Originally written on NorthWest Sports Beat  |  Last updated 8/17/13
More than Baseball? With seemingly every other headline discussing the PED issue surrounding baseball, why is it that other sports aren’t affected as much as baseball? It started with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, then moved onto a group headed by former Seattle Mariner Alex Rodriguez. It seems to be a cyclical event in the modern era of baseball that a huge PED bust happens to star players, discussion ensues, penalties are issued and legacies are tarnished. How is it that this has the greatest impact on one sport as opposed to the other major leagues? Would Barry Bonds have hit all of those homeruns going clean during his career? Maybe, maybe not. It still takes a great amount of skill to follow a 100 mph pitch out of a pitchers hand, gauge whether it will be the right pitch to hit in a split second, get the mechanics of your swing in order and make solid timing and contact to put the head of the bat on the ball in time to hit it over the fence. Granted, having increased strength certainly helps the cause. Baseball has been around for over a century and is widely regarded as a sport that puts great emphasis on records and achievements. With such a large following in the US and historical arguments about ‘best-evers,’ the sanctity of the statistics get skewed in the modern era of performance enhancing drugs. For example, had Bonds not used PEDs he’s in Cooperstown no question, and isn’t on the outside looking in. Will Montero ever see playing time again? Suspensions in the MLB are stringent as Bud Selig and co. try to get ahold of the growing number of players using banned substances. We all know superstar players have been handed out suspensions in their cases A-Rod, Ryan Braun, etc- receiving more than the league minimum sentence of 50 games. Fifty-plus games out of 162 in a season is a fairly hefty punishment for first time offenders and definitely hits the bank account. It isn’t just the stars though, players trying to crack major league rosters, such as Mariners’ Jesus Montero was caught and handed a 50-game suspension. Michael Morse was caught earlier in his career while he was in the minors and went on to become a solid power hitter in the MLB. It’s not as big of a story with these cases, granted they aren’t known-name-superstars, but does it make it any more OK if you’re a mediocre player? There certainly isn’t as much of a shadow cast over the careers of Morse, or a Luis Figuera or even Montero at this point. Then again, these guys aren’t or were never on the path to break any records. Compare the suspensions for banned substances to those of NFL, where the standard seems to be 4 games, a la Seattle Seahawk Bruce Irvin it seems to be viewed as a much harsher crime in baseball. Well, to take into account the NFL season is less than 20 games and it becomes more severe, however it doesn’t seem to be such a big story in the NFL. Most football players (aside from kickers) are human tree trunks (sorry Jake Feely). It’s almost as if its expected that NFL players use them, or no surprise when it’s discovered that they do because of the physicality of the game and the punishment the body takes. Juxtapose that with baseball, it could be a reason why it does not seem to be as much of an issue in football. I’m not condoning it, but does safety of a player in a much more gruesome sport play any factor into the public outlook of drug use in their respective sports? Hockey is different, as there is no real advantage for having extreme bulk. Generally, hockey players are built to be a mix of power and speed, and ideal body mass-to-height ratio (aside from Dustin Byfuglien) is meant to be a fine balance for agility, speed, endurance and strength. Could you imagine seeing Daniel and Henrik Sedin at 275 lbs of muscle? I can’t. Not that these elements are necessary in other sports as well, but hockey players likely wouldn’t benefit from adding pure mass. There is also associated risk in using PEDs, and with hockey being such a fluid and high speed game with emphasis on the legs, maybe the risk-reward isn’t there. There’s also the fact that there is very few players from non-first world countries who need to support their families abroad; so add in NHL’s hard salary cap and compare that to MLB where slugging a bunch of home runs can lead to a mega payday and there is another added incentive. Just some food for thought on a Saturday morning. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE POSTS IN OUR COFFEE SHOP BLOG! (For NW Sports Fans!)
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