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I think that we all can agree that the period from 1987 (the first appearance of The Bash Brothers) until now, is considered ???The Steroid Era???. From a historical standpoint, we can say we witnessed history. We saw and were a part of an era that will forever be etched in the annals of baseball history. From the 2005 congressional hearings, in which Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro came off as liars and cheats, all the way up to the latest (Manny being Manny) baseball has sported somewhat of a black eye. To be honest I feel that, as with anything in America, controversy sells. Who isn???t drawn in by tales of half-man-half-amazing-androids that hit laser beam shots of 500 feet or more? Who isn???t excited by the prospect of a hurler slinging the ball at speeds nearing and eclipsing the triple digit mark? We all are and that???s why this whole preoccupation is blown out of proportion. I was fortunate enough to make it to the big leagues and play for a spell. Simultaneously I was ill-fated to make it to ???The League??? right smack dab in the middle of the ???Steroid Era.??? Here???s the way I see it. Even as an outsider looking in, which most people are, it???s easy to see that being a major leaguer puts you into a very exclusive and prestigious fraternity. To want to be a part of this fraternity is the dream of millions, but it only comes true for about 1 of every 16,000 players. So you could imagine that at this level competition is extremely cut throat. Athletes in general are always looking for a way to be better, a way to get an edge. We need what is going to make us faster and stronger. It???s unfortunate that a generation or two or three decided that even taking part in such felonious activities as buying and using steroids amongst other criminalized substances was okay. We as players are all in the same professional boat. We understand that we work in a ???what have you done for me lately??? environment. Could you imagine if you were at your job and everyone from the Verizon network commercial was at your desk watching your every move critiquing it? Share the world of a Major Leaguer! Every highlight and blunder is there for about 30 thousand to see, not to mention the TV audience and the media. It???s an extremely tough gig with its own brand of pressure. I???ve been queried on many occasions whether or not I took steroids. It???s a fair question. I mean, after all, I am a product of the era. That question is usually answered with a screw-face that Gargamel would be proud of and then an emphatic NOOO! I never felt that I was overmatched on any baseball field. Though diminutive in stature, I always held my own on that diamond. Using or not using a performance enhancing drug is a choice that every player has the option of. This is not an easy decision for many. With that being said, life is not easy and every decision has a consequence. I decided to follow the rules and worked with what God gave me. Please understand that as a personal decision, everyone???s situation is not the same. Everyone doesn???t stem from the same financial, religious or cultural background. So what???s right and necessary for one may be scoffed at by the other. I can thoroughly see why the pressure to do it is there: Money, fame, women, status, just to name a handful of reasons. Ultimately you have to pick a side. As a young player coming up, I never thought of the effect that my peers??? usage of this stuff would affect me. Most of it was na??vet??, but there was a little ego as well. I shrugged it off and justified it by citing the hazards of steroid abuse. It wasn???t until I started to see the transformation in a lot of guys that I honestly didn???t think were that good. I mean, I saw guys go from suspect to prospect over the course of a few cycles. It???s only natural to wonder, ???What if???? If this scrub is doing this that and the third on the juice, then I could only imagine what it could do for me. I saw players that I was close to in talent level put on 25-30 lbs in an off- season. They???d come back driving the piss out of the ball. And no one said anything, like this is normal. It wasn???t until I started to see people that I was in competition with began to do things that they had never been able to do before, that I got a little worried. Based on history and what I???ve seen in my 17 years of pro ball, there is a natural progression that a player makes. You start at a level then gradually increase to a peak. Sometimes the increase is a bit more moderate. After the peak hopefully you have a plateau for a spell and then it???s back down you go. Not these days! Man we???re talking about the steroid era. You see guys go from a .280 12 homer guys that jump to .300 with 30 homers. What happened? Oh I see, I guess it all just came together for ya huh? I mean, I???ve seen guys who hit like they were swinging a USA Today and return in one off-season and be considered a legitimate power threat. Or what about the guys that are hitting growth spurts in their mid thirties and reinventing themselves? That is some bull$%^#! Pitchers got off easy in the whole situation. Everyone figures that if you???re juicing then you???re gonna be a muscle head with shrunken testicles, pimples and a volatile attitude that will have you fill a room with uppercuts if so prompted. They have better stuff now. There is stuff that will shred you up as well as increase strength and power. So these guys didn???t get all bulky, but PEDs could add anywhere from 5-10 mph on velocity. Not to mention, it gives you mutant abilities like an unbelievable healing factor. These guys can go out and throw pretty much every day with well above average stuff. This may not affect me in this game or that game, but over the course of 162 games, it catches up. If I???m natural there are gonna be days that I???m going to reach for all I have and it???ll be like reaching back into a big reservoir of nothing. That???s compared to the guy who has some needle assistance. Unfortunately, these are the types of players that I had to try to make a living off of. I hung around as long as they let me. I???m not stupid. The purpose is for teams to win. To win you need the best players available. What would you do? Would you opt for the affable and organic Relaford or do you want this half-man-half-amazing-android? It???s a no brainer, but I will tell you the problem I have with it. I don???t like the fact that it???s a business before it???s a game. And if you know American business, it???s all about the cash. Because of the type of players produced in this era, baseball is perceived as somewhat of a spectacle played by entities instead of men. So what???s the difference between baseball players, actors or WWE superstars? Fans and owners alike love the outcome so why should they worry about how it gets done. YOU CAN???T HANDLE THE TRUTH! The truth is that owners do know whose cheating and that???s who they prefer. It???s evident even now. You can see guys who have been documented as cheaters and they continue to receive jobs even though they???re not gonna perform at the same level they did before testing. Why is that? Here???s the bottom line: I???m a little bitter at MLB for allowing this go on, as well as the players who put themselves before the game and respect. Thank you for robbing the good clean players of our livelihoods. The fact that you???ve made more money than you???ll ever know what to do with whilst cheating others out of theirs is infuriating. For every decision you make there is a consequence! I hate the fact that my career was cut short. I wanna play like never before. Maybe if I admit to juicing, snorting or shooting up drugs and then say, ???I was young??? Uh, I only did it once or twice??? Uh, I needed to help my team??? I???m sorry???, all would be forgiven and I???d be accepted back into the fold with a contract tomorrow. I???ve heard that if you don???t stand for something you???ll fall for anything. This time I stood for something, and I didn???t fall, I was pushed! Desi Relaford is a bi-weekly contributor to Jimmy Scott???s High & Tight. He was drafted out of high school by the Seattle Mariners in the 4th round of the 1991 Major League draft and played for 8 teams over 11 seasons, manning every position except first base and catcher. Desi never officially retired, although he hasn???t played since the end of the 2007 season. To hear more from him, you can listen to his interview at Jimmy Scott???s High & Tight.

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