Though I’ve only mentioned it once previously, Howard Bryant’s “Juicing The Game : Drugs, Power and The Fight For The Soul Of Major League Baseball” (Viking, 2005) isn’t merely 2005’s most impressive baseball book, but also a provocative, well-researched meditation on the last 12 or so years in the sport’s history. Much like Bryant’s sobering “Shut Out : A Story Of Race & Baseball In Boston”, “Juicing the Game” provides historical context for an explosive issue that few of Bryant’s colleagues have looked at with an inquiring mind.
Q: The book finished up after the congressional hearings this spring. Since that point we’ve seen Rafael Palmeiro contradict his forceful testimony by testing positive for steroids. We’ve seen Jason Giambi’s career undergo a miraculous resurgence after he was nearly sent to the minors earlier this spring. We’ve also read about your source which mentioned a possible 50 more positive tests. Is what we’ve seen and heard just the tip of this iceberg? Is baseball headed for a cataclysmic downfall?
A: I don’t think baseball is near any type of cataclysmic downfall, mostly because like most complicated stories, few people care to assess the damage. The rest have blinders on and have come to accept a cheapening of the product as “progress.” I think the game has been reduced, certainly in the eyes of the younger generation, which does not hold the sport in any kind of high esteem. I think the lasting effect will be a slower ebb, much like the political world after Watergate. You still follow, you still vote, but you believe less and less in the institution. Over time, I think we’ll see the end of the sport as a “national pastime,” even as it continues to soar financially. It is a nuanced argument that requires real thought at a time when people don’t want to think. They don’t want to know, which is no different than how the baseball leadership responded. They just want to be entertained, at all cost, because they know what is behind the curtain. It is an attitude in of itself rife with cynicism