We do not like to address the topic of steroids around here. By now, it is evident that steroids played a prevalent role in the game for a significant period of time. I am not sure why anyone acts so shocked when it comes out (illegally of course, but no outrage there) that any one individual used steroids. And yet, since Saturday, to turn on your television or open your newspaper or navigate on over to your mainstream sports website of choice was to subject yourself to an endless loop of the three S's - silliness (release A-Rod!), sanctimony (what about the kids?!?!) and schadenfreude (A-Roid, A-Fraud, etc).
Anyway, we give up. Instead of continuing on with the analysis we love - a look ahead at the 2009 season, maybe some work on prospects (did you know PECOTA has Matt Wieters as the best player in the AL in 2009?!?) or even do some prep on the college season, I decided we shouldn't completely ignore the subject of steroids. While I don't think I have any incremental insight or value to add to the discussion that is taking place, I thought I would point you to some work and commentary that caught my eye.
Writers at The Hardball Times had an interesting roundtable discussion on A-Rod and steroids more broadly:
Dave Studeman: My reaction is...meh. Why are we surprised that a slugger from the early part of the decade (or any time in the 1990's) took steroids? Can't we just say that lots of players took steroids, the time wasn't a good one for competitive and fair spirit, and move on? I don't have any negative reaction toward A-Rod as a result of this. In the grand scale of things, I think cheating on your wife is a much bigger lapse of ethics.
As for the union, I don't know enough to have an opinion.
Geoff Young: One of the great ironies of this witch hunt is that while it attempts to solve a problem (or more accurately, gives the *appearance* of attempting to solve a problem), the process itself has desensitized many of us. We know lots of players took steroids and at this point we just don't care.
Dave Studeman: Geoff, I don't know if you're reacting directly to my comment, but the "witch hunt" hasn't desensitized me. I've never been focused on trying to uncover the past—I've always thought it was fruitless. Clearly, lots of parties are to blame for the steroids era, and trying to pin down who did what is only useful, IMO, if it helps us better handle the future. I don't see that it does. Once it became clear that many players had taken steroids (and this has been pretty clear for a long time), I never saw the point in determining who did what.
Dan Shaughnessy, God bless him, had a pretty good piece in this morning's Boston Globe. I particularly liked the part when he compared New Englanders' reaction to the A-Rod news with their reaction to the news that Rodney Harrison, the Patriots All-Pro safety, had cheated.
But why do they hate him so much in New York ("A-Fraud") and everywhere else across this great land?....
And remember how quickly New England forgave Rodney Harrison when the beloved safety explained he was just trying to get back on the field to help the team?...
Red Sox fans, gleeful over this A-Rod scandal, need to remember that there are 103 other players who tested positive in 2003. Someday, those names could be released. There's a pretty good chance that one or two of the Sox stars from 2003 will be on it. What do you say about A-Rod when that happens?
To his credit, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN managed to track down Marvin Miller, the former MLBPA Union Boss. Miller, 91, is still as sharp as a tack.
On the media's role in perpetuating steroid use by referring to the drugs as "performance enhancers": "A kid who would love to be a professional athlete reads the sports pages or watches ESPN and is told over and over again, 'These are performance-enhancing drugs. They will make you a Barry Bonds or an A-Rod or a Roger Clemens.' The media, without evidence, keep telling young people all over the country, 'All you have to do to be a famous athlete with lots of money is take steroids.' The media are the greatest merchants of encouraging this that I've ever seen."
Miller also criticized the Justice Department for engaging in "union-busting tactics" by using the confidentiality provision in the drug testing to get information from players, and said many of the "experts" who advocate for greater testing in sports have an inherent conflict because they run labs and stand to profit.
"It's a witch hunt in baseball, for sure, but it also extends to cycling and the Olympics," Miller said. "And the victims are the athletes. They're obviously the ones being hunted down here."
And finally, here is Dan Szymborski, creator of the ZIPS projection system. He generally sticks to numbers over at Baseball Think Factory but he chimed in on this matter with an excellent article about how we are all complicit.
For fans, the belief has always been that athletic excellence is something that an athlete should risk everything for. Playing in pain, running into walls, brutal crushing tackles, are the currency of fandom's love and abiding respect.
The famous Pete Rose-Ray Fosse collision in the 1970 All-Star Game provides a compelling example of this phenomenon. Played over and over again, fans bring this up as an example of hard-nosed play from Charlie Hustle. But the negative effects of that play still affect Ray Fosse. Nearly 40 years later, Fosse still has trouble lifting his arm on some days. His shoulder still occasionally throbs with the same pain he experienced constantly for years after that fracture...
...I dare anyone to try to name an era in sports in the last in which any semblance of purity, now suddenly demanded by the public, actually existed. By all means, please direct us to this golden time where no currently banned performance-enhancing drugs were available, but went unused by the wholesome players of yesteryear. It's certainly not the 80s or 90s or 2000s, when steroid use apparently came most popular. It certainly wasn't the 60s and 70s, when players were distributing now-banned amphetamines and starting to experiment with steroids themselves. The only difference between a slugger in 1938 and a slugger in 2008 is the quality of the goodies he can get his hands on.
So there you have different takes on this situation, some commentary that stood out in a sea of talking heads feigning shock and outrage over A-Rod taking steroids. Some media members like to talk of the PR nightmare A-Rod has brought on himself (wow, wonder how that happens?!) Well the pieces linked and excerpted above managed to steer away from the emotions and take a look at this incident for what it is; something (another high profile player being outed) we should have all been able to see coming by this point.
I can't wait for the games to start.