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I do not often agree with Charlie Pierce, but he is right on the money here:
However, this is the most interesting part of the piece.
“When I came to the big leagues in 1970 with the Big Red Machine, the trainer told me, ‘You need to take these vitamins,’ ’’ Carbo said.
OK, can we all stop talking about steroids now?
Seriously, illegal amphetamines were being handed out by untrained team staff, without the faintest notion of informed consent, to rookies on behalf of the clubs themselves. Major-league baseball was pushing speed, and lying to the people to whom it was pushing it. This is precisely the way the dealers in the early years got the crack epidemic up and running. No wonder Carbo got hooked.
(And don’t even start with the argument about what “performance-enhancing” really means. Giving you speed while telling you that it was vitamin pills, and doing so clearly in the hope of making you play better, means that the trainer — and through him, the club — is trying to enhance your performance. Period. Unless words mean nothing at all, the debate is all useless semantics, except that I suspect more of the guys who juiced in the 1990′s benefitted from better medical advice than did the guys in the 1970′s who were gobbling speed like it was Jujubes.)
What do we do now? Take these guys out of the Hall of Fame? Obliterate them from the record books? Show up at Old Timer’s Days and boo them? (“AND WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN???????????”) Treat, say, Mike Schmidt like Barry Bonds? These guys all took illegal drugs and did so to play better. Unless you define your morality by what sounds best during your spot on Around The Horn, there is no moral difference in the two cases worthy of discussion.
Hank Aaron admitted to trying greenies once, and I think it is fair to say that a large chunk of players were using them in the middle to late stages of the 20th century. As I have noted before, cheating and inequity have long been a part of the game, as well as sports in general. It is always necessary to judge players by the context within which they acted. Babe Ruth played in the age of segregation and did not have to face some of the better athletes of his day. Hank Aaron played in an era where taking greenies were the norm. We cannot look at their accomplishments with reverence while dismissing certain issues as products of their era without doing the same with the players of the steroid era. Ignoring things like greenies because they interfere with our romanticized version of the past while making villains of current players for making a similar moral choice is simply unfair.
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