Steve "Psycho" Lyons, a former major league player and now an announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is the co author of The Psycho 100: Baseball's Most Outrageous Moments.
Are you sick of the steroid scandal in baseball yet? I am! And I really believe the only reason anybody cares about it at all is because the media told us to.
Don't get me wrong! Steroids are now, and will continue to be, a black eye in sports, but this could have been handled and tested for in a far less public way in baseball. Every day there's more speculation on who might be using performance enhancing drugs or who will be the next to be outted for their use. Why does anybody care how a ballplayer gets himself ready to play? Who does it really affect—except maybe himself?
Ten years from now when we look back on the "Steroid Era," I believe we'll have to recognize the accomplishments of all the players that were proven users, suspected users, and all the other players that we weren't sure of. How can we not? Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds are three of baseball's all-time greats. Unfortunately, the way the baseball writers who have a Hall of Fame vote think of them right now, they'll never get in. That's crazy! None of those players has EVER tested positive for anything.
Now, anytime a player has a better year than he had the previous season, the whispers of PED use surfaces. Did he or didn't he? When we don't know for sure, or in some cases even if we do (Rafael Palmeiro and Alex Rodriguez), how can we disregard a whole generation of great players?
You simply have to recognize the era for what it is and move on.
Nobody thought about putting an asterisk next to Bob Gibson's numbers when he dominated after the pitcher's mound was raised. They didn't alter the record books during the "dead ball" era to account for the lack of home runs hit.
And I don't want to hear from the so-called "baseball purists" who say the game has changed for the worse. If the game hadn't changed, there would still only be six teams riding trains to and fro, with no players of color to be found anywhere. And don't think that the use of steroids or "cheating" in the game is a novel concept. Guys have been trying to figure out a way to cheat in baseball since the day after it was invented. As the saying goes, "If you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin' ", sort of a sad commentary on our world of sports.
The will to win takes on strange bedfellows. And the pressure today's players place on themselves to win sometimes clouds their moral fortitude. Ask yourself if you would have the guts to say no if somebody told you they had a way for you to become measurably more successful than you are right now. All you have to do is something that may or may not be a little bit illegal.
Even people outside the game wanted to take advantage of the players and the game itself.
Gamblers got to the 1919 "Black Sox" and paid several Chicago players to throw the World Series—an event that threatened to end professional baseball altogether.
Ty Cobb sharpened his spikes—just in case he had to come in cleats up to take out a shortstop on a double play.
Scuffing balls, corking bats, stealing signs are all ways to cheat—and they still go on in today's game. Heck, the "spit ball" and "shine ball" used to be legal pitches!
Ground crews put a lot of time and effort into sculpting the field to play to the home team's strengths, such as sloping the foul lines toward fair territory if they have an excellent bunter, or keeping the basepaths soaked if the other team has great team speed. Cheating, don't you think?
I played on a team that stole signs and flashed a light in the centerfield bleachers if the pitch was going to be a breaking ball so that I knew what was coming. Sorry, no names—to protect the guilty.
Players can't even take "greenies" anymore to help them get through a 162-game schedule in 182 days. They used to be handed out like candy before games to anybody who needed a little boost of energy. But greenies are amphetamines and illegal. Wait until you see the drop-off in production of your favorite second baseman in September without 'em!