In December of 2007 the Mitchell Report rocked the baseball world from all angles. It attacked both the heart and the brain of the baseball fan, forcing us all to make decisions about the athletes we put ourselves on the line for while contemplating the future of America’s game.
It made Mitchell, that gutsy Senator with a vision of cleaning up a once sacred game, a hero and a villain all at the same time. Part of the baseball fan wanted to thank him for his services while another wished he had never released his research, so their perception of those godly athletes would have never been called into question. Let’s face it, we all knew that McGwire, Canseco, Sosa and Bonds were juicing, but it was more of a cultural phenomenon than a violation of code that we thought would subside once pockets were filled and records were broken. But the Mitchell Report linked steroids to players we could have never imagined. Andy Pettitte‘s longevity and playoff success immediately tainted, Rick Ankiel‘s improbable rise from the ashes as a broken reliever to a serviceable outfielder made laughable, and Eric Gagne‘s time sensitive reign as one of the best closers in baseball history deemed a product of performance enhancing drugs that were bought for him by Paul Lo Duca.
The Mitchell Report didn’t just give us closure that a slew of superstars were doping, it took dreams that were made into realities by the most ordinary of players and made them irrelevant events in an era of baseball that simply put, should have never happened. But what we thought it did well was end that era right there, by proving to the athletes that trainers and doctors would talk if pushed and threatened by the right people.
In the years since there have been significant relapses; the A-Roid scandal, Manny Ramirez‘s suspension in 2009, the Ryan Braun debacle that “proved” to be nothing after his MVP season, and so on. But as for its once limitless bulk at the forefront of the modern day game, the steroid craze has certainly fallen to the authorities of Major League Baseball and no longer has the numbers, or steam to define an era.
Yet today was the start of Round 2, and if you are part of a demographic that believed Round 1 never ended, than you don’t come close to understanding the magnitude of steroid usage prior to December 13, 2007. Tuesday morning, after a 3-month investigation, the Miami New Times released a 5400 article that exposed four MLB stars that received PEDs from an anti-aging clinic in Miami. The four names, Nelson Cruz, Alex Rodriguez, Gio Gonzalez and Melky Cabrera were all reported to have seen Anthony Bosch, a 49-year old specialist who was linked to Manny Ramirez’s 50-game suspension in 2009.
While four names hardly equate to the 85 names that appeared in specified groups in Mitchell’s report, it explicitly tells us one thing: steroids, in baseball, are not going anywhere.
I will concede that the days of starters who throw 98 with hitters who hit 70 home runs in a season are way behind us, but the reliance on PEDs, specifically for players coming off injury or in contract years, is alive and well. What is different is the culture of steroid usage, something that on a smaller scale, isn’t going to alter results as much as the purist fan would like. Before the Mitchell Report, players were receiving steroids in the training room, outwardly asking teammates with connections for orders and making little to no effort to mask their consumption that could be blatantly seen in their evolving physical makeup. It was illegal, but accepted, and would have remained accepted had Mitchell not pointed out that members of MLB organizations should not, ethically, supply players with substances that disobey the rules of the game.
Now, as shown by the report by the Miami New Times, players don’t rely on their trainers for PEDs and don’t experiment with illegal substances in the workplace. What they do do is find alternative ways to get better that are far less detectable by authorities of the game. For example, an “anti-aging clinic” in Miami, what’s wrong with that? Well nothing if a player, say Alex Rodriguez for the sake of making the point that he is everything that is wrong with baseball, is hitting the treadmill, lifting some weights and on a strict diet that will improve his heart rate. But once he starts taking steroids than the innocence of his rehabilitation process and sanctity of the clinic as a whole is immediately thrown out the window.
This is what we have come to. What was once covert usage to raise revenue at a dark time turned into a domestic obsession in a league that fell to “roid rage” far more than any of its doping athletes. Now we have moved into Round 2, where overt usage reigns supreme and comes out ever so often. It’s not worth getting your hopes up than letting yourself be crushed. If you haven’t already done so, meet steroids, accept them, hell, get to know them, cause they are here to stay.