One player's account of the steroids era

Eric Knott was a left-handed pitcher with fringy stuff, a 24th-round draft pick who pitched 24 innings in the major leagues with the Diamondbacks and Expos in 2001 and 2003. He wrote a long piece for Baseball Prospectus that is the best thing I've read on the drug culture in baseball in the late 1990s and into the 2000s.

Knott doesn't pull any punches, and while he never used steroids, he details his use of amphetamines:

I don't remember having superior stuff or being better in any facet of my pitching. My fastball wasn't sharper, my location wasn't better, and my breaking pitches weren't breaking more. What I do remember is that I was more alert and more focused on getting the ball to the catcher. The pills locked me in. They gave me the ability to stay focused on the pitching and forget about the peripheral distractions around the ballpark.

On greenies, I didn't hear the chatter from the other dugout or notice what was going on in the seats during the game: my intensity was ramped up, and nothing could stop me from pitching my ass off that night. The only times I ever snapped a bat in the dugout, got into verbal confrontations with an umpire, or popped off to an opposing player was while I was playing under the influence of a greenie.

Knott also used Adipex, a prescription diet pill that teammates would order online. He writes about how players obtained the pills, how the clubhouse would have two pots of coffee, how he saw trainers carry greenies in their medicine bags. He also writes about his observations on the steroid culture:

I played with a player who cried in the clubhouse after being part of blowing a nine-run lead late in a game. The guy was soft. He was more dedicated to pulling chicks after the game than getting hitters out, and he was traded because the organization didn't like that some of its young prospects were hanging out too much with him after games. When he took steroids, his performance changed, but so did his confidence and demeanor. He was one of the players who wasn't afraid to let everyone know what he was doing. He was proud of how he'd changed. He went from being someone who couldn't handle pressure to a key contributor for a time, before he was injured and never got his velocity back.

It's a fascinating read. Years after his career has ended, Knott wonders what would have happened if he had used, if his fastball would have climbed a tick higher, if he would have made some money in the game. But he also doesn't hold anything against those who did use, writing, "Some players openly complained that it wasn't fair that guys were gaining an advantage by using steroids. I never did. I always regarded it as an available option, and it was up to the individual to decide if it was right for them."

Maybe that was the worst thing about the whole era, worse than labeling certain players cheaters after the fact, or questioning the records Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and others destroyed, but forcing young men to make a decision they shouldn't have had to make.