Saturday, March 11, 2006


2d Annual Steroids Discussion

With the new book, excerpted as the current Sports Illustrated cover story, purportedly producing compelling evidence that Barry Bonds used steroids from 1998 on, the debate about the appropriate "punishment" for steroid users gets renewed.

Naturally, this book release was timed for the beginning of baseball season; maybe even last year's Congressional hearings were too. So I guess this is going to be a regular Spring Training feature for the next several years, particularly as guys like Mark McGwire and Bonds get on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot.

I feel like I said all I have to say on the subject last spring, but since the topic has come up again, I link to them here: one, two, three, four, four-and-a-half, five and six ...

... and two funny little footnotes, here and here.

I welcome your comments on the subject. Please just bear in mind that in my above posts, I've already considered and refuted all your arguments.

Let me just add -- though I may have already said this -- that the absurd notion that Bonds should have any of his records "stripped," or the only slightly less absurd notion of blacklisting Bonds from the Baseball Hall of Fame, should be applied equally to Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and a host of lesser figures who also set some sort of mark in the steroids era (e.g., Jose Canseco's 40-40 season). Anyone who would throw out Bonds' records while retaining McGwire's is a hypocrite. Quibbles about which substance was technically "illegal" at what time are to me beside the point: if the issue is "level playing fields" and "performance enhancing substances," then there is no doubt that McGwire's home run records, including the big 70, were produced as a result of his taking questionable body-building substances.

But again, as I've said, put a damned asterisk next to the entire decade 1992-2002 if you want, but leave all the records in place. Thank you.

1. The idea of removing records, is, as you note, absurd, for any number of reasons. The primary one is that "records" are, in fact, a recording of what happened. Baseball is a zero-sum game--I'm unhappy with the idea of a universe where pitchers in the NL gave up 73 more home runs in 2001 than hitters hit, or the Giants runs scored aren't accounted for in their players' individual statistics.

2. For a long time, I was agnostic on steroid use--I really didn't care whether players used or didn't, both because of the Fasutian bargain that you identified--I thought the player should have this choice, and because at some level, it represented simply another step in the evolution of training and conditioning for optimum performance. I've changed my mind on this, and think that it should absolutely be banned, both because I don't think this choice--juice or fail--should be forced on every player, and second because, while I'm not unwilling to be convinced that the bargain might be worhtwhile to the major leaguer reaping millions, in a spasm of paternalism, I'm unwilling to permit kids--amateurs and minor leaguers, most of whom won't make it even on the juice--to make this choice.

3. Let's be clear that had steroid use never become public, the owners would have been perfectly happy to let it go on as long as it was making them money.

Word Verification: nesoroxg: slang meaning "lesser of two evils;" the metaphoric choice between having knees or oxygen.
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