If you’ve been on any social media network in the last week, you’re sure to notice that the World Series is “trending” right now. People in your social circles (whether online or in person) are likely discussing the players, sharing opinions or dissing umpire calls while following their favorite team to the pennant. But there’s one thing that baseball can’t escape this year. The teams, the players, or the series can’t be discussed too long without performance enhancing drugs, the summer’s PED scandal, or the impact of doping in America’s past time are brought into the discussion. Here is a closer look at how performance enhancers are affecting this year’s World Series.
Past Victories Are Being Questioned. When fans are caught up in the here and now, it’s easy to get excited over individual accomplishments and to quote statistics on your favorite teams and players for months (years?) after the game. Does the revelation that a player was taking Performance Enhancers, learned after the fact, taint the victory? Does it make the accomplishment less impressive, knowing that the hits, steals, or strikeouts were made with the aid of a drug? That’s what former Yankee Johnny Damon wondered in a Sirius radio interview when asked about former teammate Alex Rodriguez. Damon played with A-Rod from 2006-2009, and was friends with him long before that. A-Rod’s only World Series win occurred during the 2009 season, when the Yankees beat the Phillies to take the title. It is now known that Rodriguez was linked to performance enhancers during the 2009 season, and he admitted it during spring training. Arguably, A-Rod’s involvement in the season and the Series was instrumental in the Yankee’s taking the title. Damon voiced in his radio interview that knowing A-Rod was on PEDs tarnishes the victory in his mind. It begs the question: how many fans feel the same?
The PED Issue Has Become Muddier, Not Clearer. MLB suspensions and the issue of testing has promoted the stance that doping is bad, and users must be punished, right? But doctor-sanctioned doping arguably took place in this World Series, and it was okay with everyone. How is this possible? Think back to Game One, when Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran slammed the fence and bruised his ribs. He showed up for Game Two ready to play, after receiving a Toradol injection that likely allowed him to play much better than if he had been playing in pain. This legal pain killer was administered so Beltran could play in the Series despite his injury, yet players who have taken “performance enhancers,” including Human Growth Hormone, to help them recover from injuries faster have been reprimanded or suspended in the past in baseball and other sports. Is this a double standard?
The Red Sox Beloved Ortiz . . . Has Tested Positive for PED Use. Sox fans love their Papi. The designated hitter is an important part of the Red Sox World Series lineup, even if he’s not actually in the lineup. David Ortiz’s career stats are impressive and he’s made valuable contributions to this year’s World Series. But there’s also the fact that he tested positive for a PED in 2003, and then denied it. (Sound familiar?) Is he a career PED user? Is that why his stats are impressive? Is he, like A-Rod, just a pawn in the MLB war on doping? Will we ever know the real story, or does everybody just have too much to hide? He’s good enough to be considered for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Will voter still vote for him, even though there’s possible PED use in his past?
It seems like lately, you can’t mention baseball without doping being brought into the conversation. It could be fallout from this summer’s scandal, or it could be that our eyes are now open to a professional sports truth that was previously hidden. As the Series nears its end and the Sox and the Cardinals meet up once again, enjoy the spirit of the game but also take a moment to ask, Can we continue to push our professional players, through injury and age, and expect them to be superhuman?