Cheaters Never Prosper (except when they do)

Et tú, Melky?

In 2005, I fell out of love with baseball.  That was the year that Rafael Palmeiro tested positive for anabolic steroids after swearing – under oath – that he never used them.

I was probably more betrayed by the lying, than by whatever it is he actually did or took.   And, so I began a complete baseball boycott that lasted five seasons.

Here’s what Palmeiro said to Congress – under oath — in March 2005:

“Let me start by telling you this: I have never used steroids, period. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never.”

Five months later, Palmeiro was suspended for failing a drug test.

ESPN: Palmeiro Docked 10 Days For Steroids

And, so I fell out of love with baseball.  Not because Rafael Palmeiro was my favorite player.  He wasn’t, although I loved him as an Oriole.  Still, I was angry enough to quit baseball.

I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than this … I’m quite conflicted over performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).

Here’s the Yogic view.  Yoga includes the Yamas and Niyamas, limbs governing personal behavior and lifestyle.   One of the rules is Purity – often defined as not abusing the body with unhealthy food, drugs, or activities.  Clearly, Purity is at risk when you’re taking PEDs.  Another rule is Truthfulness.

From a Yogic perspective, PEDs destroy the body (and we already know that the body can be severely and permanently damaged by the use of many of these drugs).   Lying about it just compounds things.

Even Stevie, my cat, knows about my own Performance Enhancing Drug — my daily Diet Mountain Dew habit.

OK, full disclosure from me.  I use PEDs.   I’m using right now.  I have caffeine every day, even though I know it’s not good for my body.   Is it a PED?  You bet it is.  It makes me a better massage therapist and a better Yoga instructor.  It ensures that I can teach a Yoga class late in the evening and still be “on” and bright-eyed.

Maybe it’s just a mild stimulant.  But, it’s still a stimulant.  It’s a drug.  I use it.  And, I’m not the only one.  So, you see how quickly this issue can become complicated.

Many of us are guilty of using something that “enhances” our work or our play.  Maybe there are some in baseball who see their PEDs as simply their version of caffeine.

The difference is that in baseball – and other sports – the use of these drugs is forbidden.

And, some people get caught.

The more I read, the more people whisper, the more I hear that everyone in baseball is doing it; only the unlucky few get caught.

I guess I would argue that, if it is going to be banned, then Major League Baseball has a responsibility to work a little harder to find and punish as many “cheaters” as possible.

And, why are some of these drugs banned when others like cortisone – also a steroid – are not only approved, but, from my perspective, downright abused by pro sports?

My husband argues that PEDs skew baseball records – and part of what makes baseball so special is its love for tradition and statistics.  But, even before PEDs, there were amphetamines and who knows what kind of snake oil they were using before that. If Roger Maris deserved an asterisk on his homerun season (an asterisk that actually never existed), then shouldn’t those who broke records under the cloud of steroids?  (Although, to be fair, none of them actually tested positive for anything.  So, who’s to know?)

And, what about spitballs, pine tar, phantom tags, and myriad other forms of cheating?

(By the way, the Giants’ Melky Cabrera could even still win the NL batting title this year, despite his suspension this month.  I like the Giants and all, but still, that seems a bit unfair.)

I don’t like steroids.  I don’t like cheaters.  And, I don’t like liars.

I’m just trying to figure out why Melky Cabrera — or anyone — would risk it.  Maybe I need to look at it from another perspective.

When ballplayers hit .300 they’re considered superstars.  (My husband and I joke that the Orioles are unaware that batting averages are allowed to go that high.)

But, think about it, these guys who are batting .300 are “out” two out of three at bats.   And, they’re the BEST in the game.  In their world, taking a chance on a PED, knowing that you might — might — get caught, but probably won’t, is way better odds than their regular day at the plate.

The rewards far outweigh the risks.

Last night on ESPN, Orel Hershiser argued that until MLB takes the PED situation seriously – by making the penalty severe enough that a player would be foolish to risk it – then the problem will continue.

Major League Baseball will continue to nab the unfortunate few careless or unlucky enough to get caught and everyone else will breathe a sigh of relief that it wasn’t them … and go back to what they were doing.

So, are we fans angry because they used drugs?   Or, because they got caught?

Are Giants’ and A’s fans angry because Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon used drugs or because they got caught leaving their pennant-chasing teams in the lurch?   (On the other hand, are Dodgers’ and Angels’ fans secretly gleeful?)

Are we sitting smug and self-righteous, secretly happy to see a rich superstar have a run of bad luck?  Or, are we hypocrites because we cut corners in our own lives, maybe even cheat from time to time, and take our own forms of performance enhancing drugs?

So, here I sit, my Diet Mountain Dew – my own PED — right next to me, trying to make sense of it all.  And, all I come back to is this.  I don’t know how to feel.  Betrayed?  Angry?  Or, just resigned to the fact that as long as a game offers such enormous rewards, it will be worth the risk for a player to be all he, or she, can be.

I just don’t know.

76 thoughts on “Cheaters Never Prosper (except when they do)

  1. I would imagine for these sports figures, the concept is very similar to the idea behind the correlation of recidivism in convicts and the enforcement of the death penalty (or other such harsh punishments.) It’s not so much of a deterrent because these people perceive their chances of getting caught as very slim, and their chances of actually standing trial and being convicted (or whatever the counterpart is in the sports arena), as even SLIMMER.

    • Yes, I totally agree! Until major league baseball, and other sports, take their PED rules seriously and enforce them strictly, it’s no suprise that so many players will risk it. I almost wonder how careless and foolish these few players are who ultimately get caught — since the problem is said to be so widespread. Even though Melky Cabrera got caught his punishment is to miss 50 games — that’s not much in a long 162-game season. Especially when the chances of getting caught are so tiny to begin with. Thank you for taking the time to comment!

  2. I am aBraves fan and I knew right off the bat Melky was on drugs. The guy totally sucked with us and was pretty much regulated to a mop up type player. He showed up 30 pounds lighter to spring training, and never hit for AVG prior to the drugs. The reason these guys assume the risk is prob for the money, baseball has huge signing bonuses that belong to the player no matter what. Baseball is one of the few sports wher ethe player, if they ink a big deal, still get paid even if they become dead weight. The Braves had a Kenshin Kawikme pitching in dbl A Gwinett making 6.5 million…crazy;)

    • Well said! You are right, forgiveness is positive energy, anger and disappointment is not. I need to remember that; I guess we all do! Thank you for posting and for your positive message. And, thanks for the shout-out to Stevie the Cat! She showed up last fall, all hungry and wild. Now, she’s filled out and is a very special Princess of the house.

  3. A stimulant like caffeine (i.e. Diet Mtn Dew) is a mass produced, mass propagandized staple of an American, if not global, diet. This doesn’t make it any less problematic to the whole question of illicit approaches to extending your physical abilities. But, drinking caffiene loaded beverages alone will not increase your ability to greet a 100 mph baseball, and pull it around, sending it 400+ yards in the blink of an eye. You need anabolic steroids and/or growth hormone creams to enable expedited hypertrophy and physics defying fast-twitch muscle response.

    You said that you are a massage therapist. Let’s say on average you help about 20 client per week at a cost of $50. (I’m just spitballing here, MLB pun intended) That’s $1000 per week, pre-tax.

    A-Rod for example makes roughly $200,000 per game, which comes out to about $50,000 per at bat whether he wiffs it or pulls one out of the park. That means some of these high-priced players make more each time they go up to bat than most folks make in one entire year! This goes to the pay vs. penalty argument.

    There are, of course, other ‘creative’ avenues of approach to getting an edge, including diuretics, peptide hormones, beta blockers and the relatively ‘natural’ blood doping, all dependent on your sport though.

    In my estimation, what it gets down to is integrity. Weighing benefit (paycheck) over risk (from a paltry slap on the hand to some temporal banning to possible loss of awards) is not what an athlete with integrity should be wondering. Use of known illicit or illegal or non-sanctioned ‘stuff’ to gain competitive advantage should never enter the mind.

    If this is the normative presupposition, then we as humans haven’t moved very much along on the ladder of humanistic progression, and in some ways we seem to be slipping backwards. And, I know I’m gonna take flac from this, but, we the fans are part to blame. We create a demand for a bloodier, faster, more extreme, more eye-pooping, jaw-dropping, jump-out-of-your-seat-screaming event of the season/year/decade by our favorite iconic heroes. And advertising and big business jump on the gravy train all the way to their respective banks.

    I too have sworn off pro baseball, and football, but decades ago for the more ‘pure’ play of college ball. Then I swore off those many years ago, once they got whored out, too. I remember having a conversation with a friend about how i recently enjoyed watching the pure joy of youngsters, boys and girls, running around a soccer field after the ball like moths are drawn to the light (actually the darkness behind it, but that’s for another blog). No hardcore strategy, jockeying for position, blood curdling screams from the sidelines, no dirty tricks or cheap shots. Just play for the love and fun of the sport.

    But I digress…

    • You’ll get no flack from me. I agree … we fans do demand a more exciting game. Oh how we love home runs! I think we want things bigger, faster, stronger … and maybe the players and the league are just giving us more of what we want. Baseball has jiggered the ball itself, the height of the pitcher’s mound and other things to tweak the game. Outfield walls are pulled in or moved around to facilitate a faster game and to play on a team’s strengths.

      Yes, it’s so much more joyful when it is just a “game” and not a job. That’s why I posted the unassisted triple play video of the little 6-year-old ballplayer. It’s one of the best — and rarest — plays in baseball. And, here’s a little kid just enjoying every moment of the play. Sigh. Thank you for taking the time to write out your thoughts … it gives me more to think on as well.

      • Salud,

        Just a follow-up on my previous digression…

        I had a conversation with a fellow associate, in one of my vocations, on the concepts of integrity in sports, or any athletic endeavor, and then on that of inspiration. We shared beliefs on both integrity and inspiration, which essentially go hand in hand. After all, aren’t we all enamored and inspired by athletes whose integrity is above reproach? So, this good friend of mine then exposed me to a Team Hoyt YouTube video.

        Mere vowels and syllables cannot begin to describe what I found. So to that end, I won’t attempt to impress upon you my experience with the shabby clothing of words. You really need to see it for yourselves. Please Google Team Hoyt YouTube videos. What a truly beautiful and awe-inspiring visual story.

        With an overflowing mix of emotions from personal shame for times when I felt sorry for myself, to overwhelmingly inspired pride and love, tempered with a feeling of being the blessed recipient of the gift of a glimpse at the divine that is Team Hoyt, I balled my eyes out. A fellow Massachusetts citizen who did not accept his doctors’ recommendations to institutionalize his cerebral palsic son, this one man defines, nay, exemplifies, love and devotion as a father, husband and absolutely beautiful human being.

        They are one of many of the inspirations in my life to saying “Yes I can” just one more time, and continue my personal vision quest to heal this world, one sentient being at a time. And the rewards, for those who haven’t figured it out yet, go light years beyond the finite earnings of a professional athlete. Enjoy.

        Thank you for your time.

        Absolute Peace to all of you.

    • Thank you for your kind words … before Sunday, my husband was the only person who read my posts here. It’s been an interesting adventure to see other people comment on a post that I didn’t expect anyone else to ever see. Sometimes it’s nice just to get a little pat on the back … so thank you!

  4. I quit baseball even before the PED’s, they ruined the game years ago for me with whiney dudes bitching about more money when they are playing a game!

    • I gave it up for 5 seasons. But, I came back. I missed the game. I try to not get wrapped up too tight in the negatives that big salaries, big egos, and big ownership bring to the game. It’s not easy being a fan these days.

    • I don’t think that’s a can of worms at all … I think you’re right, some things are valuable when used in certain ways. I have a massage client with post-polio syndrome. She takes many of the exact same drugs that ballplayers use (the ones deemed illegal and some that are allowed). Her quality of life and comfort level is vastly improved thanks to them. Testosterone which is the hormone that Melky was found to have taken is also used in the treatment of MS and other muscle-wasting diseases, including (ironically) ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease. Thank you for bringing this point up!

  5. I can’t believe people really destroy their bodies with that junk. I’m glad that recent issues have been turned into a suspension.

    I was wondering if you could check out my blog. Come and see a kid’s view on all things baseball. Feel free to offer any advice and to pass it along.


  6. I am in the UK and we dont really have baseball here. I don’t really watch a lot of sport as it does not interest me but you can not get away from the footballers here. Both them and their wives are in the newspapers every day for various things, usually nothing to do with football.

    I think part of it is the stupid inflated wages and the way the public idolises the players. If they miss a few goals they are slagged off by the public. They are elevated to god-like level by the fans and its a long way down when they mess up. i would imagine its a competitive environment too, alway some someone younger, keener and more energetic waiting to take your place.

    What worries me lately is how their lifestyle and attitides filter down to the public and shape our young peoples attitudes. Over the last few years premiership players have been reported getting up to some very shady stuff, most sexual. Then the wives forgive (they have the good lifestyle too) the stripper etc makes money from selling story to the papers and the player is idolised even more by the men. Sleeping with a footballer is seen as an easy way to fame and fortune and there are young ladies who make a career out of it, and plenty of young men now think its is ok to abuse a womans for their own needs. I think its such a shame as feminism and female equality seems to be going backwards sometimes. I know its not all footballers but still …

    I worry about my Daughter growing up with peers who judge your value on how pretty you are etc. I went a bit off topic sorry. I think if you are caught cheating you should be banned from playing that sport professionaly forever. There are plenty more wannabe players out there to take their place, and you never know, they may actually play for the love of the game and country, not for the money and the women.

  7. I can really relate to this. As a man that grew up in southern California I had the Dodgers and Angels to cheer for. I the mid 1990’s when the strike happened I lost any compassion for the unfair treatment of multi millionaire ballplayers that was screamed about. It was ridiculous. Its never been the same for me since. These men are so lucky to be playing at the major league level.

    As a coach for my son’s team this is this only thing that I really enjoy about baseball now. These kids love to play. They enjoy everything about the game. That’s whats baseball is all about.

    I completely forgot about that idiot, Rafael Palmeiro until you wrote about him. These men that lied to the world will all be forgotten shortly.

    Great article. I’ll check back in.


    • Thanks for taking the time to comment! It’s so hard being a fan … which is why I walked away for 5 seasons. But, I missed the joy of the game, so I try to block out the rotten — the greed, the cheating, the egos — to focus on what is special to me. Like how will I ever tell the difference between a 2-seam and a 4-seam fastball? I won’t let any cheaters or egos take that away from me. But, you’re right … kids get to enjoy the true spirit of a wonderful game. I’m glad you get to share that with your son. (I posted the video of the unassisted triple play from a 6-year-old on my page … only because it was wonderful, and sweet, and reminds me about what’s so very right about this game.) I think it is the lying by Rafael Palmeiro that was the biggest betrayal for me; at least Melky Cabrera owned up when he got caught. If someone apologizes (even if it’s just for “show”), I’ll give him a little credit. Thanks again for your thoughts!

  8. Pingback: I Never Meant To Cause A Fuss « Baseball, Yoga, Life … (and me)

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