Baseball was a lot simpler before performance enhancing drugs. Or rather, baseball was simpler before we started to learn just how many players were using performance enhancers.
Now we’re stuck trying to figure out who was using and who wasn’t. We’re arguing over who belongs in Cooperstown and who doesn’t, who should keep his record and who should get an asterisk.
Fortunately, Rick Reilly is here to make life easier for us. He’s got a new column up where he imagines taking MVP awards away from guys who were on steroids and giving them to the “clean” guys who came in second.
Reilly proposes stripping Ken Caminiti of his 1996 MVP and giving it to Mike Piazza. He wants to take away Barry Bonds’ 2002 MVP and give it to Luis Gonzalez. And he wants to give a whole bunch of Bonds’ trophies to Albert Pujols.
Now, it’s possible that none of Piazza, Gonzalez or Pujols were on steroids. But it’s not likely.
Mike Piazza averaged 34.6 HRs a season between 1993 and 2002, but in 2003 he showed up to camps several pounds lighter, which he attributed to a new diet and workout routine. That season he hit 11 home runs.
Luis Gonzalez hit more than 31 home runs once in his career, when in 2001 he hit 57.
Pujols…I’ve got nothing on Prince Albert. He looks clean. But you know what? So did A-Rod until a few days ago. So did Jason Grimsley and Andy Petitte and Ryan Franklin. The point is that we don’t know if Gonzalez or Piazza were using. We don’t know if anybody who played during the steroid era was using, unless they failed a test or confessed.
“If Bud Selig can talk about giving Barry Bonds’ phony-as-tofurkey home run record back to Hank Aaron, why can’t we right all the wrongs of the Syringe Binge?” Reilly asks.
I’ll tell you why. Because while it’s easy to take trophies away, it’s a lot harder to figure out who really deserves them.
More than 100 guys tested positive for steroid use in 2003 when they knew they were being tested. Who were they? And how many players were using in 2002 before testing started?
Performance enhancing drugs made things a lot more complicated. It’s going to take more than the wit and wisdom of Rick Reilly to sort this out.