Is the Absence of Regulation the Evidence of Authority?


Of all the damned-fool justifications Congress and its enablers are trotting out to defend tomorrow's unjustifiable hearings on steroids in baseball, the damned-fooliest may be that the government has a special prerogative to snoop through players' drug tests because Major League Baseball enjoys an exemption from federal anti-trust law.

This exemption, "House Committee on Government Reform" lead jock-sniffer Henry Waxman told the L.A. Times' moronic sports columnist Bill Plaschke, "undermines the point that the commissioner's lawyer makes that Congress has no business in baseball." Hall-of-Fame pitcher turned Republican Senator Jim Bunning went further, warning that an insufficiently boot-licking performance by Major League Baseball could result in that exemption being nullified.

Three quick points: 1) Why in hell should absence of industry regulation = extra governmental authority to investigative that industry's employees? By that logic, Plaschke himself should have his drug-tests made public (the L.A. Times, like many large newspapers, forces its workers to pee into jars), because his employers enjoyed a special exemption from media-ownership regulations when the Tribune Co. bought local television station KTLA. 2) Baseball's anti-trust exemption has historically benefited the owners, not the players, by allowing the employers to collude with one another in doing stuff like formalizing anti-competitive contracts (such as the late, unlamented Reserve Clause binding a player to his team for life), and preventing new clubs from entering the market. If the principle is somehow to punish those who benefit from the exemption (and I think that's a bad principle anyway), then Congress should target the owners, not the players. 3) One would hope that an exemption from anti-trust would be granted on the basis of its own virtues, and not be tied to something as irrelevant as the response to subpoenas about drug tests. I don't see where industrial policy and workout-recovery medicine intersect.

There's another bit in that Bunning article that you see everywhere, even though it's dead wrong (WARNING: statistics ahead):

[Bunning] said he doesn't remember the top hitters of his day, such as Hank Aaron or Willie Mays, gaining considerable weight or significantly increasing their home-run production as they got older.

"I don't remember anybody getting better from age 32 to 42; they all went the other way," he said.

This is, to put it politely, balderdash. Mays set his career high in home runs at age 34, and Aaron had a positively Barry Bondsian spike late in his career. From 1964-1968, at ages 30-34, Aaron averaged 34 home runs a year in 590 at bats, or one HR every 17.6 AB. From 1969-1973, at ages 35-39, he bumped those averages up to 41 homers in just 480 at bats, or one every 11.8. That is a very "significant" increase in home-run production, and when you compare Aaron's numbers to the context of the league he played in, and stack it up next to Bonds' late-30s numbers in the context of his league (I won't bore you with the math), the results are strikingly similar.