Saturday, February 7, 2009

Reader Participation: A-Rod Roids. What Do You Think?

So this one took me by more than a little by surprise. A-Rod has tested positive for steroids at least once, according to a source whose validity has not seemed to be called into question.

What do you think? This is a complicated issue, I think. Since we all assumed that the 90's and early 00's were tainted by steroid use, on the one hand this isn't a shocker. But on the other hand, I think we generally cast a narrow net and only widen it as evidence became impossible to ignore.

I kind of turned up my nose at those who cried from mountain high (usually columnists like Jay Mariotti and other sanctimonious types) that "we can't assume anyone is claen."

Now, this still doesn't excuse not voting for Tony Gwynn. This still doesn't excuse impugning the likes of Griffey and Frank Thomas--guys who almost certainly never roided. A-Rod was a power hitter--the kind of guy whose athletic frame seemed to belie the kind of power AND speed he was simultaneously capable of.

And still I'd never really thought, even with Canseco's accusations, that he was a roider. Didn't rule it out, but didn't really think it likely. Well, here it is. What do you all make of this?

Does it not really affect your view of baseball? Did you already think A-Rod was a user? Do you not care one way or another who uses steroids? Do you think this affects only your view of A-Rod and not other power hitters of his time period? Anything.

This is important (I think). Might as well shoot the shit about it.


Larry B said...

Too many questions to individually respond to, so I will post general thoughts.

1. I am definitely surprised. I agree with the twatwad journalists like Mariotti in the sense that I think it's foolish to be 100% sure anyone is clean. But I'd say before this came out that my confidence level in A-Rod's cleanliness was probably about 90%. Didn't seem likely given how he's hit since 2005. But there you go.

2. This is now the #1 story in baseball until opening day, if not longer. Get used to it.

3. This definitely affects the assumptions I make about other players. For example, Manny Ramirez- I'd say he was another ">90% confidence" guy for me as of last week because of how he has continued to produce since testing has become widespread. But now... now I'd have to say that number is lower. Maybe more in the 80% range. I don't want to overquantify it, I just want to say this does affect my opinions.

4. Anyone who says they don't care who does and doesn't use steroids is a clod. While some steroids are relatively innocuous, many have very damaging effects on the body. And the more widespread their use at the pro level becomes, the more that will filter down into the lower ranks of the sport. And although I see the argument (don't agree, but see) that pro athletes should be able to do whatever they want with their bodies, I think we can pretty universally agree that think we can probably universally agree that high schoolers should not be using them.

5. Since this is a relatively serious post for FireJay, let me just also say: dick joke, 69, poop.

Passive Voice said...

Siiiiiiigh. I'm gonna be bummed out the day David Ortiz's name comes up. It's fair to say that each time another name comes up, the notion that Bonds' record--or really any other historical account from the era--deserves an asterisk becomes sillier to me. It's (probably) overstating it to say everyone was roiding, but it's pretty clear an asston of people were, and definitively sorting out "clean" from "dirty" records sounds like a fool's task.

The only thing I maybe-sorta-kinda disagree with, Larry, is point 4. High school kids shouldn't be using steroids, true, but they also probably shouldn't drink or like eat McDonald's. As long as they're informed of the risks (which is obviously not guaranteed), a big part of me is inclined to say knock yourself out.

Passive Voice said...

As a sort of aside, two general steroid questions:
-Is there a consensus that current testing measures are adequate?
-What's the deal with steroids and football?

Chris W said...

well Lar'--I guess what I'm asking is not "are steroids bad" but rather: Is this really one of the 3 biggest travesties in baseball history?

I mean, if you asked a sanctimonious columnist, it'd be

1. Segregation
2. Fixing games in the 1910's
3. Steroids

1 and 2 are clearly huge black marks on the game. And steroids will be too, since we'll be told how big a black mark it is. But how big a black mark is it really?

I don't see what high school kids really have to do with that question.

dan-bob said...

What confuses me about the issue is the degree to which players speak about the issue.

I mean, though guys like Frank Thomas and KGJr are regarded as "non-roiders", they don't seem to want to talk much about the issue (am I right?).

It seems like guys have a lot to gain by being forthright about their own cleanliness. Perhaps it's because they don't want to seem holier-than-thou... but at the same point, why be part of a cover-up that's going to besmirch your whole generation?

Like A-Rod's comment in the article to which CW linked: "I'm not saying anything". If he hadn't used roids, what would his incentive be to obfuscate the process?

Maybe the players themselves don't realize how big a deal this could be in the long term. I do think this affects what I think of almost any player whose use is generally accepted. The respect accorded to great players of previous generations simply will not be accorded to those of this generation - and Mark McGwire's 25% vote totals for the last HOF ballots indicate it.

I feel the same way as LB - my confidence in the previously-thought-clean category is undermined.

I think it's a significant black mark because it suggests a certain selfishness - like the game-fixing of the 1919 World Series, it suggests that certain players are willing to take advantage of the investment of a lot of people for a personal advantage.

It's like Nick Carraway sez in The Great Gatsby.

"I remembered, of course, that the World's Series had been fixed in 1919, but if I had thought of it at all I would have thought of it as a thing that merely HAPPENED, the end of some inevitable chain. It never occurred to me that one man could start to play with the faith of fifty million people - with the single-mindedness of a burglar blowing a safe."

Like Nick, when baseball fans see players deliberately transgress written (and some unwritten, but clear) standards for player conduct, their faith in the honesty of the game is undermined. Sports are built on conceptions of fairness - and without that conception of fairness, what good is competition between teams in the present or comparison between teams of the past?

This comment merits the label "unnecessary literary allusions".

Chris W said...

Frank Thomas is more than willing to talk about the issue. He was demanding testing in 1996, and he was the only player willing to cooperate with the Mitchell Report.

pnoles said...

Damn. CW beat me to the punch on the Thomas issue.

Anonymous said...

I want to chime in and echo Larry B.'s surprise regarding ARod and steroids. I thought he was clean. Wanted him to be in the Mitchell Report but when he wasn't I just accepted that he's a baseball machine. He still is a baseball machine, I will still root against him and I shouldn't have been surprised. The system is/was set for players to gain a competitive advantage with PED's. In fact, I think one could easily argue that the use of PED's was essential to maintaining their competitiveness since the league wide use was rampant. Look, how can we surprised or even pass judgment when we see the benefits? I really hate the sports media blasting off about how they can see the "25th man" on a team taking them to stay in The Show but condemn the stars they claim didn't need them to be great. Maybe PED's mean the difference between ARod and say, Lance Berkman (offensively speaking, only). That amounts to a few hundred million dollars and a remembrance of being a fine player and an all time great. That's not sufficient motivation? If memory serves, there was no drug testing, at all, in baseball for years and years and years. If that's not an invitation to use illegal substances to add to your production, what is it? From the late 80's to 2003 it's impossible to gauge who was using and who wasn't. Everyone was complicit or naive and now we all want to stand in judgment. As always, players should be judged on their performance as it relates to their peers. PED use should be just another factor like dead balls, higher mounds, etc.

I really hope both Lupica and Albom are on Sports Reporters tomorrow. I wonder which one will blame ARod for being the next Shoeless Joe.

Also, so there are no questions...I hope ARod OPS's .744 and strikes out 180 times in 2009 while the NYY finish a distant 3rd.

Venezuelan Beaver Cheese said...

I was fairly confident that A-Rod was clean too. He doesn't have the look of a steroid user. We've all seen the photos of how Barry Bonds' body changed over time, but A-Rod's body doesn't appear to have changed much except for a little extra weight that could be expected with age.

I got curious about it though, and it does appear that he was bulkier when he was with the Rangers.


Photo evidence would seem to corroborate these accusations.

Back on the subject though. Perhaps this makes me a little less awed by Alex Rodriguez's natural ability, but it doesn't affect my overall view of baseball or the "steroid era" as a whole. Like Passive Voice said, it's too much trouble to worry about who did and didn't use at this point. If we have evidence, great. If not, I have better things to do than sit and speculate.

Martin said...

A-Rod was one of those guys who I didn't think was on them because unless he used them from the beginning, he didn't seem to be the type who needed them. From his rookie season the ball just flew off his bat. Two things in the last 18 months or so changed my thought process, the first being something Gammons said. He mentioned that A-Rod should hopefully have a better 2008 because he had lost weight, hoping to regain flexibility for fielding and better plate coverage. That just sounded fishy to me. It smacked too much of Pudge Rodriguez suddenly showing up 25 pounds lighter the year testing began.

The second was that with what went on with his contract status being brought up at the World Serries, the way he acted before the year started, and then the whole seperation/Madonna thing. It showed that A-Rod was just really really insecure. Someone that insecure would probably do steroids even if they didn't need them, jsut in case, and "well ya know, everyone was doing them."

This report does make me think that even more people were doing them then I had thought. It's disappointing, but not surprising. Other then Tony "Cheeseburger" Gwynn, I'm not sure that anybody wasn't using them.

One thing that mayb prevent some guys from saying anything is the possibility of them using legal supplements that were tainted. It's an old worn out story, but the truth is that for a long time the non-regulated supplements were chock full of things that weren't on the labels. The same equipment was used for both steroidal supplements and non-steroid. There very well could be guys who didn't take steroids and came up positive. Unlikely, but out of 100, maybe a few.

Baseball stuck it's head in teh sand for years, and while some of them might have been caught by surprise, the rest jsut didn't know because they didn't want to know. Who didn't watch Lenny Dykstra with the Phillies and not think "Damn, he's gotta be on roids?"

Jack M said...

In my opinion, almost all health problems with steroid (ab)use could be avoided by making their usage legal as an elective procedure through licensed MD's.

The main health problem with steroids isn't their usage for 1 or 2 cycles a year. Rather, it is that not all males' testosterone levels return to normal after a steroid cycle. Therefore, in order for some of them to regain even normal levels of testosterone, they go back to steroids, which is bad.

If any male over, let's say, 22 could go be physically examined by a doctor, have the pro's and cons of steroids laid out to them, have the doctor run tests to see if they're healthy for it, and then select whether they wanted to be issued their 1 legal cycle for the year, the sports world would be far less murky.

I honestly don't care which major leaguers used in the past. I hate A-Rod for being a Yankee just as much today as I did yesterday. If he were traded to the Orioles, I would relentlessly defend his steroid use as reflective of the times.

If anyone has ever needed to fall on their sword for a problem in sports, it's Bud Selig. Easily the worst commissioner of any sport in the past 20 years (including Isiah Thomas, who ran the CBA into the ground in under 2 years). However, he just awarded himself a salary of $18 mil. I guess the Superbowl being the 3rd most watched American television event triggered some sort of "get thoroughly buried by the NFL in ratings, cultural importance, and income" incentive in Selig's contract.

Biggus Rickus said...

I suspect that steroid use is common across all professional sports along with the big two college sports (football and basketball). And I think most of us want to believe that our sports heroes are untainted, so we pretend it isn't the case. But I'm sort of cynical.

As for the impressionable high schoolers being led astray by pros, it's bullshit. Everyone knows the health risks involved with steroids, and if someone is dumb enough to take them it's his own fault if something bad goes down.

In the end, I don't really care if people are juicing. It doesn't make me think records are tainted or like the games any less.

Chris W said...

But, Biggus Ruckus--

at the very least you have to know that in general steroids have "cheapened" the value of the era which, if you're around my age, is the only era you really know.

It may not cheapen it for you, but it's been cheapened and tainted in a way no other era really has--not the pre-1947's "blackless" baseball era, not the pitching-friendly "deadball" era, not even the "hey let's raise the mound and expand the strike zone" era of the '60's--and all because of the "shadows" surrounding everything.

No records set in the 90's or early 00's garner the sort of respect they (debatably) deserve. That's got to have some effect on your enjoyment as a fan.

Biggus Rickus said...

Chris W:

I was speaking only for myself. I expect that most people do feel the records are less meaningful, and it deducts from their ejoyment as fans.

I look at it as something along the lines of an advancement in physical training. Nobody used trainers and workout regimens and the like in Ruth's or Aaron's day, but we don't consider it an unfair advantage that modern players have a better understanding of strength enhancement. Steroids are just an extension of that. Frowned upon, sure, but on a basic level not really different.

And as a fan, if players I like can extend their careers or increase their production, I don't really mind. Even if I think they're a bit dumb for risking their health for a little improvement in their slugging percentage or a couple of more years to hang around the league.

Chris W said...

I'm not saying, necessarily, that I disagree with you.

But I guess what I'm asking is doesn't it bother you that the majority of people have a certain view of this era?

Let's say you were, for instance, of the opinion that Babe Ruth was an overrated player for the myriad reason one might have that opinion (ballpark tailored to him, no blacks in the league, no night game, no slider). Wouldn't it bother you that he's universally acclaimed as the best player ever?

Likewise, if you grew up in the 90's, 00's, doesn't it bother you that the era you grew up in is almost universally claimed to be a dark age because "everyone is under the suspicion of steroids"?

Biggus Rickus said...

It bothers me in the sense that I find it annoying, but I find a lot of people's opinions on a lot of things to be annoying. Doubly so for the echo chambers of mass media. However, the issue itself just doesn't seem all that big a deal to me.

I would even argue that in certain situations steroids might make sense. If the difference between you floundering in AAA and making a million or so a year in the majors is a boost in strength it might be a good decision on your part to take steroids. In the case of Bonds and A-Rod and all of the other high profile players it seems like a bad trade-off.

In the end, I guess what I'm saying is that while I wish more people approached these things rationally rather than with knee-jerk reactions (Steroids are bad, so if you use steroids you're cheating) I'm not really all that upset about it.

Anonymous said...

Ruckus, what concerns me about your line of thought is where it takes us. Where do you draw the line between what is simply enhanced knowledge and what is cheating? Or do you ever draw that line?

It won't be long before we have the technology to enhance our natural physical abilities with robotic, rather than chemical, supplements. What if there were contacts that could increase your ability to determine the spin of a pitch, batting gloves that allowed you to turn your wrists through a swing more quickly, "under armour" that increased your core strength, cleats that propelled you down the basepath more quickly, etc. etc.? To a degree, we have some of these things already, and it will not be long before we go far beyond these examples. How do you distinguish between these things and using chemical substances which, in the end, produce the exact same net results? The point is, we clearly have to draw a line somewhere. We can't just write steroids off as an innocent enhancement of knowledge without qualifying that it some way, or else it's pretty difficult to cope with future efforts to cheat. Otherwise we're basically left saying that there is no such thing as cheating and anything goes.

And maybe that's what you feel we should do--just let technology guide the game. There is a lot to say for that. And maybe it's futile to fight what may be an inevitable evolution. But, for those of us who value the history of the game, this would be a catastrophe. You would eventually be forced to divide the history of baseball into stages during which different technologies were available. There would no such things as all-time records--there would only be records relative to a specific time period. To an extent, we note differences in time periods all ready; the steroid issue has already begun this type of discussion.

I don't really know what to make of it at this point. What do you think?

Tonus said...

Am I shocked? Yes, though I really should not be. Does this change my perceptions of ARod? Yes, it does, as much as I wish it didn't. I think that I was kind of in denial, wanting the whole steroid thing to stop at Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens and then we could get on with life.

But remember that the agreement for testing in 2003 was extremely lenient towards the players and made it so easy to cheat the system that it was an embarrassment. Players would only be tested once, and only if 5% or more tested positive, would the system become tougher. Even though players knew that all they had to do was clean up until they got tested (after which they could go back on the juice), 104 guys STILL GOT CAUGHT!!!

What does that tell me? That a hell of a lot more than just 5-7% of ballplayers were using steroids. So as much as I'd like to believe that it end at Bonds and Clemens and now ARod, I know it doesn't. Which makes baseball seem even less appealing to me.

I also figured ARod as being clean, but one thing we forget is what the primary benefit from steroids is, particularly for a ballplayer. Not the added strength, though that's welcome. It's the ability to very quickly recover from the aches and pains that accumulate over the course of a season. Playing in August and feeling like you would in April is a huge benefit, even if you didn't add another 30 pounds of muscle. The quicker recovery and recuperation is probably a much bigger edge than the extra muscle is.

And yes, steroid use would be much safer if it was legal, since you'd be less prone to getting stuff that isn't 100% pure. Plus, people would be able to talk about it and prescribe its use much more clearly. Most of the side effects from steroid use is due to the large doses and constant use that people take. But that's not relevant to the baseball issue, IMO. The rules say don't do it, but everyone (including owners and the commissioner) didn't care until it became a big story. And baseball looks like a big sham to be because of it.

Larry B said...

Passive Voice, I really don't think steroids belong in the same category as alcohol and fast food.

That is all I have time to say.

Andy said...

The only thing I've really noticed about all this nasty steroid business is this:

Of all the people Jose Canseco has mentioned, how many have been found innocent? For as much of a cockmonger the guy is (and he's a huge one), he hasn't lied about anyone so far...

Passive Voice said...

larry b: my point was just that, like steroids, alcohol and fast food (and tobacco, and, like, cosmetic surgery, and probably way more prescription drugs than we'd care to find out) can cause long-term health fuckupage. none of those things have the same sort of social stigma/controlled substance status that steroids do. also, fwiw, it's my understanding that most of those things have a greater potential for physical dependence than steroids.

all that said, some of the things i listed are off-limits to teenagers, and i understand the reasoning behind that. given how retarded high-schoolers are, some measure of paternalism might be in order. i'm just not sure, or sure of where the cut-off should be for any of those things (18, 21, etc.), which is why i said i'd "maybe-sorta-kinda disagree".

Passive Voice said...

basically, i'm a mealymouthed little bitch just waiting for some consensus here that i can latch onto and claim as my own.

Tonus said...

It wasn't just Canseco who was right. Didn't Ken Caminiti also claim that steroid abuse was rampant in MLB? And David Wells did as well in his book, then he retracted the claim when pressure was put on him (so much for the "I'm my own man" persona, eh Dave?).

You're right Andy, Canseco may be a self-serving embarrassment to humanity, but he's been on the mark so far with his claims. Isn't that reason enough for MLB to make a real effort to clean itself up? When Jose Canseco is the most credible person in the room?

Biggus Rickus said...


Technicaly speaking, any violation of a rule is cheating and as long as the rule is on the books there should be repercussions for getting caught. However, considering how obviously widespread usage was/is it's hard to consider it an unfair advantage for the players who were juicing. My view on steroids is similar to my view on any illegal drugs, which is that it is counterproductive to ban them. Creating the need for black markets is bad for society as a whole and criminalizing risky behavior does nothing to help the individual.

Regarding different eras being viewed differently, we already do that quite a bit. We have a dead-ball era. We have a presegregation era. We have a raised-mound era. Gloves have undergone dramatic changes since the beginning of the game, and subconciously I think we probably consider that to be a different era than the modern one. Bats have changed. Etc. So, we could call this the steroid era. Next, there could be a robotics era or genetic enhancement era or who the fuck knows? I have no problem with any adaptations to equipment, training or anything else so long as they are equally available to all players.

dan-bob said...

Well, steroids certainly weren't equally available to all players.

Andy said...

My dad (who's really pretty cynical, so take this with a grain of salt) was mentioning to me awhile ago that (follow me here, this is a bit drawn out):

Shoeless Joe Jackson isn't in the hall of fame due to the famous black sox scandal. He hit .375 and didn't commit any errors during the W.S. that year, but the new commissioner banned him and the conspirators for life. Jackson will never be in the hall of fame because he knew the fix was in and didn't say anything, thereby compromising the integrity of the game.

My dad's (100% serious, no bullshit) suggestion is that no player, owner, coach, GM, anyone from the time of the "steroid era" ever be allowed in the hall of fame, because a problem this widespread HAD to be known by everyone involved with the game.

I don't know that I really agree with him, but I do know that it certainly would deter future shitstorms like this.

AJ said...

Passive Voice – I for one always thought Ortiz was guilty of using something, I mean you can’t help but think that considering his numbers since he joined the Sox, and that fact his numbers are going down and he is getting injured a lot now. Not to mentioned he ballooned up like Bonds. I can’t wait for the day when his name is out there with using steroids and Bill has to defend it.

My take on the whole ARod thing, why was he singled out exactly? I hear that question being asked a lot lately, and most of the responses is that he is the biggest name in the game. He may be a big name, but I really don’t think he is the biggest name in the game, he isn’t even on his own team. What if Jeter used them, you don’t think that’s a bigger story then ARod? What about a better player then ARod, Pujols? Were these players looked into as well? I’m not saying they used them, I just think that if you are going to single out someone, you better have a good reason for it. Something just smells funny about the whole thing, that only 1 player out of the 104 was found out. Someone leaked that information out on purpose, there is no other way to explain it. To me, that’s pathetic. If you are going to out people, out all 104 of them and let the public determine who the “biggest” names are. There are bigger names then ARod out there, considering he has been under suspicion before. If this was Griffey, Jeter, Chipper it would be a lot worse, since those are players fans connect with.

Am I surprised about ARod? Not really. He always looked like he got pretty big pretty fast after he left Seattle. Another thing that annoys me is the Texas owner saying how he was betrayed and blah blah blah. You are the owner of a team, you should know what is going on with your players. Pudge played there too, he is also linked to steroids. How about others, Caminiti, Palmiero, Kapler. Are you telling me, with such a huge group of players that used, that you as the owner didn’t know anything was going on? Half your starting lineup in 2001 was using! The Rangers were like a breeding ground for steroids.

I think a lot of the blame should be falling on the people in charge of baseball. The owners and the commissioner. They let this get out of control, not to mention they weren’t even banned at the time. The players are to fault too, don’t get me wrong.