Friday, August 14, 2009

I Took What!?!? Part Two

Bronson Arroyo knows what he took. He's one of the few to admit it. Arroyo said that he took andostenedione, despite the rumors that it had been tainted with steroids, leading up to the 2003 tests. "I took androstenedione the same way I took my multivitamins. I didn't really know if this was a genius move by Mark McGwire to cover up the real [stuff] he was taking, but it made me feel unbelievable. I felt like a monster." He also admitted to taking amphetamines before they were banned by the MLB. If amphetamines had not been banned, Arroyo has said that he would still be taking them.

Arroyo lives dangerously. He's decided to continue taking over-the-counter supplements that are currently left off of Major League Baseball's approved supplements list. This comes after his statement that he wouldn't be surprised if his name turned up on the list of 104 players who tested positive for performance enhancing drugs in 2003; a statement he made shortly after two of his former teammates in Boston- David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez- were revealed to be on that dreaded list.



So why does he continue to take these supplements? "I haven't failed any tests, so I figured I'm good." He revealed that he takes 10 to 12 supplements a day (not sure how many are or are not on the approved supplements list) and on days he pitches, he says that he takes an additional four supplements. The MLB makes it easy for players. They've created a sort of 'Supplements Bible' for players to take home and live by. There's no telling how many other players continue to take supplements not on the MLB's approved list, but Arroyo claims, "I have a lot of guys in [the locker room] who think I'm out of [my] mind because I'm taking a lot of things not on the list." I guess most of the Reds aren't as daring as their fearless pitcher.

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Pointing out what some may consider hypocrisy on many fans' behalf, Arroyo said, "You were happy if the Red Sox won 95 games. You'd go home, have a cookout with your family. No big deal."

Bill Simmons, in a column published by ESPN.com, touched on this subject in perhaps the best examination of the psychology of today's baseball fan, who must take into account steroid use, tainted records, tainted championships and the legacy of their favorite players. Simmons wonders if Cubs fans are happy to have dodged an "asterisk title" thanks to the infamous Steve Bartman incident in the 2003 NLCS.

"Nope," he concludes, "They remain devastated. So crushing losses can't be de-tainted, but tremendous victories can still be tainted. Confusing, right? That's why I don't believe in asterisks. The Cubs…fans would have switched places with the '04 or '07 Red Sox in a heartbeat."

Pretty heavy stuff, huh? My guess is that Simmons is right, and that fans in Chicago would take a Cubs victory even if it meant that half of the 2003 team would eventually turn up on the government's list. At least the curse would be over. Just ask a Red Sox fan. After they finish denying or dodging any questions regarding the legitimacy of their '04 and '07 World Championships, they'll tell you that they'd prefer a tainted championship over none at all. Boston's curse is finally over and has been for five years, legitimately or otherwise.

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To some fans, taking PEDs was just fine so long as their favorite players weren't caught. They'll take those shiny trophies. They'll take those bragging rights. They'll take the elation the fan feels when their team rushes the infield after winning the big one. They just won't stand for what may have played a role in getting the team that far in the first place.

I am maintaining the stance that I took in the first part of the 'I Took What!?!?' series: "I'm not so sure that the PEDs [Ortiz and Ramirez] had ingested singlehandedly propelled the Red Sox to the World Series. It probably made them better players and, as a result, made the team better, but to give all the credit to PEDs would be absurd. That would be ignoring the contributions that Josh Beckett, Dustin Pedroia, Mike Lowell and others made in the 2007 season. Or the role of Curt Schilling and others in 2004. And you have to wonder which of Boston's opponents were 'powered' by steroids as they moved through the playoffs. And you have to wonder how many pitchers Ortiz and Ramirez faced on the way to the World Series whose stuff was a little better thanks to PEDs. So did PEDs play a role in the output of Ramirez and Ortiz? Probably. But I'd be extremely hesitant to admit that it was the sole reason they won two World Series titles in four years."

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While Arroyo is content to live out the rest of his career on the edge, others will struggle to overcome accusations and positive tests, while others will fight back against suspicion. The steroid era will forever live under a black cloud left courtesy of uber-competition, mega contracts and out of this world endorsement deals. Players probably felt that they were only following suit by taking PEDs; that they were keeping up with their competition and, by taking steroids, they were getting better so that their team would win. Simmons asks fans what they would have done in the same situation. Who among us can sit high on a cloud of judgment and really bash these players for using PEDs when most people would have probably done the same thing? Everybody was doing it. It's unlikely that protecting the sanctity of the game was at the forefront of any player's mind.

But they had to know it was wrong. We, the judgmental public, know it was wrong. Players cannot be handed a free pass because everybody was doing it. You wouldn't let your husband or boyfriend streak through the Quad because "Everybody's doing it!" The criticism is a good thing. It shows that baseball is changing for the better. Today's players will be less likely than ever to experiment with new supplements to gain a competitive edge.

Oh wait, at least one might. Is it wrong of Arroyo to take supplements that are not on the approved list as long as he continues to test clean? Or is it just stupid? I'm going with stupid. Until he tests positive. Then it's wrong, right?

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Simmons goes on to speculate about the cloud of doubt that will surround players like Albert Pujols despite having passed every test thrown his way and carrying "himself with dignity even as fans whispered about him and reporters peppered him with PED questions."

So what can Pujols, Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder and other players do to eliminate any and all doubt? Simmons has a suggestion: "…I would hold a news conference every night, pee into a cup in front of reporters, then hand the sample to a drug-testing lab technician with a big smile on my face." Absurd, right?

Written By Danny Hobrock