I often say that I’ve lost my ability to really be shocked by anything anymore, but I must admit…I was surprised to hear about Ryan Braun’s positive drug test recently. I’m trying to reserve final judgement until the appeals process is complete, but I must say, Braun is not someone I would’ve necessarily pegged for PED use. I’ve also avoided discussing Braun because this is a blog on the Cleveland Indians. So many people are spouting their opinions on Braun right now, do you really even care what yet another random person thinks about the situation, especially when it has nothing to do with the Tribe?
On the other hand, every so often there is a revelation that is so unsurprising, you almost question whether or not the information was already public knowledge. For example – the news that former Indian John Rocker used steroids. Is this really just now coming out? I honestly thought he was busted on this years ago. It’s almost like when someone famous passes away and you think to yourself, “oops, I thought they died, like, 15 years ago.”
I think what’s most telling in that story about Rocker’s admission is the line, “Said Rocker: “Let’s be honest. Who wasn’t [using steroids]?”” I’m by no means a Rocker fan, but he has a point. For every player who has been exposed and publicly chastised for using PEDs, there are 10 more breathing a sigh of relief that their usage hasn’t become public (yet). People talk about the sluggers using steroids; people like Barry Bonds and Manny Ramirez. Until Roger Clemens was connected to PEDs, I think the discourse on the subject was relatively silent when it came to pitchers. It really makes you wonder – how many more unrevealed stars received pharmaceutical assistance with their on-field performance?
When the Indians traded for Rocker in 2001, I was pretty unhappy about it. Not just because he said dumb stuff and seemed to have anger issues, but because his stats were steadily declining each season. He had great 1998 and 1999 seasons in Atlanta and even a decent season in 2000; by 2001 his ERA was up, his save totals were down, and mentally he didn’t seem to have the edge he had during the 98-99 seasons. He was a hard thrower, who admitted that steroids likely added about 3-4 mph to his fastball.
I doubt Rocker’s admission will have much of an impact throughout baseball. He’s already been cast as one of Major League Baseball’s villains, much like Jose Canseco and Barry Bonds. A guilty verdict and a 50-game suspension for Braun is more likely to send ripples throughout the system. While superstar players, award winners, and even players with a “good guy” image have been busted so far, none were busted at virtually the same time they won the MVP award.
I think that as much as baseball likes to talk about the “steroid era” like it’s something in the past, it’s very much a problem in the present. Even as MLB approves more thorough testing, there will always be people willing to find the new, undetectable drug in an attempt to game the system.