Michael/Male/26-30. Lives in United States/Pennsylvania/Wexford/Christopher Wren, speaks English. Spends 20% of daytime online. Uses a Fast (128k-512k) connection. And likes baseball /politics.
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United States, Pennsylvania, Wexford, Christopher Wren, English, Michael, Male, 26-30, baseball , politics.

Monday, March 07, 2005

A word on ‘Roids… 

I’m sure that it kills the MLB that the dominant issue this offseason wasn’t the Red Sox climactic victory in the World Series. The World Series and ALCS were tremendous moments in baseball history, ones that kept people glued to their TV sets the way baseball had people transfixed in the glory years of the game. I’m sure baseball figured that the jockeying between the Red Sox and Yankees and the Cubs quest to undo their curse would be THE dominant news stories of the 2004-2005 offseason.

Didn’t work out that way.

Thanks to the leaks in the BALCO case and Jose Canseco’s over-hyped, over-senstationalized Juiced, steriods were the dominant topic of conversation this offseason. Forgive Bud Selig if he’s scowling more than usual this season. It really stunk for baseball.

Anyway, I have a few thoughts on the subject:

-Why were the BALCO and Canseco revelations treated as such bombshells? Why are steroids such a big deal to people. Whenever the topic of players using ‘roids comes up I always ask a basic question: why is it wrong for players to use steroids? I’ve asked that of people in the past and they always stammer out a response having something to do with the integrity of the game: does Barry Bonds 73 dingers mean less than Maris’ 61 in '61? Most people would submit yes, especially now that Bonds admitted to using ‘roids. (I submit yes as well, and I further scoff at Bonds “I didn’t know” testimony*, but my bias against Barry Bonds is showing.)

*I'm reminded about what Michael Corleone said to his brother-in-law Carlo in The Godfather, Part I when Carlo tried to deny involvement in Sonny's murder: "It insults my intelligence."

But there is a tremendous flaw with that argument: it is next to impossible to compare baseball in 2005 to baseball in 1955 or even 1985. I was just having a conversation the other day with Tom from Balls Sticks ‘n Stuff about the challenges of evaluating “dead-ball” era baseball when players led the league in home runs with 12. The game changes, from how umps call the strikezones to how high the pitching mound is to how tight the balls are wound. The game is always in flux. Maintaining the integrity of the game is next to impossible. So intregrity is a poor argument.

-Let’s try fairness instead: players try to get all sorts of edges imaginable. An edge merely gives the other team an inside track on victory, but victory isn’t assured without talent and perserverance. But there are things we know go beyond the pale. E.g., sandpaper in the glove goes too far. Suddenly an edge becomes an unfair advantage because the other side has to cheat or have no chance of victory.

I think steroids work that way: the other side fights from a criminally disadvantageous position when competing against … oh, let’s say Barry Bonds. ‘Roids help Bonds swing higher bats with little decrease in speed. That gives Bonds a tremendous edge in hitting those 73 home runs he hit in 2001. Bonds competitve advantage renders the competition unfair and ultimately unsatisfying. Why bother to pay attention to a contest when someone is cheating? You know they’ll triumph anyway. It becomes less a testament to their skill than their chutzpah at thumbing their nose at the game. Probably explains why people treat Maris achievement in 1961 with such reverance, McGwire’s 70 in ’98 with such warriness, and Bonds 73 homers in 2001 with a collective shrug of indifference. We knew in our hearts he was cheating. So why should we care?

-Is Canseco trustworthy? In a word, no. That said, he’s probably telling the truth about most things. I don’t like hearing it from him because he’s the guy who never took responsibility for his life and blames everyone else for his failures. But he’s probably telling the truth about giving steroids to players and injecting each other with them.

I take what he says about McGwire with a grain of salt because he so obviously has a vendetta against him. Believeable? Yes. Trust-worthy? No.

-Is it surprising to hear that ball players take ‘Roids? Please. A normal-looking guy like Ken Caminetti morphing into the Incredible Hulk? Bonds own transformation into Captain America? It insults our collective intelligence when players insist they don’t do steroids.

Who are they foolin’?

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