Friday, July 31, 2009

6 comments I Should Have Just Called This Blog "Information On Steroids and Brett Favre's Latest Retirement"

I can't even recall how many times we have discussed steroids on this site. The effects or non-effects they have on players, who is on steroids, who is definitely not on steroids, who may be on steroids, and if guys accused of using steroids or PEDs should be in the Hall of Fame. We have discussed all of these topics in the comments and on posts on this site. For those that have read before know I use the words "steroids" and "PEDs" pretty interchangeably, so hang with me.

I have repeatedly stated that I don't think the 2003 "anonymous and private" steroids results should be made public because they are an invasion of privacy. I would actually like for the release to happen to prevent the bi-monthly "news" another star tested positive for PEDs. I understand this can't occur. Baseball needs to get on top of this issue because every single month when there is a lull in any steroid action in baseball another steroid user name is going to be released to the public. It is happening and it is going to continue to happen until there are no more big names on the list.

It has been revealed David Ortiz tested positive for steroids in 2003, as anyone with a radio or television has heard. Just another brick in the wall at this point.

An anonymous commenter named Evan in the Bill Simmons comments from Wednesday linked the article I was thinking about when I heard the news about David Ortiz. You can find it here. I am sure there are going to be a ton of articles about steroids and David Ortiz, probably even a horrible egregious excuse for an article from Bill Simmons, but it has pretty much all been said at this point for me.

I wrote about the Simmons article, the one where he was trying to figure out Ortiz's slump, here.
Let's review his comments, my comments and our commenter comments about this (Bill's comments are in bold black, mine are in black italics, my new comments are in black and commenter's comments are in red):

We braced for Ortiz to be linked to a bombshell headline that began with the words "Former Sox Clubhouse Attendant … " But one thing nagged at me: He wasn't belting bombs that were dying at the warning track like so many other former 'roiders.

I would not use this as proof that Ortiz was not a former 'roider. How about the fact he has never been linked or caught with them? That sounds better.

I guess we can mark this off the list. If the New York Times report is to be believed Ortiz was on steroids in 2003. Does that mean he was using since then? I have no idea. Does this taint the 2004 and 2007 World Series title? I have no idea. I say no though, since I am going to treat him the same way I treat A-Rod and acknowledge he has never failed a drug test that was administered to him since then.

There has already been an article published with a similar point of view.

How many Latin players have been exposed for lying about their ages in the past few years? Hell, one of Papi's best friends -- Tejada -- was found to have cut two years off his birth certificate when he was 17, er, 19 … you get the point.

What else did one of Papi's best friends, Tejada, also lie about and get caught doing? Here's a hint, it begins with steroids. I find it interesting that Bill is willing to accept that Ortiz lied about his age like other Latin players, but is not willing to accept Ortiz lied about using steroids like other Latin players, and he bases this belief purely on the fact the balls he hits are not dying at the warning track.

I hate it when I am right...but I am tired of giving players the benefit of doubt honestly. At this point many players are guilty by association, and they should be, especially if that association is with known steroid providers or users.

Here are some of the comments on my posting of Simmons' Ortiz column...

(The Casey) "don't forget Ken Caminiti. He was just terrible his last few years. As a matter of fact, his career arc looks kind like someone else's.CaminitiOrtizI didn't realize that until I looked at it."

(Jeremy Conlin) "I never like Simmons' mag columns to begin with, so I don't have too much to say other than I'm 99% sure Ortiz was on steroids, but it had never even occurred to me that Ortiz may have just lied about his age all along. That at least made me go "huh, that's not a bad argument."

(Bengoodfella) "I can't believe I am a holdout on Ortiz using steroids. It is hard to ignore those numbers that AJ put up, but I think maybe he just found his hitting stroke, but that just sounds so naive. If everyone keeps beating me down and giving me proof I am just being naive, I may change my mind at some point."

Here are those numbers...

(AJ) Ya I'm not 100% sure Ortiz used steroids. I mean its not like his best buds Manny and Tajada were caught using them, or his trainer is a known steroids pusher, or that the height of his numbers happened to be the height of the steroid era, or etc etc etc.

Let me just throw this out there (HRs per AB):
1997 - 51
1998 - 36
1999 - he only played 10 games
2000 - 47
2001 - 19 (here comes a pattern)
2002 - 23
2003 - 14
2004 - 14
2005 - 13
2006 - 10
2007 - 16
2008 - 18
2009 - 178

I don't know, maybe he just somehow found his power stroke at the exact same time as steroids started becoming the norm and that it went away at the exact same time as testing came out. It could happen, I mean its not like he just blow up in size once he got to Boston or anything...oh wait, nevermind.

I think AJ's numbers speak for themselves but Ortiz has also not failed a drug test since 2003...at least one that has been made public. Ortiz has been busted now for failing a drug test in 2003. It just means another slugger of the past 10 years has used steroids, it's pretty old news now. We get the same reactions, just different names thrown into the discussion. I don't focus on Manny being on the list of 104 "anonymous" positives in 2003, because after his positive steroid test this past year, I sort of assumed he was on the 104 person list.

Of course to add some joy and hypocrisy to the discussion, Ortiz also made this comment that steroid users should be banned for an entire year. What was he thinking when he said that I wonder? I don't know if he didn't know he had failed the drug test at that point, but if he did know, damn that's ballsy to say.

This brings me back to the list of 104 names. What should baseball do about the list and the fact the names are being released at a slow drip pace...if they should do anything at all? What should MLB do about the fact many of the power hitters of the past 10 years have been proven to cheat...again, or should they do anything? I find it hard to believe only the great power hitters of the past 10 years are on the list, there have to be marginal or average major leaguers on that list and even a few pitchers. Guys who would not have even made the majors if they had not used PEDs or even guys who used just enough to get a huge contract and then quit their use again.

I don't know what kind of action Major League Baseball needs to take on this issue and I don't know if MLB should take any action. I don't know if steroids have hurt baseball or have contributed to the popularity of baseball. A lot of great and memorable moments have been ruined by the revelation that the players involved were on some sort of PED at the time. Like the 1998 Home run chase, Barry Bonds' assault on McGwire's home run record, Roger Clemens throwing a broken bat at Mike Piazza, and now maybe the 2004 Red Sox 3-0 comeback over the Yankees. We possibly would never have even had those moments had it not been for the PEDs. Or would we? It doesn't seem likely. I can't believe it is coincidence the 3 baseball players responsible for assaulting Roger Maris' home run record and Hank Aaron's all-time home run record are also linked to PEDs.

That's the thing that irritates me the most, I have no idea the effect steroids have on players and their talent.

Is it a marginal increase in talent, meaning moving a Barry Bonds who was one of the best outfielders in the game before his alleged use to a Barry Bonds who is the greatest hitter of All-Time? Is it moving a guy like David Ortiz to an incredibly valuable hitter who was platooned in Minnesota to one of the best hitters in the American League in Boston? What about Fernando Vina, how come was still just an average baseball player for most of his career? Check out this list. Is it possible the marginal major league players on the list would never have made the major leagues if they had not used PEDs?

Scientists can't even agree on whether steroids are completely bad for you or acceptable if you used in moderation like many other drugs. If you don't believe me, just do an Internet search for "harmful effects of steroids" and "steroids aren't harmful" and read some of the articles that follow.

Those are my two major questions: What should MLB do about steroids and what effect does it have on players? I have no answers, just questions and me ruminating on my own questions. If someone has answers, feel free to give an opinion.

I am not going into a panic now and making steroids the preminent issue in the history of the world but I can't help but think the slow reveal of names on the list of 104 names can't be good for baseball. I only want things that are good for the game I love. Here are the options I see for MLB:

1. Do nothing and hopes it goes away.

This seems to be the way Bud Selig and the owners have gone so far. It is smart because it basically tries to quiet down the steroid talk by not commenting on it and creating fodder for their to be a discussion upon. Basically silence is golden here. It becomes a bunch of bloggers and columnists talking an issue to death until they have said everything and the arguments are debated to a draw. That's where we are now.

Sure, there have been comments on the issue of steroids by the Commissioner and his office but there doesn't seem to be directive to take any type of action one way or another concerning preventing more steroid users from being named from the 2003 report nor trying to limit the impact of every new revelation on the fans. Major League Baseball's focus is on today and preventing players from using today. Really, that is what MLB SHOULD be worried about, but the problem lies in the situation when a 2003 list name is still playing today.

The problem with this plan is obvious to me. The steroid leaks are not going to stop and it ends up being an interminable issue that pops back up every couple of months when a new famous name pops up as having tested positive in 2003. This 2003 "anonymous and private" test results are a monkey on the back of MLB that is going to continue to be there until the big names on the list run out.

We go through the whole surprise, anger, excuse and forgiveness cycle over and over again when a new name is revealed. I find it to be incredibly tedious. Regardless of any other fact, the slow reveal of these steroid users going to continue to happen whether MLB likes it or not. They can get on top of the issue or do nothing. Doing nothing just ensures the steroid issue and suspicions of yesterday's and today's players continue.

2. Do nothing and beg the players on the list who have been revealed to sue for invasion of privacy.

This is not happening. I just don't see it happening. Really though, guilty or not guilty of having a positive test, I believe these players would have a case for invasion of privacy. The players union only agreed to steroid testing in 2003 as long as it stayed anonymous and private. Well neither of those stipulations ended up happening. Sure, the players on the list are guilty of testing positive for steroids but they are also victims in that the information was supposed to stay private. Their privacy has been violated because the agreement to get steroid testing started was contingent on the results staying anonymous and private.

The drawback to this idea is that if players haven't started suing by now, they aren't going to at any point. They have better things to do than run up legal bills in effort to prevent an invasion of privacy that has already occurred. Much less spend more money to sue whoever is leaking these names for invasion of privacy when it will just put that player's name back in the public spotlight as a steroid user.

3. Major League Baseball should release the list of 104 names.

I want to call this the most attractive option but I don't know if it is. As I said in #2, if MLB did this the union would have an absolute fit and THEN the players would probably start suing. This would be a complete and utter invasion of privacy like baseball has never seen before. It sounds counter-intuitive to release the list of 104 names in an effort to stop there being constant talk of steroid use by players but it may make sense to have full disclosure. I don't even know who has the list of 104 names so I am not sure if MLB is even capable of releasing the names. I can't imagine this would ever happen because baseball would be opening themselves up to lawsuits and criticism.

The good thing about releasing the list of 104 names is that all of the names are out there in the public eye right now. The past is the past, we know the names on the list and there is no need to speculate on who was caught in the past, we have the names. Sure, we don't have the list of those players who did not test positive but were still using PEDs. We are never going to have those names of the players who did not test positive but were using PEDs. It would stop the monthly/bi-monthly release of new names and we can clear those players who we have suspected but did not show up on the list...or at least try to clear them. The steroid questions aren't going away but when there are still names being released from the 2003 report in 2011, this option will have looked very attractive. Unfortunately, it is also a potentially unethical, if not illegal, option.

4. Step in and try to prevent any more names from the 2003 list from being released.

I have no idea how to stop this from happening. Not a clue. The good thing about this is it would prevent the slow release of the names but the drawback is that this would be expensive and legally complicated for MLB to do...especially to defend players who were knowingly cheating. In essence MLB would be preventing the release of information on exactly which players were using PEDs and this would make baseball look like it was trying to cover up the steroid issues in baseball even more.

Ignoring the question of the effect of steroids, I still don't think the slow release of names on the 2003 list is a good thing for baseball. I personally feel like I want to move on but then another name gets released and we are all transported back to "the Steroid Era" and have the same shitty articles written by the same shitty writers and the same shitty questions keep popping up. I am mostly just annoyed by this.

I want to move on. Whatever it takes to move on is what MLB should do. I just don't think right now we are moving on. Steroid questions are like chum in the water for the 24/7 news cycle and it's columnists. The sharks will continue to circle as long as MLB is willing to continue to make headlines with new steroid revelations when it should be making headlines for pennant races.

Here are two sharks that feed off steroid news and unsurprisingly look at what they wrote about today. Here and here. Plaschke and Mariotti making the same arguments and having the same discussions over and over, just with new names.

I think it is the questions of what effect steroids have that irritate me the most. The health benefits or effects are fairly well known but there is even a question about whether steroids are harmful for you or even how much they affect a player's ability to play baseball better. PEDs help you recover from injury at a quicker pace but could some of the increase in a player's numbers also be part of the Placebo Effect? The human mind plays tricks on us sometimes. I am just brainstorming here, but could a player not hit better because he knows he is using one of the various PEDs and SHOULD be hitting the ball better? Unfortunately, there is no way of directly knowing how steroids affect each player, other than looking at the player's statistics and even those can be misleading at times.

If everyone was on steroids then it was a pretty even playing field in the majors during "the Steroid Era." We all know the list of 104 names is not an all-encompassing list. Does it even matter that players have used steroids or that these player's names have been released? As always, I am helpful in saying I have no idea.

My second question is what effect does steroids have on the game and the players? I will start first with the game of baseball.

1. Not to get scientific, but what exactly do steroids do for a player?

I don't think the effects have been completely proven. Like most other drugs there are dozens of different types of steroids and PEDs available. Some are on the MLB banned list while others are not. I don't know the difference honestly, but I do know MLB has banned certain substances for a reason and that reason is they believe they cause an uneven playing field when a player is using them. That's really the big question I have. How uneven does the playing field become? What about cortisone injections to numb pain or any of the other drugs given to a player to get them on the field? They increase performance in some fashion if a player is injured but these are not currently banned? Isn't this some sort of PED?

Jim Parque recently admitted he tried some PEDs in an attempt to make a comeback. Obviously the use of these PEDs did not turn him in to Nolan Ryan so I would say they did not exactly work. I talked earlier about between the old Barry Bonds and the PED Barry Bonds, is that a situation where a great player becomes even better because of the steroids? It seemed that way. Like most other drugs, steroids effect everyone differently and help some more than others.

Basically I am wondering if all the worry about steroids and their effect on the game is overdone by an eager media and blogging community who want to jump on any chance they get to see a player knocked down a notch or two? In the end, it doesn't matter. Much like not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign, it doesn't matter if it makes sense or not because it is against the rules.

2. What are the health effects of using steroids?

Really, it doesn't matter in the context of my long discussion here. Lyle Alzado attributes steroids to his death, even though he died of brain cancer and his physicians said there is no way steroids caused the cancer. While many of other people have used PEDs for a long period of time and have shown no ill effects.

3. What effect does steroids have on the game of baseball?

Is steroid use in baseball even bad? As I said earlier, we have no way of saying, "here is where steroids helped out baseball and here is where steroid and PED use hurt baseball." It's impossible to know. We have a player's statistics available to us which can show a jump in offensive or pitching statistics that seem to inflate that person's ability, but that's all the evidence we really have of PED use and their direct effect on baseball.

Really, the only reason steroids are illegal is because everyone doesn't use them and it contributes to an uneven playing field. Players have used "greenies" for ages and many of the same guys who used "greenies" have come out strong against PED users now. I don't know how I feel about that. There are guys in the Hall of Fame who used "greenies" their entire or most of their career.

Ron Darling thinks he is clean of steroid use but what would his career record be if he didn't have guys on his team who were PED users like Jose Canseco to score runs for him? That's a residual effect of the steroid era, players having their numbers inflated/deflated by other players on their team/not on their team using PEDs. The "Steroid Era" affected the statistics of more players than just those that were using PEDs. It all gives me a headache.

Is the 1998 Home run chase by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa really tainted because of their use of PEDs? What if that had not happened? No one can deny a little excitement for the game of baseball is not a bad thing, regardless of what substances the individuals involved were on. I remember Barry Bonds for being a steroid user but I also remember him for being a guy who was absolutely unpitchable for a 3 year period during the early 2000's. You couldn't pitch to him.

Which memory permeates in my mind at the end of the day about Barry Bonds? The fact he was unpitchable. Does that mean my memory is tainted or I don't care about steroids? I don't think so, it just means the way he could hit a baseball at one point in his career stands out in my mind. He was cheating by using PEDs and I recognize that, but a part of me can't help but wonder if it did not provide a little excitement to baseball that was much needed.

I am not advocating the use of PEDs by players or excusing their behavior. I am glad steroids are not legal in baseball because it causes there to be an even playing field when all players have to play the game based on their skill. I feel almost like the Steroid Era was a 5 year bender that the fans and the players were on and now we are all hungover and tired trying to figure out whether it was all worth it.

I think the effect steroids had on baseball was to deceive the public, but we certainly enjoyed the deception while it lasted though didn't we? No, I am not blaming the fans for the "Steroid Era" either. I have blamed the media, baseball and the players many times in the past. I am looking now from a fan's point of view on the period of 1998-2003 and all of the excitement that occurred. At the end of the day we have a re-written record book and a clusterfuck of players who were the greatest of their generation who may or may not be honored that way in the Hall of Fame.

4. What effect did the Steroid Era have on baseball players today?

I say it had a huge impact. I am sorry, but I can't look at Albert Pujols and not have suspicions he is on steroids. I am not saying he is, but how can you not be suspicious? I even look at players like Jim Thome and Frank Thomas and think the same thing. It could be completely untrue but combining the fact many of the great sluggers of the past era were caught using PEDs, with the fact a new slugger comes out as being a PED user a couple of times a year leads the fans to be very suspicious of anyone who hits the ball well.

I normally would think that full disclosure by baseball would help alleviate any fan concerns but in this case there is normal steroid testing in place for today's players and we have already had the discussion about what would happen if the 104 names from 2003 were released.

At the end of the day, we are going to get the exact same discussions today about steroids we have had for a couple years now, followed by the same arguments of what punishment David Ortiz should get and what a bad person he and Manny Ramirez are. Bill Plaschke and Jay Mariotti have already piled on this story. Then there will be the inevitable Hall of Fame question for Manny and whether this precludes him from that honor. It is a script the media has.

I am not near a television while I am writing this but I would bet ESPN has a reporter with Ramirez begging and hoping Manny will make another statement and a reporter with Ortiz hoping for the same. In fact, they did make statements last night and the words were all over the bottom of the screen on ESPN last night. It was pretty similar to what we had heard before. Chipper Jones will be asked about the new revelations and he will say something firm and tough about the use of steroids, which will only serve to make me think he is probably guilty of using PEDs at one time as well.

I personally just want to be able to move on from the Steroid Era but it seems like I am never going to be able to when there is a constant source of slow leaks from prior anonymous steroid testing results. I am not in panic mode and I am not going to write a column like the "blame sharks" Jay Mariotti or Bill Plaschke will write...circling the water hoping for another name to be leaked so they have more fodder for a column. Baseball's PED legacy has yet to be completely decided and it feels like to me MLB needs to start taking steps to remind it's audience, the fans who pay for games and memorabilia, the game and the players have been able to move on from the Steroid Era.

I just want the cleanest game possible, that's all I really want. Baseball is trying to put the era of PED use in the past but every new revelation creates a new group of jaded and suspicious fans who find every denial of guilt by a current player to be a lie and every admission or finding of guilt from 2003 to be another big story that takes away from the games of baseball currently being played by players who are "clean."

6 comments:

Evan said...

Any one want to take bests on what Simmon's does for his Ortiz article?

I think the favorite is...."I am done with baseball because of this." I mean the Red Sox are looking vulnerable this year, Simmmons has openly complained about how they are uninteresting, football season coming up..I bet he takes a break from Red Sox Nation, then if they make the World Series he jumps right back on, ie his stance on hockey.


Did anyone else see Nomar's interview about people purposely missing the test (2003 survey) to test positive to get drug testing in baseball? I think somebody is worried that he is on going to be "leaked" to the press soon.

Bengoodfella said...

I say for his next column, if he addresses the Big Papi thing, which I sort of doubt because it would pretty much say his age thing was wrong...is he will say he has lost faith and then get all sentimental and talk about how all of his dreams have been ruined. It will be typically self centered on how this news affects him and his family.

He has said on his Twitter that the Red Sox team was a frustrating one, so I don't know if he will quit paying attention, but will play up the "this team is the most dramatic and difficult to deal with Red Sox team of all time" angle. It is possible he ignores them since the Pats are going to be good this year and then picks up around World Series time like he just didn't have time to deal with it.

I completely missed that interview with Nomar. I think the drug testing is a good thing and I also think Nomar is probably on that list. I almost included a list of players I believed were on steroids in this post, but decided against it because on the 1% chance someone read it and put it somewhere else, I did not want to look like I was spreading rumors.

Nomar, Brian and Marcus Giles, and Jim Thome are on my list though.

Evan said...

I hate to say this as a huge baseball fan, but I really think Pujols took PEDs, every slugger who has had anywhere close to his numbers has been linked to PEDs. Pujols is also considered the strongest player in baseball.

I really don't care if he did juice or not, I just hate sportswriters who say that Pujols is the only hope for clean records, clean game, blah blah.

Oh and add Ryan Braun to the list of people on PEDs, I have some awesome Simmmon's style 3rd person account of him injecting himself with HGH while playing in the Cape Cod. Hope Ken Rosenthal doesn't read this blog..

Martin said...

Major League Baseball says it can't release the list because they don't have the list. They say the Feds have the list, and the union has a copy, and those are the only two. If true, then ML can't even release the list if it wants too.

The union has finally come out and said it is going to pursue legal action in this case. Look for them to get some kind of court order against the NY Times. The arrogance of the Times to be using information from people leaking it illegally for the purpose of exposing people who did something illegal is incredible. They aren't exposing govt corruption, saving any lives, curing cancer...they are exposing players from an anonymous drug test for a sport that took place 6 years ago. I'd sue the fuck out them if I was the union and players, though they probably can't.

Bengoodfella said...

I really doubt Rosenthal reads this blog.

I am done being naive and based on the numbers he has put up, it certainly would be in line with some of the other players who have tested positive for PEDs for Pujols to be guilty. It's also not as if Tony LaRussa is a steroid watch dog either.

I don't want him to be guilty but people are saying the exact same things about him and his training that other people have said about previous PED users.

That's an interesting story about Ryan Braun...or would be. I love third person account's, I would just not base any stories I publicly told in a column on a third person account. Braun is not a name I would think of. Matt Williams and Luis Gonzalez, I would have to say I suspect them as well.

Bengoodfella said...

I wasn't sure who had the list but I believe MLB has to do something about it whoever has it. I am glad the union may do something about it.

You are right, this is not a real important list that involves government corruption or anything. The names are being released for the shits and giggles of having new names be released. You have to love all the anonymous sources and stuff that are leaking this information. I think the same anonymous sources who leaked this information are the same ones who Selena Roberts quoted in her A-Rod book.