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Subject: Some Rare Common Sense About Baseball and Steroids rss

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Geeky McGeekface
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For those who don't follow baseball, the results of drug tests conducted in 2003 for informational purposes, and which were supposed to remain confidential, have been leaked and they show that one of the game's leading stars, Alex Rodriguez, better known as A-Rod, tested positive for steroid use. This has led to the predictable lamentations and pronouncements from many sportswriters, most of whom seem to regard themselves as self-appointed guardians of baseball purity, and many of whom have proposed such nonsense as striking the statistics of all suspected of steroid use from the public record forever. This ignores the long history of tacitly approved cheating in baseball (including drug use and particularly amphetimines) and all other sports. Interestingly, the possibility of a false positive has not been raised.

Anyway, one of today's better sportswriters, Rob Neyer, who writes online for ESPN, had a refreshingly sensible take on the subject. Here's what he had to say in yesterday's column:

"I hope Alex Rodriguez didn't cheat. If we do find out that he cheated, I will wish that he hadn't. But whatever happens, I'm not going to change my opinion that he's a great baseball player. Like many of the greatest players, he'll do whatever it takes to be the best player he can be. For a stretch of five or 10 years -- and yes, perhaps even today still -- being the best player could have meant cheating. Maybe the cheaters were wrong; that's the direction in which I lean, probably because I've got a streak of the moralist in me. But I will not sit idly while great athletes looking for an edge -- not all that different from the many generations before them -- are demonized by the high priests of baseball opinion. I will not."

All I can say is, "Here, here!" A-Rod has tested clean since 2004 and the numbers he has put up make him one of the two or three best players in the game by acclaimation. He put up equally great numbers when he broke in as a skinny shortstop back in 1997. There is no reason to suspect that his greatness comes from a syringe.

But I would extend this argument to other players who are currently being vilified. These include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Mark McGwire (and the evidence against him remains strictly anecdotal). Each of these displayed their greatness for extended periods early in their careers, long before there was the possibility of steroid use. I have no interest in either condoning or making a principled stand against what these players may or may not have done to their bodies. All I care about is an accurate appraisal of their worth as ballplayers. And there's no question in my mind that these are all among the all-time greats and clearly belong in baseball's Hall of Fame. This is true even if, for whatever reason, they made some unfortunate (but subtly encouraged) decisions about certain foreign substances.
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Koldfoot wrote:
...and marginal players, good men who refuse to cheat are stuck in the minor leagues. At least they have their honor.


I hate sounding harsh here, but they're stuck in the minor leagues because they are marginal players; they are not talented enough for a full-time job on a major league team.

For many years, it's been nearly impossible for minor league players to take steroids - or any other illegal substance - because they've been drug-tested long before the issue was forced for major league players. Minor leaguers are not covered by the major league players' bargaining agreements.

If I had to hazard a guess, based on my reading, I'd say that a steroids-taking major league player's success is 95% raw talent/hard work, 5% steroids. In other words, in the minor leagues that player's success relied entirely on raw talent/hard work, which brought him to the attention of the major league team.
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I find this a difficult subject with which to come to grips, as I can see it from a number of viewpoints, and this leads me to generally agree with the article cited in the OP. I do think that all of the players mentioned would have been great performers without resorting to steroids, and it is a shame that they felt compelled to attempt to enhance their abilities through drugs. I certainly agree with the idea that the owners are absolutely culpable as they did nothing to discourage the use of steroids amongst players, and in fact tacitly supported steroid use, as big home runs were good for business. To a larger extent, the fans are ultimately culpable, as everyone hungered to see 50 homer seasons and 300 strikeout performances and weren't interested in asking questions. It is incredibly hypcritical of baseball fans to stand in judgement of these players, as it was the fans' insatible hunger for huge performances (remember the McGwire-Sosa HR race?), and the attendant contracts that followed from such performances that drove players to this path.

Frankly, the only true downside to the steroid issue in my mind, but a huge one to be sure, is the undue influence that use of steroids by these star players has on young kids learning to play the game. The health impacts of steroid use on kids can be deadly, and to discourage the use of these drugs amongst youngsters, I as a fan am willing to pay the price of sacrificing the popularity and legacy of the game and its tainted stars. If no one who played between 1995 and 2005 gets into the HOF, it's a price worth paying if it discourages kids from harming themselves.

On a slightly different tangent, does anyone else have at least a slight problem with the notion that the results of drug tests that were done without any associated punitive measures in mind, and with a guarantee of annonymity, have been, at least in A-Rod's case, leaked to the public? I'm no A-Rod fan, nor am I Yankees fan, nor a fan of steroid use, but it just seems lousy to me that his results, which no one was ever supposed to see, have been leaked to the public. Ultimately, yes, he is responsible for his actions, but I know if I were a pro baseball player, I would still feel betrayed for cooperating with MLB and the Players' Association.
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Geeky McGeekface
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desertfox2004 wrote:
Frankly, the only true downside to the steroid issue in my mind, but a huge one to be sure, is the undue influence that use of steroids by these star players has on young kids learning to play the game.

I agree with this 100%, both that it's the main negative about steroid use and that it's the reason for much of the hysteria that surrounds the issue. People obviously are, and should be, concerned about the health of their children. However, and forgive me if this sounds like a broken record, the real answer to this concern is proper parenting. There are crappy role models everywhere today, in music, movies, sports, and other areas. And while I can criticize as irresponsible a Charles Barkley-like attitude of "I don't want to be your role model, kid!", I can't force public people to do the right things just because it might help my child to become a resposible adult. That, ultimately, is my job. So, yes, if we decide that steroid use is wrong (and that is a decision, while possibly easy, that must be made, I don't see it as at all self-evident), then set up the rules and enforce them. But let's have a little perspective and not resort to draconian measures and witch hunts, while far greater crimes like drunk driving and spousal abuse are treated with wrist slaps.

Quote:
The health impacts of steroid use on kids can be deadly, and to discourage the use of these drugs amongst youngsters, I as a fan am willing to pay the price of sacrificing the popularity and legacy of the game and its tainted stars. If no one who played between 1995 and 2005 gets into the HOF, it's a price worth paying if it discourages kids from harming themselves.

And that, to me, is a step too far. Not only does it seem like a disproportionate response to the crime, but it's way too late to have an effect on the kids. In a way, it just reinforces the notion that steroid use leads to better numbers--teenagers aren't going to take the next step and say, "Yeah, but if I take this stuff, I won't get into the Hall of Fame." No, I think depriving HoF status to offending players is purely punitive, the penalty we want them to pay for making our jobs as parents a little tougher. And I find that both unfair and unreasonable--better we should spend that effort on teaching our kids how to make better decisions.

Quote:
On a slightly different tangent, does anyone else have at least a slight problem with the notion that the results of drug tests that were done without any associated punitive measures in mind, and with a guarantee of annonymity, have been, at least in A-Rod's case, leaked to the public?

I have a pretty large problem with it, even though it doesn't alter the basic facts of the case. And I do believe some kind of investigation is taking place about it. However, given the current atmosphere regarding this issue, I don't expect too much to come of it or a particularly large penalty to be assessed if the guilty party is identified. And that, to me, is another indication that our value judgments are a bit warped where this kind of thing is concerned.
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Koldfoot wrote:
Rob, you know that the issue is about taking new products before tests are developed to detect them. The same products are available to minor an major league players, if they have the right connections.

Marginal players on steroids have a leg up on all the other marginal minor league players.

So. You tell me. Why is it that the top players are getting busted, if everyone believes steroids only give a marginal advantage?


It is only the top players who are discussed, because no one cares about Yamid Haad. If you look at the players who are named in the Mitchell Report and the players who have been suspended, you will see that marginal players are quite well-represented. In fact, it is the the marginal players who have the most to gain.
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Geeky McGeekface
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Koldfoot wrote:
So. You tell me. Why is it that the top players are getting busted, if everyone believes steroids only give a marginal advantage?

Fear for our children, Koldie. The same fear that led to laws requiring manditory sentencing for possession of tiny amounts of pot. We also still have a large residue of Puritanical sentiment in our country (cf: Prohibition).

Almost everyone agrees that steroids improve performance to some extent. But no one can claim to know how much. How does it compare with the assistance that amphetimine usage provides? ("Greenies" were popped regularly in the sixties and seventies--hell, clubs used to put bowls of them out in the locker rooms, like so many M&Ms.) What about legal nutritional suppliments? Or something like blood doping?

I just think there is more of a continuum of athletic cheating (or pushing the envelope) than is usually acknowledged. Some cheating is praiseworthy; we love the fact that Gaylord Perry threw spitballs right under the umpires' eyes and rewarded him with a plaque in the Hall of Fame. If Sammy Sosa is kept out of the Hall, it'll be because he was suspected (AFAIK, he's never failed a drug test) of steroid use, but not because of the undeniable fact that he used a corked bat. Isn't that just a little bit wacky?

Our attitudes on this are all over the place and they have little to do with any hard facts about how steroids improve performance. Sportswriters talk about the "Steroid Era", but they have no idea if it's true or not. It ignores the fact that parks were getting smaller, rules were changed to encourage the offense (because it helped sell tickets), and apparently as many pitchers were juicing as were hitters. We can tar everyone with the same moralistic brush or we can acknowledge that this was an era with unusually high offensive showings (comparable to other periods in baseball history, like the 1930s or the 1890s) and judge the players by how they performed against their peers. Since we'll never truly know who was using and who wasn't, I don't see where any other method of evaluation makes any sense.
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Geeky McGeekface
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If you're asking why top players were using steroids when their jobs were secure, the answer, as Neyer said in his article, is that athletes always seek an edge. It's what they've been trained to do since they were young. I'm not trying to justify it or use the excuse that "everybody does it". I'm simply saying why it isn't surprising that it happened, particularly when it appeared that it was easy to get away with it. I can completely see a hitter who averaged 35 home runs a year saying "Maybe if I take steroids, I can hit 40 dingers, lead the lead, and get a long-term contract." Whether the drugs will let him hit those 5 extra homers is far from certain, but he might feel it is worth what he views as the neglible risk on the chance that it will.
 
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Koldfoot wrote:
(and by "we" I mean "you folks to whom baseball matters")

QFT. (the rest of your post is also excellent)

I can think of few terms as laughable as "baseball great." It, and the adulation that comes with it are a source of hilarity to myself and my friends (though not to my father, who is a fan). 99% of them are immature twats who play a game for a living, and get disproportionately spoiled for it.

Exchanging shrunken gonads for money and fame is stupid. Getting caught and lying about it is reprehensible.
Putting them in jail is vengeful ineffective.
Ridiculing them and their 'accomplishments' would be more appropriate.
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Koldfoot wrote:
Fact: Steroids are illegal to use without a doctors perscription.

Players who use them illegally are criminals.

People who jaywalk are also criminals.

Quote:
If they would own up to their transgressions, then and only then should we consider forgiving them.

Sorry, I'm just a dumb baseball fan. I'll leave forgiveness up to the supernatural being of your choice.

I'm being snarky there, but I honestly feel like who the hell am I to be doling out forgiveness to anyone I'm not personally acquainted with. I do agree that in most cases, they'd be smarter to confess. However, I turn again to the psyche of the average athlete. Take Roger Clemens. Here he's a shoo-in for a first round election to the Hall of Fame and this nobody shows up and threatens to greatly diminish his reputation. His strategy? Deny, deny, deny, and while he's at it, sue, sue, sue. Was this a smart thing to do? Hell no, but no one ever accused Roger of an inflated IQ. Even as a ballplayer, he was something of a nut case. And that ultra-competitiveness extended to his attempts to protect his name, with tragic results that might include jail time.

In Mark McGwire's case, his silence might well stem from his well known sense of privacy and maybe even from a (thoroughly justified) disdain for the Congressmen who were turning their steroids investigation into a witchhunt and a circus. But that's a comment for another time. He too would best be served by coming clean (assuming he actually did use the stuff) and maybe he will some day. If he does, I'm sure the sportswriters will jump all over his ass, but there's a good chance that the public will eventually forgive him, as they've forgiven other steroid users, because of his past record of high character actions.
 
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Larry Levy wrote:
Koldfoot wrote:
Fact: Steroids are illegal to use without a doctors perscription.

Players who use them illegally are criminals.

People who jaywalk are also criminals.

Quote:
If they would own up to their transgressions, then and only then should we consider forgiving them.

Sorry, I'm just a dumb baseball fan. I'll leave forgiveness up to the supernatural being of your choice.

I'm being snarky there, but I honestly feel like who the hell am I to be doling out forgiveness to anyone I'm not personally acquainted with. I do agree that in most cases, they'd be smarter to confess. However, I turn again to the psyche of the average athlete. Take Roger Clemens. Here he's a shoo-in for a first round election to the Hall of Fame and this nobody shows up and threatens to greatly diminish his reputation. His strategy? Deny, deny, deny, and while he's at it, sue, sue, sue. Was this a smart thing to do? Hell no, but no one ever accused Roger of an inflated IQ. Even as a ballplayer, he was something of a nut case. And that ultra-competitiveness extended to his attempts to protect his name, with tragic results that might include jail time.

In Mark McGwire's case, his silence might well stem from his well known sense of privacy and maybe even from a (thoroughly justified) disdain for the Congressmen who were turning their steroids investigation into a witchhunt and a circus. But that's a comment for another time. He too would best be served by coming clean (assuming he actually did use the stuff) and maybe he will some day. If he does, I'm sure the sportswriters will jump all over his ass, but there's a good chance that the public will eventually forgive him, as they've forgiven other steroid users, because of his past record of high character actions.


Look at the players who more or less owned up to it... Giambi, Pettitte. They apologized and, along with the fans, moved on. (There are way too many Yankees in this conversation for my comfort!)
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Koldfoot wrote:
...and marginal players, good men who refuse to cheat are stuck in the minor leagues. At least they have their honor.


And those marginal players could take steroids and still they would be marginal players.

Hank Arron didn't take Steriods and he could lob balls over the fence, and he was down right doughy. I'm doughy and I couldn't do it. I could take steroids for years, and I STILL wouldn't be able to lob balls over that fence.

Talent is Talent, and steroids isn't going to fix that.

 
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MWChapel wrote:
Koldfoot wrote:
...and marginal players, good men who refuse to cheat are stuck in the minor leagues. At least they have their honor.


And those marginal players could take steroids and still they would be marginal players.

Hank Arron didn't take Steriods and he could lob balls over the fence, and he was down right doughy. I'm doughy and I couldn't do it. I could take steroids for years, and I STILL wouldn't be able to lob balls over that fence.

Talent is Talent, and steroids isn't going to fix that.



In general, I tend to agree, but baseball, like all sports, can be a game of inches. I think what can be debated is could the use of steroids potentially turn 340 foot fly-outs into 343 foot home runs. Could steroids turn warning track power into bleacher seat power? I think when you look at some of the big HR hitters of the 'roid era and consider this, the drug impact may be somewhat significant. And could steroids help a fast-ball pitcher by allowing him to throw as hard as he could every pitch and every start, secure in the knowledge that the steroids would help his body recover faster and more completely between starts, making injuries and missed starts less of a concern?
 
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desertfox2004 wrote:
secure in the knowledge that the steroids would help his body recover faster and more completely between starts, making injuries and missed starts less of a concern?


This.

And if so, I say that steroids in this arena is a "good" thing.

Unless you think injury prevention is unfair? Then hey, playing football with a helmet is unfair, or hockey with a mask is unfair.
 
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MWChapel wrote:
desertfox2004 wrote:
secure in the knowledge that the steroids would help his body recover faster and more completely between starts, making injuries and missed starts less of a concern?


This.

And if so, I say that steroids in this arena is a "good" thing.

Unless you think injury prevention is unfair? Then hey, playing football with a helmet is unfair, or hockey with a mask is unfair.


The thing is, while steroids do impart short term health benefits to athletes, there is a considerable amount of concern about the long term health impact of sustained use of steroids. Further, going back to the point that most people (myself included) harp on regarding 'roids, the use by high profile star athletes of these drugs is a strong, if unspoken, endorsement of their use to youngsters who play sports in high school and have dreams of playing at a higher level of competition. There is a lot of concern about the use of steroids by young athletes, and a tacit endorsement of their use by adult superstars will make it difficult for the kids to resist, possibly resulting in serious health problems.

Frankly, if it wasn't for the concern about the kids messing themselves up by attempting to emulate these sports stars, I wouldn't have any problem with the pros using the stuff. Legalize it, prescribe it, and get it out in the open - that's fine with me. Let the adult player make the choice of potentially sacrificing his long term health for his short term gain, that's cool.
 
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MWChapel wrote:

And those marginal players could take steroids and still they would be marginal players.



But they may become marginal low end players in the majors rather than marginal high end players in the minors.

What if a drug is developed that would boost weaker players above clean better players? Would that change anyone's opinion.

How about prosthetics or other enhancements? If it gave a runner an extra jump to remove his feet and put springy prosthetics in place, should it be allowed?

Suppose a pitcher wants a springier tendon in his elbow, any issue with allowing that "replacement" even if his current one is healthy?

Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing a league were players could do anything they want, but do worry about the kids in the sport.

Maybe after you make the league, you can do anything, but any enhancement before that means you're banned for life?

My older kids didn't do sports, but my 11 yo plays soccer and just started hockey. While he's living at home, he will be clean.

However, the most travelled route to the NHL is via the OHL and kids usually go to live with host families while still in high school. It's most likely not something that I'll have to worry about, but how would you be sure the host family would pay as much attention (and see any signs) as a parent would?

Another thing that a lot of parents need to worry about is Ritalin (and other ADD drugs) in circulation as "study aids." I think it's mostly a problem in college now, but I could see it making it to high schools when competing to get into good colleges. It's not as easy to detect as drinking or smoking. As long as we keep "winking" or even putting them in HoF, society is sending a message that cheating is ok, if you like the results. As a parent, I would prefer society would send the same message as we do, especially in something as fundamental as don't break the law or there will be (negative) consequences.
 
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qzhdad wrote:


How about prosthetics or other enhancements? If it gave a runner an extra jump to remove his feet and put springy prosthetics in place, should it be allowed?

Suppose a pitcher wants a springier tendon in his elbow, any issue with allowing that "replacement" even if his current one is healthy?


Welcome to the 21st century. That is already happening in sports that even include the Olympics. We we all remember this:



The protective gear used by the NFL far outpaces that of Football 30 years ago. Allowing players to push their boundaries much further than those of players in the past.

There is a lot of MYTH surrounding the use of steroids, and that myth has been well documented. The bad effects of steroid use is in contention about as much as the effects of global warming.

 
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As A-Rod admitted his use of steroids today (a good decision by him, I think) not just in 2003, but from 2001 to 2003, a quick look at his stats show an interesting trend...

An examination of the career of Rodriquez is a case in point that steroids are a key factor in improved power numbers.

In the three seasons he admitted using steroids, Rodriquez averaged 52 home runs and a .615 slugging percentage. In his other 10 seasons, he averaged 39.2 homers and a .574 slugging percentage.


Again, apart from any discussion regarding the negative aspects of steroid use, these numbers do appear to validate the idea that use of steroids does indeed boost performance, making a great player a superstar player. From a stats standpoint and HOF considerations, it does perhaps make a difference when thinking about who should get in, and who should not.
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desertfox2004 wrote:
As A-Rod admitted his use of steroids today (a good decision by him, I think) not just in 2003, but from 2001 to 2003, a quick look at his stats show an interesting trend...

An examination of the career of Rodriquez is a case in point that steroids are a key factor in improved power numbers.

In the three seasons he admitted using steroids, Rodriquez averaged 52 home runs and a .615 slugging percentage. In his other 10 seasons, he averaged 39.2 homers and a .574 slugging percentage.


Again, apart from any discussion regarding the negative aspects of steroid use, these numbers do appear to validate the idea that use of steroids does indeed boost performance, making a great player a superstar player. From a stats standpoint and HOF considerations, it does perhaps make a difference when thinking about who should get in, and who should not.


In 1996 he had a slug average of .631, and in 2007 he had a slug average of .645 which was higher than any one year that he was stated to be on steroids. You may see a trend, but it doesn't stand up to scrutiny of his entire career.
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