Monday Medley

What we read while narrowly avoiding an NPI shutdown…

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12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by doc on April 13, 2011 at 10:34 AM

    When Hall of Fame voting time comes for Manny and ARod, it will be very interesting. They used steroids, but it seems to have been in limited quantities over a short period of time. But, how do you distinguish them from players like Barry Bonds whose head enlarged, both figuratively and literally, after obvious usage?

    Reply

    • Posted by Tim on April 13, 2011 at 5:16 PM

      That’s an interesting distinction you make, Doc. If I were a HoF voter, I’d perhaps be more apt to go the other way. Ramirez tested positive three times: once on the survey test in ’03, once for his 50-game suspension, and once this spring. I don’t know how then you can say that he used steroids “in limited quantities over a short period of time.” There’s really no discerning when he was on performance-enhancing drugs.

      True, A-Rod copped to using PEDs only in Texas in 2002-03 because of the pressures of his new contract. But everyone forced to confess some fault usually starts by downplaying the magnitude of their sin. For at least one day, Tiger had only been with Rachel Uchitel. Again, who’s to say A-Rod only used during that time period and not before?

      Bonds, by virtue of his enlargement and, you know, the tell-all book written about his steroid use, appears to have a clear chronology and motive. He didn’t use steroids until after the ’98 season, when he became jealous that worse players were doing better than him. By 1999, though, Bonds was already a Hall of Famer. He had won three MVPs. He didn’t need steroids to be a HoFer (for the record, I don’t think Manny or A-Rod did either, but there’s less tangible evidence of that. Sosa and McGwire are, to me, different stories.), and if you decide to leave him out of the Hall, you’re saying that the decision to take steroids in 1999 is so unconscionable to the integrity of the sport that NO ONE who ever took them can be allowed in.

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      • Posted by doc on April 13, 2011 at 8:27 PM

        I have seen that Barry Bonds argument before and to some degree I agree with it. However, I have real trouble with the idea that he broke 2 huge home run records while using steroids. Personally, I would not vote anybody into the present HoF who used steroids. However, it would be a nice addition to have a steroid wing in the HoF, where all of the enlarged heads can be inducted. Fans can acknowledge the ballplayers’ achievements while at the same time shaking their own tiny heads in dismay.

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      • Posted by John S on April 14, 2011 at 2:16 AM

        In the interest of defending A-Rod, it’s unfair to say that he copped to the bare minimum of his sin. The information that Selena Roberts uncovered was that Rodriguez failed a drug test during the 2003 survey testing. If A-Rod were really trying to downplay his culpability, he could have easily just said that he tried something once during that year, and he didn’t know what it was or that it was illegal and he never did it again. This is, basically, the template that David Ortiz, Andy Pettitte, and most other caught users have used. Instead, Rodriguez admitted to using for all three of his seasons in Texas–despite the fact that there was no testing in 2001 or ’02, so conceivably he could have gotten away with denying that he used it then.

        In general, though, as an admitted defender, and even proponent, of steroid use, I think the worst thing about the whole scandal is rampant dishonesty it causes. The fact that people overreact so much that they may be keeping historically great hitters like McGwire, Ramirez, and Bonds out of the HoF makes it essentially impossible for anyone to be honest about what he did and why he did it. Of course, if health were the REAL issue, as many steroid opponents insist, then honesty would be the most important way to ensure the sport was kept clean. What this issue has really devolved into, though, is finger-pointing and mistrust of every player, no matter the circumstances…

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        • Posted by doc on April 14, 2011 at 10:51 AM

          McGwire was washed up due to recurrent injuries when he began using steroids, much like Roger Clemens. The impact steroids have on recovery from major injuries has always been underestimated. In some ways, it’s a tougher call with players like this, but the bottom line is both went onto incredibly productive 2nd lives during an age frame when almost all players’ performance diminishes. So, the Steroid Nazi says, “No Hall for you”!

          I am not sure that dishonesty is the real issue John. The fact is that steroids were an illegal drug that dramatically enhance performance, period. So, if players were honest, it would be OK? However to support your point, Mike Piazza was honest when reporters asked him about steroids (he answered in the affirmative) and interestingly, they never reported his usage. Piazza will probably be voted into the Hall.

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          • Posted by John S on April 14, 2011 at 1:40 PM

            Well, the Piazza thing only proves my point that the steroid issue contains a huge double-standard in that players who sportswriters tend to like get a free pass, whereas players who they don’t get lambasted. More importantly, though, Piazza is a perfect example of the dishonesty I’m talking about: Though he was honest with the media at the time, he has never actually publicly admitted his usage. In fact, he’s denied it.

            Finally, as I believe I’ve mentioned before, the effects of steroids on recovering from injury are greatly overstated. There is no conclusive evidence at all that steroids and HGH aid the type of injuries plague professional baseball players. In general, the effects of steroids on baseball are greatly overstated, which is one of many reasons that I don’t really have a problem with players using them. I do, however, have a problem with players repeatedly and systematically deceive their fans.

          • Posted by doc on April 14, 2011 at 2:16 PM

            I just don’t agree with you John that the effects of steroids on baseball are greatly overstated. Note how Jason Bay, ARod, and others are breaking down in their early to mid 30s. That’s how it has always been except during the steroid era. Here is an article about the effect of steroids on healing an injury and there are many more out there – http://ajsm.highwire.org/content/27/1/2.abstract

            Also, note the dramatic drop in home runs since the standards have become more stringent. IMHO, the ’90s will always be seen as the “steroid era” and the home run records broken during that time as well as some of the pitching accomplishments will always have an asterisk in many fans’ minds. I do think HoF voters have already made their statement about McGwire, Palmero, and others and it will be very interesting when Barry Bonds name is on the ballot.

          • Posted by John S on April 14, 2011 at 4:24 PM

            Predictably, you cited the one study that is always cited since it indicates that “Anabolic steroids may aid in the healing of muscle contusion injury.” In fact, the study is hardly conclusive and there is a great deal of debate in the medical community on the issue of how steroids and HGH aid recovery from muscle injuries (http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/baseball/bal-sp.hgh11sep11,0,5691551,full.story) (http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/01/steroid_mcgwire_and_injuries.html).

            More importantly, there is just no evidence at all to support your claim that most sluggers have historically broken down by their early to mid 30s. The ten greatest HR hitters of the pre-steroid era were Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Harmon Killebrew, Frank Robinson, Mike Schmidt, Mickey Mantle, Jimmie Foxx, Reggie Jackson, and Ted Williams. With the exceptions of Mantle, who was injury-plagued throughout his career, and Foxx, whose decline is largely attributed to alcoholism, ALL of them had productive years in their late 30s and, in some cases, early 40s. In fact, admitted/suspected steroid users like Piazza, Ortiz, McGwire, Ken Caminiti, Jose Canseco, and Jason Giambi have, on the whole, broken down EARLIER than sluggers of previous eras (presumably due to the addition of unsustainable muscle mass to the upper body).

            I’m not saying that steroids have had no effect at all, but merely that their effects are grossly exaggerated.

  2. Posted by doc on April 14, 2011 at 5:47 PM

    John, if you look at all those sluggers (many of whom I saw play), they clearly reached their peak before their mid-30s and their numbers gradually diminished. Why? In most cases due to nagging injuries, not loss of bat speed or eyesight. When Bonds and McGwire came along, all of a sudden their numbers were going up dramatically in their LATE 30s!In the NPR article, the doctor states, “An isolated muscle injury might be the only one that a steroid could even potentially help heal. Steroids help incorporate amino acids into protein and build more strength in muscle groups.” He seemed to be more concerned understandably about the harm that steroids can do. Many injuries are in fact isolated muscle injuries, so basically he confirmed that they can help. However, that is just one doctor’s opinion. But, my eyes don’t deceive me. Clemens arm was clearly shot and his fastball had lost its zip when the Red Sox said goodbye to him. After steroids, his fastball was back, he was much bigger and stronger, and much less inclined to get injured. Yeah, I know he worked out a lot, but so did many players before him in the pre-steroid days.

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    • Posted by John S on April 14, 2011 at 11:48 PM

      Hank Aaron hit his career high in home runs when he was 37 years old. Mark McGwire’s last full season came when he was 35. With all due respect to your eyes, the numbers don’t lie.

      I agree with you that players’ peaks came before their late 30s, but the idea that players’ careers were done by their late 30s is just not true. Barry Bonds is an aberrational case, as his numbers actually did get astronomically better way past the normal “prime,” but he’s really the only example of what you’re talking about. All the other players you mention did in fact drop-off late in their careers, so I don’t think there is any real evidence that the TYPICAL effects of steroids are longer, more prolific careers.

      Going back to my original point, though, all these uncertainties could be more easily cleared up if we actually KNEW who was using, what they were using, and when they were using it. But because of all the pressure on players to downplay their use or simply lie about it, we can never really make conclusive claims about what steroids actually did.

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  3. Posted by Weylin Ruetten on April 14, 2011 at 6:30 PM

    From economist Arthur De Vany, who argues that there is little evidence that steroid use increases home run totals:

    “There has been no change in Major League Baseball home run hitting for 45 yr, in spite of the new records. Players hit with no more power now than before. Records are the result of chance variations in at bats, home runs per hit, and other factors. The clustering of records is implied by the intermittency of the law of home runs. Home runs follow a stable Paretian distribution with infinite variance. The shape and scale of the distribution have not changed over the years. The greatest home run hitters are as rare as great scientists, artists, or composers. (JEL A10, C02, C16, C52, L51)”

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1465-7295.2009.00257.x/abstract

    He also discusses this in part of this highly recommended econtalk podcase:

    http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2010/03/de_vany_on_ster.html

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  4. Posted by doc on April 14, 2011 at 9:04 PM

    John, I went through the top 10 pre-steroid era home run hitters and only Hank Aaron maintained the same pace after age 35. He was and still is in my mind “the home run king”. All of the others clearly dropped off in the next 5 years. Barry Bonds from age 35-39, hit the most home runs in those 4 years than any other in his career by far. McGwire at ages 34 and 35 hit the most home runs combined ever in a 2 year span in his career. Also, Bonds and McGwire were hitting ridiculous numbers of homers in a season in that span. Yes, steroids can shorter careers (see Todd Hundley)and in some cases kill you, so they are not a good idea. By the way, the article in the Sun was about HGH, which is not a steroid.

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