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Nice guy.  Have some blogs.  Do baseball research.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

MLB should allow performance enhancing stuff.

A few days ago Major League Baseball (MLB), not baseball, suspended LA Dodger Manny Ramirez for 50 games because he tested positive for use of something that is banned because it might enhance a player's performance.

Manny being Manny is not nearly as bad as the propagation of non uniform playing areas.  See my original post and others on non uniform playing areas and why they undermine the integrity of MLB much more than steroids and other banned stuff.

I do not like Manny Ramirez.  I also dislike Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.  Not because they used banned stuff but because they are obnoxious human beings.  Bonds and Clemens are also lieing weasels.  If they simply came clean and confessed, most Americans could move on and accept them more readily.  For me personally, it's the lieing that I cannot accept.  That was my problem with Pete Rose.  I would apply the same standard for these newer weasels: they must wait for consideration for the Hall of Fame for as long as they lied AFTER they stopped lieing.  Rose lied for 14 years.  Rose should wait 14 more years from the day that he finally admitted that he gambled as manager of the Cincinnati Reds.  For every day you lie, you wait a day.

These seem to be the reasons for opposing performance enhancing stuff:
1. some, such as steroids, are illegal;
2. they are against MLB rules ... because they are illegal;
3. they are unhealthy for the players;
4. they send the wrong message to kids;
5. it's cheating; 
6. we need a level playing field;
7. it's unfair to the clean players.

I'll address each of those.

1. In general, people should be allowed to ingest, inject, etc. anything they want.  Products should be subject to FDA regulations and taxed.  Legal does not necessarily mean over the counter.  It would be much safer to take things like steroids under the care of a doctor.  That would greatly reduce the chances that someone would drive to Mexico and buy a steroid of unknown quality.  The doctor could instruct the patient on dosage, use, side effects and long term risks.  These things are now left to rumor and worse.  Also, counselling by a doctor might even result in individuals deciding not to use.
Alcoholic beverages were prohibited by constitutional amendment from 1919 to 1933.  Babe Ruth and many, if not most, MLB players drank those prohibited beverages during those years.  It's too late to suspend them but why not ban them from the Hall of Fame?  The prohibited beverages were not performance enhancing but they were illegal.  If illegality is a key objection then it should apply in all cases including income tax evasion, spousal abuse, murder, etc.

2. Since I do not think that they should be illegal, I do not think that they should be against MLB rules.  The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between MLB and the MLB players association makes the use of some performance enhancing stuff a violation of MLB rules with penalties for proven violations.  The banned stuff should not be banned even if it is illegal in the USA.  If players return home to Dominican Republic, Japan, China, etc. and they use stuff banned in the USA, that is not a violation of U.S. law and it should not be a violation of MLB rules.  My understanding of the MLB CBA is that players may not use banned stuff anywhere.

3. Steroids, etc. may be unhealthy for athletes.   Smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol are definitely unhealthy.  Athletes using banned stuff may increase health care costs for all.  Eating potato chips (fill in your favorite legal food)  increases health care costs far more because the fat and salt is consumed by far more people.  Did I mention tobacco and alcohol?

Being a world class athlete is unhealthy.  The players are not supermen.  Do we think that diving and crashing are healthy activities?  What about swinging a bat a million times.  What about pitching: throwing a ball 95 mph, throwing curves, etc.?  In the long run the players are punishing their bodies for our entertainment.  If we really cared about the health of the players we would want MLB to ban tobacco use, both smoking and chewing.  Some companies do ban smoking at any time, not just in the work place, figuring it increases health care costs for the company.

4. Samuel Johnson stated in 1775: "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel."  Today he could include playing the kid card.  Parents should be role models for kids, not athletes or entertainers.  One problem is that many parents are using various forms of performance enhancing stuff.  Let's just leave the kids out of this discussion.

5. A violation of MLB rules could be called cheating.  It could simply be called a violation, which is somewhat less a pejorative.  I am against violating the rules.  However, this particular rule seems to strike a peculiar cord with some people making them irrational.  What about rules on the field?

Gaylord Perry pitched his way into the Hall of Fame from 1962 to 1983.  In 1974 he wrote a book indicating that he had thrown illegal pitches (spitballs) but that he would stop.  The sports writers elected Perry to the Hall of Fame in 1991.

Some people can make themselves sick with revulsion over steroids.  They only consider something like Perry's violations when confronted.  They then state that spitballs are different.  In fact spitballs are considered gamesmanship, a cute entertaining part of baseball's charm.  Baloney.  It's cheating.  So is using an illegal bat as Sammy Sosa did.

6. The level playing field metaphor really bugs me.  If you want a level playing field, get rid of the mound.  After all the revelations about use of steroids, etc. does anyone think that fewer than 50% of players were using?  Most of us would put the percentage much higher.  If most players are using, the playing field is level.

7. If it's unfair to the clean players, then it's their own fault and I am not sympathetic.  While this argument is valid the reality is that clean players did nothing to change things.  From non-union guy Derek Jeter to union leader Tom Glavine, both Hall of Fame calibre players, the clean players never raised their voices, either publicly or privately.  Their reasons for remaining silent are irrelevant.

What to do?  Nothing.  Leave the records alone.  99% of those who get apoplectic about steroid use do it because of the home run record, which as I have indicated multiple times is undermined far more because of the non uniform playing areas.

Plus, pitchers have been shown to be as inclined to use banned stuff as batters.  No one seems concerned about strike out records. Roger  Clemens (4,672) and Randy Johnson (4,819) have been implicated.  Their career strike out records are exceeded only by Nolan Ryan's unreachable total of 5,714.  How come no one challenges Nolan Ryan?  He played long enough to have used steroids.  His longevity is suspicious.  Jose Canseco has admitted using steriods during his MVP season of 1988.  Ryan played from 1966 through 1993 (age 46).  Ryan and Canseco were even teammates in Texas for 22 games in 1992 and for 60 games in 1993.  Ryan's final seasons leading the league in strike outs were at the ages of 40, 41, 42, 43.  His previous age as league strike out leader was 32.  Ryan went seven years without being strike out king until he recovered the touch in 1987 at age 40.  Ryan pitched a record seven no hitters at these ages: 26, 26, 27, 28, 34, 43, 44.  This anecdotal evidence is completely ignored.  Did Nolan Ryan use banned and/or illegal stuff to enhance his performance?  I have no idea but I find it odd that the steroid zealots have such narrow vision.

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