When Major League Baseball issued version 3.0 of its performance-enhancing drug policy last week, it was the tougher penalties for steroid use that grabbed the headlines. (A first offense now means a 50-game ban, and a third positive test now carries a lifetime suspension.) But the provision that could have the biggest effect on the game on the field has nothing to do with the juice. Under the new plan baseball will begin testing for amphetamines, the stimulants that have been a popular part of the game's underground culture for at least four decades.
Players pop "greenies" or "beans" before games to increase focus and to shake their bodies from fatigue caused by their grueling schedule. The late Ken Caminiti told SI in 2002 that only one or two players per team competed without greenies--those exceptions are said to be "playing naked." After a night of drinking (which is often used to come down from the high of the amphetamines), Caminiti said, "You take some pills, go out and run in the outfield, and you get the blood flowing. All of a sudden you feel much better. There were other times when you'd say, 'I feel good enough to play naked today, but you know what? I can feel even better.' So you'd take them then too."
Besides illegal stimulants, baseball has banned ADD drugs such as Ritalin (unless they are prescribed by a physician). Over-the-counter stimulants, such as energy drinks, are permitted. First-time offenders receive counseling without a suspension; after that, another positive test results in a 25-game ban.
Greenies have been such a part of the game that without them, one veteran manager told SI, "they should increase the rosters by five and make it mandatory that all getaway games be day games." Another manager believes the ban could lead to a dip in the quality of play: "Everybody in baseball has to be concerned about how this is going to play out. They're going to have to shorten the season. It used to be just the 35-and-older guys needed them, but young guys rely on them now too. The level of play could be affected. You'll have to check on your players more as far as giving them off days."
So a deep bench and young players (those who get their rest, anyway) are now are at a premium in this new era: baseball without beans.
ROBERT BECK (PILLS)
LENNY IGNELZI/AP (CAMINITI)
SPEEDY Caminiti (in '97) told SI in '02 that only a few players per team weren't on greenies.