Vance Law, who is in his 10th year at the helm of the BYU baseball program, starred for the Cougars before playing for 10 years in the Major Leagues with the Pittsburgh Pirates (1978-81), Chicago White Sox (1982-84), Montreal Expos (1985-87), Chicago Cubs (1988-89) and Oakland Athletics (1991). During his career, his teammates included Willie Stargell, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson and Tim Raines. In 1988, he was one of six Cubs who played in the All-Star game. His father, Vern, won the Cy Young Award when pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960. Deseret News sportswriter Jeff Call caught up with Vance Law to get his perspective on the state of baseball.
1. What was your reaction to A-Rod's recent admission that he has taken steroids?
"Disappointment was the biggest reaction I had. I was hoping he might be the one holdout who had performed very well without any of that. He's going about it the right way, 'fessing up. Hopefully, it's the whole truth and not just the partial truth."
2. As a former big-leaguer, can you talk about the state of baseball right now from your perspective?
"In my dad's era, when I was a child, it was basically playing for the love of the game. There wasn't a lot of money involved and the people who made the money were the owners. Then free agency came into play in the mid-1970s. That kind of opened up the opportunity to make a lot of money. Baseball has been the catalyst that has opened the doors for other sports into big contracts, too. There have always been great players and there continues to be great players. I do think it's become more of a 'look-at-me' attitude with more of the players. There aren't that many old-school guys who play the game for the good of the team and the city in which they play. It's more about playing the game for records and making more money the next year. That's disappointing to me. The money has certainly gotten out of hand. To me, the reason you play the game is not just to make a living ? that's a byproduct of it -- but to try to win a championship. Maybe it's still there. I'm not in the clubhouses like I used to be. I don't know the feel of every team. Guys like Kevin Youkilis (of the Boston Red Sox), who some people may not like that much, but I think he plays the game the right way. He's trying to win."
3. In your playing days, were steroids part of the game in any way?
"Looking back on it now, the steroid issue began to come into play right at the tail end of my career, in Oakland in 1991. Oakland was a club that worked out an awful lot. There was a strong nucleus of 12 guys would go to the weight room. Jose Canseco would lift with us at home, but not on the road. That group included Mark McGwire, Dave Henderson, Terry Steinbach, Walt Weiss, myself and some of the other position players. At that point, I was an extra man. I had plenty of time to lift and not worry about tiring because I was coming off the bench. One of the trainers -- I was getting a lot more defined because of my time in the weight room -- asked me, and I thought it was in a joking way, 'Are you using any steroids?' And I just laughed. Are you kidding me? I'd never do anything like that. Looking back, having teammates who have been accused or having admitted to using steroids, my guess is that trainer knew that was going on."
4. With the steroids issue, is baseball irreparably damaged or can it overcome this setback?
"I'm hoping that the drug testing they have will help bring it back to being a clean sport and repair its image. At times, you're even embarrassed to say you're a professional baseball player because of the image it has. Fans have been fairly forgiving. The thing that really bothers me more than anything else is, it takes the purity of statistics out of play. Now you have a decade-and-a-half of tainted statistics that damage what Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Ted Williams did. It's not fair that some of these guys have bypassed the legends of the game unfairly. We don't know how good some of these players would have been without the performance-enhancing drugs."
5. Is there a personal achievement from your playing days that means a lot to you?
"There were a lot of people who said if I ever made the Major Leagues, it would be as a backup player on a losing team. To become a starter for most of my career and be able to make an All-Star team was satisfying to prove to people that if you put in enough hard work and you have enough talent, and you try to develop that, you can achievement more than what people give you credit for."