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Archive for February, 2005


…. For my eyes only

Another John writes:

So torn. I agree on the Knapp angle completely. However, John seems to be saying that liver damage and the like are “urban myths.” Since I know John reads Will Carroll, I’d be curious how he squares this stance with Carroll’s great piece on December 8, 2004 on Baseball Prospectus which alludes to some of these same consequences and seems to indicate that they are well understood in the medical and pharmaceutical community. According to Carroll’s sources, however, some of these consequences flow from not using appropriate dosages. Still, I find it hard to accept that these side effects are simply “urban myths.”

I am a BP Premium subscriber, and a good friend of Will’s. I am familiar with the column John is referring to. In it, the pharmacist quoted by Will sticks to the basics:

…. The effects of steroids–building muscle, easing recovery–are well known. There are a number of diseases for which anabolic and androgenic steroids can make a great difference, such as multiple sclerosis, AIDS and some forms of cancer. The side effects, however, expand as doses extend. “Bodybuilders, and I use that term because that’s where we’re used to seeing this, use doses that are often literally those a veterinarian would use,” the pharmacist told me. “If one is good, two is better. If two is better, ten is great. Unfortunately, as they see the results they want, they also see the results they don’t.”

Side effects include increased moodiness, hair loss (or gain in women), acne, and breast growth in men. Internally, cholesterol (itself a steroid) is affected, reducing HDL counts. HDL is the “good” cholesterol. They can stimulate tumor growth, create liver problems and suppress blood clotting. The effects on sexual glands are great as well. “Pump enough of anything natural into the body and the body adjusts,” the pharmacist told me. “If it’s there, the body realizes it doesn’t need to make its own and stops. It’s just that simple. If you keep pumping in steroids and the testosterone levels raise, why should the testicles bother? Eventually, it’s ‘use it or lose it’–the body doesn’t feed what it doesn’t need and the testicles can visibly shrink.”

Nothing new there, again, as a natural-born cynic, I have to ask, how does Will’s pharmacist know that? I have a family member who is a pharmacist, and he and I had a long conversation about steroids and their side effects. He can make the same argument, he can list them out, and claim that they are based in facts, but he has no idea where those “facts” came from. I don’t know where the studies are that have been done that prove that any of these side effects happen, and to what degree. Forget about prove, how about studies that just show some possible causality. How about anecdotal evidence that has been catalogued and categorized and investigated? Where is this stuff?

Here is a Journal of the American Medical Association study on steroids and weight-training. The authors concluded that there were no benefits from using steroids while weight-training. Here’s a hypothesis that concludes that using steroids can cause addiction. It’s only a hypothesis, mind you, but it’s been cited in other steroids studies numerous times. Here’s another that illustrates my point exactly. In it, the researcher interviewed ten women athletes who were using anabloic steroids, and listed the side effects these women described. You know the list. My point isn’t that there are or aren’t side effects. The point is that this is published in the JAMA, and it is an anecdotal survey. What steroids were taken, how often, at what dose, in combination with what other PED’s? All of these questions are unanswerable. Here’s a study that claims the following:

CONCLUSION–This is the first placebo-controlled prospective study demonstrating the adverse and activating mood and behavioral effects of anabolic steroids.”

In this study, the first ever to prove a connection between anabolic steroids use and mood swings, one volunteer out of twenty had what the authors described as an acute manic episode. The other mood changes (which were observed roughly 5% of the time) were, among many, euphoria, irritability, forgetfulness, hostility; you know, like how people feel all the time. Mind you, we’re talking about the first ever scientific study to associate mood swings with anabolic steroids use.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; if you have it, I’ll publish it here. If you know where it is, send me there. It isn’t at the government’s own anti-drug website, NIDA, which offers little more than a letter telling us steroids are bad. As for evidence, the medical community acknowledges that there are limited long-term studies on steroids. They admit it all the time. They did it here, during their Council on Scientific Affairs in 1990.

“Concern over the known adverse effects, the limited research into the long-term effects, and the ethics of engineering body size and performance through anabolic-androgenic steroid use has led to legislative, legal, and education responses….” (italics mine)

I am not a chemist or a scientist. I am a critical reader. From what I have read, the list of side effects associated with steroids could hardly be described as life-threatening; or even very dramatic; it’s possible this could happen, maybe that could happen. There seems to be little proof of these side effects, other than to say, lots of people think they are real. Even if it’s a given that high doses of steroids can be said to have side effects, these side effects certainly don’t seem to be any worse than the side effects for almost any of the prescription drugs you can find advertised on television these days. Why is it OK for everyone to take Viagra, but if a professional athlete wants access to something that can sustain his body over the long haul of the season, it’s a tragedy?

Will is interviewing experts; and I am looking forward to reading his book. He’s an excellent writer, his work is very thorough and well-researched. I like to think that my efforts on the subject have been pretty thorough, too. In my humble opinion, the vast majority of what is written and said about steroids is transparent, one more example of propaganda.



…. Liar liar

Bonds accused the media of lying during his press conference the other day, and some of them haven’t gotten over it. Gwen Knapp, who works for the SF Chronicle, wrote about it on Thursday:

…. Barry Bonds is right. I have lied. A lot of sportswriters lie. We cover for athletes all the time.

We did it when we followed Mark McGwire in 1998 and failed to ask the appropriate questions. I was especially guilty, because I believed back then what Jose Canseco is writing now: That McGwire didn’t hit 70 home runs on hard work alone. Yet, I said nothing. I thought my silence amounted to fairness, because I didn’t have proof.

…. I have lied about Bonds, too, but not in the way he meant when he went after the media at his spring-training debut on Tuesday. The first time I saw him in 2001, I said to myself: “He’s juiced.” I didn’t say it in this column because, again, I didn’t have proof. But I was sure of it.

…. I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that every time an athlete dies young, I wonder if steroids played a role. Or that every time a rich athlete commits an act of violence, I have the same concern.

…. We can argue whether hitting 53 more home runs, reaching No. 756, will make Bonds the undisputed king, regardless of how he got there. But suppressing the doubts, not wondering whether Aaron is about to be robbed? That would be the biggest lie of all.

I’m not gonna do a bullet point presentation here and dispute everything she said. What I am gonna do is send her an email. Here it is:

Gwen,

Before I get into my email, I’d like to say that I enjoy your work, and your writing style. I am a fan of yours, and have linked, plugged and quoted you quite a few times at OBM.

I just read your column on Bonds and lying. While I appreciate your candor, candor isn’t the issue here. And the lies aren’t the issue, either.

The issue is your job. You are a journalist. A reporter. If you thought or wondered whether McGwire was using steroids, you could’ve done the work and found out. Your choice wasn’t reckless speculation or nothing. Your choices regarding Bonds are equally diverse.

If you think Bonds is or has been on the juice, get out there with a couple of investigative interns and do some goddam research. Find out definitively. Your choice to once again offer little more than what a guy like me has to offer, an opinion, is pointless, speculative and insulting to the intelligence of the fans who follow your writing with the expectation that you ARE THERE, with the players, in the locker. I live in the mountains of Northern California, about five hours from PacBell, and I can write pretty much the same things you and so many other beat writers do.

You say that you covered his 700th home run and didn’t bring up the steroids issue. Why do you think the steroids issue should’ve been brought up then? Because some sportswriter has speculated that Bonds was juiced?

In case you didn’t know this: YOU ARE NOT AN EXPERT ON STEROID USE OR ITS SIDE EFFECTS. YOU, AND NOBODY ALIVE, CAN DETERMINE IF SOMEONE IS USING STEROIDS JUST BY LOOKING AT THEM.

By repeatedly inferring that you can, you enable thousands of baseball and sports fans to do the same thing, make up their minds about something they know absolutely nothing about. That is almost certainly a violation of the journalistic code of ethics that you are bound to.

I’ve written ad nauseum on the subject, but I’ll write it again.

How hard can it be to find a guy, one guy, with credibility, who saw or was with Bonds when he bought, used, or had in his gym bag, HGH, steroids, or whatever? HOW HARD CAN THAT BE?

Bonds isn’t Jason Bourne, able to cover every angle, kill anyone who could out his secret, maintain perfect management of his life for the last five or six years. If, as you and so many experts maintain, he has been or at least had been using for several years, THERE HAVE TO BE PEOPLE WHO KNOW THIS AS FACT!

You are a reporter, won’t the SF Chronicle spend some money to uncover the truth? After all, isn’t finding the truth part and parcel of what the newspapers are supposed to be about?

In the meantime, aren’t you tired of offering little more than barstool speculation to your readers?

If she answers, you’ll read it.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject, I saw Jose Canseco on Bill Maher’s HBO show last night. Funny, he looked great, just like Arnold Schwarzenegger looks great, or Lou Ferrigino, or Mark Mcgwire, or Bonds, or how about Lee Haney the man who supplanted Arnold as the king of bodybuilding. It’s interesting that nobody is noticing how great all these steroids users look, or seem. All we hear about is how bad it is for you. Everyone wants to talk about Caminitti or Giambi so that we know steroid users get sick. I can’t imagine somebody has ever used more steroids than Arnold, and he is the very picture of health.

Oh, but it’s long-tern health problems these experts are talking about. Yeah, well, Arnold used steroids like forty years ago. How long-term are you talking about? Are you worried about the effects of steroids on Arnold’s body when he’s in the ground?

Anyway, back to Canseco, who actually sounded informed. When he tried to tell Maher that steroid use could be good for you, Maher wouldn’t allow it, interrupting him and making sure Canseco knew that he was risking liver troubles and shrunken testicles. Of course, OBM readers know that these side effects are not proven, or based in science or clinical trials. They are urban legend, and Canseco knows it.

I am always amazed at how easy it is for people to accept the notion that a man will knowingly sacrifice his libido. A guy like Canseco is the perfect antidote for such a ridiculous assertion. Here’s a superstar athlete, good-looking guy, who, while using steroids, was perhaps the biggest party animal in all of sports. For crying out loud! The guys was hanging out with Madonna! And here’s Maher not even considering that Canseco would have had to give up perhaps the biggest perk all big-time athletes have access to; unlimited women. Would Canseco or any other superstar really give this up so readily? Maher never even thought it through to its illogical conclusion, even as Canseco was telling him that no such thing happened.

It just goes to show you how poorly read this country really is, when even Bill Maher, whose witty, knowledgable show I love, isn’t immune to the misinformation on the subject of steroids.



…. Friends indeed

Hammerin’ Hank Waddles, the Broken Cowboy has an interview with Tom Stanton, a famous author.

One of the things that I like about the expansion of the blogosphere is this interview thing. Alex Belth does a lot of them as well. Interviews of people who do the real work, whether they are authors or athletes or involved in the running of teams…. these are the kind of in-depth pieces that appear to be on the way to being extinct in the mainstream media.

One of the things I’ve commented on recently, (not here, in the real world, where I possess the gift of speech) is the shrinking of magazine and newspaper articles and columns. I read fast, and in the last couple of years especially, a full-size magazine article only takes me a couple of minutes to read. I can usually read the entire Sports Illustrated in about twenty, twenty-five minutes. Even National Geographic has really cut a lot of words out.

Here in the blogosphere, guys like Hank or Alex have no such limitations. They can ask a hundred questions, and post the entire transcript with no difficulty. I can write a thousand word column on whatever I like, and I don’t have to worry about it being cut to shreds by some editor, (partly because I am the editor), but also because it doesn’t cost me any more or less.

In the print-driven media, the cost of paper, bindings, ink, distribution… all of these things conspire to shorten and compress the work of writers. Of course, this also contributes to the downgrade of the product. Sometimes, depth is neccessary. It can be difficult to express the complexities of an issue when you are restricted to 750 words; and in many of today’s headline stories, (steroids, baseball’s financial issues, salary cap stuff), there is no substitute for information.

And this shrinking attention-span approach also demands that writers to do more interpreting for us. Now we don’t just get the story, we get what the story means; we get the writer telling us what Bonds says, and also that it’s a lie. It’s all wrapped up and packaged for us, and since we don’t have all the information, we can do little more than parrot the author’s conclusion.

Unless. Unless you are like me, and you want a little more, or need a little more. Then you turn to the web. What the mainstream media has failed to understand is that there is a market for good, in-depth writing. The continued influence of the blogosphere is all the evidence you need. Has any media conglomerate figured this out yet? Maybe, you could say that Bill Simmons’ columns on ESPN2 are evidence of some understanding. Or Gregg Easterbrook’s NFL.com work. Are we moving forward to a new organization or method of finding work for writers, where you can establish an audience and then get published? Maybe.

I know that I have done a lot of writing that has been read by a lot of people, using no traditional avenues of publishing. Something’s going on. And I like it.



…. I just can’t stop

Joe Sheehan has a Barry Bonds column up at Baseball Prospectus, and it is just flat-out awesome. It is a Premium content piece, so I asked for, and received his permission to put up some excerpts here:

…. That Bonds is the face of the baseball’n'BALCO situation is fortunate for the media, which can get away with a lot more rolled eyes and lowered standards than it might otherwise. Bonds’ relationship with the media is a huge part of this story, and it makes it hard to take the coverage without a whole quarry of salt, because there’s not even a pretense of objectivity any longer. The two parties dislike each other, and that impacts the coverage. Bonds won’t provide information, so the media substitutes his disdain for it and hand-waves the rest.

…. I wrote this in December, but it’s worth mentioning again: Bonds is facing these questions in part because he was betrayed by the system. His grand-jury testimony, and that of others, was leaked to the media. That is the biggest crime in this situation to date, and almost no one has addressed it with the same gusto as they have the connections between Bonds and his personal trainer. Where are the investigation and the indictments for that crime?

As far as that testimony is concerned, I don’t think you can have it both ways. I don’t think it’s fair to treat it as Grand Jury Testimony where the stories are good, but then decide that where the story isn’t as good, the person is lying. That’s what Bonds is facing here: not only was his testimony leaked, but people have effectively been accusing him of perjury for two months since then. His explanations for his use of the clear and the cream have been dismissed, his performance record seen as tainted.

…. I refuse to jump on the bandwagon. My position on steroids in baseball is the same as it’s been all along: we don’t have enough information, and the hysteria over the issue is a media creation.

…. At the end of today’s interview on WHTK in Rochester, the host–who I should mention was very good about allowing me to make my case despite his disagreeing with it–said that he believed that Barry Bonds had been on steroids for some time, and that many other people do as well. He’s right about that, as far as it goes: many people believe that Bonds used steroids.

The issue is that it’s just a belief. If we’re going to have these conversations, we need more than that. We should expect a higher standard than, “Well, he’s a jerk, and he got bigger, and he hit a bunch of home runs, so he did it.” Until we have more information, all the information, and can analyze this issue with the same rigor that we do this trade or that free-agent signing, it’s incumbent upon us to make that most dissatisfying of statements:

I don’t know.

Thanks to Joe and the boys at BP for letting me cut and paste some of their excellent work. And of course, I couldn’t agree more.



Barry Bonds arrived at Spring Training unapologetic, unrepentant, and unwilling to allow the media to control the discusssion or the interview. Nere’s the NY Times, the NY Daily News, and the SF Chronicle covering the super slugger. I like the fact that the SF Chronicle is offering the full transcript of the interview:

Q: Can you explain over the last four or five years your amazing production, your tremendous growth in muscle strength getting stronger as you get older? Can you finally put to rest –

Bonds: Can I? Hard work that’s about it. Now it’s to rest.

Q: As you approach Babe Ruth on the home run charts, is it troubling to you that people are scrutinizing your achievements, particularly home runs?

Bonds: No, you guys don’t bother me. You’re professional at what you do. That doesn’t bother me. That’s part of the game. That’s part of sports, it always has been.

The problem with me, my dad told me before he passed away, he said, “The biggest problem with you, Barry is that every great athlete that has gone on for great records, everyone knows their story. People have made hundreds of millions of dollars off their stories with them and protected them. Nobody knows you and they are pissed off.”

And I’m sorry. It’s not that, you know, to try to just tell you who I am, I was the son of an athlete that also father had some problems or issues. I was raised to protect my family, keep my mouth shut and stay quiet. You don’t just all of a sudden turn off who you are as you grow up. I just never wanted that part of my life as I saw some of the things my dad went through personally, being so outgoing and doing things, and suddenly he wasn’t there and people turned their backs on him and messed him over and all that stuff. That wasn’t something I wanted in my life. I just wanted to do my job and go home. I made my choice. It may not have been the right choice. It may not have been the choice of what America wants or what the people want, but that’s my choice, that’s my decision.

But it doesn’t make me a bad person. It doesn’t make me an evil person. It doesn’t make me that you know I’m some different person or I’m separating myself from anyone else. I am just — I want to go to work. I want to play the game as hard as I can. I want to enjoy the guys that I come across during my career. I have the utmost respect for all of them. I think they are all great athletes. I don’t care what sport you do. I think you guys are good people for what you guys do. It’s your job. I’m not sitting there saying what you guys can’t do your job. That’s your job, that’s what your boss is paying you, even though he’s somewhere in the Bahamas, smiling, collecting his change and all this stuff. But, so what? So be it. It’s OK for him to do it but we’re supposed to justify us.

I’m an adult and I take responsibilities for what I do, but I’m not going to allow you guys to ruin my joy.

Q: You say you don’t care about what the media says; fair enough. What would you say to fans who question your accomplishments?

Bonds: Do you know what? I’m going to tell you, through all this, that’s one question I was waiting for, because I have prob(ably) gotten the best relationship with fans through all of this, than I ever have in my entire career. From all the places I’ve ever gone, and I’ve traveled all over the place and gone places: “Barry, keep your head up, we’re behind you,” we’re this. And I mean, coming over to me — the things that I’ve always wanted, to come over to me and just shake my hand and say, “You know what? Who cares. You’re a good ballplayer. You proved it. You know, you’ve done this, you’ve done that. We’re all supporting you.” I’ve never heard that before.

And the fans come to the game, you have fans that come to the game that are going to boo and fans that come to the game that are going to cheer. That’s part of sports. Boo me, cheer me, those that are going to cheer me are going to cheer me and those that are going to boo me are going to boo me. But they still are going to come see the show.

Dodger Stadium is the best show I ever go to in all of my baseball. They say, “Barry sucks” louder than anybody out there. And you know what, you’ll see me in left field going just like this, because you know what, you’ve got to have some serious talent to have 53,000 people saying you suck. And I’m proud of that.



…. Keep it continuous, Part II

Thanks to the backtalkers for their support of my unconventional views. Indeed, as I rant and rave over the lack of journalistic integrity, effort and investigation offered by most of the mainstream sports journalists and talking heads covering my little world of baseball, over at the NY Times, they are talking about bloggers, (you know, people like me), getting people fired.

Actually, this piece, written by Katherine Q. Seelye, was published a few days ago. Katherine notes that bloggers can now claim responsibility for the firings and/or resignations of two prominent newsmen, Dan Rather and Eason Jordan.

…. Steve Lovelady, a former editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Wall Street Journal and now managing editor of CJR Daily, the Web site of The Columbia Journalism Review, has been among the most outspoken.

“The salivating morons who make up the lynch mob prevail,” he lamented online after Mr. Jordan’s resignation. He said that Mr. Jordan cared deeply about the reporters he had sent into battle and was “haunted by the fact that not all of them came back.”

So basically, Jordan was quoted as saying the US military had targeted reporters, and some guy blogged his comments, and they were blown out of proportion, and Jordan resigned.

Well, I don’t understand why he would resign. Isn’t there anyone out there who can devise a strategy of dealing with a hostile press (or hostile blogosphere, for that matter) that works? I guess not.

Anyway, as a pretty hard-core liberal myself, I guess it’s up to me to let you in on a little secret. Underneath this story is something you can’t find at the Times.

The writers who are blogging these guys out of jobs are hard-line conservatives, and they are using any and all means to attack anyone with a liberal background. Any chink in the armor, any mistake or poorly thought out comment or press release, and bang! The piranha’s swoop in for the kill. Dan Rather allowed himself to be protrayed as a fool, but make no mistake, there are dozens of conservatives in the media taking far more liberties with the truth. FOXNews offers virtually nothing but people who follow the Rush Limbaugh school of fact-finding; repeat until true. They aren’t being driven out, and they won’t be.

The conservatives are too well-organized, they have too many people in too many places. They are a well-oiled machine, and they are dominating public discourse and public policy right now.



…. Keep it continuous

For decades now, baseball players have enjoyed the protection of the strongest union in the world, and they have taken full advantage of it. Until only two seasons ago, baseball, alone among virtually all sports, had no drug testing program of any kind. Beat writers, the men (and women) who cover their respective teams, have access to players, teams, clubhouses, general managers; they often travel with their teams, stay in the same hotels…. in short, they are as close to the players and what they do as is humanly possible.

Recently, I have taken to chastising these writers for their lazy and frankly dishonest approach to the so-called controversy regarding steroids use in baseball. Apparently, I’m not the only one who feels that many of today’s writers are little more than instigators and/or simply repeating the company line.

For example, here’s the NY Times’ Murray Chass taking a swipe at the writers covering the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry:

The routine has become a daily practice in the Boston Red Sox’ spring camp. It’s as if there’s a podium on which players are asked daily to unburden themselves. “What do you think of A-Rod?” they are asked. It’s open season on Alex Rodriguez, who has been made the poster boy of evil in the rivalry that was heated and rumbling long before he joined the Yankees.

In this new version of “Get the good guy,” the Red Sox are blameless. One player, Trot Nixon, ignited the game with negative comments about Rodriguez last week and a torrent of teammates have followed. But the teammates’ comments have not been unsolicited. They were at the urging of reporters eager to inflame the game to incendiary levels. They were all but handed a script.

Athletes have long accused reporters of creating stories, and, sadly, this is one of those instances. It has become one of the most distasteful instances I have witnessed in 45 years of covering baseball.

He’s talking about the recent spate of stories detailing the many Red Sox players who apparently don’t like Alex Rodriguez. Here’s one, two, three, and four different stories, just from today’s Daily News.

As Chass correctly points out, this isn’t even a story. It’s a bunch of dummies repeatedly asking different players from each team the same question over and over and over, fueling a supposed dispute that doesn’t merit ten seconds of attention. A-Rod and most of the Yankees are doing their level best to just let it go, and have been for going on a week. In that time, there have been something like thirty stories on the subject. For more than a week, probably ten reporters, from three or four newspapers, have been beating this story to death.

With that kind of resource allocation, with that many writers; how is it possible that a player could do anything beyond the reach of the press? How is it possible that there are any secrets that the newspapers cannot uncover? Because of the lack of initiative, creativity, and willingness to do actual reporting, real work, evidenced by the vast majority of reporters in today’s modern media.

Just to keep it in perspective, remember that we have recently been reading about how Jose Canseco and company used steroids in the Oakland A’s clubhouse, during the season, repeatedly. So, just to be clear, while reporters sat around asking Dave Stewart whether he liked Rickey Henderson’s mom’s chicken pot-pie, baseball players used performance enhancing agents right in front of them, and they wrote nothing, said nothing; and act now like Canseco had somehow hypnotized them for most of the last ten years.

And this is still going to happen. Because right now, this season, when Derek Jeter, or Bernie Williams, or Albert Pujols or any other baseball players takes the field on Opening Day, odds are, he will be on pain killers, amphetamines, or some other type of PED. And notice that the sportswriters are already done with the amphetamine story. It’s already over. The players think it’s not so bad, so why report it? It’s a concession the players weren’t willing to make, when they strengthened the drug testing policy, so forget about it already.

Are the reporters to blame for players using steroids? Of course not. But they are to blame for making it a story only when it was handed to them. They are to blame for writing virtually nothing of substance on the issue, even today after Caminitti, Canseco, Sheffield, Giambi and Bonds have all been exposed for being involved. Find me a story on the subject that isn’t a pieced together package of press releases and AP reports and speculation.

Here’s a question: How hard could it be to find out if Mark McGwire was really using steroids during his super home run years? How hard could it be? We’re not in the old Soviet Union. Am I to believe that McGwire had insulated himself so completely and perfectly, that not one person who could testify as to whether or not he’s used will come forth? Where are these stories? Where are these people? Why aren’t we reading about what they saw, or what they heard, or what they know?

During that 1998 season, McGwire was trailed by perhaps as many as a hundred reporters for essentially the entire second half of the season. With a hundred reporters following him, we found out that he was using andro, an over the counter, steroids pre-cursor. How did this discovery take place? A reporter saw it in his locker. Now that’s investigative journalism.

Remember that asshole Rick Reilly asking Sosa to pee in a cup? How come Reilly didn’t do some investigating and reporting and actually find out whether Sosa used steroids? What stopped Reilly from, you know, asking questions from people who saw Sosa work out? Or, I don’t know, finding a guy selling steroids and asking him if he sold some to Sammy? You wanna know how hard it is to find a guy selling steroids? About as hard as finding a gym. But not one reporter can find one guy who sold steroids to one baseball player?

Doesn’t that sound a bit fishy? I mean, we’re talking about something that has to be used daily, every day for weeks or months at a time. How could any baseball player operate his life in such a total vaccum? How could McGwire, or any other world famous, recognizable, superstar athlete hide an everyday part of their lives from the men who are paid to write about them, about what they do and what they like and where they go, for years and years? It’s a terrible tragedy, according to Lupica and his pals. So how could Lupica and his pals not write about was happening right in front of them for going on ten years?

And I’m not talking about all of those ridiculous, speculative, innuendo-filled columns that were being written for the last five years. I’m not talking about, “oooh, look at how big his head is, that proves he’s using steroids” stories. I’m talking about facts, stories with quotes and sources and information about what, when, where and who. Where were those stories? Where are they now?



…. Backtalk

Susan Mullen asks a couple of pointed questions in the backtalk to my latest steroids post, so instead of writing her an email, I thought I’d put up a quick reply. She writes:

I thought that Barry did say in the court appearance that he used a cream. He said at the time he used it, he didn’t realize it was a steroid. Separately, just for the record, no amount of lifting weights will account for the big puffed up face that users get. Take a look at tape of Bonds’ face a few years ago vs. now. That tell-tale sign is not often mentioned.

Susan, I’m assuming you’re new to OBM, cause I’ve covered each of your questions at some point. Nonetheless, the questions you raise are important, and I am a stickler for facts, so here goes:

In Bonds’ testimony, he never once admits to using steroids. He said he used a cream and a “clear” liquid recommended to him by Greg Anderson. Reporters have inferred that he is referring to the “cream” and the “clear,” and are writing as though he, in fact, admitted to using those anabolic agents. There can be no doubt that Bonds has denied ever using steroids, HGH or any other anabolic aid every single time he has spoken about it.

As for tell-tale signs of steroid use, true experts in the field know that the signs you are referring to are almost always present only when dealing with virtually overdose levels of usage; like what the East German women’s swm team of the 1980′s were doing, or what some professional wrestlers have been cited for. Massive, almost poisonous amounts of steroids produce those kind of effects. Careful, monitored use of steroids happens ALL THE TIME, with no such effects. My grandmother is on a steroid cycle, (for crying out loud), to help her body regenerate tissue as she grows older. The idea that the changes in Bonds’ face, head or body are due to steroid use in absurd. Even if he were using for the last five years, right up to now; he would have been doing so under the most careful and regimented system, and he would be experiencing virtually no side effects under that kind of plan.

Oh, and by the way, I am an idiot. I thought I had added Bat Girl to my roster of links many moons ago, but alack and alas, I had not. Lisa, please excuse my idiocy, and accept my insertion of you into my 25 man roster as my way of expressing my remorse. You rock, and thanks for stopping by OBM.



…. Ask and you shall receive

James Click generously answered my email regards running his lineup calculations for my version of the Giants lineup.

Using 2004 numbers for the lineup below, sorting by descending OBP, I get an average of 978 runs (min: 831, max: 1127, stdev: 46). Sorting ascending, I get 892 runs (min: 760; max: 1045, stdev: 45). This is by far the biggest difference I’ve found going through various “real” lineups like this and obviously it’s due almost entirely to Bonds. Using what I would assume is the Giants’ most likely lineup and keeping Bonds fourth, the mean is 965. Moving him to third yields 972, second is 974, first is 975. Most of this is due to the fact that his power is lost on Matheny and (pitcher) in the 8/9 holes the higher he goes. I’m looking to do a follow-up article discussing the interaction between OBP and SLG in the lineup, but it appears from this small sample that moving higher OBP in the lineup shows diminishing returns if it’s accompanied by high SLG following low OBP, confirming some standard lineup ideas. I’ll have to do some more research to find out just how much.

So, what Click is saying is that my version of the lineup would be the most effective. Here, I’ll show it in a graph:

OBM lineup: AVG 978
Alou lineup: AVG 965
Bonds 3rd: AVG 972
Bonds 2nd: AVG 974
Bonds 1st: AVG 975

So you can’t just move him up, you’ve got to exercise some discipline and move other guys into non-traditional slots. But, Bonds is so much more effective than even the best guys in the league, he’s worth it. He’s also saying that stacking guys with the best OBP in front of the best SLG also holds water, so it would be important to figure out exactly where you can hide the pitcher and Matheny. Again, in my lineup, they are in the middle, so that I can at least have two occasions where I am controlling the matchups.

It would also be possible that, would Alou be ballsy enough to actually do this, Bonds would understand that him on first with no outs is probably more valuable then even a home run (statistically, over the long run), and he would see to it that he would be even more selective than normal. This would make the lineup even more effective.

I’m looking forward to Click’s followup.



…. Let’s talk about

Steroids. Once more. OK, maybe more than just once.

I just finished reading two more columns about steroids, I was actually going to avoid writing about it today, but these guys are both terrific, and what they added to the conversation is too valuable to be left out.

First, we have Michael McCann, over at the Sports Law Blog, writing about Mike Greenwell’s suggestion that he should be awarded the 1988 MVP award and that it should be taken from admitted steroid user Jose Canseco. He lists some of the various other ballplayers who could make the same argument:

…. Greenwell’s not alone in this type of argument. What do Adrian Beltre, Albert Pujols, and (in theory) Sammy Sosa all have in common? From 2000-2004, each finished second to an admitted steroids user, Barry Bonds, for the National League MVP award (it happened to Pujols twice). Likewise, Mike Piazza was the runner up to admitted user Ken Caminiti for the 1996 National League MVP award, while Frank Thomas was the runner up to admitted user Jason Giambi for the 2000 American League MVP award.

First of all, prior to the 2003 season, steroid use was not against baseball’s rules. Any type of disqualification for talking about it now is absurd. Second, Bonds’ “admission” is nothing of the sort. In point of fact, Bonds denies any inference that he used steroids ever, under any circumstances, and more importantly, during the last two seasons, he has been tested by MLB and has apparently passed.

More to the point, baseball players have long been willing to use any and all means to improve themselves, legal and otherwise. The type of player who wouldn’t go to extremes to excel in baseball would more than likely be ostracized by his teammates. The fact that there exists a hysteria over the use of steroids does not exclude the use of them from the discussion.

Here’s the rub: If people are supposed to die from using steroids, where are the dead bodies?

Given that those who decided to use steroids found that, once they did use them, they didn’t die, or get sick, or fall apart; suggests that it was pretty easy for them to come to the conclusion, not unlike first-time pot smokers; that it was all a lie.

Greenwell knows this. That’s what makes his MVP clamor so ridiculous. He used amphetamines, without question. I’ll tell you something else. My favorite ball-player of all time, Don Mattingly, a contemporary of Greenwell, absolutely and without question used amphetamines. His teammates, Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, noted tough guy Don Baylor, future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, Willie Randolph, all of them, used amphetamines. Amphetamine use in baseball is rampant, and has been for decades. Stop acting like using steroids is such a big deal. It is but one step up the ladder of doing anything you possibly can to do your job in the cutthroat world of professional baseball.

Widespread use of preformance enhancers has been documented in virtually all sports, for as long as competition has existed. Again, a professional baseball player of the fifties would have drank the blood of a rhino if someone told him he would get three hits that day if he did.

And, as David Pinto points out in this post, using steroids isn’t technically illegal.

…. Use of controlled substances is not a federal crime. The Department of Justice has no jurisdiction over it. Federal law enforcement has jurisdiction over possession and trafficking but not use. In fact, check the state laws on illegal drugs and I think you’ll find that most — if not all — do not criminalize use. In the states, possession for personal use is such a low level misdemeanor that prosecution of an even smaller offense — use — wouldn’t be worth the resources (and it might meet with very stiff public resistance).

This information was sent to David by a trial attorney with extensive experience in federal and state courts. Given that using steroids wasn’t illegal, and wasn’t prohibited by baseball, (not unlike the use of amphetamines), than perhaps its time to stop the hand-wringing and woe unto baseball, and all of the “scourge” of our time talk, and let it go.

It’s against the rules now, and judging by the media treatment Jason Giambi is already experiencing, there can be no doubt that no one in their right mind will use steroids again. The fact that steroid use can probably extend one’s career, enhance a player’s endurance and improve his ability to excel at the day to day grind we call baseball, is of no consequence, and is obviously something that this country is not ready to accept. So, drop it.

Jose Canseco will disappear if everyone lets him. Stop interviewing him. Stop asking him what he thinks. Stop writing about him. Let it go. I’ll say it again; it’s laughable to hear these sportswriters talk now about how horrible it is that guys did steroids all this time. Not one of them was willing to take a stand when it mattered, and expose the problem when it was happening right in front of them. Now that it’s out in the open, (primarily because the SF Chronicle’s guys were willing to risk their careers to publish Grand Jury testimony), every sportswriter in the country has to make sure we know how much they think it’s wrong.

Hey guys, if you think it’s that bad, start writing about how bad amphetamines are. Start writing about how bad painkillers are. Start writing about how clubs put their players long-term health at risk all the time for the team. Do some investigating and some reporting. Stop rehashing a dead subject.



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All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
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