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Better make that a Double Expresso...

Mike SteffanosWednesday, February 8, 2006
By Mike Steffanos

Gotham Baseball's Mike McGann looks at MLB's new policy of testing and punishment for Amphetamine use by ballplayers.

"Greenies", first brought into the public consciousness by Jim Bouton's book Ball Four in the 1970s, have been used by ballplayers to handle all of jet lag and fatigue caused by the demands of baseball's long, 7-days-a-week schedule. McGann rightly points out the hypocrisy of singling out baseball players in a world addicted to energy boosters:

Greenies are a longtime, widely embraced lifestyle choice from the high-powered business world, to the halls of government to even, gasp, the press box. Such substances are used by people in every walk of life to get a little pick-me-up -- from soccer moms to cops to long-haul truckers. Again, such widespread usage is nothing new, as anyone listening to "Mother's Little Helper" by the Rolling Stones would know, almost 40 years ago. My own mother-in-law was given greenies while pregnant, "to give her more energy."

And let's not ignore the explosion of "energy drinks" and Starbucks in this conversation. We, as a people, are addicted to uppers in one form or another and take them as readily as Tylenol. But we hold ballplayers to a different standard, right?

After turning a blind eye to steroids for more than a decade, MLB is now completely bowing down to holier-than-thou pressure from congress and elements of the press in banning uppers from the game. In essence, they are using a flame-thrower to kill a mosquito.

There is a valid distinction between something that boosts your performance to levels achievable only from better living through chemistry -- steroids -- and something that just allows you to function at normal levels when you are jet-lagged and exhausted -- greenies. Kudos to Mr. McGann for leaving himself open to the criticism of the self-righteous by saying this in a public forum.

Unlike steroids, almost everyone in baseball used some form of stimulant at least occasionally. Banning them will boost coffee sales among ballplayers to record levels. It will accomplish little else beyond causing players (including stars) to need more off days, and lowering the caliber of play on long road trips and in day games following night games. When baseball cracked down on steroids, they somewhat leveled the playing field between cheaters and honest ballplayers. Those responsible for the banishment of "greenies" from baseball can give themselves a self-righteous pat on the back if they wish, but in actuality they have done nothing to make the game better.

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