Archive for February, 2004
Checking my backtalk, I found two new bloggers covering the Giants, Skaldeim and arbizu. Both can now be found in my Giants links section, and both were supportive of my seemingly screaming in the wind rants on the subject of steroids lately. Thank you, gentlemen.
On to the topic at hand; Barry Bonds has a new mud-slinger, and it ain’t no reporter this time. Turk Wendell, in the Colorado Rockies camp, is the latest to accuse Bonds of using steroids, as reported by Mike and the Mad Dog, on WFAN in NY just minutes ago. I’m unable to find a link in print, but the gist of his comments were along the same lines of any of the reporters I’ve been linking to; obviously Bonds couldn’t have gotten this big without using drugs. The fact that this line of thinking is provably false doesn’t matter to Wendell, as it hasn’t to most of the reporters running around screaming that the sky is falling.
Tell you what, the MLBPA has a serious problem on its hands when its members begin accusing each other of cheating without cause, especially publicly. I’d expect the top brass to send out a memo soon, outlining how exactly the membership is supposed to adress this explosive issue.
As for Wendell, I believe the two players have never been on the same team, so it’s hard to give credence to his comments; (also, it bears noting that Wendell has something of a reputation for being a smart ass). Nonetheless, as noted on WFAN, this is an issue that is not going away, which, again, is the reason why I will continue to write about it in a reasoned and logical way.
Update…. Here’s the link to the Wendell story.
In that vein, I’d like to address the latest story out of Scottsdale, in which Bonds explains that his personla trainer, Steve Harvey, is absolutely neccessary for his success. As MLB, (so quick to respond to a crisis, that Selig), is now going to expressly limit all clubhouse and on-field access to team personell only. Here’s what Bonds had to say:
“I believe Harvey will always be with me. That’s stretching. I’ve got to get ready for games. People need to understand that our body is our machine. This is how we make a living. If you have a car and run out of oil, you’ve got to go out and get oil. Stretching and my training is part of taking care of this machine. It takes care of my family, takes care of me and I’m going to do what I need to do to take care of my machine. It’s the right thing to do, not the wrong thing to do.”
Now, as I am only a working stiff, and not privy to the levels of prima donna-ism Bonds is apparently guilty of, let me ask a few questions:
1. Whose job is it we’re talking about here? Barry’s.
2. Who is going to suffer if Bonds goes down with a hamstring pull? The fans, the team, MLB, and Barry, in no particular order.
3. Whose responsibility is it for Bonds to maintain his conditioning? Barry.
4. Who is going to get the ration of shit if he goes down? Barry.
I didn’t see the commisioner’s name at the end of any of those questions, did you? Nor did I see Murray Chass, Rick Reilly or Tom Verducci. Barry Bonds puts his ass on the line, day in and day out. He’s done it for 18 years, and if he thinks he needs a guy to stretch out his legs, back, ass or whatever; do me a favor, and get the hell out of his way. If he needs a recliner, a masseuse, a pre-game blowjob, a martini, who’s freaking business is it!? He’s the best baseball player alive, and whatever he’s doing is obviously working, you idiots! Leave him the f*$# alone!!
I know, it seems impossible that Dusty Baker and I could be in agreement about anything, and even more impossible that he reads OBM, but in this story, he equates the way reporters are specualting about steroid users to McCarthy-ism. Hmmmm… where have I heard that before?
I have continued to do research on this issue, as there appears to be little reason or thoughtfulness going on. I found this Marvin Miller interview (by Allan Barra), and I wanted to bring it to your attention, as well as post an excerpt or two:
AB Let me be devil’s advocate again: If the players have nothing to hide, why would they be against random drug tests?
MM I have to say that it constantly amazes me how willing members of the press sometimes are to agree with the baseball owners that players should no longer be treated as citizens. I have to say I’m appalled when I pick up the New York Times and read a statement like “the rampant use of steroids will continue because the Players Association opposes mandatory testing.” How exactly was that conclusion reached and on what historical evidence is it based? I’m amazed at how willing some columnists are to simply waive a player’s civil rights because he happens to be a professional athlete. Has anyone really thought this matter through? Have you given some serious thought to what random drug testing, if applied, might be?
AB I assume random would mean at the owners’ discretion.
MM It seems to me that it would mean that or nothing at all, or how would it be random? What that means is that no player could, for instance, plan to go on vacation or out of the country or even out of his house overnight without the approval of Major League Baseball, because how would the player know that the random test wasn’t scheduled to occur while he was away? And if you didn’t limit random testing in some way, it could be used to harass any player who management chose to single out. If you had a big-salaried player who you felt wasn’t producing, you could harass him into wanting to leave through constant random drug testing. Not to mention how a player’s reputation might be sullied by this kind of practice.
That’s another side of the coin we’ve hardly touched on, a player’s rights as a citizen. It’s plainly clear that most of the writers covering baseball have already decided the guilt of several players, (Giambi and Bonds primarily), completely denying these players anything resembling due process or holding them as innocent until proven guilty. But to add insult to injury, they’ve also decided that these players also should be forced to give up their right to privacy. I wonder if Rick Reilly would stand for such nonsense, random drug tests by his employer, SI; ones that he would automatically fail for not participating in, regardless of his whereabouts, circumstances, whatever. Ready to pee in a cup now, Rick?
I finally found this ESPN article by former major-leaguer Jeff Bradley. In the piece, Jeff quotes Jose Antonio, an assistant professor of exercise physiology at the U. of Nebraska at Kearney:
…. “I could safely put any athlete on a cycle of anabolic steroids, and he’d get improvement in muscle mass, lean body mass and loss of fat, and his performance would go up, with no side effects. I guarantee it. There’s plenty of evidence that the supposed ill effects of using steroids are way overblown. The P.C. thing to say is steroids are not safe, but the science doesn’t support it. I believe that if you use a low dose, 600 milligrams or less per week, of testosterone enanthate or Deca-Durabolin, you can get great effects in terms of performance with no side effects.”
…. “I don’t want to be labeled as a guy pushing illegal drugs, but there’s scientific proof behind what I’m saying. If you look at professional bodybuilding, all the elite bodybuilders use gobs and gobs of anabolic steroids, higher doses than any baseball player would ever want to use, and they’re not dropping dead. We have a slew of bodybuilders from the 1970s and 1980s who used anabolic steroids who seem fine. And most of them are so conscious of diet and exercise, they’re healthier than society at large.”
See, this is the kind of thing that I just cannot take. Murray Chass has an flat-out insulting column in today’s NY Times. In it, well, here’s some of it…. On second thought, I’d rather not give him the publicity. It’s bad enough that he’s decided insulting Bonds (referring to him as a prima donna) is the best way to make his point (something his editor should have had the common decency to delete), but his column, and the headlines for virtually all of the stories written about Bonds, Giambi and BALCO, came out exactly as I wrote yesterday.
I saw Sportscenter this morning, and Bonds was interviewed at length, probably 20 minutes of it were shown. He answered every question (with the exception of anything pertaining to the ongoing investigation), including another direct, did you use steroids question; and he went so far as to say he wouldn’t care if they tested baseball players (including himself) every day. It’s not enough, say the pundits and writers who have appointed themselves judge and jury over all of us. Aren’t all your records tainted now, Barry? How can you ever distance yourself from this scandal, Barry? Who will ever believe you, Barry?
Well, as long as stories like the ones found in today’s NY Times are being written, the answer is obvious. Very few people will ever read the backpage stories recanting their damning headlines. Very few people will ever read about the apologies Chass and his ilk will have to make, when they realize that all they will have accomplished with their Mcarthy-like mudslinging is to damage their own reputations.
It’s amazing, really. In this Ira Berkow piece, Bonds says the following:
“People in my gym in San Francisco — where I go five days a week, from a couple of weeks after the season to spring training — say they wish they could tell the media how hard I work in the gym, I tell them, ‘Don’t worry about it, I’m a big boy.’ I’ll just let my bat do all the talking.”
Here’s a question, how come no reporter has taken the time to do just that, head down to Bonds’ gym and ask some questions? Or maybe interview the manager, or ask the trainers that use the same facilities he does, hey, do you think Bonds is on the juice? Reporting involves more than asking your subject a question, and then speculating as to whether he’s lying or not. Lazy, irresponsible muck-racking is what this is, and it’s an outrage.
PS…. ESPN takes the high road in its coverage of the situation. Bonds welcomes testing is one headline, Jason Giambi also welcomes testing another. Not only the headlines were different, but the actual stories were more in-depth, what the two ballplayers had to say was a larger part of the stories, and the way they were used was more honestly contextualized, and both were simply AP-attributed. Kudos to ESPN, at least for today.
I see from what little backtalk that I have gotten, there is essentially no interest in this line of dialogue, so perhaps I’ll just let it go. I mean, come on, two comments after four days up? No one seems to care at all. Which, I guess isn’t very different than the attitude I’ve encountered in my day to day. Most of my friends believe that athletes like Bonds and Giambi are on the juice, and most of them could give a shit.
In fact, I find it next to impossible to have a reasoned dialogue with anyone on the subject, as they essentially believe whatever headline they’ve read last. Which, in a way, is why I take the time to “defend he who has not been accused.” It’s the reason I started OBM, Larry. So many of the mainstream media are putting out the same, thoughtless, almost criminally negligent BS, I started OBM so that there would be one place I knew for sure some thought would go into what was being written about the game I love so much. (Back then, I had about ten links to unpaid bloggers, everything else was major publications and columnists.)
And don’t think I don’t know how many mistakes I make, or how wrong I can be. I do. That’s not the same thing as what I feel writers like Reilly and Verducci are guilty of.
You’ve seen the press conferences on ESPN, we all have. Forty writers ask a handful of questions, write the answers down, and we get forty of the same stories in slightly different form. Nobody seems to be doing any reporting. Nobody seems interested in facts, or research or proof. Innuendo and assumption and whatever the people involved tell them, make up most of what we read. Doesn’t that matter? “Hey Barry, do you use steroids?” “No.”
Barry Bonds denies using steroids
There’s your headlines. Does that make sense? Isn’t there more to the story than that? Wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect a story about one of the top players in the game to have some actual reporting in it? Isn’t there an obligation to us, the readers, to go deeper than that?
Well, I’ll drop it, for now. I’ll get back to baseball, until I read something else that drives me insane.
In my last post, I stated that steroids weren’t against baseball’s rules. I was, of course, wrong. The new bargaining agreement between the league and the Player’s Association included the following:
Major League Baseball
• Any and all anabolic androgenic steroids covered by Schedule III of the Code of Federal Regulations’ Schedule of Controlled Substances are prohibited.
• In 2003, 1,438 anonymous, unannounced tests for steroid use were conducted by MLB. The number of positive tests was between 5 percent and 7 percent, exceeding the threshold in the basic agreement for the institution of program testing.
• Under program testing, all players, starting March 2, 2004, will be subject to the same testing as occurred in the survey on a random basis, only this time the identity of those tested will be known, and positive test results could lead to discipline, including suspension of the offending player.
• First positive test results in player placed on the clinical treatment track.
• Second positive test results in a 15-day suspension or up to a $10,000 fine.
• Third positive test results in a 25-day suspension or up to a $25,000 fine.
• Fourth positive test results in a 50-day suspension or up to a $50,000 fine.
• Fifth positive test results in a one-year suspension or up to a $100,000 fine.
• All suspensions shall be without pay.
Source: Major League Baseball.
That’s what we know, what about what we don’t. What limits of testosterone or whatever indicator for steroid use are they using? How much of a substance can be in your system before you fail a test? Because, once it becomes known that you are allowed to have, say five times the normal limit of testosterone or whatever, but not six, every athlete that doesn’t get that five times of whatever will be at a disadvantage. Testing prgrams like this are covered in that excellent Dayn Perry article I have in my STEROIDS AND BASEBALL link box. They encourage use, not discourage it.
I have recently gotten some emails that lead me to believe that people think I am OK with steroid use in baseball. As I read my own writing, it seems to be what I am saying a lot of the time, so I thought I’d better take a minute to work it through, and make sure I am being clearly understood.
First of all, I do not believe that using steroids should be a crime, at least not for an adult. If I’m old to enough to take the life-threatening risks involved in going to war, drinking beer, smoking cigarettes or driving, I am old enough to decide whether I am willing to take similar risks in any way I see fit. Personally, I do not believe that using steroids (under a physician’s careful care) will lead to serious long-term health issues; a conclusion I’ve come to from a careful reading of objective writings on the subject, as well as my own experiences, (I was involved in body building for several years in the eighties). That is not to say I couldn’t be wrong, or that it’s great. I just don’t believe the hype, as it were.
Also, I know that everyone is saying that a player using steroids is cheating, Well, I’m not so sure that it is, right now, it is not against baseball’s rules; although, as a controlled substance, it is illegal to use steroids without a physician’s prescription.
As for the irresponsible slander being published in many of the major media outlets; I do not believe that steroid use in baseball is anywhere near as widespread as is being suggested. I do not believe that Bonds, (or for that matter, Sosa or Giambi) uses steroids. The ridiculous idea that because Bonds is bigger, particularly his head, he must be using steroids or GHB or whatever, I mean, come on. I’m 39 years old (same as Barry), and I haven’t lifted weights in over ten years. My head is probably a size and a half bigger, as is my waist, my shoulders, my ass…. This is what happens when you get old. You get bigger.
All professional journalists are required to follow the Journalistic Code of Ethics laid out for their profession. I believe that journalists like Tom Verducci and Rick Reilly are violating that code when they repeatedly insinuate that any player is using steroids with no proof whatsoever. Frankly, they should be censured; as it is, their articles and columns should be published in supermarket tabloids. And as for mandatory steroid testing in baseball, I’ll leave it at this; when they can guarantee that not one player is doing it, that’s when they should make it against the rules. Until then, all they’ll accomplish will be the vilification of those dumb enough to get caught.
We live in society that has criminalized a number of personal actions (smoking marijuana, for instance), while allowing enormous profits to be generated on others that are just as bad or worse (say, smoking cigarettes). To say that it’s OK for athletes to undergo radical surgeries, take pain-killing injections; to describe as heroic the athlete that will “play in pain,” while portray as weak those that can’t or won’t; to suggest that one kind of performance enhancement (amphetamines or supplements or surgery) is acceptable while another (steroids or GHB) is not…. I’m sorry, I cannot go along. This is hypocrisy at its highest form, and I will continue to treat it as such.
Furthermore, it is hypocrisy to suggest that baseball’s hallowed records are tainted by the suggestion of steroid use. There can be no doubt that throughout baseball history, athletes looking to gain an edge have tried virtually anything they could find to gain it. Whether it was to drink some strange concoction brewed up by the team trainer, rubbing liniment on sore arms, popping greenies or reds, beer before the game, beer after the game, you name it. I’ve read (probably apocryphal) stories of ballplayers sticking their heads out of a train so the soot would make their eyes water; the better to clean them out, or so the thinking went.
Virtually any athlete in any sport will do just about anything to be the best of the best, and a manager or coach will push them to do so. Some athletes will push the envelope only so far, while others will throw it away, and risk their very lives, if they truly believed it would make a difference, the difference between winning and losing. We, as fans, not only ask this of them, we demand it. Their coaches demand it, their teammates demand it, the game demands it. Be the best, win at all costs, do whatever it takes; these are the credo of virtually every championship-caliber player, coach, or team.
And now, hysterical media-types are fanning the flames of controversy; “Oh no, it looks like so and so really did do whatever it takes. Shame on him!” Please. Don’t insult my inteligence. Of course he or she did, what did you expect? The only difference between what one athlete will risk as opposed to another is based on their own personal decision-making values. As for their choice, I’d ask you; is it appropriate for one person to decide what another should be willing to risk? Is it OK for you to tell me what I should be willing to do to improve my life, my career, my earning potential? Not in my book, it isn’t, not as long as my actions don’t harm anyone else, or take from anyone else.
In the five years prior to 1997, Mark McGwire played 139, 27, 47, 104, and 130 games. Was it his use of andro that allowed him to play 156, 155 and 153 over the next three, hitting 58, 70 and 65 home runs? During those five injury-riddled seasons, he hit a home run every 9.44 AB’s. In the next three, in which he played almost every game, he hit a home run every 8.17 at bats, not a tremendous difference. He stopped using andro sometime during the end of the 1998 season, right? Only one full season later, he was back on the injured list, and his career was over by 2001. If his use of andro enabled him to stay healthy enough and strong enough to get enough at bats to break Roger Maris’ record, how exactly was that wrong? Why should Mark McGwire give up his right to do whatever he can to help his body heal itself and stay strong enough to endure the rigors of baseball, his chosen profession? If there are risks involved, why shouldn’t he be the one to decide if they are worth it? It’s his life!
Here’s a different way to look at it: If it was so bad for McGwire to use andro, mostly because so many kids went out and bought it after reading that he was using it; why wasn’t it bad when literally thousands of articles were and still are written about it?
Who gets to decide what’s OK and what’s not, the condescending and sanctimonious Rick Reilly? If it’s OK for Tommy John to undergo a radical surgery on his pitching arm, one that constituted the only way for him to continue what became a potentially Hall of Fame-worthy career; a surgery that was unavailable to, say, Herb Score or Dizzy Dean, does that somehow tarnish his accomplishments? Were there risks involved in the surgery? Of course there were. One person dies from anasthesia in every 80,000 surgeries, not to mention the other risks involved when a surgeon cuts you open, infection, mistakes, etc. Why is that risk OK, but the risks associated with steroids are not? What if there were a surgery that Jose Canseco could undergo that would insure he could play injury-free for three more seasons, but he might need knee replacements when he’s fifty, would that be acceptable? It is for football players. How come that risk meets Tom Verducci’s requirements for morality? Where’s his outrage over the practically crippled Earl Campbell?
Stan Musial was one of the first baseball players to use strength training year round, and was rewarded with a long and virtually injury-free career. Conventional wisdom at the time held that he was lucky; everyone believed that lifting weights would only increase a players susceptibility to injury, a belief that persisted into the 1980′s. He knew that that was a bunch of bullshit, and he ignored his coaches and trainers who tried to tell him otherwise. Should his advantage over his ignorant fellow competitors weigh against any analysis of his standing among baseball’s immortals?
It’s a slippery slope, this misplaced morality. There is no sure-fire way to stop a player from using steroids, or any other substance to enhance their abilities. Experts acknowledge that drug testing in the Olympics or more cryptically, cycling, have only forced all the competitors to use drugs up to the legal limit to remain competitive. What will be the test that baseball uses, what limits of testosterone or GHB or whatever will all baseball players have to meet to remain competitive? What team will declare that its players will heroically compete against the rest of the league free of any enhancements; a stance so absurd as to be unimaginable, given the enormous financial benefits a championship can offer.
This is the path we are heading down, just like the one that international cycling finds itself on. Where the only way to remain competitive at the highest levels is to follow the leaders. It’s not the path baseball should take. If you’re really worried about it, do something constructive. Spend some of the billions of dollars generated by baseball to fund real, objective research studies (something that to date has not been done, contrary to popular belief), and discover exactly what the use of steroids will do over the short and long-term. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that steroids are, in fact, harmful. I also wouldn’t be surprised to discover that careful use of steroids is actually beneficial in aiding athletes who put themselves through such rigorous and demanding lifestyles as our heroes. Right now, it would be premature to suggest that either conclusion is correct. Those who are sounding the clarion are jumping to just such premature conclusions, and using moral outrage as the foundation of their cries against the so-called cheaters. Their hypocrisy will be exposed by history, hopefully sooner, rather than later.
Rob Neyer has written another “Greatest Player of All Time” column. He has some things to say about the steroid issue with Bonds that are worth highlighting:
The mere mention of Barry Bonds in this article will, I know, elicit a great deal of e-mail from readers who think that instead of moving Bonds up the list because he’s not through yet, he should be moved down the list because of his (alleged) “creative use of modern pharmaceuticals.”
I don’t know what to do with that, though. You can’t really accuse Bonds of cheating, because A) we don’t know what, if anything, he’s been doing, and B) the “rules” are not clear. You can’t really accuse Bonds of doing things that other players aren’t doing, because we know other players are doing things. Which isn’t to say it shouldn’t be a part of the discussion; I just don’t know which part, exactly.
That’s an honest way of looking at it. I’m heartened to see it in a major media outlet.
The Giants made the news in SF today, as spring training opened up with no Barry, but lots of BALCO. According to the players, it’s not an issue, but Sabean noted that in reality, it was, had been for months, and would continue to be.
PS… I forgot to link to this excellent post by El Lefty Malo on the issue.
As for the two key players recovering from off-season injuries (Robb Nen and Jason Schmidt), both said they felt as though Opening Day is within their capabilities.
Also in the news, new catcher AJ Pierzynski says there are no hard feelings after he won his $3.5 million dollar salary arbitration case. Brian Sabean was reportedly stunned when the arbitrators awarded AJ an 858 percent raise over his $350,000 salary last season. I’d guess they figured if Neifi was worth $2 million….
Also in the article was a mention that Jesse Foppert was ahead of schedule and could pitch for the team as early as September. It was here at OBM that your first read about the irresponsible handling of Jesse, and now he’s going to miss an entire season. With Alou in his sixties, it’s hard to imagine that he’s finally going to realize that there are limits to how many pitches you can ask a pitcher to throw, but here’s to hoping.
Been away from the computer for a couple of days, so here’s what’s new to me…
Christian Ruzich has finished a redesign of his site that now features many of my favorite writers all under one umbrella. Check out his new location at All-Baseball.com.
Also, our friend, Al Bethke has an interview with Chris Coste. Good guys, both of them.
In recent news regarding the BALCO indictment, the Justice Department has seen fit to release email exchanges between the firm and Gary Sheffield, regardless of the fact that they are needlessly slandering a player by releasing documents that have nothing to do with steroids. In this overly dramatic piece in the NY Times, Dave Anderson ridiculously compares the “steroid crisis” to the Black Sox. I just cannot get over the lack of fact and research evident in these major media outlets’ coverage of this story. I forgive Joe Torre for his ignorance, at least he’s not screaming for everyone to run and hide because the sky is falling. Writers like Anderson could get the facts straight on this issue in less than an hours’ worth of research, (maybe even, [gasp!], here at OBM). Sickening.