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Steroids in Baseball and the Numbing Importance

Maybe because the current commissoner is Jewish (as are two of the other three), there are only four questions that need to be addressed when it comes to performance-enhancers and the national pastime.  Is it too late for Passover jokes? 

Is the sport negatively effected?

Any answer other than “yes” is ludicrous.  The biggest misconception is that “everyone is doing it, so why should we really care”.  Every player is not using performance-enhancers, so that’s wrong to begin with.   Just like not every McDonald’s All-American is a great player or every NC State fan is a paranoid schizophrenic.  It’s blind to rule out their use by any player — yes, even Derek Jeter.  But, I’m sure that the number isn’t higher than 50% and is probably a lot closer to %25.

It hurts because PLAYER A is illegally gaining an advantage over player b (Note: Bold/CAPS indicate player on the juice, thus much bigger and bolder).  It’s cheating and against the law if not prescribed by a doctor for legitimate medical reasons (for which the Doctor risks losing his license, right Dr. James Shortt?)  The argument that both players have the opportunity to cheat therefore it’s fair is frankly a little on the scary side, because we wouldn’t accept that logic in any other walk of life.  Who cares if Bernie Madoff is screwing people out of billions of dollars, everyone’s doing it.  Maybe that’s an extreme example, maybe not.

PEDs are not equipment, like pine tar, batting gloves, or petroleum jelly (sorry, I was channeling Gaylord Perry for a second).  It’s not like a better bat, or a more tightly wound ball or even better training.  Oh, they’re against the law!  In my opinion, this steroids scandal is far worse than the cocaine scandal of the early 1980s.  At least recreational drugs only damages the person stupid enough to use.  PEDs effect everyone.

On top of that, part of the fun of all sports is comparing player a to player b to PLAYER C.  They don’t keep stats just because Tony Riggsbee asked them to and they wouldn’t have a Hall of Fame.  How can you possibly compare the careers of  MANNY RAMIREZ and Tony Perez 

Major League Baseball, the Dodgers and the players also lose — albeit for difference reasons. 

The league loses because the media that covers the sport is very much into self-abuse.  Peter Gammons, Buster Olney, Bob Costas and Jayson Stark line up to beat the crap out of the game because it gets in the way of their romance with the sport.  But, Joe in Boca Raton isn’t going to stop going to Marlins’ games because Manny Ramirez failed a drug test — he’s probably not going anyway, judging from the empty seats at Land Shark Stadium.

The Dodgers clearly lose because they won’t have Ramirez until July 3.  They have a lot of angry customers who won’t get a chance to see their star for the next 27 home games.  How many bought tickets specifically to see Manny?  However, one way the team won’t lose is in the standings.  The NL West is so pitiful that as long as the Dodgers emerge from this 50-game Manny-less stretch somewhere near .500 they’ll still win the division by 5 games.  I don’t think there’s a better than break even team out there other than L.A.

The players lose the most.  The players who don’t use are automatically connected to those that did.  Ask Albert Pujols if he’s angry that he has been falsely accused? 

How do we know that they really work?

Why would any player take them if they didn’t?  Explain that to me, if you don’t mind.  I think it’s a blatant lie to hide behind that excuse.  That’s like saying that we don’t know if smoking is really bad for you.  There are consequences for getting caught in every sport — to varying degrees — and there’s no reason for anyone to risk said consequences if they weren’t convinced the doping was helping in some way.

I do agree that they can’t help you hit the ball better or throw more strikes.  Well, I don’t completely agree.  What if steroids improves vision, even marginally?  What if 20/20 vision becomes 20/19?  What if the increase in strength helped bat speed?  And what about the added strength?  Please.  No one is saying that the only reason BARRY BONDS and ROGER CLEMENS were great is because they cheated.  But, it is sad that we won’t really know how great they were because it’s impossible to gauge the effect on their production.  And, we can’t even fairly compare them to the greats of their own era because we don’t know who used and who didn’t.  For instance; was CLEMENS better than Pedro Martinez or Greg Maddux?

MANNY RAMIREZ risked more than $7 million dollars just because he’s having trouble getting pregnant.  You had better believe he thinks they work.

Do the fans really care?

Not caring and being sick and tired of the story and the piss-poor coverage are two entirely different things.  The only thing the media EVER rails about is the Hall of Fame and how will this player be remembered. 

Bob Ley: “How will this effect ALEX RODRIGUEZ’ legacy?  Is this something that could keep him out of the hall of fame?”

Tim Kurkjian: “I don’t know.  I suspect that some voters won’t hold it against Alex and others will.  Clearly, Mark McGwire has been negatively effected.”

The average fan cares about the Hall of Fame to about the same degree they care about the type of mustard at the ballpark.  Personally, I care about mustard very deeply — brown, not that yellow paint garbage — and I also care about the historical significance of modern performances.  But, I’m not the average fan.  

But, I can tell you what the average fan had better be concerned with: The integrity of the competition.  If baseball, or any sport, loses the legitimacy of the game they are no better than professional wrestling.  That’s why what Pete Rose did was so heinous to the game.  Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden did the damage to themselves.  Steroids actually combines the effect.  They are damaging both to the legitimacy of the competition  AND the health of the player.

The average fan absolutely cared when this story first started to emerge, during the summer of 1998 when Associated Press writer Steve Wilstein reported that Mark McGwire was using Androstenedione during the season.  It wasn’t even illegal at the time, but most people cared.   What all fans are is numb.  Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Roger Clemens, blah, blah, blah…


Is Major League Baseball’s drug policy working?

Without being able to trust the data it’s impossible to say.  Were there really only 103 names other than ALEX RODRIGUEZ on that list?  What if there were another three that somehow managed to get lucky and not get caught?  What if some on the list were victims of innocent mistakes?  Stop laughing, it can’t be completely out of the realm of possibility.  Okay, maybe it is, but humor me a little.

Here’s what I would do if I was Major League Baseball.  50 games is great and all, but the Dodgers are going to get Manny back long in time for the second half of the season and the playoffs — and Ramirez is still going to stuff about $17 million into his oversized pants anyway.  Not exactly a terrible price to pay.

First offense: 2 year ban.  Appeal if you like, but you get one shot.

Second offense: involuntary retirement.

Complete independent testing: Not under the direction of MLB or the MLBPA, but a group approved by both parties.

Test urine and blood, but freeze and hold samples of each for five years just in case new drugs are detected.

The punishment has to be a deterrent not rehabilitative.  Make the consequences so great than no one would consider the risk.  There will still be those who would try and break the rules, but there’s nothing you can do to combat stupidity.

I hope we’re coming to a time when athletes don’t take these risks.  Honest competition and performance we can all trust should be the ultimate goal.  I hope we never find out that Derek Jeter or LeBron James or Tiger Woods or Alex Ovechkin or LaDanian Tomlinson used performance-enhancing agents.  But, if we do, let us not be so naive that we’re surprised by the news.  At that point, the joke is also on us.

We care.  We should.  We’re just tired.

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