So, now that it appears one of the best stories of the summer was fueled by performance-enhancing drugs, the natural reaction is supposed to be what? Sadness? Anger? Indignation?
Sorry, but the news that Rick Ankiel’s wonderful comeback with the St. Louis Cardinals is now linked with human growth hormone, inspired not one bit of emotion in me this morning. The report might as well have been, “RIck Ankiel’s comeback has been fueled by coffee.”
No, I don’t condone the stuff. In fact, if my sons were ever faced with the prospect of using performance-enhancers to play professional sports, I’d advise them to go into a more honorable line of work.
It’s just that I’ve become numb to its usage. If you’ve read this blog or my columns consistently, you know that I adopted the stance, long ago, that every single player should be treated with suspicion. I presume much of what is happening on a major-league baseball field is not happening 100-percent naturally. Sure, it’s a cynical way to go through life, but it does allow me to appreciate baseball for what it is — namely, a slice of entertainment.
Look, baseball should not be a moral compass for the rest of society. It’s been a shady profession since its inception, but here, in the 21st century, it’s no more dirty than any other sport. If the use of HGH and other perfomance-enhancers really were “tragic,” as St. Louis Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty suggested, then there’d be a public outcry to shut down all sports until full-proof testing methods were developed. That’ll happen about the same time we start believing everything our government officials tell us.
Anyway, the Ankiel news should not come as a bombshell to anyone. The era of performance-enhancing drugs is here to stay. Any notion that the game would be “moving on” in the wake of Barry Bonds’ home run record was silly. But what Bonds’ record did was wrap a bow on the transition of one baseball era into another.
Now, there are those who would like to think performance-enhancers can be eradicated — there’s been an outcry for blood-testing to stem the tide against HGH — and that’s a nice thought. Unfortunately, it’s probably naive, too. The chemists are always a mile ahead of the testers, and until further notice, they always will be.
Now, should this diminish one’s love of the game? Absolutely not. Look Ankiel’s transition from pitcher to outfielder to star has been one of the most uplifting stories the game has seen, and the emotions it has touched along the way need not be stifled because of what he may have ingested. Remember, for every player who gets busted, there are dozens of others who are, undetected, doing the exact same thing. So if you marvel at what Ankiel is doing, continue to marvel. Just do it with a cynical eye. After all, that’s what you should’ve been doing all along.