Field of Screams

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The federal government's dangerous addiction to steroids show trials worsened noticeably this week, when the scarequote-worthy "House Committee on Government Reform" issued seven subpoeanas to current and former players (including bloody-footed Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, whose main qualifications appear to be that he's a pro-Bush Christian World Series champeen who loves the sound of his own voice), to swear on the Holy Bible that they indeed know the text of the Fifth Amendment.

Even if you think that the subpoenaed Rafael Palmeiro—accused by disgraced Bash Brother Jose Canseco of taking steroids—deserves whatever punishment he can get for all those Viagra ads, there are several interesting precedents at play. First, the Government Reform Committee is demanding to see "the names, disciplinary action taken and reason for suspension for all drug-related violations since 1990," even though those tests were conducted on the condition of secrecy and privacy. Not particularly comforting news for the 50 million or so Americans who pee in the jar every year.

Second, Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles), who pushed for the March 17 hearings, has openly admitted that the impetus for the hearing is to "find the truth" in the allegations made in Canseco's book. I look forward to the Committee's similar fact-checking on whether George W. Bush snorted coke at Camp David, Bill Clinton raped Juanita Broaddrick, and Al Gore inhaled epic amounts of pot before enthusiastically putting his shoulder into the wheel of the Drug War.

Third, Congress has concocted an interesting claim of jurisdiction: "Under the rules of the House," the Committee warned Major League Baseball in a letter this week, "'the Committee on Government Reform may at any time conduct investigations of any matter.'"

Intriguingly, Major League Baseball and its eternally oppositional Player's Union have united under one lawyer to challenge the subpoenas—all the way to the Supreme Court, they vow—on grounds of out-of-control jurisdiction, constitutional invasion of privacy, and interference with an ongoing criminal investigation (the BALCO case up in San Francisco).

And I would hope they add Criminally Bad Taste to their bill of particulars. Waxman's horrid little letter calling for the hearings begins with an unabashed reference to arguably the most cynical film ever made:

In the movie Field of Dreams, Terrence Mann, a writer, explains the unique role baseball has had in American life:

The one constant through all the years … has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time … this game is part of our past. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again.

This is not a good time, however, for baseball.

It's an excellent time, however, for baseball to tell Congress to get bent. UPDATE: Here's the Committee's finger-wagging response (PDF) to MLB's challenge of its author-i-TAY. The Drug War is cited.

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  1. The Field of Dreams reference is my cue to repeat my claim that the best baseball movie ever made is The Naked Gun.

    You really need to watch that one, Matt.

  2. And my father-in-law likes to believe that this Level Playing Field schtick is about home run records staying apples-to-apples.

  3. I agree with the impotance of stopping steroid cheating.

    And I’m confident that Congressional hearings will do for that important cause what Joe McCarthy’s HUAC did for anti-communism.

  4. Given the rule cited for justifying jurisdiction in this matter, perhaps the committee should be renamed “for Whatever the Hell We Want to Butt Our Noses Into”. “Government Reform” is obviously far too limiting, as it implies the committee should only investigate scandals in government institutions.

  5. joe,

    McCarthy was a Senator, HUAC was a House committee. While they had similar scopes of work, McCarthy had little to do with HUAC.

  6. If I run ito the Commish scarfing a hot dog at Kopp’s, I’ll suggest that he and the owners can conveniently find that none of the ownership groups vying to lose millions on the Nats meet the high standards of Organized Baseball, and start making noise about putting the team in Vegas. That oughta make steam come out of McCain’s ears.

    Kevin

  7. Gunnar — You can tell Pops that baseball has never been an apple tree when it comes to home runs, due to stuff like mound heights, strike zone changes, ball tightness, wars, expansion, and evolving strategy.

    In every decade the homers-per-game rate has lurched around wildly. Let’s take the highs & lows from the National League each decade:

    1990s: 0.65-1.12
    1980s: 0.56-0.94
    1970s: 0.57-0.87
    1960s: 0.55-0.97
    1950s: 0.73-1.03
    1940s: 0.35-0.75
    1930s: 0.37-0.72
    1920s: 0.21-0.61
    1910s: 0.14-0.25
    1900s: 0.09-0.22

    So in three different decades the rate of homers more than doubled from low to high, and a season as recent as 1992 saw a homer rate lower than any year except one from 1947-74. The apple cart has always been knocked over.

  8. steroid cheating, joe? I hope you weren’t being serious. What about “genetic cheating”? My physical trainer friend told me one of his teachers said that the next summer olympics will probably be the last one before genetic enhancements are used. Why is it cheating when humans use their brains to design treatments, whether drugs or genetic engineering, to enhance their physical attributes and make them better athletes? Is proper nutrition, cross-training, weight-training, etc, cheating?

  9. “Why is it cheating when humans use their brains to design treatments, whether drugs or genetic engineering, to enhance their physical attributes and make them better athletes?” Because it’s against the rules that other players obey, to their unfair disadvantage.

    “Is proper nutrition, cross-training, weight-training, etc, cheating?” No, because those are NOT against the rules, and all players take advantage of them.

    You know what the word “cheating” means, right?

    Oh, wait, I forgot – the pro-cheating side pretends not to.

  10. Lowdog,

    Steriods are cheating when there is a MLB rule that says players shalt not use steroids. Intentially breaking any MLB rule and not getting caught is cheating.

    Don’t confuse the moral issues of steroid supplementation with the rules issues. Older posts by joe (other long dead threads) show that he has his perspective straight.

    And for the record, I’m for MLB getting rid of the rule.

  11. joe,

    HUAC = House of Representatives

    McCarthy was a Senator. He was involved the so-called “Army-McCarthy” hearings.

  12. MJ,

    Sorry, should have read forward.

  13. Yeah, Gary, you sure do look silly!

    *blush*

  14. joe,

    Maybe.

    Anyway, people do tend to confuse what McCarthy did with what was going in other venues at the time. BTW, did you realize that HUAC came into being in 1938? Also, though HUAC is best known for its investigation of the “Hollywood Ten,” it delved into nearly the entire swath of American life.

  15. “Is proper nutrition, cross-training, weight-training, etc, cheating?”-Lowdog

    No they are not. They are seen as healthy methods of self-improvement that require discipline and dedication. Steroids and similar methods are seen as unhealthy shortcuts that undermine those virtues. Furthermore, the belief is that in order to compete with the artificially enhanced athletes, all the others will be forced to use those methods and put their own healkth at risk.

    I believe the “it against the rules” thought has some unfortunate facts against it. namely, that baseball rules against artificial performance enhancers have been very lax up until very recently. Baseball did not ban many substances outright and had very few ways to enforce those bans it did have.

  16. Yes, Gary, and much of its early work targetted fascist groups in the run up to, and during, World War Two.

    Which makes HUAC the perfect metaphor for how the country went off the rails in its anti-communism. Measures designed to aid the war effort were applied to peaceful domestic dissenters. Holding an opinion during peacetime was equated with working for the enemy during wartime. Restrictions on civil liberties that may have been appropriate when the country was under military attack were utilized against a domestic group, and eventually became a tool for the party in power to use agains the genuinely loyal opposition.

  17. Steroids and similar methods are seen as unhealthy shortcuts
    Steroids are not inherently unhealthly. There are only usually issues when one abuses them. People who know what they are doing can cycle on/off steriods for years without an issue. “unhealthly” is simply more drug warrior propaganda. And knowing what you are doing and properly regulating the health of your body requires “discipline and dedication”.

    The same sort of misinformation is what killed Ephedra…but strangly only as a dietary supplement. I can still legally buy it in Vasopro (a Expectorant Bronchodilator), in which I can get the exact same dosage I used to get via products like Stacker III. If it was really a danger, Ephedra would be by prescription only, or banned outright. But it is not.

    So, given that steroids can easily be a healthy shortcut, what’s the issue?

  18. Because most of the people who are against steroid use as a performance enhancer do not take it as a given that it can be used that way healthily. If you are going to convince such people otherwise, you are going to have to address that concern in an upfront manner. But most people on your side of the argument do not seem interested in understanding why your opponents think the way the do, just in castigating them for incorrect beliefs.

  19. None of you are thinking of the children!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/10/sports/10steroids.html

    While I feel for this family and their loss. I don’t get the correlation that their son killed himself because he stopped taking steroids. If the numbers that the ONCDP would have us believe a right, 3 million teens are experimenting with steroids. Factor in the other two guys who suposedly killed themselves, and it’s a one in a million shot.

    I also highly doubt the “but Barry Bonds does it” portion of their argument.

  20. None of you are thinking of the children!
    url has the NYT article, I couldn’t get it to post.

    While I feel for this family and their loss. I don’t get the correlation that their son killed himself because he stopped taking steroids. If the numbers that the ONCDP would have us believe a right, 3 million teens are experimenting with steroids. Factor in the other two guys who suposedly killed themselves, and it’s a one in a million shot. I also highly doubt the “but Barry Bonds does it” portion of their argument.

    The big question in all this is “Is it really necessary for congress to actively worry about the doings of a fraction of less than 1000 people?”

  21. MP – thank you. Very elegantly stated.

    joe – ok, if MLB has made it ‘against the rules’, fair enough. And yes, I have an idea of what cheating means, thank you. Luckily it’s meaning hasn’t changed as much as the meaning of the word fascism. 🙂

    There was a time not so long ago, though, where not every athlete used weight-training, proper nutrition, cross-training, etc but where still very talented. I don’t know baseball as well, but in the NHL, Mario Lemieux (arguably one of the best 2 or 3 hockey players of all time) didn’t work out at all until far into his career (and was also a smoker, afaik), and mainly to combat the effects of cancer and wear-and-tear on his body. I’m sure people could list a bunch of MLB players who didn’t work out or eat right but were still great.

    So I think MP’s question still stands – what’s the issue?

  22. joe,

    Well, there clearly were Communists involved in passing secrets to the Soviets, etc. Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs (well, Ethel was mostly just a fool) are just two examples. What McCarthy and others did was to de-legitimize – by their antics – real concerns.

    MP & MJ,

    You see, drugs take over your body – its like being possessed. Watch Refeer Madness and you’ll see what I mean. 🙂

  23. Actually, I guess it did post. Sorry

  24. “Well, there clearly were Communists involved in passing secrets to the Soviets, etc. Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs (well, Ethel was mostly just a fool) are just two examples. What McCarthy and others did was to de-legitimize – by their antics – real concerns.”

    Absolutely, Gary. That’s why, as somebody who has real concerns about steroid cheating in baseball, I’ve got no more use for these hearings than an FBI counter-intel guy in the 1950s had for McCarthy’s credibility-flushing showboating.

  25. Jesse,
    Everyone knows the greatest baseball movie ever made is Major League. The worst baseball movie of all time is Major League II. Even Major League III is better than the second. Good lord was that an awful movie.

  26. I think steroids is absolutely “cheating”, but I don’t think records need to be changed or any such nonsense.

    For me, part of the joy of sports is watching human beings perform astounding feats. If you take any sort of substance or treatment that catapults you past the normal threshold of physical human acheivment, it diminishes the feat, imo.

    Hell, if you wanted to make a sports league where everyone used massive amounts of steroids, I’d watch. But I’d watch and enjoy like I do for the WWE, as a spectacle.

  27. Gary,

    Did you see who did the commentary track on the DVD release? It makes me want to go out and rent it.

  28. MP,

    Nope. I watched that on a videotape as I recall.

  29. Stretch,

    My definition of “normal threshold” is whatever the body can achieve without the assistance of mechanical (bionic) enhancemants. This is likely different from your definition. However, mine is much more tolerant of things that adjust the bodies hormone state such as a specialized diet, a special plant or an advanced aromatose inhibitor. I’m not convinced at all that introducing testosterone from an outside source is all that different from managing your body’s own creation of testosterone.

  30. And would you think the feats of this man would be diminished if he said he used steriods?

    (NOTE: I am in no way accusing Big Gene of using, nor do I even think he does. I’m just speaking hypothetically.)

  31. Damn MP, you da man. Can I just let you speak for me on the issue of steroids? My skillz are inferior. I need to take some brain steroids. Oh wait, that would be cheating. 😉

  32. Everybody should realize the nefarious HUAC-Baseball link. The steroids used by today’s MLB players are the result of a insidious communinst plot in the 1950’s to bring down America’s game. Too bad HUAC didn’t discover a plot that outlived the USSR. McCarthy was right!

  33. “And would you think the feats of this man would be diminished if he said he used steriods?”

    If two weightlifters were competing, one of whom was a know steroid user, and the other was clean, I would totally root for the all natural guy.

    Yeah, MP, it’s irrational, and I probably can’t frame an argument why clean competition is objectively better than doping. I also can’t frame an argument why the game’s objectively better with wooden bats than aluminium ones.

    I’m a fan. Doping makes the game less fun. Success in the agon that is achieved by using performance enhancing drugs doesn’t please the gods. MLB shouldn’t ban steroids for the children; they should ban them for the fans.

  34. are steroids cheating?

    is stealing signs cheating? is not touching second base on a double play cheating? is using too much pine tar (george brett) cheating? are corked bats (sammy sosa) cheating? is doctoring the ball on the pitcher’s mound (gaylord perry) cheating?

    do we need congress to investigate these forms of cheating too? the charge of “cheating” is a red herring used by people who apparently have no problem with congress running roughshod over the constitution and our freedoms.

  35. MP, I am by no means an expert on steroids, and I absolutely agree that there are subtle distictions that can be made. But to me, directly injecting a laboratory made substance that almost instantly increases your muscle mass to insane proportions crosses the line. I think there’s a difference between supplementing and superimposing.

    Given my lack of direct knowledge in this area, it may be that the common steriods used by ballplayers would fall on the supplemental side of the line.

    Either way, the use of illegal steroids has given some players an unfair advantage. It’s one thing if you’re lazy and don’t want to work as hard as the next guy, but it’s quite another to expect everyone to break the law. Maybe they should be legal, and maybe in 50 years this will make as much difference to us as the spitball. But for the moment, I say they cheated.

  36. Jimmy,

    I was only commenting on my personal opinion of steroids. Because I think they should be considered cheating does not mean I agree with a Federal investigation in any way.

  37. Well, joe and Stretch, at least you admit that you have no idea why you “believe” what you do (joe) or that you have no idea what you’re talking about (Stretch).

    I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree, because it’s hard to argue with people who operate on faith or who don’t know the facts.

  38. joe, I’m a fan too. I think having the highest performing athletes possible (even if this includes a safe usage of steroids) is good for the game. However, once we are past the drug war hysteria and misinformation, the debate between you and I becomes a healthy disagreement of opinions, no different than the debate over the DH rule.

  39. I didn’t realize you were an expert on steroids, Lowdog. What do you do for a living? Chemist? Weightlifter?

    Fact. Steroids increase muscle mass.
    Fact. Steroids are illegal.
    Fact. Some players used them to gain an unfair advantage over honest players.

    I’m hardly arguing on faith here. You can argue that they should be legal, that there’s zero difference between them and a protein shake, that they don’t necessarily damage health and that every other sporting league in the world should repeal their testing programs. You can argue all of these things, and I’ll gladly admit that I don’t know enough about the subject. But that doesn’t change the facts.

  40. “is stealing signs cheating?” yes “is not touching second base on a double play cheating? Yes. “is using too much pine tar (george brett) cheating?” yes “are corked bats (sammy sosa) cheating?” yes “is doctoring the ball on the pitcher’s mound (gaylord perry) cheating?” yes

    “do we need congress to investigate these forms of cheating too?” no

    Was that really that hard?

  41. “it’s hard to argue with people who operate on faith”

    You must not be much of a sports fan.

    Larry Bird was clearly superior to Magic Johnson.

  42. “I think having the highest performing athletes possible (even if this includes a safe usage of steroids) is good for the game.”

    And I think that men’s tennis is far less interesting than women’s tennis, because the athletes perform so well that only power matters, and the men’s game has lost the elements of strategy, finesse, and skill. This has happened because the athletes are so physically high-performing that the sport has become almost entirely about who can overpower whom.

    Actually, I take that back: men’s tennis is still interesting in clay court matches, when the conditions reduce the importance of physical development, and give the advantage to the best tennis player, not the strongest athlete.

  43. “”it’s hard to argue with people who operate on faith”

    You must not be much of a sports fan.

    Larry Bird was clearly superior to Magic Johnson.”

    Heheh. And I believe that Philadelphia will win a championship in my lifetime.
    E-A-G-L-E-S! …please.

  44. stretch, it is only “unfair” because the rules of baseball say it is. The illegality of the substance is not relevant to the fairness doctrine.

    BTW, do you know what would happen if you injected steroids and sat around and ate cheetos all day? You’d get fat. (OK, that’s not 100% true, you’d gain a small amount of strength/muscle…and get fat.) The people who benefit most from steroids are the ones who work their ass off in the gym. If you use steriods and don’t lift, and lift hard, you are wasting your time.

    And according to your worldview, my usage of sucralose as a dietary supplement is also bad (a lab made substance that helps reduce calorie intake leading to a direct effect on body weight).

  45. Larry Legend had a better touch. Magic was a better athlete. Agassi is a finesse player. Serena is a power player. I prefer watching Serena.

    Actually, I prefer watching World’s Strongest Man. Different preferences for different sports…a free market makes everyone happy.

    Can I get my official “I’m a Reasonoid” bumper sticker now?

  46. A women’s power player quite different from a men’s power player. There probably isn’t a single man in the top 200 who couldn’t beat Serena at armwrestling.

    As for your point that there is a degree of arbitariness in deciding which substances are allowed, so what? NASCAR picks a manifold diameter and says, “This big and no bigger.” It limits parts based entirely on the level of performance enhancement they provide. You can make the argument that there’s only a tiny little difference between what is allowed and what is not, but them’s the breaks.

  47. Personally, I couldn’t care less what the rules of baseball are, as I’m not a fan. But I do understand why limits to competition can be good in the context of entertainment. (I’m not advocating limits to competition in business.) I’m a quiz show fan. And while Ken Jennings was fun to watch initially, after a while he made Jeopardy dull. They’d bring in 2 sacrificial lambs and he’d make mincemeat of them. Lather, rinse, repeat. Day after day. Jeopardy only became interesting again after he left.

    It’s not that Ken was smarter than his opponents. Sure, he was smarter than a lot of them, no doubt about it. But his biggest advantage was that after being on long enough he got used to the buzzer. (Trust me, as somebody who’s won Ben Stein’s Money, I can assure you that the buzzer takes some skill.) Sure, he lost eventually, but it took a long time, and until he lost it was dull, because he had this huge advantage.

    Now, I don’t know if Ken Jennings is an appropriate analogy for steroids. But he illustrates that sometimes it can be a good idea to limit competition for entertainment purposes.

    And it should go without saying that the rules of baseball competition should be determined by the leagues in response to input from fans, players, coaches, and possibly doctors, not Congress.

  48. The illegality is relevant because it’s not reasonable to expect people to break the law just to maintain a level playing field. If steroids were totally legal and permitted by MLB, then I’d have to agree that it wouldn’t be cheating to use them. It would still be entertaining to me, but I wouldn’t have the same respect for the accomplishments. I mean, if a new substance could make all the ballplayers 7 feet tall and run twice as fast, that would be pretty cool to watch, but it wouldn’t quite be the same.

    Look what it comes down to is this. If you have two equally talented and hard working players, and one takes a forbidden substance in order to hit 10-15 more home runs a year, which in turn leads to more money, a greater legacy etc., then I think the honest player got the shaft and I think the dishonest one cheated.

    And my worldview has no interest in your dietary supplements. If I suggested that I somehow frowned on that, I certainly didn’t mean to. Really, I don’t even care if you want to take steroids as an individual.

  49. I live for the day when somebody – anybody – takes a cue from Dalton Trumbo (or Woody Allen’s character in “The Front”) and tells Messrs. Waxman et al to go fuck themselves.

  50. There probably isn’t a single man in the top 200 who couldn’t beat Serena at armwrestling
    I’d take that bet.

    As for your point that there is a degree of arbitariness in deciding which substances are allowed, so what?
    No sh*t. I tried to concede that point at 3:47 by stating “healthy disagreement of opinions”. I think that steroids are fine and aluminum bats are not. You think that they are both not good. Fine. Healthy debate. Trust me, it raises the hairs on the back of my neck far more when people argue against steroids because they are unhealthy (incorrect) and illegal (so what) and are morally cheating (not consistent with my philosophy of life) vs. when someone says steroids (or a lack of restrictor plates) pushes their sport to a level they are no longer comfortable with.

  51. Steroids, like other controlled substances, are drummed up to have some instant, life-changing effect. The people that say that steroid use will automatically make you lose your hair, shrink your balls, and give you man-boobs are in the same camp (and are most probably the same people) as those who say that one puff of marijuana will make you a do-nothing high school dropout. It’s all very silly, but it’s easy marketing for those who are against the use of those substances. Here’s a question – Creatine is a legal weight lifting supplement. It will make you stronger if you train and lift weights while using it. Is using creatine cheating? Not according to the NCAA, or any of the major leagues. I think the steriod rules have more to do with aversion to needles than anything else. The national hissy-fit over high school steroid use is equally ridiculous. Steroids are bad for high school students because the high school students get them from sketchy dudes with names like “Bear” and “Ivan” in the gym locker room, and god knows what’s in them.

  52. The legality issue is irrelevant to any argument regarding cheating. Only the rules of MLB are relevant to an argument about cheating. The legal status is simply a barrier to entry. Look, steroids were legal would it then be cheating? Yes, because it breaks the MLB rules.

  53. I would say legality trumps rules. The rule status can likewise be simply described as a “barrier to entry”. It can’t be allowed by baseball if it isn’t allowed by our benevolent overlords. But now we get into the whole square/rectangle type argument, and it’s not that important.

    And to use your eloquent phraseology, besides the fact that it must for the moment be considered legally cheating (rulewise), all I was ever trying to say is that from what I’ve seen, steroid use pushes the sport past my point of comfort.

  54. Randolph, steroid usage among teenagers is theoretically very bad. Although I’m not aware of any clinical studies that have proven this (and there are strong moral issues that would prevent the studies from taking place), steroids cause your body’s natural testosterone generation process to stop. For young adults whose bodies are undergoing tremendous hormonal changes, this can have highly deliterious effects.

    Although I fully support legalizing steriods for adults, I also fully support keeping them illegal for anyone under 21 (21 being used not as an age of responsibility, but as a bright line age of physical maturity).

  55. From way above:

    *****In every decade the homers-per-game rate has lurched around wildly. Let’s take the highs & lows from the National League each decade:

    1990s: 0.65-1.12
    1980s: 0.56-0.94
    1970s: 0.57-0.87
    1960s: 0.55-0.97
    1950s: 0.73-1.03
    1940s: 0.35-0.75
    1930s: 0.37-0.72
    1920s: 0.21-0.61
    1910s: 0.14-0.25
    1900s: 0.09-0.22

    So in three different decades the rate of homers more than doubled from low to high, and a season as recent as 1992 saw a homer rate lower than any year except one from 1947-74. The apple cart has always been knocked over.******

    These numbers are irrelevant b/c they do not take into account major changes in mound height, strike zone size, and ballpark dimensions.

  56. MP,
    I think I came off saying something I didn’t mean to say. What I was trying to say is that the use of illicit anabolic steroids (especially those that are pure testosterone or testosterone precursors) may or may not be safe in a controlled setting, i.e. under the direction of an athletic trainer or physician, but they will NEVER be safe as long as they remain illicit. Also, especially among teenagers, there is the idea “hey, if x amount was good, then 15 times x must be 15 times better!” This kind of dangerous thinking could be curbed if steroids were brought out of the shadows and used under the direction of a professional.

  57. On the surface, it looks like a regression of the above numbers, even without the other factors taken in, would still produce a clear trend line.

  58. Sorry, I was at a job interview…

    I won’t argue about basketball…it’s a pretty cool sport sometimes, but the fouls are chicken-shit most of the time…I prefer contact sports like ice hockey.

    I didn’t say I was an expert on steroids, but I am a workout buff and an athlete. I do a lot of research on nutrition, working out, and, yes, steroids. All I was doing was repeating your assertion that you didn’t know the facts, stretch.

    I’ll quote MP now “…it raises the hairs on the back of my neck far more when people argue against steroids because they are unhealthy (incorrect) and illegal (so what) and are morally cheating (not consistent with my philosophy of life) vs. when someone says steroids (or a lack of restrictor plates) pushes their sport to a level they are no longer comfortable with.

    That’s my view, also.

  59. Great Ape —

    These numbers are irrelevant b/c they do not take into account major changes in mound height, strike zone size, and ballpark dimensions.

    These number are relevant, for precisely that reason — they are intended to show that home run numbers have *never* been stable.

    On the surface, it looks like a regression of the above numbers, even without the other factors taken in, would still produce a clear trend line.

    Here’s a more detailed set of numbers, showing the HR/game average in successive blocks of time:

    1900-01 — 0.21
    1902-11 — 0.13
    1911-14 — 0.24
    1915-20 — 0.18
    1921-27 — 0.42
    1928-30 — 0.61
    1931-41 — 0.50
    1942-46 — 0.43
    1947-49 — 0.71
    1950-62 — 0.91
    1963-92 — 0.72
    1993-98 — 0.95
    1999-04 — 1.10

    So they went down, up, down, up, up, down, down, up, up, down, up and up, with some preliminary indication that we’re inching down from the 1999-2000 peak levels. The American League trends are broadly similar, though ballpark effects and the DH have caused some deviations. The two previous homer explosions — after 1920, and after WWII — were much larger, as a percentage, than the jump since 1999. And the 1963-92 trough was the biggest percentage *fall* since the end of the Dead Ball era. Where there no steroids during the period? I doubt it. Yet the biggest spike years during that era had non-steroid causes — 1970 was after the changing back of the strike zone, 1977 was an expansion year, and 1987 featured (I hear) different baseballs, at least for the first half of the year.

    I’m not saying that steroids haven’t inflated HR numbers; I honestly don’t know. But to say that they have impacted the integrity of the game to an unprecedented degree is to make an assumption that I don’t think is immediately reflected in the numbers.

  60. This is probably far too late to comment, but whatever.

    Lowdog, I had two points. One, that using steroids must be considered cheating under current regulations. Two, that their use pushed the sport past my comfort zone. My problem was you saying that the issue of “cheating and steroids” was just a matter of faith. It’s against the rules and against the law. That’s cheating.

    Now to whether they are good or bad for the sport, the individuals using them or otherwise, I do plead ‘ignorance’. But I never claimed that steroid use is ‘evil’ or ‘wrong’, only that it’s against the rules for everyone and that it diminishes the feat for me personally.

    Further, the US gov’t has no business being involved, anti-trust exemption or not. Barry Bonds is one of the best ballplayers of all time, steroids or not. I do not believe he would have acheived the same feats had he not used steroids…or if all the pitchers he faced and batters he caught or threw out had also used steroids.

    Despite what many like to believe, it’s impossible to objectvely compare the different eras of baseball. All of the changes that have been mentioned fundamentally altered the nature of the game. As I said, in the future it may be that ‘steroids’ as we think of them now (more or less) are an integral part of the game. But that doesn’t change the fact that if a stadium raised the height of their mound unofficially, years before MLB did the same, that we must consider them as cheaters.

  61. MP,

    Although I fully support legalizing steriods for adults, I also fully support keeping them illegal for anyone under 21

    Since steroid use can only (possibly) harm the user him/herself, what justification do you have for forbidding it to adults 18-20?

  62. Do ya think Barry Bonds would have a sweeter disposition if he had received treatment by Dr. Erkine with Vita-Rays?*

    For those who think stealing signs is cheating, there are subtle distictions. If a runner leading off second base manages to figure out the sequence the catcher is using to signal the pitcher, that’s fine. If a coach is sitting up in the centerfield scoreboard watching every pitch with high-powered binoculars, that’s not kosher.

    Baseball, and all sports, are actually an excellent example of private law. In Britain and the other countries mad about no-hands Association Football, the rules are actually referred to as “the rules of football,” and soccer fans refer to rugby as another “Code” of football. There’s even an international Court of Arbitration for Sport.

    If you can keep the government out of it, sport is quite libertarian.

    Kevin

    * BTW, that reminds me of the Dr. Seuss article, which led me to this patriotic gentleman.

  63. Oops. For “the rules of football,” read “the laws of football.” Sorry.

    Kevin

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