GenXXL on ESPN Mag: In light of Sports Illustrated's report this week in which Ken Caminiti admits using steroids while an active player, The Magazine's Jeff Bradley revisited his groundbreaking 2000 story on steroids in baseball.
Online PR News – 25-November-2010 – – GenXXL on ESPN Mag: In light of Sports Illustrated's report this week in which Ken Caminiti admits using steroids while an active player, The Magazine's Jeff Bradley revisited his groundbreaking 2000 story on steroids in baseball.
I've been waiting for this day for over two years now. Ever since I spent the spring of 2000 trying to get a major league player -- past or present -- to admit he was a steroid user. Now, with Ken Caminiti's admission to Sports Illustrated that 'roids helped him win the 1996 NL MVP Award, I feel a "cycle" has been completed.
Now, maybe baseball and the Players Assocation can acknowlege that the integrity of the game has been tampered with. Two years ago, when we heard plenty of whispers from players and expert testimony from people in the business of Human Performance, MLB and the MLBPA tried to throw us off the path by saying it was "testing" Andro. Meanwhile, we knew this was way more potent than something you can buy at GNC.
GenXXL on ESPN Mag: Two years ago, I asked dozens of players, from the bulkiest home run hitters to the scrawniest banjo hitters, because my theory was this: Since Major League Baseball has no steroid testing, I have the right to suspect every single one of them is on the juice.
I'm not saying testing would be foolproof. Olympic athletes, for example, have mastered the art of masking drug tests so well by now, it follows that big leaguers who were users would certainly learn to do the same thing. But at least testing would provide some deterrent. Because now, with the money at stake, there's more pressure to take steroids than there is to not take them.
If you have any questions about that pressure, take a look at what I wrote back in 2000:
GenXXL on ESPN Mag: In his mind, all he needed was some steady at-bats. A 4-AB game here and there. Maybe the odd week with 15 or 20. But no way was he going to start driving the ball again if all he got was one chance against Dennis Eckersley on Tuesday and another against Rick Aguilera on Saturday. He had no choice in those late-game, pinch-hitting situations but to "feel for the ball," to try just to put it in play and hope he could roll one through in the infield for a single.
"I've become such an ugly hitter, it's embarrassing," my brother, Scott Bradley, would tell me during our daily phone conversations. "Punch and Judy." And then he'd say for the millionth time, "I just need some at-bats."
When they didn't come, he started hearing voices, people saying that he was a lightweight, that pitchers could just lay it over the plate because he couldn't hurt them. But like any ballplayer, he swore he'd prove those voices wrong. As the season passed him by, he started talking about what he was going to do in the winter to add some power. Maybe change the position of his hands. Maybe try to work a little more coil into his swing. Maybe he'd just start swinging the damned bat harder.
Then one day, he was approached by a former player who wanted to share some wisdom. Not looking my brother in the eye, this person said, "There are things available now that weren't available when I played. With all the money at stake in the game today, I know I'd be looking for any edge I could find. If I were playing today, I'd definitely be taking steroids."
I remember my brother scoffing. It was the early 1990s, and big-time muscle was just making its way into baseball. "Steroids? Yeah, right," he said. "Like I'm gonna watch my 'nads shrink into BBs. The game's not that important, dude. I'll lift harder. I'll change my diet. I'll get bigger."
And he did, but too late to change anyone's mind, because the at-bats never came. Soon he was trying to hang on in Triple- and Double-A. And not long after that he was done. By 1993, there wasn't much room left in the game for a 5'10", 185-pound contact-hitting catcher like Scott Bradley. He was lucky to break in when he did, in 1984, lucky to play almost nine years in the major leagues -- with the Yankees, White Sox, Mariners and Reds -- before the big boys took over the game.
GenXXL on ESPN Mag: As my brother's playing career was coming to an end (he's now the coach at Princeton), my career as a baseball writer was just beginning. I started covering the Yankees in 1992, right at the beginning of the Power Age, just about the time a guy who could hit eight to 10 bombs and drive in 80 was changing from a "nice plus" to an "offensive liability." It was also just about the time the players' snack of choice changed from a Snickers bar to a Pure Protein Bar. Just as their postgame beverage changed from a Budweiser to a MET-Rx shake.
In the past eight years, I've seen stadiums add state-of-the-art weight rooms. I've seen players build gyms in their homes that would put your local Bally's to shame. And I've seen the number of hard bodies in a clubhouse increase tenfold. There is no doubt that players are more conscious of their training and their diet.
But I've also seen some things that don't make sense. Guys who don't seem to be putting in the hours in the weight room getting absolutely huge in no time at all. Guys who hit for zero power in the minors suddenly putting up 20 or 30 jacks in the big leagues.
I want to believe it's all hard work. Or evolution. Or nutritional supplements. But I can't believe that's all there is to the power game. Not when players sit in the dugout during BP playing a guessing game called "Who's on 'roids?" Not when a pitcher gives a slugger a hug behind the cage, then comments about the guy's ever-expanding upper body, "Is that b.s. or what?" Not when my brother was told -- nearly a decade ago -- that 'roids were worth considering.
So, yeah, I'm suspicious. In fact, whenever I'm asked if I think the ball is juiced, my answer is: "I think some of the players are."
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