…More to the point, how have PED-using baseball players cheated me, as a fan?
Let’s consider, as a counter-example, a situation where players might truly cheat fans: when players (or managers) consort with gamblers. The influence of gamblers in baseball is potentially truly damaging. Since major league baseball players – in general – are playing at the very top of their ability, and the others on the field are the best in the world playing at the top of their abilities, an individual player can’t reliably influence the outcome of a game (and cash-in on a bet) by playing better than he normally would. The only way to influence the outcome of the game, and get an a gambling advantage, is to bet against your team, and then play worse than usual, or do something that makes your whole team perform worse than it normally would.
The logic is clear. Gambling introduces to baseball a powerful incentive for players to make a profit by reducing the level of play we get to see as a fan.
Gambling also introduces to baseball an insidious doubt about the honesty of any given contest we watch. If we suspect that even a few games a year are thrown by players looking to win a bet, then we can never know if the game we are watching today is one of those games. It may only be a problem in 30 games a year, but for fans it will feel like a problem in all 2430 games.
None of this is news to Major League Baseball, of course, and the modern history of baseball is filled with examples of very strict enforcement of rules against players consorting with gamblers.
Yet, this is instructive in reflecting on the modern debate around PEDs. With gambling the problem is that players would – for their own selfish reasons – reduce the level of play that we get to watch as a fan. By playing worse, they cheat me, the fan, and pocket the profits.
Say what you want about the integrity of players who took PEDs, they were all doing it to perform better.
And, intuitively, it looks like fans recognized this. PEDs didn’t drive fans away at all. Attendence figures and baseball viewership rose significantly during this period (as did the valuation of MLB franchises).