Monday, February 16, 2009

Roger Clemens Could be the Tip of the Pitching & Steroids Iceberg

The steroids burden was once misconceived as being carried solely on the ever-expanding shoulders of Major League hitters.

The restrictions that growing muscles can place on a pitcher’s mechanics and arm flexibility were enough to initially turn a blind eye to a potential epidemic.

As time wears on, it is clear that the motives for the use of performance enhancing drugs were as strong for those on the mound as they were for those digging into the batter’s box.

The dominoes started to fall with Andy Pettitte’s HGH admission last spring, as well as Clemens’ pathetic attempts at fighting the facts. To a lesser extent, the Eric Gagne’s and Brendan Donnelly’s of the baseball world also fell into the trap.

I worry that when the mystery list of 103 is revealed, if it ever is, there will be numerous prominent pitchers appearing on it.

Pitchers may have felt stronger pressures than anyone, attempting to compete with the hitters that they watched hit towering upper-deck home runs on a daily basis.

For the hitters that chose not to ‘juice’, they at least knew that the game of baseball was being shaped in order to cater to offensive production. Mounds have been lowered, fences have been moved in, and bats have been transformed into weapons.

Since the 1960's when Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax dominated, not one change has been made to MLB to benefit pitchers. The ‘Year of the Pitcher’ in 1968 was the final season categorized by 1-0 scores.

Ironically, even with all of the advantages given to pitchers during the prime of his career, Gibson admitted that he would most likely have used steroids if given the opportunity.

As honest a statement as this coming from a former star like Bob Gibson is very refreshing. However, it is also very telling.

Pitchers as intensely competitive as Gibson would not have sat back while hitters’ biceps and bat speed were enhanced enough to catch up to his fastball.

Men who would buzz your chin with a 95 MPH fastball for simply digging into the box would not allow you to get a leg up on them with performance enhancers.

Though not always turning to a syringe or a pill, pitchers have searched for ways to circumvent the rules for over a century. Tricks such as sandpaper, Vaseline, pine tar, and saliva were/are used to doctor the baseball to create an advantage.

Some refer to this as gamesmanship as opposed to cheating, but it reverts back to a central theme regardless of your stance. Hitters are not the only athletes looking for a leg up on the competition.

If pitchers are willing to risk their reputations in order to give their changeup a little more bite, what is stopping them from using HGH to recover faster between starts?

It may never be leaked or released, but do not be surprised if more Cy Young winners and Hall of Fame candidates end up being exposed for using more than just Vaseline on the mound.

I miss the times when an impending strike was the biggest issue spread across Major League Baseball, but times have clearly changed.

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