Skip to content

Must-click link: a career minor leaguer talks about the PED pressure felt by the non-superstars

Feb 26, 2013, 2:06 PM EDT

syringe

While most of you like to call me a steroids apologist, the fact of the matter is that I am not pro-steroids. I am anti-hysteria and distortion. I am also against a baseball writing community that overwhelmingly thinks that the most worrisome and therefore most newsworthy aspect of PEDs in baseball is what it means for the record books and the Hall of Fame when there are far more important implications of PED use.

If you don’t believe me, allow me to quote myself from April 2007 — the very month I began blogging about baseball on a regular basis. It was around that time — months before the Mitchell Report came out — that Kirk Radomski was making news and the names of some marginal players to whom he dealt were coming out.  I opined then that, once we know more about PEDs in baseball, we’ll see that it’s likely a bigger problem among those marginal players — the guys trying to crack the bigs or hang on; the 26th man in the organization who feels he need that extra oomph — than it is among superstars:

I don’t say this in an effort to minimize the steroid problem. Indeed, minor leaguers and players who aren’t superstars constitute the vast majority of professional ballplayers. If my theory holds, the problem could be far greater than that which is portrayed by sportswriters who like to caricature only the most prolific sluggers as juicers. If I’m right, our concern over records and the Hall of Fame would seem pretty petty in comparison to the scores of regular Joes who are ruining their health as they walk the line between a lifetime of comfort and a job at a warehouse. Players that the steroid moralizers in the media almost uniformly ignore.

Now, I got a few things wrong back then, of course. I probably underestimated the number of superstars who used PEDs and I hilariously lumped Alex Rodriguez in with the non-users because that’s the best information anyone had back then. But I think the dynamic still holds: it’s a way, way bigger moral problem for a marginal player to feel like he has no choice but to take steroids than it is  for an already great baseball player to feel like he should take steroids to break some records.

This doesn’t mean that the superstars aren’t cheaters if they take PEDs and it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be held to account. What I’m getting at is that, in the great baseball conversation about PEDs, we should not care nearly as much as we do about records and legacies and we should care far more about what PEDs are doing down at the lower levels of baseball.  We should spill way less ink about who we think “the real Home Run King” is — as if that matters — and think way harder about those frequent minor league suspensions and what they mean to the people who are faced with the choice to take dangerous drugs or wind up out of baseball.

Against that backdrop is this excellent column from Eric Knott. Knott pitched 11 years in the minors and 24 games in the majors. He is the quintessential borderline guy who, if he had an extra couple of miles per hour on his heater, may have stuck.  But he didn’t get those miles per hour, and he didn’t try PEDs in an effort to do so.

Knott gives a fascinating, clear-eyed and detailed rundown of the environment in baseball during the height of the Steroid Era, as well as what factored into his decisions about whether to use.

It’s an absolute must-read. There’s more useful information in this piece than anything that can be found in the Mitchell Report or the latest bombastic anti-PEDs screen from Johnny Sportswriter.

Latest Posts
  1. Mike Trout was unreal last night

    Jun 30, 2015, 9:25 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 8.35.42 AM

    And Chris Young was not too pleased about it.

  2. Video: The shocking truth behind the Royals All-Star voting success

    Jun 30, 2015, 8:51 AM EDT

    royals logo Getty Images

    It goes far, far deeper than you ever could’ve imagined.

  3. CC Sabathia looks like a reliever

    Jun 30, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT

    sabathia getty Getty Images

    One he gets past 45 pitches he turns every opposing hitter into Lou Gehrig.

  4. And That Happened: Monday’s scores and highlights

    Jun 30, 2015, 7:32 AM EDT

    Mike Trout Getty Images

    Mike Trout put on a clinic against the Yankees last night.

  5. Video: Run scores after Ronald Belisario throws a wild pitch on an intentional walk

    Jun 30, 2015, 12:23 AM EDT

    belisario

    We often take intentional walks for granted. Four tosses to the catcher. How hard can it be? Pretty hard, at least sometimes.

  6. Billy Hamilton steals four bases against the Twins, now up to 40 stolen bases on the year

    Jun 29, 2015, 11:45 PM EDT

    CINCINNATI, OH - JUNE 29: Billy Hamilton #6 of the Cincinnati Reds steals second base in the second inning against the Minnesota Twins at Great American Ball Park on June 29, 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Hamilton now has 40 stolen bases on the year, which is more than 15 MLB teams. You are reading that correctly.

  7. Pablo Sandoval swung at a pitch tonight that was five feet off the ground

    Jun 29, 2015, 9:58 PM EDT

    sandoval 1

    You’ve probably heard this advice for hitting knuckleballers before: If it’s low, let it go. If it’s high, let it fly. Well, Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval took that to the extreme tonight against R.A. Dickey of the Blue Jays…

  8. Khris Davis to begin minor league rehab assignment Wednesday

    Jun 29, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT

    ATLANTA GA - MAY 22:  Khris Davis #18 of the Milwaukee Brewers stretches in the batter's box during the first inning of a baseball game on May 22, 2015 at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Brewers outfielder Khris Davis needed surgery about a month ago for a torn meniscus in his right knee.

  9. Mets, Dodgers not having “active discussions” about Jon Niese trade

    Jun 29, 2015, 8:09 PM EDT

    TORONTO, CANADA - JUNE 17: Jon Niese #49 of the New York Mets makes his way from the bullpen to the dugout before the start of the MLB game against the Toronto Blue Jays on June 17, 2015 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) Getty Images

    It was reported over the weekend that the Dodgers and Cubs were among the teams with interest in a trade for Mets left-hander Jon Niese.

  10. MRI comes back negative on Hanley Ramirez’s hand

    Jun 29, 2015, 7:28 PM EDT

    cD05ODdlNmNhY2MwMjRlZWQzNTJhM2ViYTQ1Y2VlY2YzOCZnPTcxZThlNjJlYTk2MzE4ZmFhMzc4MDliNDI4YjY5ZDUy Getty Images

    Ramirez has been cleared to swing a bat and Red Sox manager John Farrell is optimistic that he’ll be able to return during the team’s four-game series in Toronto this week.

  11. Tigers acquire infielder Alexi Casilla from Rays

    Jun 29, 2015, 6:14 PM EDT

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 27:  Alexi Casilla #10 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a photo on photo day at Charlotte Sports Park on February 27, 2015 in Port Charlotte, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Casilla has mostly played at the Triple-A level for the past two seasons.

  12. C.J. Cron hits his way back into the Angels’ plans

    Jun 29, 2015, 5:40 PM EDT

    C.J. Cron Getty Images

    Cron hit well at Triple-A, batting .323 with six homers and a 1.014 OPS.

  13. Wanna buy Felix Hernandez’s house?

    Jun 29, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT

    Felix Hernandez house

    It’ll only cost you a cool $3.8 million.

  14. The Orioles shut down Dylan Bundy

    Jun 29, 2015, 5:03 PM EDT

    Toronto Blue Jays v Baltimore Orioles Getty Images

    More bad health news for a guy who has had his fair share of it in his brief career.

  15. Ruben Amaro will be making all of the Phillies’ moves for the rest of the season

    Jun 29, 2015, 4:35 PM EDT

    Ruben Amaro Getty Images

    As of now, Ruben Amaro is in control here, in the White House. Er, I mean in the Phillies’ front office.

  16. NL All-Star voting update: Carpenter vs. Frazier, Holliday vs. Aoki

    Jun 29, 2015, 3:50 PM EDT

    Matt Carpenter AP

    Six of the eight spots seem all but settled.

  17. AL All-Star voting update: now “only” five Royals in the starting lineup

    Jun 29, 2015, 3:40 PM EDT

    All-Star Logo

    By this time next week we may have an actually acceptable All-Star squad for the Junior Circuit.

  18. Oakland may have to choose between the A’s and the Raiders

    Jun 29, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    Seattle Mariners v Oakland Athletics Getty Images

    I know which one I’d choose, but then again I’m biased on the subject.

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. S. Matz (3981)
  2. B. Harper (3845)
  3. H. Ramirez (3557)
  4. J. Hamilton (3425)
  5. G. Stanton (3279)
  1. Y. Puig (2967)
  2. M. Moore (2837)
  3. A. Jones (2556)
  4. M. Holliday (2439)
  5. F. Freeman (2428)