Intriguing Questions

Being a general manager in major league baseball just got harder.

Now the masters of acquisitions, trades, and outright releases must not only weigh such quantifiable concerns as on-base-percentage and earned run average; they'll also have to guess which players will be able to run on to the field each night without the chemical assistance that everybody in baseball has apparently always taken for granted.

According to writers who've covered the game for years, management-types as far up the baseball chain as Commissioner Bud, and the players themselves, active as well as retired, amphetamines have been ubiquitous in baseball for more than fifty years.

Speculation during the '05 season was that the crackdown on steroids made routine outs of balls that would have left the yard trailing vapor in previous summers. Next season may be notable for the number of heavy-legged shortstops who languidly wave their gloves at grounders scooting through the infield, outfielders who fall asleep between innings leaning against the walls, and base runners who miss signs because they're yawning.

Pitcher David Wells, at least temporarily of the
Boston Red Sox, maintains that it's only natural that some players — perhaps fifty percent of them, perhaps more — rely on unnatural means when preparing for games, though Wells himself claims he chemically enhances himself with a six pack of diet coke before pitching. (If large numbers of players adopt that strategy, commercial breaks will have to get even longer to accommodate all the players who need to visit the clubhouse between innings...all the innings.)

The institutionalized excuse for amphetamines in baseball has been that no player can prepare for 162 games without artificial ingredients. The obvious response to that contention, unless you're interested in making as much money as possible, would be to shorten the season. But the people who run baseball are interested in making as much money as possible.

So we're left with two intriguing questions as we pull our metaphorical chairs up to the proverbial hot stove: in the short run, who will be able to play with pep without pep pills? And how long will it take the players to discover a stimulant with which they can beat the newly-instituted rules and tests?

This program aired on November 19, 2005. The audio for this program is not available.


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