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Sunday, April 02, 2006

The Duck Stops Here

Dan's April Fool's column was published a day late, it seems.

In a perverse bit of hypocrisy, The CHB today complains that steroids still dominate the discussion. “[T]he Red Sox season starts tomorrow afternoon … and we are talking about steroids. Now and again. Forever, it seems.

The thing is, if guys like Shaughnessy, the self-styled overseers of baseball, had investigated the issue and held anyone accountable over the past decade, we wouldn’t still be talking about it. But no, they relied on cheap jokes and innuendo because, guess what, actually researching the issue is hard work.

Dan’s hyperbole is out in full force. “[T]he integrity of the game has been irreparably harmed -- more so than at any time since the Black Sox scandal….” If that’s true, then why do more fans buy tickets or watch televised games each year than the last?

He invokes Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis for doing the right thing, omitting that the man “endowed with power to do just about anything to preserve the best interests of baseball” used those same powers to keep blacks out of the sport.

And he blames everyone else – Bug Selig, Major League Baseball and the Players Association (“the silent and too-often-overlooked coconspirator in this cesspool explosion”) – for not cluing him: “Why did he allow us to embrace what we now know to be the artificial home run chase (Popeye McGwire vs. Bluto Sosa) in 1998?” Dan ducks altogether the media’s complicity, without which none of this could have happened. All in all, a shameful display by a man who did nothing but heap praise on Bonds while he chased down the record (see, for example, his Oct. 18, 2002, column).

“We all know,” he writes. “Bonds is in the on-deck circle, ready to overtake Ruth. He did it with his own talent, plus some illegal help from his friends.”

But while the evidence is strong, Victor Conte’s pleas notwithstanding (and it’s possible that Conte was being truthy when he said he did not give steroids to Bonds – it may be that he gave them to Bonds’ trainer who in turn dispensed them to Barry), there is no evidence of the effect, if any, that steroids has on the performance of a major league baseball player. No controlled study has ever been done. Everything else, then, is speculation.

And buck passing.

6 comments:

Bill Barth said...

Okay, Chief, enlighten me. Why is Dykstra being thrown in front of the train?

I guess I'm naive, but this steroid stuff is old news. Once the season starts does anyone care about anything other than the product on the field? Well, that and David Wells' opinions and Manny's trips inside the monster.

Anonymous said...

The Globe would be interested in reaching out to offer you a staff position. We are excited by the prospect of having you as a regular contributer to our sports section. Consider your work here as an ongoing resume.

dbvader said...

there is no evidence of the effect, if any, that steroids has on the performance of a major league baseball player. No controlled study has ever been done. Everything else, then, is speculation.

Chief, this quotation is an absurd statement. There is no proof that steroids affects MLB players' performance because there cannot be a controlled study. Ut is difficult to study illegal drugs, especicially ones that are believed to be very harmful to humans. If that level of proof is what you require to be convinced, then you will never be convinced. But Bonds' unique power surge, the ability of steroids to decrease recovery time, and other circumstantial factors convince me that PED's help MLBers.

Rotoman said...

dbvader, I agree that the debate can't be framed by a controlled study that explains it all. But it shouldn't be framed by innuendo either. PED's help players, but they help pitchers as well as hitters. Framing the story as if Bonds alone benefitted (not that you're doing this) is distracting and certainly not true.

The problem of pinning down who gained what and how used to make me a drug liberal. I didn't see how they could be regulated. I'm still seriously skeptical about the effectiveness of enforcement, and I think we all have to come to terms with the pressure our desire to witness excellence (and our ability to pay obscene amounts to see it) puts on athletes.

But I think the games and the athletes are better served if we're strict about PED's and try to keep the games clean. Not because the games will stay completely clean, but to not do that turns sports into an unapologetic chemistry class, and that isn't much fun at all.

The Chief said...

bill, not sure what you mean by Dykstra. Because Lenny was rumored to have juiced, maybe?

I would disagree about the half-life of steroids, especially considering (in no order) MLB's decision to convene a panel to look into it; Barry's nearing Ruth and Aaron's home run marks; the new book on Bonds' reported steroid use...all of these are ongoing and in some cases new stories.

Personally, I think the steroids story will linger for quite awhile.

dbvader, the difficulty (or impossibility) of a controlled study does not supersede basic scientific protocol. Yes, it is difficult to study drugs that are believed to be very harmful to humans. But let's remember a few things.

First, steroids are controlled, not illegal. With a prescription, they are quite legal (and even common).

Second, steroids are prescribed for a variety of reasons, and in those instances the benefits are believed to outweight the side effects. Ever heard of a cortisone shot? Atheletes get them all the time, and cortisone is a steroid.
Anabolic steroids, which promote muscle growth, are often prescribed to treat damaged muscle tissue in patients following surgery or cancer treatments. I could go on, but you get the point.

Let's put it another way: I'm certain you would not want to ingest or be injected with a drug that had not been rigorously tested and whose effects (positive and negative) were not well studied and characterized. And if that's the case, then why should we think, with no baseline to go by and no means to absolutely discern who is and who is not using steroids on the playing field, that with our naked eyes we can simply "know" what the outcome of steroid use would be? That's what doesn't make any sense.

dbvader said...

then why should we think, with no baseline to go by and no means to absolutely discern who is and who is not using steroids on the playing field, that with our naked eyes we can simply "know" what the outcome of steroid use would be?

Because, as you already stated, anabolic steroids promote muscle growth. Anabolic steroids have been widely used in track and field, weightlifting, hockey, and football. Somehow anabolics are not beneficial to MLBer's? Bonds put on an amount of muscle that it is improbable at his age without the use of PEDs. This muscle increase coincided with his HR increase.
We are going to have to agree to disagree. There will never be a study that proves whether there is a benefit from using PEDs to hitting a baseball. Baseball Primer had enough debates on this subject to satisfy anybody.