Everyone knows that Major League Baseball has hosed itself with its mismanagement of the steroid problem. Purists can no longer innocently compare players from different eras when the late ’90s and early ’00s were conspicuously full of wily middle infielders who suddenly showed up with 50 extra pounds of muscle, a plague of tics and 40-home-run power. Idealistic fans feel betrayed for having emotionally invested themselves in the doings of cheaters. What’s worse — but rarely discussed — is that the few fans who aren’t offended by what happened during the steroid era are bored by what’s happening now that the game’s been cleaned up. In Bill Simmons’ recent mailbag column on espn.com, a reader named Mark from Baltimore sums it up perfectly:
So I was at an O’s versus Yanks game the other day and an Orioles rep was going around asking fans questions, and one of them asked me what I thought the O’s needed to do to improve this year. I said, “They need to get Miguel Tejada back on the steroids so he can blast 40 home runs like the good old days.” They did not think that was funny.
Baseball– let’s face it– is a fairly boring game, and (health issues aside) it’s clearly more entertaining to have guys doing steroids, blasting home runs, donning togas and lying to congress than not doing these things, especially if your team stinks.
My solution to this is to bring steroids back into the game, rather than trying futilely to sweep them under the rug as MLB has been pathetically attempting for the past few years. But you have to bring it back in a controlled way. So, each team should be allowed to have ONE guy do steroids. It’s the evolutionary descendant of the Designated Hitter– we already have the DH, now we’ll add the DRG (Designated ‘Roid Guy). This way the comical/enraged foibles of the steroid user will be reintroduced to the game, but in a contained way such that the culture of ‘roiding wouldn’t overrun the sport again.
As a bonus, imagine the strategic wrinkles that the DRG would add to the game. If you’re the Red Sox front office, for example, do you tag David Ortiz as your DRG (the obvious choice– hopefully, he suddenly recovers his 04-07 power)… or, do you take a chance on Adrian Beltre, who put up one of the most obviously steroid-inflated stat lines in 2004 (.629 SLG, 48 HR all in Dodger Stadium in what JUST HAPPENED to be a walk year before hitting free agency)? Moreover, let’s assume MLB screws up the implementation of the new rule and adds it to just one league and not the other, like they did with the DH. Suddenly, you’d have teams furiously ‘roiding up a guy and then de-‘roiding him in preparation for interleague play and the World Series. Finally, there would be the comedy of inept GMs making dumb choices and squandering the DRG rule. I can just imagine the Pittsburgh GM using the DRG tag on somebody like the diminutive David Eckstein and being all surprised when it doesn’t work.