Sant-Miller: Baseball still has steroid issue
Aaron Sant-Miller | Thursday, April 10, 2014
“@Hasselbeck: Every time I get tested for steroids reminds me of the elderly lady at the airport that TSA pulls out of line for a pat down.”
Yesterday, just before 10 a.m., we were graced with the lovely humor of the one and only Matt Hasselbeck, 38-year-old quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts. When I saw this tweet, I thought back to the humorous tweet last fall by Colts punter Pat McAfee. After McAfee blew up Giants receiver Trindon Holliday on a kickoff return, laying one of the biggest hits of week seven, McAfee received a request for a “random” steroid test. Hence, his tweet: “Guys… Make one random tackle… And end up on a ‘Random’ steroid list. Must be my bod #UpperBodyOfAnAdolescent.”
Though McAfee’s test was likely just a coincidence, the humor is tasty. In both cases, the NFL almost seems silly, testing players who, physically, appear to be some of the least likely to be users. On the other hand, I think this is admirable. Every week, ten players per team are randomly tested for performance enhancing drugs. That’s 320 players per week.
As the MLB season starts to hit its stride, I figured this was something worth thinking about. In our time, baseball has experienced one of its all-time lows as a sport. Just a few years ago, a player could not have a strong season without the pundits wondering about steroid usage. Now, this sentiment is validated by big-name players testing positive. In the last year season, you’ve had Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada and Ryan Braun test positive. Those are three former MVPs.
I’m often left wondering why these issues never arise to this extent in football or basketball. There has been an influx of Adderall usage in the NFL, but for the most part, steroids are not an incredibly visible issue. Is this a consequence of lower usage? Surely, 320 players randomly tested a week is a high enough number to catch those using steroids at a frequent rate. I’m left wondering why this isn’t an issue in other sports, especially football where strength is a bigger issue. Maybe it’s the culture. Maybe it’s the testing. Regardless, it’s a better situation. This is where I want to the MLB to go, but I struggle to think of how the league will get there.
Currently, the spotlight in Major League Baseball shines on instant replay. The topic is debated and considered from every angle. You hear arguments that range from, “It’s unbelievable that we wouldn’t use this with the technology we have,” to, “It undermines what the game is supposed to be.”
Let’s not forget that steroids started this trend. In any sport, if the playing field is inherently uneven because certain players possess advantages by simply exploiting the flexibility of the rules, it undermines what competition is.
Instant replay has its own flaws and strengths. I have my own opinions on the subject, opinions I likewise feel the need to broadcast. But, I worry that instant replay is stealing the spotlight. Steroids are still an issue in baseball. They are going to continue to be an issue.
To some, instant replay might diminish the game. Let’s not forget, we have debate over who is the true home run king. Baseball, a sport smothered in numbers, has allowed for ambiguity that supersedes numbers. So, before you begin cursing instant replay or talking about it night and day, consider where the drama in baseball began.
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that steroids still exist as a significant issue, undermining the competitive nature of America’s game. Let’s demand higher standards for player testing. Let’s make sure to clearly and fairly articulate the damage steroid usage does, in an effort to diminish their presence in a beautiful game.