'Roid Rage

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Revelations of apparent steroid use among big league baseballers has resulted in the inevitable knee-jerk reaction to ban certain players, strip players and even teams of records and titles, and otherwise insist on that great misbegotten dream of a "drug-free workplace."

Not suprisingly, the strongest reactions emanate from the greater Bay Area, where several of the most successful alleged malefactors–Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Jose Canseco, and Mark McGwire–spent large chunks of their careers. In the San Jose Mercury News, Mark Purdy beseeches Major League Baseball Commish Bud Selig to:

immediately suspend the likes of Bonds, Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Benito Santiago and any other major leaguers named in the Balco documents.

Selig shouldn't stop their paychecks. But he has to keep them off the playing field until baseball conducts its own investigation into the Balco case—or until prosecutors release all of the investigative information and grand jury testimony, so we know precisely which players are accused of doing what. An independent investigation by baseball would sift through the mess.

Selig should also convene a panel—Hall of Famers, baseball historians, current players—to formulate a pre-emptive policy on the next thorny question: Should the records or honors achieved by Bonds or any other men be nullified, if it can be proved they were taking performance-enhancing drugs while attaining those records?

My personal opinion: If Bonds produced a record with dishonorable drug matter in his system, his records should be erased. Yes, that includes his 73 home runs of 2001. The same goes for the 40-40 season of confessed steroid consumer Jose Canseco. The same goes for Ken Caminiti's MVP award in 1996, produced while he admittedly used steroids.

Call me a draconian thug. But I am even in favor of taking away team titles attained by a franchise that employs a drug cheater to win them.

It's the notion of "dishonorable drug matter" that bothers me most in this sort of formulation. Apart from still-important questions about the veracity of the charges, why is it inherently dishonorable to change yourself via "drugs" rather than, say, diet and exercise? Such claims are especially worth scrutinizing since steroids alone–or any other drug for that matter–won't enhance performance if they aren't used in conjunction with other sorts of training and practice.

If drugs give ballplayers some sort of advantage, isn't that equally true of other forms of training and technique innovations? Should Mickey Mantle's performance be questioned because he may have eaten Maypo, which was fortified with essential vitamins and minerals?

And when it comes to negating baseball records and performance, there's a host of other related questions: How much did heightening the pitcher's mound in certain parks enhance the records of '60s era power pitchers like Sandy Koufax (and did the introduction of cortisone and anti-inflammatory medicines give pitchers extended careers?) What about shrinking and expanding strike zones? The introduction of relief pitchers, designated hitters, batting helmets, Astroturf, and more, all of which substantially changed the way the game was played? Should Hank Aaron's home run record be questioned because of his home ballparks? Should Babe Ruth's records be struck down or asterisked because he didn't have to play against blacks? If Jim Bouton's Ball Four is in any way accurate, players during Willie Mays' day were using amphetamines and other drugs–should their performances be called into question (certainly the cocaine scandals of the '70s and '80s are pertinent here, too). Etc., etc.

There's a double standard when it comes to drugs that I think stems more from a reflexive distaste for pharmaceuticals as somehow being "unnatural"–as if there's anything pristine about the rigid and highly contrived diet and exercise regimens that pro athletes undertake. There's an unexamined sense that if you use "drugs" (though not vitamin supplements, which are "natural," right?) to become better at something, you're cheating. Even in sports where the suspect substances are not officially or completely banned (MLB, for instance, bans steroid use if the player doesn't have a prescription and various 'roid-like supplements are still not officially banned).

On an up note for baseball: The Nazi-admiring, cheapskate, foul-mouthed former Reds owner Marge Schott has followed mascot Schotzie I into that great big dugout in the sky.

NEXT: Old Fashioned Transsexual Marriage

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  1. Fair Play??? In sports??? What a sucker! You probably vote, too!

  2. Most sports are about controlled environments that showcase individual achievement not a race between players to utilize the most superior technology (steroids as bio-tech).

    Remember the scene in Caddyshack where Al (Rodney Dangerfield) used the putter created by Einstein that showed exactly where to strike the ball? Is that sports?

    Diet, discipline, training, exercise are attributes of the individual. If we want a race to use technology within baseball – why don’t we just have robots play the game.

  3. “If you really want to ban steroids from sports, you’re going to have to cut off every player’s balls, remove their adrenal glands, and excise their ovaries.”

    Isn’t that what happens when you misuse steroids? MLB shouldn’t be encouraging steroid use due to at least their side effects. Once again libertarianism runs up against what’s best.

  4. I suppose that since she was a team owner, she’d be going to that great big skybox in the sky.

    Southern division, maybe.

  5. Let’s turn the nannycrats lather back upon themselves. Ruth, for example, might not get an asterisk for being free of Negro competiton, since every player had that advantage. Do give him extra mention for recording an amazing career while being a cigar smoking sot.

  6. “Yeesh. People talk of steroids as if they were some bizarro drugs. News flash: YOUR BODY MAKES STEROIDS. YOU’D BE INSANE WITHOUT THEM, PROBABLY SUICIDAL. A steroid is just another word for any hormone which is derived from cholesterol. Endogenous steroids include….”

    I think this argument is bogus because, at least as I understand it, the levels of steroids taken by ball players are much higher than anything that would naturally be produced by a human body, and some of these steroids aren’t produced at all by the human body. A key word in the paragraph above is “endogenous” – no one’s body is naturally synthesizing the “designer” steroids that are part of current investigations.

  7. Lonewacko: What are your qualifications to determine “what is best”? You can only know what is best for you.

    I read into Gillespie’s commentary that cultural moral perceptions are inappropriately used as justification for law. In this case, “law” is the rules of baseball, and I imagine Nick would be in favor of letting MLB make up whatever rules it wanted. Each person has the choice to play and the choice to pay to watch.

    The idea that something socially questionable, like steriod use, carries some stigma seems sufficient penalty for those who use or engage. There’s no need to solidify that stigma into law. People equate the rules of a game with the rules of society (law). The mutability between “cheater” and “outlaw” works against the freedom of those who want to use steriods but don’t care about baseball.

  8. Steroids should be legal, but if baseball wants to make them against the rules of their game, they are allowed to. They don’t allow aluminum bats either.

  9. The same debate is occuring in Europe over drug use (steroids and others) in football; well, that and the continual problem of English footballer violence. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Lonewacko,

    There is a world of difference between use and abuse. No one disputes that insulin can be both used and abused, yet many people who understand the proper use of insulin have a knee-jerk reaction to the proper use of steroid hormones. A blanket ban on supplemental steroids prevents both the abuse and the use.

    If you lose both balls to testicular cancer, you will need supplemental testosterone to keep you sane and to keep your bones healthy (preventing osteopenia and eventually osteoporosis). Steroid use, not abuse, is absolutely critical, and MLB would be derelict in their duty as role models if they discourage steroid use in the same breath as abuse.

    J,

    The designer steroids are created in an arms race, not unlike the efforts of people to create new mood-altering substances that aren’t yet specifically banned by the DEA. Endogenous levels of many steroids vary widely over a person’s life, and there is no indication I’ve seen that the testosterone levels obtained by major league sports players exceed those experienced by adolescents in schools across the country. Also, our current state of medical knowledge of human endocrinology leaves much to be desired. Who are you to state definitively that a given compound is not naturally present in any human tissue at any time of life?

  11. The problem with steroids is that they can clearly cause harm to the user. If any sport allowed their use the non-users would be often be at a severe disadvantage. This would force anyone who wanted to be competitive to use the steroids and assume a serious health risk.
    If you can demonstrate that some kind of steroid use is safe then that would be a different story. But there is another risk in some sports. Steriods make football players freakishly HUGE. While their muscles may be stronger their ligaments and bones aren’t. The physics involved in faster, bigger, players colliding with the same old ligament and bone strength means more, very serious, joint and skeletal (if not brain)injuries.
    Maybe it could be argued that this isn’t significant in other sports but, for football, its huge.

  12. Thanks for the laugh, Stephen. Right on.

  13. JAG,

    Actually, steroid supplements are specifically used to maintain bone strength in people who are steroid-deficient. Estrogen is the primary hormone that strengthens your bones during puberty, and that maintains bone strength through adulthood. Footballers don’t take estrogen directly, but testosterone aromatizes (converts) to estrogen in virtually all human tissue. Absent an aromatization blocker, people who use steroids to increase their circulating testosterone often increase their circulating estrogen as well, which helps build and maintain bone mass.

    Steroid use is demonstrably safe for the many, many people who are naturally deficient. There are a host of medical causes of testicular failure, and a necessary treatment is the use of steroids. If a diabetic wants to play sports, you would not dream of banning his injections. Should a cancer survivor be banned from sports simply because some athletes abuse a steroid hormone that for him is a medical necessity?

  14. Some clarifications:

    Baseball should be free to make up whatever rules it wants to. I don’t know when steroids were first banned, though I linked to a 1997 document banning them–unless they were legally prescribed by a doctor.

    In any case, it’s clear that rule changes, even when applied across the board, affect different players differently. Pitchers in general benefitted from raising the mound (or more specifically, power pitchers), not hitters. Hitters, especially sluggers, benefitted from the smaller parks that came into vogue over the past 20 years (changes in park design are probably more responsible for big home run years than anything else). Slap singles hitters/base stealers benefitted from Astroturf, etc. My point is not that baseball can’t change rules but that every rule change affects the stats we use to measure someone’s performance across time. So do other changes, ranging from training techniques to equipment improvements to better understanding of nutrition. Any comparison of Player A from Period B with Player C from Period D needs to take such changes into account.

    As for steroid use, it’s not clear that steroid use enhances ball players’ skills. For instance, Dayn Perry, in the Reason story I linked to yesterday, quotes one expert who argues persuasively that Jose Canseco shortened his career due to steroid use by bulking up and becoming a one-dimensional player.

    My larger point is this: “Illicit” and sometimes illegal drugs get singled for special attention because we are uncomfortable with them. That’s not simply because they represent some sort of secret advantage over all other players (at least in baseball). If Barry Bonds had a secret “natural” training regime that he didn’t share with anyone else, would anyone care? No. But if you get better results through chemistry (in whole or in part), that’s considered unfair for some reason.

  15. canard,
    That herring on your plate is red. What does medical steroid use have to do with steroid use as a performance enhancement? JAG’s point is that as muscle mass and player size increases, the ligaments and joints don’t get as strong, propotionally. This leaves players at risk for more serious ligament and joint injuries and even more to those players that follow the rules.

    There are legitimate medical uses for steroids, but it isn’t relevant to the conversation at hand. Sports leagues are private entities that can set their own rules. No steroids is hardly more arbitrary than 10 yards for a first down, no helmet-to-helmet hits or no walking with the basketball. Gambling on baseball is legal for the vast majority of the American public, but not for baseball players. The law of the land and the rules of the game frequently diverge.

    Midgets can’t play in major league as designated hitters to take advantage of their small strike zone (thank you Mr. Veeck). Far more arbitrary than no steroids.

  16. Nick,
    Fair point. However, sports journalism always gets hyped up in the controversy du jour. Remember when “juiced balls” was destroying baseball? There was andro and that had nothing to do with it being illicit (“unnatural,” yes, but not illicit). Maybe this story is leaking into the mainstream press more because of the SotU. As far as sports controversies go, this is pretty much par for the course for righteous indignation.

  17. Nick, I think you’re still stuck on the fact that a ban on chemical enhancements, rather than natural ones, is an arbitrary ban. (Where do you draw the line between a really effective vitamin supplement and a steroid?)

    The best response so far has been cyberbini’s, who rightly states that we as fans of baseball dislike the idea of watching unaturally enhanced players, because we feel it’s just the first step towards a technological arms race in the sport, ending with the game played by “robots.” MLB, for its part, understands that its fans feel this way and is crafting its policies toward giving us the game we want to watch. Bravo.

  18. “If Barry Bonds had a secret “natural” training regime that he didn’t share with anyone else, would anyone care? No. But if you get better results through chemistry (in whole or in part), that’s considered unfair for some reason.”

    Hey Nick, how’s this: hard work and smarter training = a corporation improving its efficiency. Steroids = an external subsidy. Both improve the company’s profits/player’s performance. But one screws up the competition, while the other improves it.

    And the difference is even more pronounced, because while the production/outputs are more important than fair competition in the economy, it is the competition itself, and not the number of runs or extra base hits, that matters in baseball.

  19. Mo,

    Medical steroid use modifies a person’s circulating steroid levels to match predefined target levels.

    However, not all doctors have uniform opinions of what constitutes deficiency, or of what the target level should be. Doctors even differ in their opinions of which hormones should be monitored.

    Supposing a doctor walks onto the field and announces that Barry Bonds is clinically abnormal, that he needs steroid supplements because his circulating LH is too high and the only effective way to bring it down is to increase his circulating testosterone. That increase in testosterone may or may not have performance enhancing effects (strength isn’t everything in baseball), but if it’s acceptable to treat a medical condition, should it be acceptable to MLB?

    While we’re at it, should we ban corrective lenses from baseball? Clear vision is absolutely critical for a ballplayer. Are those players with spectacles, contacts, or corrective surgeries violating the spirit of pure competition by using aids or body modifications to enhance their performance? If not, in what substantive way does that differ from steroid use?

  20. I know that this board is tolerant of what many might deem “obscene” language, and I wouldn’t want to change that, but could not a line be drawn at such filth as Go Y*nk**s ? ๐Ÿ™‚

    Seriously, extolling the NY AL club brings to mind that the 1960’s era team routinely gobbled amphetimines before games, to overcome the fatigue of the long season, long distance travel, and, of course, boozing it up. Don’t forget skipping sleep in favor of the company of “baseball Annies.” Anybody who ever read Jim Bouton’s Ball Four would know the Bronx Bounders’ battlecry – Greenie Up!

    Players voluntarily accept MLB rules, so if organized baseball bans a substance, legal or not, the players should keep their word and not use it. This has nothing to do with whether the drug or supplement has been banned or controlled by the government. Any change in drug testing has to be agreed to by the players’ union, BTW. The commish can’t just order everyone to peeinnacup.

  21. canard,
    Are you a baseball fan at all? Do you know the rules? It is ok to use steroids for approved medical uses in MLB. In the situation you pose above, the most likely course of action would be an appeal to MLB. MLB would probably allow him his treatment while they examined the validity of the case. They give a thumbs up or thumbs down. If they say that it is not an approved medical decision then Barry can either a) accept their decision and stop the treatment b) appeal to an independent arbitrator to take for independent review or c) leave the league with his accumulated millions.

    As a private organization, they can define what those uses are. They can disallow paraplegics from using a wheelchair to play and allow corrective lenses without the least bit of irony. International cycling is far more strict about drug rules and medical uses than MLB and Lance Armstrong was able to take his full complement of drugs to help him recover from cancer. MLB will not risk the bad PR of allowing a sick man from getting his medicine. When a healthy man in his mid-30s has to start wearing hats a couple sizes larger, they will get involved.

    Don’t turn college kids wanting to get stoned into a medical marijuana issue.

  22. Baseball should be free to make up whatever rules it wants to.

    Ahem….as long as I, a tax payer, is financing the stadium that makes my local team millions in revenue as well as benefits MLB, NFL, or NBA, I think I, as joe public, can demand there will be rules that make for fair competition. Futhermore, if I can’t have my ephedra anymore because a few athletes misused it and possibly died from it as a result, then turn about is fair play.

    With that, I am charging that the NY Yankee’s budget is on massive steriods and the league should ban them from competition for the next 10 years!

    But really, Nick, I see your point.

    No amount of muscle will help a batter see the ball, which is the most fundemental skill to hitting the ball. Barry Bonds may or may not have bulked up on steriods, but it doesn’t change the fact that he has the best hitter’s eye in the game right now. Bulking up on steriods doesn’t even give you the ability to make like Bluto on popeye and swing with the thick end of a redwood tree which covers everything from batter box to batter box.

    Has anyone considered that laser eye surgery is performance enhancing, ask Tiger Woods. Why isn’t that banned? No amount of exercise will improve bad eyesight, it takes medical technology to improve that. Sure, everyone with poor eyesight can go get eye surgery at the risk of possibly completely destroying their eyesight, albeit, a very small risk, but can’t that hold true with Steroids? Edgar Martinez of the Seattle Mariners, among others, once had a tendon from a cadaver used to replace a ruptured tendon, how natural is that???

  23. Baseball is a sport of statistics, the love of them,
    and a few more footnotes won’t be too hard to swallow.

    It would be a shame to see that excellence in sports
    would require illegal drug use or worse,
    as it does in shotputting, hammer, discus.

  24. I agree that it is up to the MLB to decide what is good or bad for the sport and act accordingly. Betting on baseball carries a much greater penaltly than drug use. I think everyone understands that steroids are needed by humans to live. If banning steroids hurts those who need supplements for some sort of deficiency, well that is a whole different debate similar to the golfer who was allowed to use a cart because he had a problem with his legs. Again, MLB can and should sort this out.

    Go Tribe!

  25. Drugs clearly aren’t required for excellence – but they create FALSE excellence when only a few people are using them against many who are not. It’s like a corked bat – it’s no big deal if EVERYONE using one – but if only 1 guys is using one and setting records – what kind of excellence is that really?

    If everyone were to use them – everyone would end up HAVING to use them simply to compete.

    It would simply raise the level of excellence in human performance. The average speed of a pitch may increase – the average length of a home run may increase. SO what – we could always move the fences back a few yards – make the fields bigger – the pitchers fathers away – 100 feet between bases instead of 90 etc…

  26. Don’t turn college kids wanting to get stoned into a medical marijuana issue.

    Grant you, this is a different topic, but since you said it, I have to ask, why not? I often smoked pot the night before a test, not to just get stoned, more to relieve stress and get a good nights sleep. I would say there is medical value there, I could have chosen tylenol PM, but it doesn’t help with the stress. Getting stoned doesn’t just equate to sitting on the couch, watching TV, and munching frito lays. I guess you can call it, academic performance enhancing. Should my degree have an astrick by it? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  27. If that’s how you spell “asterisk” then yes. ๐Ÿ™‚

    (OK, now find all my misspellings in this thread… )

  28. Some people here are arguing that steroids do not help out much in baseball; that banning them is a reflection of society’s paranoia about drugs rather than a rational policy, etc.

    The tougher question for these people: should any professional sport ban any substance?

    The answer has to be yes. Do you really want to see pro boxers hyped up on PCP, cocaine, and amphetamines bashing each others brains out? How about marathon runners knowing that in order to win, they have to take drugs, resulting in a 5% chance of dropping dead from a heart attack during the race? How about telling any woman that in order to be a successful athlete, she has to basically turn herself into a man.

    Each sport has to set a limit on what athletes can and can not take. It may seem arbitrary, but a clear line has to be drawn somewhere.

    –Rodger

  29. If that’s how you spell “asterisk” then yes. ๐Ÿ™‚

    ouch! Did I mention the degree was in advanced education? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  30. ISK,IHTM:
    Well, if I said yes, the I would be a flaming hypocrite. ๐Ÿ™‚ I was much better at math after a couple puffs.

    My point was that medical use of steroids and steroids in sports are two different issues. I think pot should be legal medically and recreationally, but that they’re both different issues (fundamentally they’re about freedom, but they’re still different issues). To quote There’s Something About Mary, “You’re talking Gorgonzola when it’s clearly Brie time, baby!”

  31. “we as fans of baseball dislike the idea of watching unaturally enhanced players”

    Except that this isn’t true. Baseball set attendance records while bulked up players like McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds were hitting quadruples like never before.

    “the first step towards a technological arms race in the sport”

    Except that this has been going on for as long as baseball has been around. Balls were deadened, then livened, fielding gloves have been improving practically forever, batting helmets and especially elbow pads and shin pads have let hitters crowd the plate like never before. Wood bats are a heck of a lot more sophisticated now than they were years ago.

    One of the things no one ever mentions that to me is an obvious change to the game from jsut 20 years ago is the fact that practically every pitch now is thrown with a new baseball. A nice, very-white ball is a helluva lot easier to see than a ball that’s been hit on the ground a couple times.

    joe, your subsidy analogy is a bad one because a subsidy is by design allowed for some and not others. Any player could take andro, not choosing to take it doesn’t make it a subsidy for the player that does take it. If only corner outfielders were allowed to take andro, then it would be a subsidy.

  32. What interests me in this debate is how nobody in the mainstream press?nominally an anti-Bush lot?is unwilling thus far to criticize the administration’s political shenanigans in this steroid matter. The DOJ is acting under purely political motives, as last week’s indictment of Jamal Lewis on four-year old peripheral drug charges shows. The AG’s office wants to drag as many athletes through the mud as possible (regardless of actual guilt) in order to promote the administration’s authoritarian anti-drug message.

  33. The passing of Marge Schott got me thinking again …

    Society evolves not just by changing existing hearts and minds, but often by staking claim to the new hearts and minds. For example, most young people have never known an American society where it is generally accepted to hold racist and segregationist attitudes, or when women were not major participants in the workforce. Likewise, most older people have known of such a society, and many have had their worldview informed by this earlier incarnation of society. Accordingly, these less liberal worldviews are overrepresented within the older generation. As the older generations die off, ground is gained in the culture war through attrition as much as by demonstration, political reform, etc.

    So what intrigues me is … as we become immortal and the older generations just get older instead of smaller, will society become static? Will entrenched interests be able to stay entrenched longer?

  34. I’m a sports fan, and I have no problem with athletes taking performance enhancements. If they don’t want to allow steroids, don’t allow creatine, don’t allow sophisticated training…just allow the person to practice his/her chosen sport. Of course, it’d be tricky if you were a multiple sport athlete, but I digress.

    And I don’t see any problem with an athlete taking health risks to be a better athlete. It’s their life.

    But of course, it is the league’s right to make whatever rules they want, but I agree with Nick that it’s an irrational, emotional reaction that steroids are bad and people who take them are cheaters.

  35. Nick Gillespie:”…if you get better results through chemistry (in whole or in part), that’s considered unfair for some reason.”

    It’s considered unfair, because, rightly or wrongly, steroid use is considered unhealthy for the player in a way that a strict diet and exercise regimen would never be. That steriod use by one successful player (like Bonds) forces other players to risk their health to keep up. This public perception may be incorrect but it is hardly obscure or irrational if steroid use by otherwise healthy people is indeed unsafe. I find Gillespie’s apparent obtuseness about this bizarre.

  36. Wait until they add in genetic modifications.
    Imagine pro linemen looking like apes,
    or centers in basketball with their arms
    hinged upward, their arms lapped over their heads at rest.

  37. DLC: Furthermore, as a baseball fan, the current style of MLB – home runs galore, numerous 10-7 games – is just boring.

    SinC: Not sure what you’re watching, but MLB’s average runs per game has not varied by more than a half run for most of the past 35 years. The average AL game has 10 runs, the NL 9.5

    There’s still plenty of good 5-4 games going on.

    As for suggestions that offensive statistics from the past decade are less valid, nonsense.

    Shrinking the strike zone down to the size of a shoebox has done more for offense than steroids. If a pitcher could get called strikes by the rule book definition, there would be less home runs by the big mashers.

    I also notice that the lifetime HR record of 714 established in 1935 by Ruth took 39 years to be beaten. And now, 31 years later, we’re still 2-3 seasons away from someone, likely Bonds, busting 755.

    Meanwhile, there’s no one else who could even be considered a shoo-in for 600, much less the 800+ that will be needed to best Bonds career. Plenty of young sluggers like ARod still need at least ten more years of steady bombs.

    Bring back the belly high strike and we’ll see a bit less HRs and more improved BA in general.

  38. Is your point that because the distinction between steroids and other technological advances (like medicine, training, etc.) is arbitrary that it’s invalid? Isn’t the max bat length/weight also arbitrary? Isn’t the rule that you can raise the ball’s seems with your palms but not scratch it with your fingernails arbitrary? Games are filled with arbitrary rules.

    For better or for worse, MLB makes up the rules for baseball and its records. It’s their game, they can make any rules they want.

  39. My point was/is that “illicit” drugs are automatically and often unconsciously put into a different category than other technologicak, logistical, and social changes that have had as much–or much, much more–effect on performance. To my mind, that says more about society’s discomfort with drugs than it does about anything else.

  40. c,

    When Purdy uses the word “cheating”, he is not referring to the fact that it is breaking the rules of baseball. He is referring to the commonly held value that any athlete that uses a drug for performance enhancement is “cheating” (i.e. not using simply the facilities he was born with). I agree with Nick that this is a totally bogus stigma/double-standard.

    I’ve yet to hear an argument for banning steroids that doesn’t logically lead to banning everything except organic vegetables and free-range chicken.

    It is also this kind of attitude that will lead to a ban on pro-hormones…not in baseball, but by the FDA. It’s all such BS…

  41. Setting aside for a moment the value of drugs per se, isn’t the issue that these players were using something that baseball said they couldn’t use?

    In other words: Raising the height of the pitcher’s mound affects everyone equally. Same with shrinking/expanding the strike zone. This steroids situation is different because theoretically, some players got an advantage not afforded to those who heeded the rules.

    If Bonds was using a banned substance at a time when other players presumably were honoring the ban, then yes — he broke the rules. And there is thus a valid argument for questioning his accomplishments while he had this unfair advantage.

    It would be like letting one player always be called safe despite getting tagged at base, while everybody else gets called out like they’re supposed to.

  42. Sam beat me to it; all of the other innovations and changes were made part of the game that everyone played.

    Whether you think steroids should be allowed is a different question than whether people who took advantage of a banned substance that that gave them a leg up should be considered to have competed fairly against those who followed the rules.

  43. Reading my own post, I realize I’m not entirely clear on what was actually banned and what wasn’t.

    My whole argument, then, hinges on those details.

  44. Sam,

    I don’t recall people talking about stripping Sosa of his recorded accomplishments during the corked bat incident. There have been numerous cheats in the history of baseball, but it seems like it is only steriods that drive people into an apoplectic fury.

  45. There’s no evidence one way or the other that Sosa used a corked bat when he set the record. The steroids cases, on the hand, are about people who are alleged to have been on roids when they set their records.

    I’d support stripping Sosa of his record if it could be shown that he cheated, and I’m sure most other baseball fans would, as well.

  46. Yeesh. People talk of steroids as if they were some bizarro drugs. News flash: YOUR BODY MAKES STEROIDS. YOU’D BE INSANE WITHOUT THEM, PROBABLY SUICIDAL. A steroid is just another word for any hormone which is derived from cholesterol. Endogenous steroids include testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, androstenedione, estradiol (estrogen), and about fifty other named compounds.

    If you really want to ban steroids from sports, you’re going to have to cut off every player’s balls, remove their adrenal glands, and excise their ovaries.

    If, on the other hand, what you really want is a level playing field, you should be ENCOURAGING players to consume steroids and steroid precursors. Can’t have some players having an inborn advantage over others, can we?

  47. True baseball fans are also historians of the sport’s evolution, and they judge each era’s players accordingly.

    Go Yankees!

  48. Actually, your point extended to many of the ways the game of baseball has changed over the years. To me, it seems “c” is correct. It’s baseball’s game and they can place asterisks wherever and whenever they please.

    Your article also misses the obvious parallel in Sammy Sosa’s corked bat. The “reflexive distaste” of sports fans is not focused on illicit drugs but extends to other actions perceived as cheating.

    Athletes and the game of baseball have evolved during the past 100 years. What has not changed is a sense of “fair play.” I seriously doubt Barry Bonds put on 30 pounds of muscle in his late 30s eating maple-flavored breakfast cereal. If Bonds used illicit performance enhancing drugs, he cheated. You think baseball fans take cheating lightly? Look at Shoeless Joe Jackson.

  49. And another thing – what’s this illogical, irrational, conservative delusional reliance on four bases, 90 feet, and 60 feet, six inches, as standard measurements in the game? Not to mention round balls, stick-shaped bats, and player uniforms.

    All these rules and statistics man, it’s like Edmund Burke or some crotchety religious conservative designed this game.

    It’s cramping my freedom to play baseball, man. In my version of the game, the pitcher is actually a stripper, who heaves a 10 pound mackerel at the “plate” – which really is a dinner plate. If the fish lands on the plate, I run to first base – the refrigerator, for some white wine. If the pitcher doesn’t throw me out – i.e. get her bra off before I reach home, i.e. the dinner table, I score a run and get to eat the fish and ogle the stripper. Uniforms aren’t standard, but I encourage all players to wear either jockstraps (over their heads), or San Diego Chicken outfits. Codpieces made out of actual cod are permitted. I’m sure you’ll find that in the Rousseau-ian wonderland in which I live, this version of baseball is much better than playing according to the stupid and oppressive (and repressive) rules.

    The fact that Major League Baseball, with the help of Congress, has colluded to write these laws of the game for the entire country, is an affront to my personal liberties.

    Moreover, Kennesaw Mountain Landis was nothing more than the John Ashcroft of his time. Banning mafia game fixing… please. Even if you agree with all the rules of playing the game, his stupid moralizing ruined the game for all of us. I mean, when the mafia could fix games, the results really were unpredictable and exciting – the packed 1919 White Sox powerhouse, for instance, threw the series. Who could have known? Everybody was shocked, and since it was a stunning upset and the game went to the highest bidder, we can conclude the free market really worked in that case.

    Yep, I think this concern about drugging players, gambling, or even hoops and football stars murdering people is just an offshoot of Ashcroft and the PATRIOT Act. There’s a cold wind blowing in this country, etc., and it’s just a matter of time before we’re all playing third base or pitching relief in Gitmo, under the watchful eye of Bud Selig, who, come to think of it, looks like an older John Ashcroft with Acne problems and a combover.

    Now, anybody care to slip into their uniform and join me for a game of catch?

  50. As both a baseball fan and a Reason reader, I am torn over this. I don’t understand why Reason lumps in steroid use with the larger perspective that drugs should be legalized. Mayber ‘roids should be legal for everyone, but that doesn’t mean MLB has to allow their use. On the other hand, I wish MLB and the Player’s Union would allow for testing and put this issue to bed.

    Now, Nick asks (basically) why this is any different from raising the mound, expanding the strike zone, the DH rule, etc… Those things distorted records and stats between generations, but during any particular generation, they affected all players and teams equally.

    The central problem with ‘roids as I see it is not that they distort records between generations, thus rendering, say Bond’s record, invalid in some way; but rather that they create an unlevel playing field for the current players. Non ‘roid users have to compete for millions of dollars in a limited number of contracts with pumped-up freaks like Bonds and Giambi. In order to compete thay may feel compelled to ingest something that, for better or worse, has the perception of being unsafe. I just don’t see how that is fair in a competetive sport.

    Furthermore, as a baseball fan, the current style of MLB – home runs galore, numerous 10-7 games – is just boring. If this is being caused by ‘roids, then get of them. Otherwise, make the pitchers start taking them. ๐Ÿ™‚

    -dlc-

  51. If anyone wants to disagree with Nick, it should be on his political correctness in bashing Marge Schott. Murray Rothbard gets it right.

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/ir/Ch60.html

  52. EMAIL: nospam@nospampreteen-sex.info
    IP: 202.21.176.34
    URL: http://preteen-sex.info
    DATE: 05/21/2004 02:39:31
    Just as a solid rock is not shaken by the storm, even so the wise are not affected by praise or blame.

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