There are a lot of opinions about the use of performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. The BioGenesis reports have put those opinions back front and center, and if you want sensationalized outrage, you don’t have to look very far to find it. That’s why I’m linking to this piece in the Denver Post by former Rockies outfielder Ryan Spilborghs.
In the piece, Spilborghs explains his views on why PED usage occurs, offers some suggestions on what he thinks might be done to help offset the perceived need for chemical assistance, and even ponders whether the league should just legalize and regulate steroid usage themselves in order to level the playing field. I’m not going to say I agree with everything he writes, but they’re thoughts worth reading, especially if you spend time reading this instead of some revisionist history about how this generation is ruining the history of a pure game.
My personal struggle is that I never took any PEDs, that I’m now hanging onto my career at 33 years old in a foreign country and wonder, “What if I had, what would be different?”
I had several factors for not wanting to take any PED’S to begin with:
1. I’m terrified of needles, (ask anyone who has ever taken my blood or my wife, she will run me over with the best of them).
2. I have always believed I was a better player than everyone else, and I like to work.
3. I had never suffered any major injury (Never a sense of despair of career coming short due to injury).
4. I always assumed I would make enough money to be happy, never a goal to be rich, simply a byproduct (still absolutely true even with a family).
5. I always wanted at the end of the day to be able to look myself and my family in the eye and say, “I did it right”.
Those were the factors stopping me, but those factors haven’t stopped other guys, and when I say “that I wonder what if,” I say it because in my MLB career, I had a “comp” (in the MLB arbitration process players are compared against each other in similar age, position, and stats to help determine salary, so a comp is your comparable) that has gone to have a very productive and financially rewarding career. I know I may not have been as good as this player from the beginning, but regardless, some of his decisions have helped to make him a better player, and you can’t argue that taking PEDs doesn’t help a player when there is no way to figure out if he didn’t take it if his career would be the same, and or vice versa. Maybe if I took something it would have made me a better player, maybe I would have gotten more contracts, and maybe I’d be still playing in the big leagues right now. Or maybe I’m embarrassing my family and my name having myself involved in a scandal.
Luckily I don’t know that answer, and I never want to find out. I choose my path and will take it to the bitter end, but I always ask this question to my friends within baseball, “at what cost are you willing to make you and your family rich?”
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.