I’m not so much of a PED-guy defender that I believe PEDs have zero effects. I’m sure they do. They likely allow for players to recover from workouts quicker, thus allowing them to work out more. Some build strength and muscle mass, obviously. All of these effects likely lead to a situation where players can throw harder and hit the ball farther or, for hitters, wait on a ball longer before uncoiling on it. I say “likely” because I am no expert in any of this, but I am as sure as any lay person who hasn’t immersed himself in the research of the matter can be that, yes, many banned PEDs do, in fact, enhance performance.
But I have long believed that the effects on offense are overstated. Again, I don’t have exact empirical evidence of this, but I have found in life that highly-pitched hysteria about anything is likely evidence that someone’s case is being overstated. I’ll grant that there were communists in the U.S. government in the 1940s and 50s. I won’t buy crazy claims that they were systematically working to topple democracy and were one alcoholic senator from Wisconsin away from succeeding. Life just doesn’t work like that, usually. There are a lot of factors in play in almost any complicated system and people who point to one thing as a singular, efficacious factor in any phenomenon are usually trying to sell you a bill of goods or have another agenda altogether. And when some other factor emerges that makes the “threat” seem less threatening — like, say, large-scale expansion and a spate of cozy, home run-friendly ballparks coming online in the 1990s — those factors tend to be ignored.
Today David Schoenfield rounds up some past research on the matter from Joe Sheehan and David Cameron which demonstrates that there was a lot more going on in the 90s and early 2000s besides PEDs inflating offense and that there is a lot more going on now besides drug testing and players’ changing attitudes about PEDs that is deflating it. It’s well worth your time. And note: Schoenfield is not some crazy, unhinged PED-apologist. He’s just an analyst looking at data and showing that maybe, just maybe, the folks who think that PEDs ruined or distorted baseball are full of beans.