Last week I had the same conversation with two different people regarding Ryan Braun. Both have labeled him as a cheater based only on the fact that he failed a test, never mind the fact that we shouldn’t even know about the failed test at this point.
Both people said I am wearing "fan blinders" and defending him only because he is a Brewer. In fact, one said, "If this was a Cardinal, you wouldn't have this holier than thou stance, heck if it was a Cub, I'm sure you'd be up in arms, and for my own sanity, if this was a Red Sox, you'd be soooo far up my stuff, I wouldn't be able to breathe." The other claimed "if this were Albert Pujols, you would not be using this defense, but would be whining about how this steroidal advantage was the reason the Cardinals went to and won the World Series." Personally, if I am guilty of wearing fan blinders, these people would be just as guilty for labeling him a cheater without all the facts or due process.
One of the nice things about this blog is I have a public forum to tell you both that you are WRONG. I’m not saying you are wrong for believing that he is a cheater -- although I am a big fan of due process. You are wrong for believing you believe what I believe. And, I believe if you follow along you may end up believing your beliefs about my beliefs were dead wrong.
Amphetamines -- coined "greenies" for the color of the pill -- have been used in the game of baseball since the 1940s. These greenies speed up the heart rate and have been proven to fight fatigue, increase alertness and sharpen reaction time. A story from 2006 claimed that players believed in recent years that between 50-80% of their fellow players used amphetamines.
I couldn’t find any relevant stats regarding greenie use in the 1960s and 1970s, but it’s safe to assume they were more than available. All-time hits leader Pete Rose even admitted to using greenies. I’ll take him at his word that it was only in spring training and only for weight loss, but if I was a gambling man I know where my wager would be. This is a pretty good read regarding greenies in baseball.
Where is the outrage for those performance-enhancing drugs? Why are we not talking about the hall-of-famers who used greenies to play the game of baseball? The answer is quite simple, really. The answer, in my opinion, is also why some PEDs should be labeled as performance-allowing drugs (PADs) and be legal to use.
MLB outlawed amphetamine use in 2006 but based on the punishments, even they acknowledge the lack of impact on the game vs performance-enhancing drugs. The first failed test for a PED results in a 50-game suspension, while the first for amphetamines is a warning, with a second violation resulting in a 25-game suspension.
Why the disparity in punishments? Simply put, greenies do not have the same impact on performance as anabolic steroids or whatever other performance-enhancing drugs are available. One only need look at the power numbers for proof. Between 1965 and 1990, only one player -- George Foster in 1977 -- topped 50 home runs in a season. Between 1995 and 2002, there were 17 50-homer seasons, with a few 60- and 70-homer seasons to boot. Only the players that hit those home runs know what they put into their bodies and there are admittedly other factors that could have gone into those numbers (such as a change in the ball, shorter fences, pitching was watered down, weight training was more prevalent and nutritional supplements were better), but let’s be real, that power EXPLOSION doesn’t happen without an enhancer. It was obvious at the time, but in retrospect there is no point in denying the use was rampant.
I’m obviously not a chemist, and one only needs to see the increase in my belt size since the future Mrs. joined the team to know I’m not a personal trainer, but in my opinion there should be a difference between PEDs and PADs. If all a PAD does is allow the player to heal quicker and get them back on the field, then I see no problem with it. I would never, have never, advocated for a minor to use any mind-altering substance, but if an adult wants to pop a pill to wake up for a day game after an extra-inning night game, who are we to judge? Is it sooooo much better if they get the same result by drinking a couple of those new energy drinks?
I used the two Braun convos from last week to rant about this difference, but it's also part of the reason why both the people I spoke to are wrong. They both believe I’d be all against it if it was one of their guys, and that’s simply not the case. If this were Pujols or David Ortiz and the info was leaked -- I won’t lie -- I’m guessing my initial reaction would be to think of them as cheaters, but I’m an adult and I can isolate my initial reaction from anything that comes out of my mouth (and fingers), especially when info to the contrary is presented.
I don’t want Albert Pujols’ legacy tarnished any more than I want Mr. Braun's. I am a fan of the Brewers, but that means nothing if I’m not a fan of the game first. Baseball has had enough black eyes and I don’t want to see another, even if it wears Cubbie blue or Cardinal red. I’m well aware that fans of opposing teams may call horse hockey, but if this was happening to Albert, I’m confident I would not label him a cheater without all of the facts. I like Albert and respect him as a player, plus that’s just not who I am.
According to a few tweets, it may take a couple weeks to learn the outcome of Braun's hearing. If he indeed knowingly ingested a PED I may write a blog admonishing the behavior, but I really don’t think I need to convince people that I’m anti-cheating. The truth is, if he cheated I will be disappointed but I will want to forget about it as soon as possible and move on with life. I hope that he comes back, puts up better numbers and passes twice as many tests to prove the haters just want to hate.
Radio host Dan Patrick has cited an MLB source that says Braun may be exonerrated, and not for personal reasons. Obviously I hope this is true. If this holds true there is a better than good chance that I will write another blog asking for apologies from those same haters that labeled him a cheater based on leaked information. I asked both of those people last week if they would retract their statements if Braun is exonerated, and both said no. I’m not sure how someone can claim to write four books yet not acknowledge their mistakes, but I guess it’s ultimately of no importance if he chooses to remain uninformed. The good news is that Peace & Glove may have permanently shed its main source of negativity!
Is this blog all over the place? :) Am I crazy for thinking performance-allowing drugs should be legal in sports? Do you think I’m wearing fan blinders when it comes to Mr. Braun? Are you one of those who believe he's guilty, regardless of the outcome?
UPDATE: Prince to the Tigers for 9yr/214million!!
Tim Thompson is a carsalesman, farmer, and huge fan of the Milwaukee Brewers. He lives in Milton area with his wife and two kids. Tim is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff. His opinion is not necessarily that of the The Gazette staff or management.