Roy Oswalt Explains How Steroid Users Cheat Him and Us

Editor’s note: Please welcome the latest from Joe Guzzardi. There are still a range of opinions in the steroid debate, and I welcome as many of them as possible here.


I’m going to keep the Hot Stove stoked by returning to the fascinating Hall of Fame debates presented at Baseball Past and Present over the last couple of weeks.

Specifically, I’ll address the upcoming challenge the BBWAA faces regarding the 2013 and subsequent classes that will include suspected and confirmed steroid users. To vote or not to vote—that is their question.

Many of the writers who have strongly hinted that they will vote for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and eventually Alex Rodriguez explain their decision by saying that “during the era” in which they played, PEDs were commonplace.

I’ve pointed out, however, that while PEDs were indeed widely embraced, many outstanding players never touched them. The clean players, therefore, suffer in comparison. “So and so” took PEDs, racked up impressive numbers, earned larger contracts and possibly won post-season awards. “Mr. Straight Arrow” never touched the stuff, finished way down in the season totals and was never considered for the MVP or Cy Young.

No one has expressed this sentiment better than Roy Oswalt. Oswalt insists that admitted PED users like Alex Rodriguez and Andy Pettitte have stained all baseball players.

Said Oswalt:

“I feel like they have cheated me out of the game because of the way they have enhanced themselves but I’ve done it by working out. I feel that going out there natural against those guys that are taking the drugs is not fair to me. They’re already All-Star players and they’re taking drugs. That’s not fair to me. They’re cheating.”

Oswalt continued:

“They may have beaten you in the game where naturally they may not have been able to. It may have cost me a win or my club not getting in the World Series. I don’t think it’s fair from my standpoint.

     “Their numbers shouldn’t count. They should have their own record book, and it shouldn’t count. All the guys before us they’re cheating them. These guys from the past are in the Hall of Fame, and these guys (who are on steroids) are breaking their records. It shouldn’t count. It’s not fair.”
As for a solution, Oswalt proposes that:
     “They can have their own record book and they can have their own records. They shouldn’t have it with guys that did it on natural talent that played the game right like I did.” [Astros’ Oswald Backs Berkman, Calls Out Steroid Users, by Jose de Jesus Ortiz, Houston Chronicle, February 10, 2009]
As I review Oswalt’s comments, I wonder where, if anywhere, is he wrong?
The BBWAA has an option other than Oswalt’s suggestion that abusers have their “own record book,” however.
Vote only for players known to be steroid free.

9 Replies to “Roy Oswalt Explains How Steroid Users Cheat Him and Us”

  1. Baseball is a game of so many what ifs as it is. This is just one more. Consider how important it is for a player to play in the right organization, at the right time, to have the opportunity to succeed and to actually do so. Consider him having to stay healthy and to have a position open to him at the right time. All of these are just as important, if not more so than whether someone took advantage of “enhancers” to be able to get the most out of their ability.
    The game is filled with those who’ve used legal substances such as alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine as well as using controlled substances like greenies and cocaine.
    In any highly paid, competitive sport it’s to be expected to see players using whatever is available to give them that edge they need to play at that level.
    Could we look at Oswalt as having cheated himself and perhaps his fans and teammates by not taking substances that might have either prevented or perhaps have helped his chronic back injuries heal faster? Has he cheated himself and the game of what might have been an even more outstanding career that might end up being the difference between visiting Cooperstown and having his own plaque there?
    It’s easy for us who don’t have anything invested to condemn players, but the reality is that when we don’t feel well, or when serious health issues arise, are the first ones to look to the doctors and modern medicine to come to our aid with the latest pill or potion. It just might be a bit of hypocrisy to claim for others to hold to standards we couldn’t live by ourselves.

  2. If it were a matter of healing a person’s back or other chronic problems, it wouldn’t be cheating. But it imho it would be cheating if literally improves you beyond your own natural talents and ability to play the game. I also think that most PED’s are not like vitamins where it is safe to take it without a knowledgable medical practitioner. Think of all the young aspiring athletes who use PED’s on their own. Ken Caminity and to lesser extent, Jose Canseco who’s body can’t make testosterone anymore or Barry Bonds with his head size transformation are not good signs of who knows what else could be going on.

    It would have been great to see Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays take something that could have allowed us to have him stay on longer after they could no longer get around on those pitches and those once monster shots turned into fly outs. Maybe I’m an old fool I guess, and just have a hard time accepting PED’s as not cheating.

    But I do think that Vinny and others make and have made a good argument for PED’s as much as I disagree with it. And it seems that generations change in their outlook too.
    A sage like Mr. Creamer with his comment about the free use of bennies and reds, etc. makes me think about why others feel that PED’s are ok. My own lay-sense was that steroids and the like made people into athletes that nature did not and therefor was cheating. But again, my thoughts may be out dated or just ignorant.

    It is not an easy answer as it can stray into not just the cheating issue, but free choice, the use it has had among minors and aspiring athletes whose bodies are still forming etc.

    It is probably also getting more complex as technology is advancing such that PED’s are surely now harder to detect and also some have had success with what would be seen as “supplements” you might find in a health food store that mimic what anabolics and other now considered illegal PED’s could do before. Then we are in the realm where what is a “vitamin-type” supplement and what is a medication? It is a tough call for me as a neophyte in this area to know what is right. I think will become more difficult to determine as time and technology move forward.

  3. Thanks for your comments Sam. As an old timer I’ve taken to using HGH and other natural supplements to increase my testosterone levels and whether it has an effect or not, I don’t feel like it’s cheating to try to retain my energy and muscle mass as I grow older. These are personal choices we all make like whether or not we choose to smoke, over eat, drink too much, or fail to stay in shape or marry the wrong woman.
    God knows how many of our greatest athletes have cheated themselves by not taking better care of their bodies and the gifts they were given. But these are choices that each of us have got to make for ourselves and to have others dictate them to us is an even worse alternative. Just look around at the regulatory nightmare we live in today based on some spurious assumptions that someone knows best for us about ourselves than we do. We also know that this interference in our lives and with our personal liberties never seem to reach a limit beyond which the meddling stops, if you know what I mean.
    There is no perfection that we’re ever going to reach in life, no way to protect us from ourselves or to prevent our learning from our own mistakes. The best thing we may be able to do is to set an example for others by striving to be the best we can be without lecturing or hectoring, or worse, turning people who harm no one else, and only potentially themselves, into criminals. Vices aren’t crimes and stupidity has its own penalties that are even more harsh and exacting as anything we might come up with. Just the scorn in which these players are held may be the most effective deterrent that there is.
    You well thought out views are appreciated. Thank you.

  4. Am I missing something? Was the conclusion from Joe’s piece cut?

    “Vote only for players known to be steroid free?”

    How does one do that? How does Jeff Bagwell, Pedro Martinez, or Greg Maddux prove they were steroid free? More importantly, isn’t the assumption that they are innocent until (legally) proven guilty?

    Haven’t you just highlighted the problem? We don’t “know” who used and who didn’t … Moreover, we don’t know who used what when (the implication being that medical procedures and supplements that were taken may – or may not – be seen as “cheating” post facto).

  5. Not to play devil’s advocate, but some might argue that steroids may have helped Oswalt’s teams win that extra game, make it to the World Series.

  6. Three pitchers on the 2005 National League champion Astros had 200 innings: Oswalt, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. Damn those other cheating teams with their roided-up players, depriving the drug-free Astros of their rightful glory.

  7. I’m going to disagree with Vinnie’s “apples to oranges” comparison of using PEDs and health supplements. Using vitamins and other supplements to maintain one’s health is a far cry from using that which gives one powers they were never born with and would never achieve regardless of their normal exercise routines.

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