'Roid Report: What have we learned so far?
In baseball's new era, steroids are mainly the province of the marginal and the desperate
1: It's not the front-line sluggers who are using steroids these days; it's the marginal talent on major league rosters and their minor league affiliates--the guys who have the least to lose and the most incentive to go for broke. And among them, there are quite a number of pitchers. So far five players from MLB's 40-man rosters have tested positive: Twins P Juan Rincon, Tampa OF Alex Sanchez, Colorado OF Jorge Piedra, Seattle OF Jamal Strong, and Texas P Agustin Montero. (Despite their roster status, only the first two were actually playing in the majors this season.) The number of minor leaguers who have tested positive so far: 47, including eight from the Seattle Mariners system.
2: The suspensions are hitting Latino players particularly hard. Is this because of a language gap, or because Latino players come through a ragged, brutal player development system that tacitly encourages such things?
3: It's probably too soon to begin to see the real impact of quitting steroids on the players who have forsworn them in the glare of baseball's new suspension policy. The most interesting comment on the matter we've seen was in Gary Smith's (generally overwrought) Sports Illustrated cover story a few weeks back. Former minor league slugger and lifelong weight-lifter Tex Warfield told Smith the real payoff from steroids isn't strength, but stamina:
"All these people who say that steroids don't help you hit a baseball, don't help hand-eye coordination, here's what they're missing: There are no dog days of summer when you're on steroids! As long as you stay on 'em, you stay strong, you have an abundance of energy every day. You feel the same in September as you did in April. Barry Bonds hasn't had dog days in four years. People don't understand the dog days. Home runs come from hitting the ball out in front, but by September, even when I'd drop from a 35-ounce bat to a 31, I'd be catching the ball a foot behind. What was a homer in May would be a can o' corn in August."