Monday, Derrick Goold reported that when the Cardinals were about to sign Jhonny Peralta, GM John Mozeliak called Matt Holliday ... not for Holliday's permission, but just to let him know it was happening, and why.
Monday morning, Holliday said, "I am against PEDs and always will be. I’m also a forgiving person. He served his suspension and those are the rules of the game. I’m happy to have him as a teammate."
Seems like a reasonable attitude. More from Holliday (via Goold):
"Just because I’ve said it publicly doesn’t mean everybody’s not against it," Holliday said at the start of a strong statement you can see at the YouTube channel I've maintained again this year. "The guys that aren’t using are against it. We want a level playing field. Everyone wants a level playing field that’s not using. I don’t think I’m any different than anyone else, other than being a player who has played a long time and had a platform to say that. For me to be more outspoken or more against it, I don’t think is accurate. I think all players who are clean are against it. We all want a level playing field so that at the end of our careers we can say this is how I matched up against other guys who were doing it the right way. I don’t necessarily think that I have a more outspoken or stronger opinion about it. I think all players who are clean are very much against PEDs and trying to get them out of the game.
Do you believe Holliday? I do. I also believe that most of the players who care about sports drugs are on Holliday's side (some players probably don't really think about this much).
Now, you might reasonably wonder what Holliday would have done if he'd played 15 or 20 years ago. Would he have used the illegal sports drugs? I will guess that he wouldn't have. Would he have been publicly vocal about the issue? I will guess that he would not have, because almost nobody was publicly vocal.
Almost nobody was publicly vocal because the space didn't exist. Twenty years ago, a player who was vocal about sports drugs would have been despised by some of his teammates, and excoriated by his union. If he was a young player, he might have been hounded out of the league. An established veteran would have had things a bit easier, but it far easier to keep your head down. Which is what essentially every player did.
Think about that. In (say) 2001, there were approximately 1,000 players in Major League Baseball. But let's be charitable and consider only the 500 players who didn't have to worry much about their jobs. So how many of those 500 stood up at some point and said, "Hey, this is wrong." How many were willing to give honest answers on those rare occasions when a baseball writer asked about illegal drugs?
The culture at that time simply didn't have room for a hero. Not a hero who wanted to make a living in his chosen profession, anyway, and keep most of his friends. We all want heroes, but we should remember that real heroism requires extraordinary courage, a courage that very, very few of us have.
Holliday's comments are encouraging, because they're just another indication that the culture really has changed. There's room for Matt Holliday to be himself. Which seems like progress.