Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Is baseball cheating a family affair?

The three active baseball players named as part of the criminal investigation into a pharmacy accused of making illegal shipments of human growth hormones have something in common.

Gary Mathews Jr., David Bell and Jerry Hairston Jr. are all Major League legacy. Bell and Hairston Jr.* are the rare third generation ball players.

Of course baseball's most famous alleged HGH and steroid user, Barry Bonds, plays for the same team his all-star father did.

Coincidence? By the late Ken Caminti's "80 percent of big leaguers use" standard, it is just a fluke of who is getting caught. But by retired closer and HGH suspect John Rocker's recent assertion that it is only 10 to 15 percent, it can't be a fluke.

The real number is likely somewhere in between, and that still leaves a correlation that is hard to dismiss as mere coincidence.

Is it because the sons and of big leaguers feel added pressure to follow in their father's daunting footsteps? That might be part of it.

Or is it also because their family ties have taught them that baseball players will do anything -- corked bats, scuffed baseballs, sign stealing, "greenie" amphetamines-- to get ahead? And that "cheating" is part of the game.

Really, does a player who takes HGH pervert statistics that much more than a ground crew watering down the infield when the home team has a sinkerballer on the mound?

Granted performance enhancing substances have more potential health risks than an emory board, and this might be one of those rare occasions where the athlete as a role model card rings true. But taking steroids or HGH certainly isn't, relative to the history of the game, extraordinary or abhorrent behavior.

Just ask the players who would know that history best.

*Hairston, unlike the other two, vehemently denies involvement.

No comments: