Recently retired major league hurler Jeremy Affeldt penned an article for the Sports Illustrated spin-off “The Cauldron” earlier today enlightening baseball fans about the “5 Things He Won’t Miss About Being A Major Leaguer.” The well-written and extremely entertaining piece lists drugs testing as his number 2 forgettable pet peeve about the majors.
Affeldt begins the steroid digression acknowledging that he never partook in performance enhancing drugs during his career and that that Major League Baseball is 100 times cleaner now then it was when he broke in as a pro in 2002.
The numbing statistic for me from the article is Affeldt’s claim that 40% of the players 15 years ago were utilizing performance drugs to gain an edge versus the competition. Affeldt scribes in the article that “While I can’t say for sure how guys are still on something today, I do know that it’s a lot less than the roughly 40% of players I believe were cheating 15 years ago.”
So at any given time there are 750 players employed at the major league level, 30 teams carrying an active roster of 25 players. Now take 40% of 750 and you are left with 300 major league players juicing it only 15 years earlier. Rough estimate or not that is a crazy number, way more than the notorious scapegoats named Canseco, McGwire, Bonds, Clemens, Rodriguez and Sosa.
Canseco who was affectionately nicknamed “The Chemist” stated shortly after his retirement that “There would be no baseball left if they drug-tested everyone today.”
The MLB brain-trust who turned a blind-eye to the steroid epidemic has definitely back-peddled on their position and ramped up their fight against performance enhancing drugs in recent years.
However, Affeldt feels even in today’s game with the harsher penalties, players still won’t be deterred to try and gain a competitive edge. “As long as science keeps coming up with ways to avoid PED detection, some guys — no matter how harsh the penalties — are going to ignore the risks to their reputation, physical well-being and their bank accounts. They will always “improve” themselves by any means necessary.”
Regardless of the era, it appears Major League Baseball will never be able to repair an image tarnished by scandals and steroids. As long as life-altering money is involved, players will seek insurmountable odds to better themselves over the competition, even if that means cheating.