Former Major League Baseball player Matt Stairs is in Windsor for the Canadian Senior Baseball Championship this week and he’s not pulling any punches when it comes to performance enhancing drugs in baseball.
Stairs' career spanned 20 years. Most of his time as a player was spent in what's become known as the "Steroid Era". But performance enhacing drugs aren't a thing of the past in baseball.
Just two weeks ago MLB suspended 13 players, New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez and the Detroit Tigers' shortstop Jhonny Peralta are among them. Rodriguez continues to play while appealing his suspension.
Stairs, who retired two years ago, didn’t hold back when discussing the suspensions. He said in a game of balls and strikes players should take the hint after their first offence.
“I don’t think there should be a second time through. People know that steroids are illegal, and I don’t understand why they’re trying to cheat the system,” said Stairs, who was considered a power hitter. “I think the first time you’re caught you should get a year and the second time through you should be banned for good.”
Known for hitting clutch homeruns, including a record 23 as a pinch hitter, Stairs takes pride in having played without cheating.
“You know in your heart you played the game right that’s all that matters. I can look in the mirror and say I did it right and I played clean,” said Stairs who hit 265 home runs and drove in 899 runs over his career.
“For me steroids were never an issue, with my wife and my daughters I knew I couldn’t look them in the eye if I cheated,” he said.
As the most travelled player in major league history, playing for 13 different teams, he became known as “the professional hitter” to many. Stairs said he’d not personally witnessed players using steroids, but he said it was well known who was using performance enhancing drugs.
“I think back in the day owners and managers knew. I honestly think they did and they just turned their heads and said ‘whatever it takes to win a ball game’,” said Stairs. “Just the size of people coming into spring training. I played with guys in winter ball and they’d show up to spring training 20 pounds heavier – come on, if I gained 20 pounds it’s because I ate too much and got fat.”
However there was more than just steroid use going on. Stairs said he dabbled with caffeine pills briefly, but never anything banned by MLB. Others, he said, took it further.
“I can honestly say I’ve never seen someone passing around a syringe or steroids. I did see some amphetamines, guys would put them in their coffee. You’d have guy’s pretending to have attention deficit disorder just so they could take Adderall,” Stairs said.
Stairs, who joked he's playing amateur baseball this year to “set a new stolen base record”, said he respects almost all of the 13 players who accepted their recent suspensions without protest.
“My hats are off to those guys, they could have fought it. Except for Ryan Braun, he got caught in university and he got off. He got caught a few years ago and he got off and now he’s serving 50 games and he deserves it,” Stairs said.
Stairs will be playing in the Canadian Men’s Senior Baseball Championships for Fredericton, N.B. Royals beginning Thursday, Aug. 22 at Windsor’s Mic Mac Park.