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I’m so over Steroids in Baseball

*The following piece comes to you from site contributor John Ramey*

The arrival of baseball is imminent, and thank god. The Super Bowl did an outstanding job providing the perfect summary of my feelings towards professional American football: over-hyped, over-exposed, made-for-TV, and best during the Conference Championships. I digress.

Baseball is the best and that is the topic for a different day…or anytime you want to get the next round at the Frolic Room. Today I would like to quickly review the Arguments About Steroids and Why They Are Ruining The Game. And I will debunk them. I will destroy them. I will sodomize them. You steroid-phobists will not enjoy this. I do not care. It is my time to lend some sense to the debate. Because when we all stop hyperventilating over steroids, we can get back to enjoying baseball instead of fretting.

Here is why you should eat it and:

  • begrudge the admittedly unlike-able Barry Bonds his greatness as soon-to-be homerun champion
  • knock off that silly shit about mcgwire not being hall-of-fame worthy.
  • (insert any other purist/sanctimonious crap about being concerned about “the game”)

Argument 1 IT’S CHEATING, MOMMY!

Cheating has a long and distinguished history in baseball. To arbitrarily declare Gaylord Perry, the 1951 New York Giants, Don Drysdale, Preacher Roe, Fred Hutchinson and His Minions, Mike Scott, Joe Neikro, et al as acceptable cheaters but users of pharmaceutically-based performance enhancers as unacceptable cheaters is arbitrary, illogical, and clearly the by-product of faulty reasoning. And subtly racist and xenophobic (oh, yes. you look it up…check out the surnamesnames and hues of those you target with your righteously indignant ire…apart from Big Mac). And lets not even get into who used and who didn’t use greenies before the steroid era. Or before they wrote this.

Argument 2 IT’S AGAINST THE LAW

This is usually employed as a bullshit rebuttal to those who correctly point out that baseball had no rule against steroids for many years, even after the federal government had declared improper use of prescribed anabolic steroids as illegal. Firstly, let’s not forget steroids were part of baseball BEFORE they become a Schedule III controlled substance (http://www.drugpolicy.org) in 1990. Anyone remember the 1988 ALCS? What were you Fenway fans chanting?

According to the IT’S AGAINST THE LAW argument, all of Jose Canseco’s career prior to 1990 is legit. And I would posit this is not in the spirit of the anti-steroid movement.

The larger problem is this: People, including baseball players, break the law all the time. You name the governing body that is equipped or capable of determining which law breakings are okay (adultery, speeding, tax evasion) for baseball players, and which are “bad” because they purportedly give the law-breaker in question a competitive advantage. Again, this is stupid. If general law-breaking is the thing that needs correcting in baseball, you should have started about 150 years ago.

Argument 3 IT’S AN OUTRAGE BECAUSE PAST ERAS’ STATISTICS ARE NOT COMPARABLE

Guess what. Stats from different eras are totally incomparable and would be even without ‘roids. We are comparing apples, oranges, and pomegranates. There is NO WAY POSSIBLE to make neutral the competitive advantages enjoyed by one era over another.

SEE THE FOLLOWING LIST

Evolution of medicine

Currently helps players to recover and prevent injuries. Extends careers which (gasp!) inflates career totals. Can anyone determine whether this helps pitching more than hitting? Whose numbers are less “pure”? And PS, would the Babe not have hit 100 more homeruns if he’d had a trainer and a nutritionist? Are his numbers unfairly DE-flated? Should he have an asterisk?

Weight training (see above)
Scouting/In-Game Technology

Let’s say you’re Denny Hocking. Let’s say you’ve never seen a pitcher before. Let’s say he freezes you with a big curve on 2-2 and strikes you out looking. Well, Denny…good thing you can just amble back to the clubhouse and watch the at-bat in real time, slo-mo, etc. as many times as you like before your next at bat. You might see if he tips his pitches. You might spot his release point, something that eluded you in the first at-bat. You might decided he owns you. Regardless of the outcome, this is a HUGE competitive advantage over past eras. Why no asterisk for anyone who uses video scouting? It’s a competitive advantage, right?

Lowered Mound

Would some stat geek please compare the difference in offense before and after 1968 (the final year of the higher mound) and then compare the discrepancy to before and during “the Steroid Era” and tell me which helped offense more?

Different Talent Pools

This one is difficult to slot does it mean past totals are not legit because the best athletes weren’t competing? Today we have twice as many teams. Does this dilute the talent pool? Or does the world-wide talent draw cancel this out? Only now are the best players in the world playing major league baseball does playing the Devil Rays or the Rockies helps players’ career totals? Or could the 1993 Rockies beat the hell out of the 1927 Yankees? (remember, no Latin, nor Black, nor Asian players played back then my career stats wouldn’t be half-bad if all I had to worry about was Mike LaCoss and Storm Davis). Hank Aaron didn’t get to hit in Denver. But Babe Ruth didn’t have to worry about facing the Bob Gibsons, Pedro Martinezs, and Atlee Hammakers of his era. The numbers CAN’T be comparable for a rainbow of factors, of which steroids are only one and as you will see below, a relatively minor one.

Pitching Versus Hitting

Where is the outcry for asterisks next to all pitching statistics from the “Steroid Era”? Did only the hitters take them?

ARGUMENT 4 IT TURNS OTHERWISE AVERAGE PLAYERS INTO GREAT ONES (LIKE JOSE CANSECO, or the last 5 years of Barry Bonds’ career)

here is a fairly current list of all-time steroid team

  • Alex Sanchez Tampa Bay Devil Rays April 3, 2005 Ten days
  • Jorge Piedra Colorado Rockies April 11, 2005 Ten days
  • Agustin Montero Texas Rangers April 20, 2005 Ten days
  • Jamal Strong Seattle Mariners April 26, 2005 Ten days
  • Juan Rincon Minnesota Twins May 2, 2005 Ten days
  • Rafael Betancourt Cleveland Indians July 8, 2005 Ten days
  • Rafael Palmeiro Baltimore Orioles August 1, 2005 Ten days
  • Ryan Franklin Seattle Mariners August 2, 2005 Ten days
  • Mike Morse Seattle Mariners September 7, 2005 Ten days
  • Carlos Almanzar Texas Rangers October 4, 2005 Ten days
  • Felix Heredia New York Mets October 18, 2005 Ten days
  • Matt Lawton New York Yankees November 2, 2005 Ten days
  • Yusaku Iriki New York Mets April 28, 2006 Fifty games
  • Jason Grimsley Arizona Diamondbacks June 12, 2006 Fifty games
  • Guillermo Mota New York Mets November 1, 2006 Fifty games

You could also call this the all-horseshit team.

Argument 5 IT TAINTS RECORDS

But only in baseball? Where is the outcry to strip the NFL record books of all accomplishments prior to 1987? Put your money where your mouth is, dude.

Conclusion:

If you are worried about steroids, you are dumb. Steroids, and/or any performance enhancing drugs, are not influencing the game nor its stats nor its style of play to a greater degree than at least 10 other factors, some of which we have touched on here.

I would posit the natural and slightly silly urge to become totally bent because ILLEGAL DRUGS are involved should be curtailed. To recap, Steroids are not fundamentally altering today’s baseball more than weightlifting, scouting, video technology, nutrition, medicine, the international talent pool, expansion, and free agency, To name a few. So if you are really hell bent on “pure baseball”, get to work. There’s a lot more than steroids to deal with.

And If you still want to apply asterisks to everything unnatural in baseball, how about one next to every WILD CARD World Series Champion? Now THAT’s an outrage.


Around The Web

  • http://www.ourbookofscrap.com Scrap

    BRAVO! Man that was good.

  • Gene

    Whoa John, you are way off base because this issue is a matter of opinion and you are turning it into something else. I certainly agree with a lot of what you have to say, but name another sport where steroids might have been used where athletes get better as they get older, like Bonds, in particular. How many NFL running backs or wide receivers improve with age? Boxers? Basketball players get smarter, but even MJ couldn’t jump like he used to. Bonds had a Hall of Fame career without steroids, but he allegedly was a pig and a racist, and had to use them because Big Mac did. The before and after pictures and stats tell it all. I am pretty sure that athletes in other sports took ‘roids, but without such an obvious and profound effect late in their careers. I grant you that pitchers should not be exempt from the suspect group. I often wondered about Nolan Ryan’s ability to throw flames at a very advanced age and his surly, moody personality.

    Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s home run record, won back to back MVP’s, played on two World Series champs, and was a marvelous right fielder, and he isn’t in the Hall of Fame. Why should Big Mac get in on the first ballot just because he set a single season home run record? It took Joe Di Maggio several tries to make it into the HOF. He certainly was a more credentialed candidate than Big Mac. We know that writers have many asinine reasons for leaving candidates off of their ballots. Maybe a lot of them left Mac off this time as a protest of some sort and will have a change of heart next time. In any case, MLB has given writers the ability to determine membership in the Hall.

    As a purist, I, like you, do not like wild card teams being champs in any sports, but if the rules provide for it, then I have to recognize the Steelers as last year’s Super Bowl champs and Arizona as the NCAA basketball champs in the ’90′s, when they finished fifth in the Pac 10. In our opinions, they didn’t deserve it, but they won it by the rules.

    MLB is in this dilemma primarily because of Fehr and Orza and their bullshit right of privacy argument. The owners were willing to go along with a lax drug policy because home runs helped line their pockets.

    Unfortunately, as an executive in the entertainment industry, I have seen too many people look the other way too often when it comes to morals and ethics, because the alternative would be to make less money. Sports, as a form of entertainment, certainly falls into that category. We will certainly fall apart as a civilization if we continue to ignore laws, morals, and ethics in the interest of more profits. Look at Bonds’ before and after pictures and tell me he wasn’t on steroids. Then, he has the nerve to compound the problem by lying and getting his trainer to take a fall so that he doesn’t have to spill the beans. If you truly believe we should celebrate this, then you are the one of dubious intelligence.

    Incidentally, Henry Aaron, a black man, holds the career home run record. He did it in a time when the baseball pool was loaded with talent. For much of his career, while there were few foreign players, every good athlete in America looked at baseball as their first option. Pro football didn’t really become a big money sport for players until well after the 1960′s. When Aaron broke in, the NFL Championship game wasn’t even televised nationally. Pro basketball took even longer. There was no pro track or tennis. Baseball was the sole sport at which an athlete could make a good living, while today the larger pool you refer to gets divided up many more ways.

    Incidentally, do not call me dumb because I do not want to honor Mac, Sosa or Bonds. I don’t think you would want to face off against me in a general intelligence or IQ test.

  • JohnRameySucks

    Coach Brown,

    I’m surprised that you let this Giants apologist write for your website.

    On to the article…The question here is, WWRBD? Or for you non-believers, What Would Rich Brooks Do? I don’t believe he would do steroids. But I also don’t think he would throw a spitball, cork a bat, accept medical/nutrional advice from so called “medical experts,” and he certainly doesn’t need to see the inside of a gym (see: http://www.courier-journal.com/cjextra/2004projects/making_grade/stories/brooks.jpg). I mean, that is one good-looking man.

    Would Rich Brooks ever cheat? Mr. Ramey, I think not. Nay, I know not…just ask Hal.

  • http://www.larrybrownsports.com Larry Brown

    Ramey – while you raise some valid points about factors that have influenced the game – e.g. talent pool, evolution in medicine and technology, and weight training, nothing, and I mean NOTHING, has impacted a sport as profoundly as steroids have changed baseball.

    A couple extra hours in the weight or video room, nor a couple of expansion teams can explain Brady Anderson’s 50 homerun season, Sosa hitting 60+ homeruns in 3 of 4 years (and not leading the league in any of those 3!), Bret Boone becoming a star power hitter and then getting cut next thing you know.

    Nothing impacted a sport more heavily than steroids changed baseball. But I shouldn’t fault you for your argument – what else would I expect from a Giants fan.

  • gpjohn

    Gene – O…

    i don’t think you’re dumb. i am generally and thoroughly distraught with the red-herring-argument of steroids, which you are thankfully avoiding. you raise legit points. I’m also confident you are handsome.

    for whom are you an exec?