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BOSTON (CBS) — Gabe Kapler is known for many things. Particularly in Boston, he’s remembered as a solid role player, a great teammate and a muscle-bound fellow who not only posed for some shirtless photos in his younger years but also played in the majors from 1998-2010, right in the thick of MLB’s steroid era.
Being such a muscular player in a sport riddled with performance-enhancing drug users, Kapler has always faced suspicions that he took steroids to build his body and his career.
Now a baseball analyst, Kapler wrote a guest article for Baseball Prospectus in which he not only explains his PED-free career but also detailed how dangerous it can be to “judge a book by its cover” with regard to assuming which players have cheated to get ahead.
Kapler described his “neuroses” to build muscle when younger, which was aided by proper training and diet lessons learned at Moorpark College. He said he worked out fanatically and built muscle with ease, until he turned 26 years old and he began to have a more difficult time recovering and adding mass.
“Realizing that I’d begun to decline was my moment of truth, the perfect opportunity to step across the threshold from the red to the black (or vice-versa) depending on moral compass. I was about to lose my role as a major league starting outfielder and slide gracefully into my role player/’good teammate’ archetype,” Kapler wrote. “Fame and fortune were still mine for the taking if the devil on my shoulder had a loud enough voice. He did not.”
Kapler said he chose not to use steroids at that point, in part because of the guilty conscience he would have had and in part because he didn’t want to have to tell his future children that he cheated. However, he admitted he understood the allure for many players.
“Fame, power, and the financial security of generations all contribute to an irresistible scent,” he said.
Kapler also said that while the strength and muscle benefits for PED users are obvious, the most impactful benefit gained from drug use may very well be confidence. And that is a very real advantage, such that the steroid issue in baseball remains a problem worth discussion.
“In baseball, there isn’t a factor more responsible for success than confidence. I’ve never in my life had a player tell me different,” Kapler said. “If a man is stronger on the field and can recover more quickly, he’s inherently going to believe in his ability more. I submit that if anything, the value of PEDs to a player has been drastically underpublicized as opposed to overblown.”
Kapler’s thoughtful run-through of the mind-set of a player forced to weigh the pros and cons of cheating to get ahead provide invaluable insight to a problem that’s plagued MLB for decades and continues to be a major issue, as evidenced by the Biogenesis suspensions and Alex Rodriguez situation. At 38 years old, Kapler is not at all far removed from his playing days, and he shares a good number of personal stories to illustrate what life in the bigs during the steroid era was like. Additionally, the self-aware humor he shows in addressing the “priceless” results that show up on Google Images makes the entire 3,500-word piece a very worthwhile read.