baseball gods productions

Thoughts about baseball, from the perspective of sports psychology and the role of sports in society. It includes team and player analysis, predictions, and what I think needs to be changed in Major League Baseball. Brought to you from the heart of baseball, Brooklyn, by baseball gods productions.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Drugs and Baseball

I want to know. Who did what, when, and perhaps why. I want to know the truth about steroids, human growth hormone, amphetamines, recreational drugs, and gene splicing, or whatever comes next. And at the same time, I don't want to know. Not if it means dozens of players getting suspended mid-season, or someone deciding which records should have asterisks next to them.

What we know for sure is simply that a handful of players have failed drug tests in the past few of years, and that more than the 5% threshold failed tests in the survey year of 2003. We have an admission of guilt, sort-of, from Jason Giambi, we have the book about Barry Bonds that has not been challenged legally by Bonds, and we have a whole boat-load of suspicions and rumors about all kinds of players.

The problem is obvious, the solution not so much. Here's what I would like to see:

amnesty for honesty
no asterisks
stronger testing
Bud Selig showing up when Bonds breaks Aaron's record
players taking responsibility for their actions

Amnesty for honesty

From here on out, if a player admits to using steroids or other performance enhancing drugs in the past, he should not be suspended. There should be a publicly available list compiled, that says what the player was taking, and when, so the fans can make their own decisions about how much impact the drugs had on the player's performance. This does not prevent suspension for failing tests from now on, however.

On the other side, if a player is proven to have used these drugs and doesn't come clean, he should be suspended for at least 50 games. We want to know, but it's not about punishment, unless the player keeps denying the truth.

The reason this is important is that there are several ongoing investigations that are likely to result in a huge list of names of current players. It serves no purpose to suspend all of them at once, which would ruin the season for everyone. I think it is punishment enough that everyone knows which players cheated and when.

No asterisks

It isn't fair to put asterisks next to some records, because the truth is that many players were cheating that did not get caught. Remember Brady Anderson's 50 homeruns? Since there is absolutely no way to sort out the "clean" records from the "dirty" ones, it's best to avoid placing markers on records by confirmed drug users. By the end of this process, we may know the names of a lot of these guys, and we can hold onto our suspicions about the ones that don't get caught or come forward.

One logical flaw that I hear all the time is that since Barry Bonds cheated, Hank Aaron didn't. The fact is, one thing has nothing to do with the other. I doubt very much that Aaron did steroids, but we don't know anything for a fact. We do know that many players have been using amphetamines for decades, and we will never know what impact they had on older records. Tom House admitted to experimenting with steroids and other substances in the 1960s, and several people have suggested that other players were doing it, too. Unless they come forward, we'll never know, but it is wrong to assume that our childhood heroes were all perfect angels, and that today's players are all cheaters. Everything wrong with the game now, has been wrong since the beginning; we are just much more aware of the problems now because of the increase of media coverage, and the changing standards of reporting on sports heroes.

Stronger testing

The current system is an improvement, but it is far from adequate. For one thing, there needs to be a lot more off-season testing, and no way to avoid those tests. Secondly, I think it's time to move to blood testing, which is much more reliable, and can detect drug use for longer periods. The best thing that could happen with all of this new attention to the use of drugs, is to create a new generation of players that don't want to cheat, and don't worry that they have to cheat to keep up. Part of that involves better education on the health effects of using steroids and other drugs. There are some pretty nasty side effects that I'm sure most players would be happy to live without. Has anyone seen that PSA with the shrinking basketball?

Bud Selig showing up when Bonds breaks Aaron's record

The commissioner needs to be there, regardless of what he thinks about Bonds becoming the all-time homerun leader. He does not have to act happy, but he needs to acknowledge what has happened. Bonds hasn't failed a drug test that we know of, and until there is proof, he needs to be treated with the respect that comes along with this accomplishment. I don't like Bonds any more than anyone else likes him, but there needs to be some demonstration of acknowledgement from MLB that something historic has taken place. Let the courts prove that Bonds is a cheater/criminal if indeed he is. If/when Bonds passes Aaron, it is a good time to examine the steroid situation and have a frank discussion of what it all means. The idea that people should not talk about steroids is stupid and pointless. We need answers, not more secrecy.

Players taking responsibility for their actions

Jason Giambi and Guillermo Mota are two of the very few players who have attempted to be honest about steroids. I applaud them for that, and don't think Giambi should be punished for talking. I'm fine with him playing out the rest of his contract and then walking away. I know he cheated, and I know (unlike Giambi himself, apparently) that his use of steroids inflated his power numbers for many years. I saw what he used to look like, and can imagine that he would have been a good hitter, with lots of walks, and average power, if he made a different decision. He probably would have been healthier in the long run, too, and wouldn't be breaking down now. I don't need to see Giambi suspended, and I think it would only serve to keep other players from taking responsibility for their own actions. If you want trust, you need to act in a trustworthy way. Telling the truth is a great way to do this.

Caroms Off the Wall:

It's weird that the Mets are missing their entire starting outfield and their second baseman, and that for most of the season, the Yankees were missing production from those same positions, even though all of their playes were more or less healthy. The Mets and Yankees are both older teams, but the Mets play young and the Yankees don't.

© Judy Kamilhor 2007


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