From The Dugout
By Keith LeClair
Steroid use spiraling
out of control
This is a hot topic around Major League baseball these days, but I am
afraid it doesn't stop there. Unfortunately, steroid abuse is popping up
all over college and high school campuses around the country as well.
Why the explosion of steroid abuse in baseball? I can offer several
reasons for the outbreak, but sadly it really only comes down to one
specific reason that is driving baseball players to this dangerous
performance enhanced drug at all levels and that is money.
I won't say all, but
the majority of players that take steroids don't abuse this drug for the
sake of the team. No, they take it to make themselves stronger and
bigger to enhance their own performance to hopefully make it to the
big-time stage one day. This is the case with Major League players as
well as those in college and high school.
Bigger numbers mean
bigger contracts, better draft position or even a bigger college
scholarship. Every kid thinks he is going to be the next superstar and
will do about anything to get there. Having been around recruiting and
kids for most of my life, I have seen the baseball draft turn into a
multi-million dollar business that parents and kids think why can't that
be me? I have also seen Major League contracts soar into the millions
for average players, making steroid abuse become even more attractive to
It is a sad, cold
reality about the value we have put on money in today's society. When
you see Lyle Alzado die of years of steroid abuse and are still willing
to take that risk, something is seriously wrong with our priorities in
life. I hate to say this, but I would say the figures of college and
major league players that are using steroids or have used steroids is a
staggering number. Yes, I included college players.
In fact, there are a
few schools, not to mention names, that it was widely known players were
on steroids. Whether the coaches knew or not, I cannot speculate on
that. I do know as a coach it is nearly impossible to detect without a
specific drug test, which most schools don't test in baseball because of
As we all just heard,
Major League baseball will begin to start testing for steroids beginning
next season. Only problem, the penalties are a joke. It will take an act
of Congress for a player to be suspended for using steroids. What's the
first offense, a $10 thousand fine or something like that? It's just so
bad for the game and all the potential records to be broken under such
scandal. I have no idea who is using steroids in the big leagues right
now, But we all know they are being used.
I think it would be
such an embarrassment to the game if, hypothetically speaking, Barry
Bonds tested positive. What would fans think of his record-setting home
run season and, potentially, Hank Aaron's career home run record?
It's quite obvious
when you look at players' bodies today compared to those as recent as
the eighties that something has happened. The question is whether it's
better conditioning and legal supplements or is it steroid abuse? There
is no question that players spend more time in the weight room these
days than in years past, but when a percentage of folks test positive
for steroids it makes you wonder if these massive bodies
are from better conditioning or steroid abuse. It doesn't help matters
when former players come out like Canseco and Ken Caminiti and say it's
a major problem and over fifty percent of players are on roids.
So what needs to be
done? I really have no answers except stiff penalties if you're caught,
and I mean stiff as in long suspensions for first time offenders, not
just a $10 thousand dollar don't do it again fine. As for college folks
and steroids, they will ultimately idolize what the big leaguers do. If
they make a public push, encouraging the use of steroids to be stopped,
you will see a major reduction in young kids abusing the drug.
Unfortunately, I don't think anything will happen until a well-known
player comes down with cancer from steroids and dies. This seems to be
the only thing that wakes us at times to see the potential effects.
Medically, we have no
idea the long term effects of steroid abuse that these athletes today
are taking. Obviously we know what happened to Lyle Alzado, who I
mentioned earlier, but what about this new steroid that has been going
undetected? How long has this been going on? I vividly remember before
Alzado died pleading with athletes not to make the same mistake he did.
Sadly, we find out years later that the numbers have skyrocketed. The
availability of steroids is growing ever so increasingly in the black
market. It's turned into a multi-million dollar business and is preying
on younger kids at an alarming rate. We are talking about sixteen to
seventeen year old kids using steroids to enhance their performances.
This is very alarming
to me and should be to every fan that watches sports today. It's gotten
so bad in track today that they are banning athletes and stripping
metals from them. My question to the Major League baseball folks is did
we know this was going on and turned our backs to it in fear of
embarrassment? It seems that not implementing mandatory testing until
next year is maybe a cover up to a problem that has existed for a long
time. Players shouldn't have a vote on whether testing should or
shouldn't be done on steroids. When this became a debate from the
players' union, it became an admission of guilt. If you're steroid free,
what do you have to worry about by taking a test? It's time Major League
baseball and the players step in and clean this mess up. When that
happens, you will see a reduction in users at both the collegiate and HS
If any player is
caught using steroids, it should be an automatic month's suspension
without pay. A second offense and a six-months suspension without pay. A
third time — sorry, in baseball, three strikes... you're out. As for
what to do about college users, I have no idea until mandatory testing
can be done throughout the NCAA for every athlete and not just randomly
As you can tell, I
have no tolerance for steroid use in baseball and for that matter any
sport. The only steroid Babe Ruth used was probably a fat steak and
several cans of his favorite beverage. I once heard an old-timer say the
only steroid he had ever heard of was a sharp ax and a big wood pile. I
sure would hate to put a wedge between the records of the past and the
records being broke today. But more importantly, I would hate to see a
young man lose his life for taking steroids that we could have
The perfect hot
To give everyone a
visual to go by, I will use Scott Rolen of the Cardinals and Eric Chavez
of the A's. These players are two of the top third basemen in the game
today, both on offense and defense. In comparison their numbers are very
similar, but if you will notice they are built completely different.
Scott Rolen is a
monster of a man, going about 6'5 and 240, compared to Chavez's 6'1 and
200 lbs. frame, but both of these guys posses the great qualities you
are looking for in a prototypical third baseman. So, it's important that
you don't categorize guys on height and weight.
First, let's look at
the defensive side of third base. A couple of essential things you look
for in this position is a strong arm and a quick first step. Third base
is a reactionary position, that requires you to react side to side in a
small area. That's why it's known as the hot corner, because balls get
on you quick and your range is limited unless it's a slow roller that
takes you in or to your left.
It's important that
third basemen have good hands and great body control. What I mean by
body control is that these guys have to be able to play slow rollers on
the move and throw all in the same motion. Great players make this look
like ballet in the way they keep their bodies under control. This is
what separates the men from the boys. Chavez is the game's best right
now at playing slow rollers. Also, with third being a reactionary
position, you will see guys making diving plays to their left and right,
which also requires body control in quickly getting to your feet and
making a strong throw.
So here are the
essentials to look for in finding your prototypical third baseman:
1. Posses a
strong, accurate arm with the ability to throw on the move.
2. Quick first step to the left and right.
3. Soft hands and the ability to go to the backhand side.
4. Body control that allows you to throw on the run.
5. Flexible guy that can play down to up. What I mean is, third
basemen have to play low to the ground and work with their glove
from the ground up.
6. Hardnosed guy that is not afraid to get some stitches — not a
position for the pretty boys.
That about wraps up
the defensive side of third base and what to look for in the qualities
of a great one. If you ever go see third basemen take ground balls,
watch their actions and see if they can throw on the move. We have the
best defensive third baseman in college baseball right here at ECU in
Mark Minicozzi, so go watch him play the hot corner this spring. I bet
last year he won five or six games with his defense alone.
would prefer this guy to hit in the middle of the lineup and drive in
some runs. You won't see many speed demons at third base so you don't
want to clog up the bases in front of your guys that are base stealers.
For this reason reason, you see most third basemen hit 3-6 in the
lineup. They don't necessarily have to hit a bunch of home runs to help
you win games, but more importantly handle the bat well in RBI
General managers and
managers today are going with outstanding defensive guys that can drive
in 70-80 runs a year and hit around .270.
What I look for:
1. RBI guy that
can handle the bat.
2. Elevate the ball and hit 20- 30 homers a year, plus stay out of
ground ball double plays.
3. Hit 3-6 in batting order.
4. Mentally tough guy that doesn't take his offense into the field.
These are my
characteristics of a quality third baseman and some folks may agree or
disagree, but that's what makes it all more fun. I know a lot of scouts
would probably want more power and not care so much about defense, but I
just think third basemen that can play D take so many doubles away and
turn them into outs over the course of a year to win close games. What
you often see at third is converted shortstops that got too big to play
02.23.07 10:27 AM