse.
“I’m a pharmacist for 51 years,” he says. “I worked with the DEA. I would have to say keep going, pursue it. Go after these [expletive] guys.
“In my era, nobody had them. Mickey Mantle, Billy Martin, they had a lot of booze in them. Now it’s gotten out of hand. They’ve got to clean it up for the kids coming up.”
Chris Sabol of Pulaski, Pa., wants a return to the good old days.
“You know what that means?” he says. “Go out, get drunk, and then play the game.”
Tim Hwanj says he’s against steroid use, but, he added, “They used greenies [amphetamines] in the ’70s and ’80s and nobody said anything about that.”
Don Day of Maine says some of the drugs should not be banned.
“HGH is a known medical treatment that is quite acceptable for the non-athlete,” he says. “Why not let these folks avail themselves of that, too?”
Outrage and apathy
Jeff Porter, a fan from Connecticut, says he felt betrayed after the 1998 summer of McGwire and Sammy Sosa.
“But I’ve never seen a steroid that will allow someone to hit a 95-mile-an-hour fastball, high and inside,” he says.
He’s disgusted with the lack of punishment.
“Do you see Roger Clemens sitting in a jail cell anywhere?” he says. “No, so I’m tired of it. I just want to play ball.”
Larry Lungo of Sudbury says enough is enough.
“These guys are grown, mature men — they know what they’re doing,” he says. “They don’t have anywhere near the same stringent policies in the other sports leagues. And they should just leave it alone.”
Others think the penalties should be harsher.
“You look at other sports like cycling — you get caught, they’ll ban you for life,” says Chris Santos of Centerville. “It’s cheating no matter which way you cut it.”
Joe Kundrath of North Branford, Conn., supports MLB but says his patience is wearing thin.
“It’s running the whole game down and it needs to go away,” he says. “Maybe it needs to be a harsher penalty. Do it once and you’re out of the game.”
Dick Lindsay of Lee says the cheaters are fooling no one.
“Its like O.J. [Simpson],” he says. “Everyone knows they’ve done it but they just haven’t been convicted. I think the fact that as long as they keep threatening to [suspend players], it will keep players from doing it.”
Whitmer Kennedy of Greenville, N.C., supports the MLB investigation but wants Congress to stay out of it.
“I think MLB has a responsibility to make sure the game is clean,” he says. “I think there’s a lot bigger problems than Washington stepping into steroids in professional sports. Like education and the budget deficit.”
Others think the whole thing is overplayed.
“I just don’t think it’s all that big of a deal,” says Logan Borden, whose great, great, great aunt Lizzie was acquitted of the ax murders of her father and stepmother in Fall River in 1892.
Austin Bennett, a 12-year-old ballplayer from Georgia, is not about to compromise himself.
“If somebody said to me, ‘We’ll give you $5 million if you take this,’ I wouldn’t,” he says. “That would kill me.”
Watching the Red Sox take batting practice is Olivier Beauchemin of Brockton. He wears a Sox jersey that says “WhatCurse O4” on the back.
“I am a baseball purist,” he says. “There’s more to baseball than home runs.”
In the Red Sox dugout, outfielder Jonny Gomes complains that a player can get millions of dollars more by using PEDs to hit 10 more home runs a year. That’s wrong, he says.
“I just wish that everybody would just take a lie detector test,” he says. “We need to make things fair.”
Stan Grossfeld can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.