The 'Roid to Ruin

August 20, 2000

It's not the balls. It's not the parks. It's not the pitchers.
It's not the bats. It's not the mud. It's the players.

You want juiced? The players are juiced. Steroids. Nukes.
Testosterone cocktails.

Mike Arndt, the strength coach of the Texas Rangers, says that
"15 to 22 percent" of major leaguers are on "illegal
substances." Brad Andress, strength coach of the Colorado
Rockies, told The Denver Post that it's more like "30 percent"
and that inquiries he gets from players about steroids increase
every year. Charles Yesalis, an epidemiologist at Penn State and
author of the book Anabolic Steroids in Sport and Exercise,
believes "three to eight" players per big league team are on
steroids. A longtime National League shortstop says it's "at
least seven or eight...and don't rule out pitchers."

Hello? Have you looked at these guys lately? More and more, a
major league clubhouse looks like backstage at Monday Night
Nitro. Ted Williams hit 521 home runs at 6'3" and not much more
than 180 pounds. Williams would look like Poindexter the Stickboy
in a clubhouse today. This isn't baseball. This is
my-test-tube-can-beat-up-your-test-tube.

"There's enough anecdotal evidence," says Sandy Alderson,
executive vice president for baseball operations in the
commissioner's office, "that we ought to start looking into this.
You start by not ignoring the problem anymore."

It's not just in the majors, either. Arndt thinks that 20% to 25%
of the players in the minor leagues use steroids. First baseman
Kit Pellow of the Omaha Golden Spikes, the Kansas City Royals'
Triple A affiliate, says, "I've seen a lot of guys do it right in
front of me. Right in the hotel room. A guy will get out his
needle and stick it right in his butt. They don't care if I see.
There's no testing in this sport."

The NFL tests. The NCAA tests. The IOC tests. Baseball doesn't
have the brains or the guts to test.

Have you looked at the DL lately? The average number of players
who spend time on the disabled list has increased by 31.4%
between 1989 and 1998. Rockies manager Buddy Bell said recently,
"I don't think I can name a guy who is a steroid user who has not
broken down." How much does that cost each team?

On June 30, Boston police found steroids and syringes in a car
owned by Red Sox shortstop Manny Alexander and driven by a team
batboy. You figure the batboy was using, or Alexander?
Considering that home runs among pitchers, second basemen and
shortstops combined have doubled, from 420 in 1989 to 833 in
1999, I'm betting my last petri dish on Alexander.

It's a dog-inject-dog world out there. "A big, big year means a
big, big contract," says Kevin Towers, general manager of the San
Diego Padres. So when a clean player and his all-natural 20 home
runs collide in the free-agent market with a user and his
blown-up 40, guess who loses. "I tell 'em leave it alone, but
they don't always listen," Rockies hitting instructor Clint
Hurdle says of users. "It's a fast-food world. They want the big
money right now."

For once, the owners aren't the fools. The players are. Sure,
Alderson wants to start testing minor leaguers--"That way we could
at least get a sense of the magnitude of the problem," he
says--but what good is it if a minor league nuker can start again
as soon as he hits the bigs, in which, according to the
collective bargaining agreement, the players' association has to
approve testing before it can begin? Until the players take that
step, nothing will change.

"If the association decides that steroids alter the playing
field," says union suit Gene Orza, "or that there's a health and
safety hazard--then we reserve the right to vote for testing. But
there's been no hard evidence of that."

Alter the playing field? Steriods are altering history! Hall of
Fame greats such as Carl Yastrzemski will soon be passed on the
home run list by puffed-up one-trick freaks who couldn't have
scrubbed their jocks. Health hazard? Doctors believe the risks of
steroids include heart disease, stroke, liver tumors, depression,
'roid rage and testicular atrophy. Guarantee you that Old-Timers'
games are not going to be near as much fun. "I don't know what
it's going to take to get them to realize it's time to start
testing," says Towers. "Maybe once a life is lost."

Pellow of the Golden Spikes isn't going to let it be his. "I've
had teammates start using and get called up," says Pellow, with
his baby girl on his lap, "but I don't think it's worth it. Is a
million dollars now worth dying at 40?"

COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA

Juiced? More and more, a major league clubhouse looks like
backstage at Monday Night Nitro.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)