Saturday, January 23, 2010

Steroids vs. Amphetamines

I’ve heard over and over the argument that there’s a double standard when it comes to the writers’ stance on steroids and amphetamines. It’s very unusual that I will disagree with Rob Neyer, but in this case I do. He says “that steroid guys have been held to a completely different standard than amphetamine guys. And…there's little reason for doing that.” There is little reason? I couldn’t disagree more.

This isn’t simply a case of a double standard because we’re not comparing likeness. Amphetamines don’t do for ballplayers what steroids do. They’re not apples to apples and they aren’t even the equivalent of apples to oranges. We’re certainly not holding one era of baseball players to a different standard than the other. The fact of the matter is that while both steroids and amphetamines are both performance enhancers, the gap between the effects of one vs. the effect of the other is so great that they should never ever be uttered in the same conversation. Well, that is probably going too far. But I do take exception with making the argument that it isn’t fair to disallow the steroid players into the Hall when writers have allowed the greenies players into the Hall without hesitation.

Now if my dad walked into my room while I was in grade school and caught me smoking a little weed (or in his words, reefer), I’m sure he wouldn’t have been thrilled or condoned it but he wouldn’t have gotten hysterical either. Had he walked into my room in grade school and saw me shooting up some heroine I think he probably would have dropped dead. They are both drugs and both illegal but there’s clearly a chasm between the effects of one and the effects of the other. It’s my opinion that the gap between amphetamines and steroids (regarding their ability to enhance a baseball player’s performance) and the gap between the effects of marijuana and heroine is similar. That is to say it’s a huge gap. You can certainly understand why a parent would make a big huff about their child using heroine and not pot and I think you can certainly understand why a writer could (and in my opinion should) make a big huff about players using steroids but not amphetamines.

I agree with the large majority of the argument. Amphetamines, like steroids, were both illegal and against the rules of baseball. Amphetamines, like steroids, enhance performance. Unfortunately, the comparisons really end there which lends to my stance (and obviously the writers’) that steroid users should be scrutinized much more so than amphetamine users.

I also want to make one more thing very clear. I don’t think a steroid admission should be a deal breaker on entrance to Cooperstown. Moreover, I don’t even blame the players for using them. I just feel the writers owe it the game and the players of the past to dissect the statistics and body of work of players from the steroid era much more so than they did for players that used amphetamines. And when Neyer says that he believes McGwire was a Hall of Famer with or without the steroids I have no problem with that. And when an old time writer says he refuses to vote for any player linked to steroids I can certainly understand where he’s coming from. The bottom line is that perhaps some people are being a little too lenient and others are too harsh. It remains to be seen if we will ever arrive to any consensus on this subject but my gut feeling is that we will not. The only thing that I’m truly convinced of is what a terrible mess steroids have created.


  1. No matter how you slice this piece of American Pie, ever era has its own handicap against the other. Babe Ruth, this Jesus like figure too most purists, never played against any Blacks or Latinos. Bob Gibson becomes unstoppable; baseball lowers the mound.
    The ball became lighter and on and on and on. Here we are today, steroids vs amphetamines? Is the same huge gap you speak of as is our generation, who works out and trains year round, has personal cooks and nutritionists vs the generation who had to get jobs in the off season i.e. Generation Mays vs Generation Bonds. Look, if its not one thing its another! The new amphetamines are Adderall and every other pain killer to get these guys through the season. Does A-Rod get into hall after he becomes the "New" Home Run King? My bottom line is, you can never have a fair comparison between eras. You can only compare apples with apples when they come from the same tree.

  2. I couldn't agree more. A real baseball fan understands that statistics shouldn't really be compared agianst each other, and it's almost laughable to do so, park sizes, specialty pitchers, creatine, HGH, maple bats, mound heights, the introduction of international players...the list is endless. Bottom line, who were the most extraordinary players during their time? Bond's is a yes, Mcqwire is a yes, Sosa is a yes, and as mush as I can't stand Roger Clemens, he should be a yes too.

  3. I think the point of my post was missed. I've said numerous times (including within my Cooking the Books post) that it's difficult if not impossible to compare statistics from one generation to another for the myriad of reasons often mentioned (Coors Field, Mound lowering, DH, 5 man rotations, etc.). My point was that saying "...steroid guys have been held to a completely different standard than amphetamine guys. And…there's little reason for doing that..." is preposterous. There's great reason for doing so. Steroids altered the game to a much greater degree than amphetamines or any other change in the game of the last 100 years. Because of this, writers have every right to scrutinize over the merits of each player from this era and especially those known to be steroid users. Bonds gets in, McGwire probably gets in, and others get in. But to essentially say that amphetamines and steroids are equal? Give me a break.

  4. Steriods altered the game to a much geater degree than amphetamines or any other change in the game of the last 100 years........

    I cannot disagree more. Did it have a huge impact on the game? Of course!But the biggest change? I don't think so. The desegregation of the game had just has much, or more of a impact on the game as Steroids. The biggest change to the game of sports, not just baseball, is the Media!

  5. Great job gentleman! Really enjoy reading your posts, good info and interesting views on the game! So thanks for making my day at the office go by faster!

  6. SuckaFreeSince'83, I am really glad other people are enjoying this blog as well! As for the previous comment, I'll say this:

    I would have to respectfully disagree, suckafree.

    There is no doubt that desegregation of the game and the influx of international players are high on the list of major changes in baseball; however, I think the widespread use of steroids not only impacted the game but rather changed the WAY it was played altogether. When they finally allowed black men to play in the MLB, and international players as well (both for which much thanks is owed to Branch Rickey), they were adding very talented players to the pool, no doubt impacting the sport. But keep in mind they were adding in human beings, some of whom were more talented, stronger, and faster, true. But with steroids, the talent pool was altered by the inlet of super-human men. In Ruth's time, there was a guy or two who could put up high-40s+ home run seasons. In Hanks time, a couple -maybe a few. Between 1995 and and now, there were tens of them. All that I am trying to say is simply that when Robinson and Mays and others were awarded their rightful opportunity to play in the MLB, the game got better, more competitive, and changed because they added great men to the mix. But to me, that pales in comparison to steroids taking over. When Mays came in, he scared opposing pitchers (and runners rounding third), but when Bonds stepped into training camp in 2000, Superman pissed himself. I think there is a difference. (I kind of think we may be digressing from the original post which meant to shed light on the fact that roids and greenies are different)