COMMENTARY | After all that has come out about baseball players using performance enhancing drugs over the last two decades, most baseball fans these days have a tendency to cast a suspicious eye at any player doing exceptionally well.
Former player, and current radio host, Jack Clark cast more than that this week when he straight-up accused Albert Pujols of using steroids. Pujols says he's going to take legal action against Clark and his employer. And even though Clark's "facts" seem a bit cloudy and dubious, there's a morsel of his story that seems to ring true -- just because we've been misled so many times by so many in the past.
There are some fans who may even want this to be true. Opponents' fans who "always knew" something was askew with Albert. St. Louis Cardinals' fans who feel jilted over Albert's departure. Los Angeles Angels' fans who feel jilted over Albert's arrival.
Albert finds himself a bit like Alex Rodriguez here in that he's kind of on his own with his current team saying all the right things, but probably having their own doubts. And, like A-Rod, Albert lacks the real support of his current team's fans -- who know him as the $240 million man who has disappointed them so thoroughly.
Fortunately for Albert, when Angels fans get disappointed they don't actually get angry -- they just go for a swim in their pools or stroll down to the beach or go shopping.
Conversely, if Albert had stayed in St. Louis, the fans would have formed a human shield around him as they plotted the lynching of Jack Clark. The San Francisco Giants' fans had this down to a science -- defend Barry Bonds at all costs. These were the same fans who lustily booed Ryan Braun when he visited San Francisco after his first steroid accusations.
Jack Clark accusations stem from his recollections of a random conversation with someone 12 years ago now being presented as "facts." And now Albert wants protect his name and the names of other innocent victims of media hyperbole.
Look, we've all been guilty of seeing a player put up numbers and wonder, "Is he juicing?" Jose Bautista a couple years ago and Chris Davis this year come to mind. With both of those players, their increased production can also be clearly attributed to adjustments at the plate. But, again, baseball fans tend to think "Didn't Sammy Sosa say something like that?"
Even if the thought crosses one's mind, it is entirely a different thing to go out on a radio show and announce it to the world. This being Clark's first week on the job, it does "feel" like it's a publicity stunt.
Most of my friends who follow the game don't care and consider steroid allegations more annoying than of any real interest. One of the primary benefits of PEDs is they can speed recovery from injuries. Well, that doesn't sound much like cheating to me.
When players wear casts to help their bones heal -- that's not cheating. When a player gets a new ligament installed in his elbow, we celebrate another successful Tommy John surgery - that's not cheating.
I kind of like the idea of the absolute best players in the world recovering quickly from injuries and returning to the field. The more I see of Matt Kemp and Jacoby Ellsbury and the less I see of Scott Hairston and Brent Lillibridge, the better.
"But what about the children?" proclaims some politician who wants you to think he cares about children but is really just trying to garner a few more votes in the next election because he was the guy who cared about the children.
In Texas, legislation was introduced a few years ago to test high school athletes for PED use. For a mere $3 million a year, they were able to do 50,000 random drug tests which came back with 21 (yes, 21 out of 50,000) positive results. Just a reminder: $3 million a year. However, for the politicians who got to grandstand, it was worth every penny -- to them.
And with all this uproar about the morality and the dangers (and the children!), there are plenty of "non-suspended" players in the league who have been arrested for drunk driving. Drunk drivers are also very hazardous to the health of children -- well, the children that aren't quick.
There is a lot of money at stake in professional sports. The players are going to keep trying to get an edge over the competition with exercise, diets, supplements -- anything and everything. If chewing on tire rubber or drinking Peruvian yak pee will make someone stronger or faster, players will try it.
Amphetamines (and a slew of other stimulants) were recently added to the list of banned substances. And then, coincidentally, players suddenly had a significant spike in medical "exemptions" for treatment of their Attention Deficit Disorders -- the "treatment" for which is Ritalin and Adderall. Both of these are stimulants.
It is in everyone's competitive nature to look for loopholes or shortcuts to help them win and, conversely, to try to eliminate loopholes and shortcuts that others are exploiting.
Jack Clark has radio show and more people know that now because of his accusations against Albert Pujols. Looks like he found himself his own shortcut.
Jed Rigney is a Los Angeles-based award-winning filmmaker who also fancies himself a baseball writer. He is the lead humor columnist at Through The Fence Baseball. You can follow him on Twitter @JedRigney.
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