To quickly recap, PED use in baseball appears on its surface to be a matter of incentives (which have changed), and a problem that never undermined fan confidence that players were trying as hard as they could to succeed and win. As such, I struggle to find the outrage about PED-use that I hear expressed by many baseball media personalities, and some fans.
With PEDs, players were taking drugs to perform better. From, say, 1996 to 2006, whole teams of players took PEDs to play better. I can see why other players during that time might have viewed PED-users as trying to get an unfair advantage over other players. But I am not a baseball player. If a player takes PEDs today, that may be against the rules, and a really bad idea, and unfair to other players in the league, but it certainly isn’t a case of the player trying to get an unfair advantage over me, the fan.
Now, if I were a player, I would view another player’s PED use as cheating, but it is not clear why would I view another player’s PED use as somehow worse than the usual forms of cheating, say, corking a bat, scuffing a ball, or throwing at batters. These are all cheating, and they are all forms of cheating designed to get an advantage over other baseball players. They say in baseball, if you aren’t cheating, you aren’t trying. Sounds like a tough industry.
But I am also self-aware enough to understand that this is not my problem. I am not a player, I am a fan. As a baseball fan, I accept that players will try to do these sorts of things to each other. I would like the rules enforced to keep it from getting out of hand. But neither these attempts to cheat, nor the enforcement of these rules, diminish the level of play on the field, or the fun of watching as a fan. Which, as a fan, is what I care about.
For 10 years, there has been a massive media campaign built around whipping-up fan outrage over MLB player PED usage. The message embedded in these stories is that watch-dog media-personalities were essential to protecting the interests of fans from the misbehavior of players. Think of all the empty-headed and morally judgemental articles, all the wasted air-time. All for a problem that never-for-a-second reduced the level of play that we got to enjoy as fans.
So, I really wouldn’t mind hearing a lot less about PEDs in MLB. NFL players get caught using PEDs on a pretty regular basis. They serve a short suspension. There is a little coverage, not much. There is even less outrage, among fans and media. In the NFL, it seems that their testing and enforcement system is sufficient to keep PEDs from being something the media and fans feel obligated to dwell on. I hope that is the future for the MLB as well.