Legends throughout the baseball universe have great impact on their surroundings, influencing young players, dedicated fans, broadcasters, and the clubs that employ them. Children spend countless hours trying to mimic their icons’ signature move, whether it be a windup, home run trot, batting stance, work ethic or even their personal life, wanting to become just like the person they idolize. To many, emulating their favorite athlete is just an innocent part of being a kid and of growing up, but there is a little talked about side effect of the blind dedication to these players.
Major league players influence their many followers to be hard workers, loyal friends, teammates, and much more. Fans believe in these highly respected athletes with a blind trust and invest much of their own life into emulating athletes, which removed from a sports context is very nerve-racking. Imagine looking up to the neighborhood grocery store owner, blindly, emulating a large majority of your life just like theirs. Strange, right? An athlete is just another person with amazing talents in their field, but just like people outside of that environment, there are those few that will find a loophole and a questionable way to advance their career. In the baseball universe, the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) is the most common in the dark side of their world.
Ryan Braun, Nelson Cruz, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Bartolo Colon, the list goes on for another 44 players playing at the major league experience who have been found guilty for PED use. As testing for PEDs cracked down during the early 2000s, research concluded that between 5-7% of players had failed a drug test. This does not necessarily prove that players have violated the drug agreement, but shows it exists to a significant amount. Which means on average, 52 players out of the total 750 active players would fail a test. There are 30 teams of 25 players each in the MLB, which means based on numbers, it’s a very realistic possibility that about 2 players on every team would routinely fail a test. From the names of the guilty listed previously, the impact of even one of those players should be shocking.
The profile of the average player found guilty isn’t a utility bench player just trying to find a way to become an everyday player. The names connected with this problem are MVPs, Gold Glove winners, home run champions, record breakers. These players aren’t just role models in a professional sport, these players are legends and will be forever remembered throughout baseball history. Some may never face ramifications for their violations officially, but their names will be always connected to those three words. Performance Enhancing Drugs.
Think about that kid outside trying to match his swing to look like A-Rod’s. He has the matching jersey, watches the games, follows his lifelong commitments of dedicated hard work, looks at the women he’s dated, and sees that life as something he wants for himself. Fast forward to the days past the accusations, past the trials, and finally concluding with an acceptance that Rodriguez has committed these violations, settling for a full season suspension. The reality is that this icon has been found to have a secret to his success. As an impressionable young child, there’s a significant amount of time where as shocked as they may be, they consider that maybe that is what you have to do to get the life of a star athlete. Maybe everyone is doing it, and maybe it’s even okay to do if done correctly. A-Rod, as well as many others, has seemed to get away with it for years.
A young child growing up believing that PED use is acceptable is a very possible scenario. Players are constantly mimicked by people of all ages. From the days when tobacco use was widespread in the league, young players emulated their heroes, finding dip / chewing tobacco to carry and use while they played. Use of tobacco was so commonplace that it even made an appearance in the movie The Sandlot. Clearly the idea of players influencing other players and fans is not something unreasonable to expect.
The growing list of the accused and convicted suggests that the PED problem facing MLB will remain an issue, further damaging the league’s image and the credibility of its rookies, stars, record holders, and hall of famers. Worse yet, those who idolize their baseball heroes will continue to be put at risk. Players mimic players, children mimic players, and the circle will go on. While a large majority of MLB players have spoken against PED use and haven’t had involvement with them, unfortunately those words mean little when the titans of the industry are committing these violations. The net of influence cast by star players using performance enhancing drugs is much larger than that of the players that are not breaking the rules. Until the role models people look up to stop committing these violations, the reality is that the use of PEDs and the trickle down influence it has on the youth and peers is far from gone.