Saturday, June 10, 2006

Jason Grimsley
Jason Grimsley is the face of
the HGH scandal.

Federal officials stormed into the home of pitcher Jason Grimsley on June 6, 2006, searching for evidence of his possession and distribution of human growth hormone, a drug that Major League Baseball frowns upon, but doesn't test for. An affadavit explains the probable cause which led investigators to barge into the pitcher's home, and also reveals some players who are potentially bungled in this controversy, as well; however, the names are censored (but will undoubtedly be leaked to the public sooner or later).

The drug crackdown that Major League Baseball has tried to impose on its players since the early 1990's has been laughable at best, and really has not helped the sport -- at least in the short term -- by trying to force the players to play "naturally" (a semantic term at best). Many of the terms in the "steroid era" vernacular are, obviously, steroids, amphetamines, and HGH, all colloquially dubbed as performance enhancers.

Grimsley described the process that his teammates used to distribute and use these performance enhancing drugs: coffee pots labeled "unleaded" are unaltered; pots labeled "leaded" had stimulants in the mix. While a mixture of caffeinated coffee and amphetamines (or "speed") makes for a good joke, the revelation was no laughing matter for Major League Baseball, the fans, and more importantly, the players. Knowing that Grimsley has released names, many athletes will continue to play in paranoia: "Are they after me?" They'll clean up not just their bodies and their lockers, but their homes as well, and cancel any impending shipments of performance enhancing drugs.

That sounds great for baseball -- that players will be playing on "natural" ability alone. Almost everyone would agree, but the 30,350 men estimated to die from prostate cancer in 2005 have something to say. Between June 7-16, each homerun hit in 60 selected games will raise money to fight prostate cancer, and to help the 30,350 terminally ill prostate cancer patients of 2006 and beyond. So far, eleven of the sixty games have been played, amassing a total of 32 homeruns. At the current rate, 174 homeruns will have been hit upon completion of the Prostate Cancer Foundation's "Homerun Challenge."

Tommy Lasorda
Tommy Lasorda is a spokesperson for
the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

However, now that athletes are pressured to clean up as soon as possible, there will be a decrease in homerun production across the board in Major League Baseball. When 155 homeruns are hit instead of 174 (considering the dropoff from 1.123 homeruns per game in 2004 to 1.032 in 2005), Bud Selig and George Mitchell will be to blame when 2006's 30,350 prostate cancer victims are told to wait one more year while scientists try and scrape together some money to buy a better microscope or to pay for the nonstop research that some of the country's top scientists perform. 4860 regular season games were played last season, which meant that approximately 5015 homeruns were hit, as opposed to the 5457 approximately hit in 2004. Just think of the many other performance-based donations to charities that athletes make during the course of a season, and it's clear that the cleaning up in baseball will hurt those who really need the athletes to use performance enhancing drugs the most.

Remember that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer promised a sick boy in a hospital that Paul O'Neill would hit two homeruns for him? Wouldn't it have been nice of Paul O'Neill to have taken some "greenies" (amphetamines) and pop a pair of homers out for the kid? Back in 1995, when the episode was filmed, he could have. Now, in 2006, he can't even consider it (and not just because he's retired). Prostate cancer patients and sick little boys in hospitals only make up a small percentage of the population that wants to see these players hit homeruns by any means possible, so why not give the fans what they want to see by legalizing these performance enhancing drugs? Fans claim to love a player who will win "by any means possible" but frown when they decide to use a drug for a pick-me-up on the last day of a thirteen-game road trip.

Is an athlete using this really
the worst that can happen?

While offensive numbers continue to sag, the donations to charities become thinner, and we have to wait even longer to cure these menacing diseases. While a dropoff from 174 homeruns to 155 doesn't seem staggering, tell that to the research laboratories being shut down because -- let's say -- $19,000 ($1,000 per homerun; approximate 19 homerun dropoff due to the HGH scramble) couldn't help them pay off debts. It's $19,000 they'll have to raise themselves in due time, but that time is short and limited for the people these charities have at heart.

Here's a modest proposal: anyone not in favor of drug use throughout any sport must donate to each charity that is sponsored by a professional sports league for every homerun not hit, for every goal not scored, or for every three-pointer not made. The charities and those they work hard hours for should not have to suffer because baseball purists want to return to the offensive era circa 1910.