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Steroids Moralizing and Cooperstown

[ 276 ] January 4, 2013 |

This gets it right.

Tyler Kepner’s piece a couple months ago about drug warrior sportswriters contained a very revealing quote:

“In each of those areas, players who used steroids fail the test — period,” Scott Miller, of CBSSports.com, said in an e-mail. “I know it isn’t the Hall of Choirboys. I know the stories about Ty Cobb and others who at times were miscreants. But I also know that the Steroid Era was one of the most shameful chapters in the game’s history. It made a mockery out of the record book. It pushed retired legends into the shadows when they should have remained in the spotlight, and it put the spotlight on others who never should have been there.”

That’s really the issue here — players of the 90s were able to obtain records that properly belong to baby boomer icons. That’s primarily what the steroid freakout is about. It’s why moralistic rants about steroids fit so well alongside the umpteenth assertion that fans of the Brooklyn Dodgers were the only baseball fans that have ever mattered. This is why Willie Mays’s use of Illegal PEDs isn’t an issue and Whitey Ford and Gaylord Perry’s cheating is cute, but the use of steroids should prevent arguably the greatest position player and pitcher ever from being elected to the Hall of Fame (although what Clemens and Bonds did, unlike Whitey Ford’s use of his wedding ring to scuff the ball and make it sing arias, wasn’t actually against the rules.) And it’s why “he looked kinda muscular” is considered sufficient evidence of steroid use for a 90s player.

I’d also note that the argument doesn’t make any sense on its own terms. There’s no such thing as perfectly neutral conditions in which to set a record. Roger Maris wouldn’t have set a home run record if 1961 wasn’t an expansion year or if he played his home games in Griffith Stadium. Babe Ruth wouldn’t have the same level of offensive production if the system in place at the time was more efficient about identifying the best pitchers and getting them into major league uniforms. The fact that Barry Bonds’s records were set in unusual conditions makes them like…pretty much every other record.

This is one reason that, although this ridiculous moralizing will keep some great players out of the Hall of Fame, it’s doomed in the long run. As time advances, fewer and fewer people will understand why records set in the 60s and 70s are sacrosanct and those of the 90s aren’t.

Comments (276)

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  1. howard says:

    i’m not going to claim that i speak for all baby boomers, but the one thing i think you have wrong here is that the scolds are offended because baby boomer icon records are being broken.

    being the old and decrepit guy that i am, i can remember, after all, the endless hectoring of roger maris in 1961, and it certainly wasn’t because babe ruth was a baby boomer icon!

    i think the more accurate way to put this is that it’s the unwillingness to accept that the idols of one’s childhood – whenever it was – weren’t necessarily the greatest ever that’s in play rather than that it’s a baby boomer issue itself.

    putting all that aside, the thing that i truly don’t understand about the scolds is why it’s so bad that aging players were able to extend their careers at a high level: i mean, to pick a baby boomer icon, if mickey mantle were playing today, the great advances in knee surgery would have guaranteed him a longer career, and that would have been good! so if steroids help players recover from injury more rapidly and stay in better shape as they age, so that they can combine their increased knowledge of the game with higher order physical skills in their later years, why is that bad but surgery good?

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      To be clear, this kind of nostalgia isn’t only found among baby boomers; they’re just the ones that are making the big deal know. You’re right that the same things were said about Ruth.

      • Richard says:

        The other factor is that baseball fans, as distinct from basketball, football and hockey fans, have always been more than a little obsessive about records.

        • howard says:

          richard, i think that’s very true: there’s an inherent conservatism in baseball’s deep connection with its past that simply isn’t the same for football and basketball.

          and while people in a little circle like lgm are highly conversant with sabermetrics, the median fan is just barely aware and doesn’t really understand – as scott noted in his post – the conditionality of baseball records.

          • Richard says:

            We agree. I first became a baseball fan in 1958 when the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. Within a year or two, I knew by heart every lifetime record there was (homers, BA, ERA,stolen bases, RBI, even the more obscure ones like triples) and while I was also a fan of the Rams and then the Lakers when they came here, I can’t remember knowing more than two records in those sports (Wilt’s 100 in a game and Jim Brown’s single season rushing record).

            By the way, if you haven’t read it already, I recommend the chapter on baseball predictability in Nate Silver’s new book. He makes a good argument for the qualities that a good scout brings to the table in evaluating talent which complement what a sabermetric study can provide

      • mark f says:

        You don’t get this weird stuff in other sports. In football maybe a little, but it’s less distress that some unworthy is taking out a legend than it is an acknowledgement that today’s players operate under different rules.

        Think about the way we’re taught, as young kids, about American Indians, and how they were supposedly preternaturally ecological and had some mystical skills that even if we could duplicate their results technologically we could never live up to. I don’t have to say here what bullshit that obviously is, for a number of reasons. But it seems like we’ve become conditioned to think of old-timey baseball players that way. In truth, watching Babe Ruth was probably not much different than watching peak Frank Thomas, and I doubt Walter Johnson or anyone else matched Pedro Martinez’s electricity on the mound.

        If people didn’t have this weird religion we wouldn’t be stuck with silly arguments about the HOF. It’s probably Ken Burns’s fault. And Bernard Malamud’s, Kevin Costner’s, and every other bored writer’s. Philip Roth tried to make fun of it a little, I think, but ended up doing the same thing in a lot of ways. Maybe Cormac McCarthy can give it a try.

        • snarkout says:

          I think you’re right about the purple prose component (and the general importance of nostalgia in propping up baseball as a relevant national interest in the face of more television-friendly sports), but the combination of baseball’s amenability to statistical analysis and the relatively slow evolution of the game makes it at least a colorable argument that the stars of yesteryear really were the greatest of all time.

          If you magically transported a 28-year-old Sandy Koufax to today, I’m pretty sure he’d still be a star pitcher, which strikes me as totally impossible for, say, Jim Brown and only arguably the case for someone like Oscar Robertson (as opposed to a Robertson who grew up playing basketball as played in the 21st century).

          • John Protevi says:

            Jim Brown and Oscar Robertson wouldn’t be dominating stars today? Please stop commenting immediately. Their speed and size would be exceptional even today, though not as much as it was then. But seriously, Brown and Robertson? Marion Motley and Bill Russell I will listen to, but 6’3 230 and 6’5 225 are quite close enough to Adrian Peterson for Brown and let’s say right in the middle between Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant.

            • howard says:

              john, john, no listening to the argument about bill russell! no, no, a thousand times no!

              you want to see how russell would have been today: imagine dennis rodman with more offensive capacity, less craziness, and greater shot-blocking skills.

              he’d be an all-time great today, absolutely.

              • John Protevi says:

                okay, i can go with that. although i know much better i keep downplaying russell (philly boy here). i would say dwight howard actually rather than rodman, as howard is really not much more than 6’9″ like russell was (whereas rodman wasn’t much more than 6’6″ and despite some heroics at times really couldn’t guard centers).

                • howard says:

                  i cite rodman because he’s a better rebounder than howard and a closer body type, although of course, if russell were playing today, he’d probably be a little more bulked up than he was 50 years ago.

                • howard says:

                  p.s. i grew up outside of philly (allentown) and of course, in those days, basketball conference playoffs didn’t make national telecast, but i did see havlicek steal the ball live (not to make you relive one of philly’s many painful sports memories!).

                  p.p.s. as a knicks fan, i still haven’t gotten over the ancient russ and teammates beating the knicks in the ’69 playoffs, so i’m not praising russ because of celtic connections….

                • John Protevi says:

                  Hi Howard, that’s always the question when you do the cross-era comparison thing: do you let the older player use modern training? In that case, yes, Russell would be a lot bigger. So would be Petit, too, to pick another guy who would be great today as well. Wilt, Baylor and West, not really that much I don’t think, though of course West would be a lot less injury-prone. (West’s physical gifts, length and quickness, are often overlooked in favor of his awesome skills.) Whereas the physical gifts of Chamberlain and Baylor are so extreme that modern training wouldn’t have as much marginal utility. Someone like Doug Collins, a solid All-Star, though not an all-timer, would have benefitted immensely from modern training keeping him healthy. Same with Maravich.

            • Colin Day says:

              Jim Brown didn’t have to play against 300-pound nose tackles.

            • snarkout says:

              I should have been more clear that I’m thinking specifically about the style of play rather than the players themselves (and I chose Brown and Robertson because they’re greats, not because they aren’t) — I think the NFL and NBA games are just totally different in a way that baseball isn’t. I’m specifically imagining dropping a running back from 1964 into a modern football game, and I think it’d be disastrous.

        • Douglas says:

          The Babe was a remarkable standout in 1920 and 1921 when both years he hit more home runs than all but three of the other major league teams. Of course, who can say about calling of balls and strikes (baseball’s unkept dirty little secret of how to impact offense) had an effect or not. The game DID catch up to the Bambino, but for a time, he was a God amongst we mere mortals…at least as far as being the “Sultan of Swat”. His drinking, carousing, gluttony, and utter disregard of his marriage vows would NOT make him a “role model” then or now, if that’s really important for Hall of Fame consideration. You don’t have to feel that George Washington single-handedly won the Revolutionary War, but it’s still proper to ensure that he is the only American to hold the permanent rank of “General of the Armies” (six-star), which he was promoted posthumously in 1976, so that he’d outrank every other officer, past, present, and future.
          The magic of baseball is how we can see how the game changed as a sport and as a reflection of America. That’s why we shouldn’t throw the modern-day greats into the dumper over this silly “steroids” issue. They’re a product of the times, but not greater than the game itself. Fifty years from now, if I’m blessed to still blog about it, who knows what controversies will beset the game?

      • cpinva says:

        i think it goes beyond this even:

        To be clear, this kind of nostalgia isn’t only found among baby boomers; they’re just the ones that are making the big deal know. You’re right that the same things were said about Ruth.

        and is true of almost all sports (i leave irish hurling out, because, well, who gives a shit?): people develop a deep, emotional investment in their sports heroes/teams. they then come up with idiotic (but rational sounding to them), reasons why what their heroes/teams did was so much better, and so much harder, than what the current heroes/teams are doing. this is how you get moronic comparisons like “well, back then, they didn’t have actual baseballs, the pitcher just grabbed a rock from the field, and threw it at the batter, making it harder to keep it in the strike zone.” and, “they didn’t have real bats, they just grabbed the nearest tree branch, and swung that at the rock, and the branches broke a lot, making it harder to hit home runs.” or, one of my personal favorites, “golfers had to use snakes as clubs, and keep the snake’s head bent at a 90 degree angle, to hit the ball. it was a lot harder to hit a hole-in-one, if that snake moved its head.”, etc., etc., etc.

        change, as the saying goes, is the only constant. it’s as true in sports as it is in real life. athletes will get bigger and stronger, coaching will get better, equipment will be improved. as long as there’s tangible rewards for playing games, players will always try to get an edge over the competition. it was true in the ancient olympics, it’s true today. the difference is in science & technology, which is vastly improved from even 20 years ago. what hasn’t changed, and probably never will, is the athlete’s desire to win, some just have a slightly greater edge there, and that transcends time.

        fishing doesn’t seem to have these issues, line weight is line weight, certified by the various governing bodies. you can use a crane to lift that world record marlin out of the water, and it will have zero effect on the strength of the line. 20lb test 50 years ago, is 20lb test today. it may have better “stretch” strength, and it may not nick as easily, but it’s still 20lb test.

    • David W. says:

      There’s a difference between the impact great advances in knee surgery have on sport and the impact increased use of steroids have, in that the first generally can’t be abused by players while the second one very much can. I can see a case for steroid use to recover from injury under a doctor’s supervision. I’m not sure I see one where players can use them secretly ala Lance Armstrong to excel.

      • Mark Field says:

        You may be right about the lack of potential for abuse of knee surgery, at least as of today. The future seems likely to offer bionic improvements that would be relatively undetectable and would enhance athletic performance.

        Putting that aside, though, lots of other things do have the potential for abuse. Take the cortisone shots Sandy Koufax received. Those were highly dangerous; it’s why Koufax quit. Yet they enabled him to play when he otherwise would have had to retire.

      • Anonymous says:

        Interesting that you should use lance Armstrong as an example. Can one really be called a ‘cheater’ if every one of your competitors is also cheating in the same way?

        • John Protevi says:

          I love the fact that the TdF can’t find a clean guy to give the titles to. Apparently no one won the TdF for seven years in a row.

        • JRoth says:

          As a cycling fan, this is why I’m not especially het up about the whole fall from grace of the past year. Around the time he won #7, it became clear that everyone he was beating was doping, and it was simply implausible that he could do so cleanly. It was a letdown, because his dominance was less about him than about his doping regimen*, but it didn’t make me feel as if he’d been stealing anything – no one (knowledgeable) thought he was the GOAT, and the guys he was beating were no more noble/honest/hard working.

          The difference in MLB is that it’s pretty clear that most players weren’t deriving any meaningful benefit from PEDs – it seems that the majority of players never used any (or, to be more realistic, never used systematically – a single testosterone shot lends about as much performance benefit as one of those titanium necklaces), and most of the Mitchell Report guys were using in the context of injury recovery, not ongoing performance enhancement. That’s not a moral distinction, it’s a competitive one: Kevin Young used HGH in hopes of recovering after 8 years on Astroturf destroyed his knees, and it didn’t work, meaning that the KY we saw was roughly the KY we would have seen sans PEDs, and that his opponents weren’t facing a player enhanced beyond his talent.

          * this is what Scott seems incapable of understanding: “who cheated best?” isn’t an especially interesting sporting question. He seems to think it’s the only one.

          • Scott Lemieux says:

            The fact that Bonds, Clemens et al weren’t cheating remains relevant. The fact that they were inner-circle Hall of Famers before they started using PEDs also seems relevant.

            • Richard says:

              Weren’t cheating? I agree they were stars before they started taking PEDs and agree they belong in the Hall. But I think it is highly, highly likely they took PEDs after use was banned. That’s cheating

              • Scott Lemieux says:

                highly, highly likely they took PEDs after use was banned.

                You have evidence that Bonds and Clemens evaded the rigorous testing procedure that was put in place after the ban was passed in 2005? I’m afraid I’m going to need more than your bare assertion.

                • Richard says:

                  Balco records for Bonds. Inadmissible but highly probative. Plus we disagree, I believe, about the effect of the Commissioners edicts before they were incorporated in the CBA. Also testimony in the Clemens trial. Not enough to meet the standard for guilty beyond a reasonable doubt but probative. And there is copious evidence about how easy it was to cheat before the last four years. . But we agree on the main point. Cheating to get a competitive advantage shouldn’t disqualify you from the HOF

                • Mark Field says:

                  The Balco records (I think you mean Greg Anderson’s notes), whatever their probative value, don’t extend past 2003 (and maybe not even that far; I’m going off memory).

                  To be clear on the CBA, it contained language broad enough to cover steroids and amphetamines beginning in roughly 1988 (going off memory; it certainly did by 1991). The problem with relying on this is that the arbitrator’s rulings on cocaine were understood by everyone to require collective bargaining of the PEDs issue. As a result, there was no effort at enforcement until after 2002.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  Plus we disagree, I believe, about the effect of the Commissioners edicts before they were incorporated in the CBA.

                  Indeed we do. I think that given that the commissioner did not in fact have the authority to unilaterally impose rules on PEDs and made no effort to do so,by any standards of the rule of law not found inside the Bush DOJ Bonds was not violating any rules for any steroid use before 2005.

          • Rhino says:

            To me Lance Armstrong remains the man who won 7 tours. He always will be. I hate the guy, have always hated him, cheered for his rivals in every race, and longed to see him beaten or even to see him DNF

            But in a field of the greatest road racers on earth, every one of whom was just as doped as he ever was, he consistently beat the living crap out of the peloton. That deserves respect from me, and no witch hunt of Lilliputians takes it away.

            Armstrong will remain the patron of the tour for a very very long time.

            • Halloween Jack says:

              I defended Armstrong for a long time after it should have been obvious to even the most casual observer that he was either doping or was literally superhuman, simply because the “evidence” against him boiled down to a) Armstrong is kind of a dick in person; b) the European cycling press hated him almost from the beginning, in no small part because of a); c) cycling of the TdF variety is kind of a weird sport because, even though it’s absolutely essential to work with your team, individuals get celebrated over the team effort, leading to jealousies and rivalries and such; d) for years, the evidence against Armstrong was really weak, and even when former teammates came forward to testify against him, they were already-disgraced dopers such as Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis. (Even now, a great deal of testimony comes from other admitted dopers who got a short suspension in cycling’s off-season in return for their cooperation.)

              And, in the end, what did the USADA gain in their victorious vendetta over one surly Texan? Lance is, as far as I can tell, still rich; his charity, which helped thousands of people living with cancer lead better lives, has been irreversibly tarnished; and the top tier of cycling has been wiped out like a strip-mined West Virginia mountaintop. Who’d want to go through the grueling stages of (what’s arguably) the world’s toughest major athletic tournament, only to have your titles stripped from you years later, even though you’d passed every drug test (or successfully challenged the ones that you didn’t)? But, hey, Lance can’t compete in triathlons any more, either, so it’s completely worth it.

    • I’m a baby boomer and I don’t have any problem with any records being broken. And the icons of my youth were the handful of pretty good guys who played on my mediocre home team, the Cleveland Indians, and they are the icons of my youth because it was my youth and they were there, not because of any achievements.

      I see this sacred record thing as something totally driven by the sports press, many of whom are not boomers. It’s like a club thing, or like the Village. Steroids are the worst thing that ever happened in the same way that deficits are the worst thing that ever happened.

  2. NBarnes says:

    Anybody that gives Ty Cobb a pass while sneering at Barry Bonds doesn’t have a baseball opinion worth clicking a link for. He went well beyond ‘miscreant’.

    • Ken Houghton says:

      By Cobb’s teammates staged the first-ever Strike in Baseball in his defense. Whereas (in Rick Reilly’s mind, though not the video evidence) none his teammates celebrated Barry Bonds’s Big Round Number Home Run with him because they were all enamored of the Much More White Talented Jeff Kent.

      (Btw, you can split the argument on Bonds and Clemens fairly easily: if you look at Bonds’s career, he is consistent. The man who single-handedly kept the Pirates in contention in the early 1990s–if it’s out there, check the tape of his opposite field fly-out that ended the 1990 NLCS; check where those fielders were positioned–just kept playing and taking care of himself, in the manner of, e.g., Joe Morgan before him.

      Clemens, otoh, really does have a period where he looks as if his career is basically about to be over. [Credit where due: I would argue it's a HoF career to that point alone.] And then he rocks the park for another decade or so.)

      • Mike Schilling says:

        I was there the night Bonds hit #500. As soon as he crossed the plate, they held a little ceremony on the field (leaving the pitcher,Terry Adams, on the mound to watch it. I’d have felt bad for him if he wasn’t a ^%$#% Dodger.) Bobby Bonds, Mays, and McCovey were brought out to congratulate him (as did Rich Aurelia, who’d been on base), and Bonds said a few words. They other players stayed in the dugout, as they were supposed to, and didn’t congratulate him until the ceremony was over.

        Reilly, in other words, is full of it.

      • Mike Schilling says:

        And to be fair about Bonds vs. Kent, Bonds openly despised the sports media, while Kent gave lots of interviews and said all the right things about how he loved the team and the fans. If you weren’t paying any attention at all (see Reilly, Rick, above), you could miss the fact that they were both colossal jerks.

        • JRoth says:

          Not just the sports media. Bonds apologists (not nec. you, just in general) love to act as if Bonds was a sweetheart who merely failed to kiss up to sports writers (who, it goes without saying, are reptiles), but all of the evidence is that he was a prick to more or less everyone he ever met, from the bat boys on up.

          That hardly makes him unique among ballplayers, of course, but let’s not pretend it’s some sort of white, middle-aged sportswriter vs. aloof-but-decent black ballplayer thing.

          My favorite Bonds story, of course, was the game where Van Slyke (himself a jerk) told him to play back on a given batter, and Bonds flipped him the bird. Needless to say, the next hit was rifled over Bonds’ head. Gold Glover, great teammate, prince of a man.

      • howard says:

        my own belief about that rough patch in clemens’ late sox career – and i lived in boston in those days and was able to watch a lot of his pitching on tv – was that he spent a couple of years getting squeezed by the umps in retaliation for that one playoff blow-up whose details now escape me, and i wasn’t the only one who thought that at the time.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          Clemens pitched brilliantly in 1996. The idea that he was on his last legs is an error driven by excessive focus on W-L records.

          • howard says:

            take a closer look at ’96 and ’96, though, scott, and you’ll see that whereas over the entire rest of his career, clemens walked a batter every 13.1 batters faced, but in those two seasons he walked a batter every 10 batters faced.

            and even though he pitched a greater number of innings 7 other seasons, ’96 was the only season clemens walked more than 100 batters.

            like i say, insofar as he was having a problem in those years, i think being squeezed by the umps explains it.

  3. Because any HOF is by definition an exercise in nostalgia, nostalgia will necessarily cloud the views of the voters, don’t you think? The real problem the BBWAA have is that they most don’t address that bias. This is probably due to the inherent sentimentality that leads one to become a baseball writer in the first place.

    • LosGatosCA says:

      Nothing like putting a group of those who are never was, wannabe, hanger on people seeking reflected glory being put in charge of validating the accomplishments of those they most definitely are secretly jealous of.

      Collectively, with exceptions of course, assholes themselves.

  4. Hugo Torbet says:

    No amount of steroids makes a player better able to hit a baseball. The proof is how statistically average were the numbers of the ordinary players who indulged, allegedly.

    Bonds was great. He was a great hitter, he was a great fielder, and he was a great player.

    That said, if he took steroids, we can probably conclude that they helped him practice hitting more and that the extra strength gave him a few extra yards of ball flight. However, they did not give him his brilliant talent to turn on the one good pitch he saw in a typical game.

    • pete says:

      True. And in the season (only one, IIRC) where Bonds did a weekly radio gig, he proved just how much he knew — knows — about the game, and how clearly he could explain it on the rare occasions that he bothered.

      • Darkrose says:

        The problem with Bonds (and maybe Clemens; I don’t know as much about him) is that many sportswriters can’t separate the fact that he was frequently a colossal asshat–especially to the media–from the question about how much the steroids actually helped him.

        • John Protevi says:

          Being a colossal asshat is an extremely tempting move given the difference between the breadth and depth of Bonds’s knowledge of the game and the extremely shallow, lazy, and cliched views of a lot of sportswriters. I mean if I had to listen to wannabes trot out the same old shit for years going on decades about something I’m a professional at (and I’m not nearly as good at philosophy as Bonds was at baseball) I’d be pretty damn asshattish pretty quick.

          • NBarnes says:

            One of the things that I always counted in Bonds’ favor was that he obviously had nothing but contempt for the vast majority of the braying donkey baseball media establishment. Far from a knock on him, I always felt that it represented a reasonable reaction by a highly skilled, dedicated, and proud player for a bunch of can’t-do-teaches.

            Everything I’ve heard about Bonds’ private life suggests that he’s basically a quiet, introverted, somewhat moody, proud, and very focused individual. This corresponds tolerably well with ‘doesn’t suffer idiots’.

            • JRoth says:

              Just to repeat myself from up above: the guy shat (metaphorically) on batboys – unless Leyland were around. Last I checked, “kiss up, kick down” isn’t an admirable trait. “Contemptible” is the word that comes to mind.

              • John Protevi says:

                If we were talking about anything other than Bonds vs baseball writers, you would have a point. Was he justified in despising a bunch of hack sportswriters is the question at hand, AFAICT. Let’s put it this way. If, God forbid, if a buncha JenBobs got the chance to ask you, in public, day after freakin day, year after freakin year, the same old asinine questions, about your profession that you had worked so hard at, would it be “contemptible” for you to tell them in just about that many words to kiss your royal irish ass?

          • pete says:

            Also, Barry felt that the media helped drive his dad to drink, to Bobby’s achieving less than his full potential, and ultimately to an early grave. It’s all part of the tragedy: Barry shut out the assholes to protect himself, and in the process lost what could have been his most important defenders.

            • Richard says:

              What SF writers have told me is that Bonds was a jerk from the get go, even when he was just the teenage son of Bobby. And his attitude got worse as his fame increased. Great player, less than great human being. Wasn’t just mean to sports writers. Treated everybody except a close circle of friends like shit

          • Darkrose says:

            Hey, if I were a Giants player, I’d be hard put not to flip off the local baseball writers occasionally. (Except Pavs–he’s awesome.)

    • Anonymous says:

      But see bat speed.

    • Anonymous says:

      Do you have any evidence that steroids don’t help you hit a ball? The only sport I can compare to is fencing, where more muscle mass in the legs and forearms translate directly to faster lunges and quicker parries Nd ripostes.

      More muscle mass allows the hitter to delay his decision, giving him a better read on the ball.

      All speculation, I think the steroids in sport issue was dead twenty years ago.

    • Sherm says:

      Barry Bonds was the best player of his generation with or without steroids, and he belongs in the Hall of Fame. But the notion that steroids don’t help much is just plain silly. Bonds’ OPS’s for his age 36-39 seasons — 1.379, 1.381, 1.278 and 1.422. His best OPS before steroids was 1.136 in 1993.

      • JKTHs says:

        Yes, putting up OPS numbers that only Ruth approached in the late stages of your career seems to indicate that steroids help (granted, that was somewhat inflated due to the ridiculous amount of IBBs)

        • Sherm says:

          But what would his slugging percentage have looked like if they pitched to him?

        • mark f says:

          Somewhat. In the four seasons from 2001-2004, though, his lowest BA was .328, which was to that point his second-best, and his lowest SLG was .749, 61 points above his previous career best.

          I’m not sold on the “PE” part of PEDs, but Bonds & Clemens do make you wonder.

          • Sherm says:

            Having worked in a gym in the late 80′s in college, I will never question the “PE” part of steroids. Guys could make gains in the weight room in a month or two which they couldn’t make in a year.

          • JRoth says:

            My favorite part of this whole nonsense is how Bill James wrote, before everyone started talking about PEDs and then BALCO, that Bonds was sui generis in his performance/aging path, yet somehow no one ever took the next step to the clear implication. It’s like writing an article in 2007 about Bernie Madoff’s flawlessly consistent ROI and not going the next step.

            More generally, since no one doubts that better conditioning is generally performance-enhancing, why would anyone rational doubt that (effectively applied*) PEDs would enhance performance? Is it only “natural” muscles that improve hitting?

            * clearly, you need an effective program – Bonds apparently ‘roided himself into a torn tendon the first year he used – and some bodies will respond better to certain drugs or whatever

            • mark f says:

              Well, I didn’t mean at all. I just have doubt that even used effectively they provide all the magic that’s credited to them.

              • JRoth says:

                Well, yes and no. I think it’s unlikely that Bonds (whose fielding, incidentally, followed a completely normal aging progression) has this unique performance path without them, and I don’t think Sosa sniffs 600 HRs PED-free. But I certainly agree that people who point at every fluke 35-HR season as proof that a guy used are ascribing magic powers to them.

                But Scott* has argued, at least in the past, that there’s no reason to think PEDs helped in any meaningful degree, which is just pathetic.

                *maybe Farley; I know I’ve read it at LGM

              • Chet Manly says:

                I’ve always suspected the biggest actual performance enhancement steroids gave baseball players was in promoting healing and being very effective anti-inflammation drugs.

                If you aren’t on the bench for rest or fighting through minor injuries as often that seems like it would help stat accumulation a whole lot more than a slight increase in bat speed.

            • NBarnes says:

              Babe Ruth’s career path and achievements were completely unprecedented. He was like no other player before or since.

              Clearly he was using steroids! It’s the only explanation.

      • Rob says:

        Tony Gwynn put up most of his best offensive seasons after age 33 including a .956 OPS in 1997 at age 37. Was Gwynn on steroids?

    • Timb says:

      Manny Alexander was ticketed for having steroids in his car in the late 90 (?). Explains why he hit 40 homers over the course of…well, his entire career

  5. Dmitri says:

    Eh, I think that the (forced) East German use of steroids was disgusting, and contrary to the basic purpose of sport (enjoying the beauty of a the human body functioning at a healthy, sustainably high level). It also created a whole pile of unbreakable records that interfere with the whole project of record-keeping and cross-temporal competition. I feel much the same about Lance Armstrong.

    I’m always surprised when pro-steroids folks, instead of saying “I understand how people can disagree about this complicated issue,” tell me that my views illegitimate, or “really” about something else like Baby Boomer nostalgia. We can’t feel that the use of steroids interfered with the cross-temporal competition that is part of the fun of baseball? That’s somehow not an acceptable view?

    • Joe says:

      I think Scott goes overboard, but don’t see him as “pro-steroids” or anything.

      • JRoth says:

        Well, he’s written tens of thousands of words on the topic, and he’s never suggested otherwise. Maybe he’ll get to it next time.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          I’m not “pro-steroids.” I’m “I don’t give a shit if people used PEDs that aren’t against the rules.” If players want to collectively bargain a ban on PEDs, fine with me.

    • Murc says:

      I’m pretty sure that Scott is coming out against the hypocrisy and the blinkered thinking here, not coming out in favor of steroids being allowed.

      Because that would be kind of crazy. When it comes to professional athletics, saying that something is allowed is another way of saying that it is required.

      We can’t feel that the use of steroids interfered with the cross-temporal competition that is part of the fun of baseball?

      That depends. Do you feel the same way about greenies? Bat corking? All the other shit that went on in the 50s/60s/70s?

      More to the point, if you advocate against letting guys from the steroid era in, do you always advocate for kicking guys like Ty Cobb out?

      • Gus says:

        I don’t think Cobb has been accused of “cheating,” simply of being an abhorrent person. Which I guess does violate the Hall’s “morals” clause.

      • Dmitri says:

        Look, it’s all a matter of degree. There’s always going to be cheating and questionable behavior and stretching the rules. Some of this has relatively small effects, some of it has huge effects. When you get to the creation of records that will likely never be broken (73 home runs or various East German olympic marks), you are in the latter category. It’s perfectly reasonable to feel that these cross a line while other behavior (e.g. drinking a huge amount of coffee, which can increase strength) doesn’t.

        • Murc says:

          It’s perfectly reasonable to feel that these cross a line while other behavior (e.g. drinking a huge amount of coffee, which can increase strength) doesn’t.

          Only if the two behaviors aren’t equivalent.

          We’re not talking about comparing Barry Bonds to guys who drank a huge amount of coffee. We’re talking about comparing him to guys who were downing amphetamines. If you’re against one but not the other, you’re going to be accused of hypocrisy, and people will be correct to do so.

          • JRoth says:

            So amphetamines increase muscle mass and injury recovery now?

            You’re so caught up in your moral equivalency arguments that you don’t even care about actual, physical effects anymore.

            Corking your bat is against the rules, therefore corking is cheating (although I assume Scott endorses it). HOWEVER, corking has been shown not to increase batted ball distance – it’s cheating that does you no good, like copying answers off the dumb guy in class.

            Scuffing the baseball is also against the rules, and therefore is cheating. FURTHERMORE, it helps the pitcher gain an advantage over the batter.

            THEREFORE, if a scuffer pitches against a corker, they’re both cheaters, but only one has gained a substantial advantage.

            Can you understand this?

            • UserGoogol says:

              I guess a difference is that bats are made in factories and therefore are easily standardized, so you can say what sorts of materials you want and don’t want in bats. But the bags of meat which swing those bats around aren’t made that way, so there’s going to be wild variation in the properties of their meat.

            • Mark Field says:

              Amphetamines increase reaction time and explosive power, and they allow you to perform when you’re otherwise exhausted (i.e., to get out on the field when otherwise you’d be on the bench).

              Steroids, btw, don’t increase muscle mass in any sense relevant to a professional athlete. What they do is shorten the recovery time from exercise. It’s the weightlifting which increases muscle mass.

              Whether that’s “performance enhancing” is a complicated issue for which there are no studies. The old baseball wisdom was that weightlifting made you “muscle bound” and should be avoided (this would have been news to Honus Wagner). Even in the modern era, guys like Juan Gonzalez were considered to have harmed their careers by becoming too muscular.

              It’s probably an individual issue with lots of other factors. The fact that most steroids users have been mediocre players demonstrates that.

            • C.S says:

              Corking your bat is against the rules, therefore corking is cheating . . .

              Scuffing the baseball is also against the rules, and therefore is cheating.

              Apparently this can’t be said enough: steroid’s weren’t against the rules. If you’re gonna argue that they were still “cheating” you gotta climb on a different argumentative train.

            • Murc says:

              THEREFORE, if a scuffer pitches against a corker, they’re both cheaters, but only one has gained a substantial advantage.

              Can you understand this?

              I do, but I don’t understand how it’s germane.

              Let me break it down as clearly as I can: my position is that the players during the steroid era in the 90s were doing exactly what their forebears in the earlier eras of baseball were doing: they were taking drugs in order to enhance their performance, and said drugs did, in fact, increase their performance. Therefore, it is hypocritical to argue that one group doing that is worthy of having it overlooked, while the other group should be subject to censure.

              Basically, either everybody who was juicing should be in the Hall, or nobody who was juicing should be in the Hall, and those who did should be removed from it.

              One or the other.

        • Dilan Esper says:

          Why are you so sure 73 home runs was tainted in away that 61 or 60 were not?

          • C.S says:

            I’ll go further. I’ll say flat-out that Ruth’s 60-run season is retroactively tainted (as is his lifetime home run tally) because he played during a time when what we now call a ground rule double was credited as a home run up until 1930.

            • mark f says:

              There’s no evidence Ruth hit any bouncer home runs in 1927, the year he hit 60. (He did, however, hit ten career inside-the-park home runs.) Furthermore, per baseball-reference* his HR%es in the first three years following the rule change, his age 36-38 seasons, were 6.9, 7.0 and 5.9. Those rates fit comfortably among his totals from 1919 (the first year he topped 20 HRs) through 1930.

              *No link, to keep it at two and out of moderation.

          • Douglas says:

            Bonds’ 73-homer season (keep in mind he was 37!) reflected both the discipline he’d finally acquired as a hitter, PLUS, having Rich Aurilia having a monster year in front of him, and Jeff Kent, behind him, with a platoon of JT Snow and Andres Gallaraga to follow. Bonds saw more pitches to drive than he’d ever see again, and he didn’t miss them. He never hit more than 46 (2002) again, often due to being INTENTIONALLY WALKED (68 times in 2002, 120 times in 2004), which, of course, reflected the weakness of the other parts of the Giants lineup at the time (Marquis “GIDP” Grissom in partcular). Knee-jerk reactions to say that steroids were a significant factor at all are unsupportable.

    • Dilan Esper says:

      For your information, Americans and Western Europeans took tons of PED’s to compete with the East Germans. Basically, you should not assume anyone was clean.

      • mark f says:

        That’s the problem with taking away Lance Armstrong’s titles, too. I don’t follow cycling, but as I understand the runners up who would normally inherit a stripped title have mostly been suspending for doping themselves.

    • John Protevi says:

      There is a big, big difference between steroid effects in power / endurance sports like track and cycling (though even there we shouldn’t discount the importance of skilled technique) and their effects (if any — this is a hugely complex multifactorial system we’re talking about here) in a predominately skilled technique sport like baseball (though we can’t discount power in baseball obviously, but the skill is much more important).

      • Alan in SF says:

        Isn’t a big part of what steroids do the rapid healing and recovery? Brute strength might not be as important as the fact that all the muscles in the chain are pulling their weight, rather than there being hitches and weak links here and there.

        • Ed says:

          Isn’t a big part of what steroids do the rapid healing and recovery?

          And rapid recovery, in addition to any other benefits, allows increased time for practice and honing skills.

    • NBarnes says:

      Gaylord Perry.

      Explain that and I’ll take you more seriously.

      • Mike Schilling says:

        There’s a story about how a sportswriter, visiting Perry’s house, got a few minutes alone with his 7-year old daughter.

        “Does your daddy have a special pitch he likes to throw?”

        “Yeah, it’s a hard slider.”

        • JRoth says:

          Love that.

          Was there ever any serious question that Perry used the spitter? I only recall his last few seasons, and it wasn’t even really winked at – announcers would just talk about it.

    • Timb says:

      You can “feel” anything you like, but feelings are not evidence

  6. c u n d gulag says:

    Yes!
    I have recently converted to this side of the argument – mostly by the commenters here.

    Also too – don’t discount the amphetamine’s that ballplayers took from right after WWII, until fairly recently.

    “Greenies,” they were called.

    And, you can’t tell me that my beloved hero, Mickey Mantle, after another epic night out partying with Billy and Whitey, didn’t pop a few of those in his hey-day!

    I can’t speak for Willie, or Henry, or Koufax, or Killebrew, or anyone else from that era.
    But, knowing Mantle, he took ‘em.

    And if steroids, or HGH, was available back then, he’d have been one of the first in line, sticking his muscular bum out, for someone to shoot some juice into.

    • Douglas says:

      What amazes me about the Mick is that he could down bourbon and gin by the carboy, arrive thirty minutes before game time still besotted or terribly hung over, and then for four-for-five with two homers. Read Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four” about some of Mantle’s misadventures. Of course, as with Ruth, his indiscretions were covered up by the press (lest they be barred from the Yankee clubhouse). I’ve heard an apocryphal story that Mickey had gone on the wagon in 1955 and had, by his standards, a sub-par year. When he arrived for spring training in 1956, he was greeted at his hotel room by Casey Stengel, who handed him a fifth of bourbon and told him not to show up to the ballpark until he’d finished it. The Mick was probably never sober that year, but won the Triple Crown.

  7. somethingblue says:

    Shorter DW sportswriters: They came in and trashed the place, and it’s not their place.

  8. JMG says:

    I am a BBWAA member (retired), and I have a Hall vote. I voted for all the Steroid Era candidates except Sosa, who I never thought of as a Hall guy even in his prime. But that irrational judgment was made strictly on baseball grounds. A Hall voter is on the jury. We don’t get to write and interpret the law. But, I think it’s good for baseball that PED use is being limited through testing and sanctions. The effects of PEDs weren’t balanced. They did more for the players who were already the best than they did for the marginal ones — sort of like an upper-class tax cut.
    In my new job, I read a lot of sports science journals. Believe me, PEDs are becoming obsolete if they aren’t already. Going to be tough to detect genetically altered shortstops.

    • John Protevi says:

      Can you give us some links? This is an area of great interest to me.

      I think there are two continua for performance enhancement. One is the modality, which is not limited to drugs but includes surgery and genetic enhancement (or better gene expression modification — you don’t change the DNA sequence but you change the rate at which some proteins are manufactured).

      The other other is the arena. Pro sports is actually in the middle if you ask me here. On one end you have military experimentation (extremely wild stuff, but I would have to kill you if I told you), and on the other yuppie commodification — find yourself a Dr Feelgood and you can get all sorts of PE stuff: HGH, testosterone, you name it. [See all the "Low-T" ads on the tube lately.]

      • Anonymous says:

        Dear John: I cannot give links because believe it or not, the reading I do is PDFs of hard copy journals (how quaint!). Sorry about that. PED use varies from sport to sport as a rule. In cycling, it’s everybody who ever did it. In, say, tennis, which is certainly physically demanding, there isn’t much of it that we know about, and I think we’d know by now.

        • John Protevi says:

          Okay, cool. I was specifically interested in gene expression / epigenetics stuff. If you have the interest and want to send me a few references by email, that would be very cool. lastname AT lsu DOT edu Thanks!

        • Uncle Ebeneezer says:

          In, say, tennis, which is certainly physically demanding, there isn’t much of it that we know about, and I think we’d know by now.

          That surprises me a bit. Not because I think steroids would be used for better performance (strength is a relatively minor factor compared to technique, footwork, vision, etc.) but because I would think that the grueling tour schedule (almost all year-round), increased percentage of hard court tourneys (much harder on the body) and the increase in epic-length matches (though I guess those are mostly only the case for a handful of the best players) would make the recuperative aspects of steroids very appealing for staying healthy and having a longer career.

          Are there any peds in the works specifically for vision? That is the area where I could see tennis players (and baseball) really trying to gain an advantage. Agassi supposedly had freakishly great vision which was probably what made him such a beast at returning serves.

  9. anon says:

    players of the 90s were able to obtain records that properly belong to baby boomer icons

    Strange. I haven’t seen too many writers call eras in which the mound was lower or the ball was wound tighter “the most shameful chapters in the game’s history”, yet those certainly helped along the downfall of baby boomer records.

    And, like it or not, but a record book full of suspected steroid abusers is a bit of a shameful image to put out. Unless, of course, one has no opinion on encouraging future generations of athletes to destroy their body for the hope at a few years of success.

    • Barry says:

      “Strange. I haven’t seen too many writers call eras in which the mound was lower or the ball was wound tighter “the most shameful chapters in the game’s history”, yet those certainly helped along the downfall of baby boomer records.”

      Probably because they weren’t willing to go that crazily far.

      • anon says:

        Probably because they weren’t willing to go that crazily far.

        If you think it is crazier to moralize about lowering the mound than using steroids, then it seems you implicitly accept that there is more to the complaints than simply their effect on the record books.

    • John Protevi says:

      Please provide evidence of “generations of athletes [who have] destroy[ed] their body.”

      • anon says:

        I thought the a lot long-term negative effects of many of these PED were fairly well established.

        Am I wrong in thinking most -if not all- of them are somewhat to very unhealthy?

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          There’s substantially better evidence about the negative health effects of amphetamines, but nobody gives a shit about players who routinely used them.

          • JRoth says:

            So you’d oppose induction of players who used any PEDs more harmful than amphetamines? Or is this yet another smokescreen? Because I’m pretty sure, based on all of your other writing on this topic, that you’d find a way to excuse the use of any PED, including (as in cycling) stuff that’s not even legal to use in human trials.

            I don’t think baseball ever came close to that cliff, but pro cycling clearly was at the point where athletes were effectively given the choice of wrecking their health or becoming amateurs. It’s a real issue, at least in some sports, and not just another excuse to inveigh righteously against the double standards of baby boomers.

            • Scott Lemieux says:

              So you’d oppose induction of players who used any PEDs more harmful than amphetamines?

              I wouldn’t oppose the induction of anyone who used substances that weren’t banned by the rules of baseball.

              • Murc says:

                Even if those substances were illegal to use in general?

                I mean, no offense, Scott, but by this logic you are basically saying that the rules of baseball need to include the entire USCC in them, or else anything they miss is fair game.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  So Babe Ruth should be thrown out of the Hall of Fame because he drank during prohibition? It’s not up to Major League Baseball to enforce statutes passed by Congress.

                • Murc says:

                  … that’s your rebuttal?

                  Obviously you wouldn’t kick someone out of the HOF because they had some parking tickets or took a few drinks during prohibition. But the idea that anything you do that isn’t explicitly banned by the league shouldn’t affect your standing as a player is preposterous.

                  By that logic, if Ruth has, say, put out assassination contracts on pitchers from rival teams so that he could run up his home run totals because he was only batting against second and third stringers, that shouldn’t affect how he’s regarded as a player at all. After all, there was nothing in baseball rules at the time prohibiting that! And it isn’t the job of major league baseball to enforce statutes passed by Congress.

                  I kinda do feel like if you’re breaking the law in order to enhance your performance as a player of a sport, that should impact how you are regarded as a player of that sport and as an athlete in general. I don’t think much of the guys who were juicing, and I don’t think much of their counterparts in the 60s who were doing the same thing. None of them deserve anywhere near the respect as athletes, individuals, or role models they have been accorded.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  If you argument relies on taking sparodically enforced, insanely stupid drug laws as being the equivalent as laws banning murder, I’m afraid we’re going to have to agree to disagree. At any rate, the fact that steroids are the only illegal substance that anyone cares if major league players ingested in Hall of Fame debates seems relevant. (Also, not all uses of steroids are illegal. They’re not illegal with a prescription, or outside the United States.)

                • Thlayli says:

                  This has come up before. Lemieux does in fact believe that “employees are required to obey the law” has to be explicitly included in a CBA.

                • Scott Lemieux says:

                  This has come up before. Lemieux does in fact believe that “employees are required to obey the law” has to be explicitly included in a CBA.

                  And, yet, this remains a massive non-sequitur. What sanctions did MLB impose for these violations of the law? How are steroids more illegal than amphetamines, which nobody give a shit about?

                • Murc says:

                  If you argument relies on taking sparodically enforced, insanely stupid drug laws as being the equivalent as laws banning murder, I’m afraid we’re going to have to agree to disagree.

                  I did nothing of the kind. YOU were the one who constructed the logic chain that says ‘anything a player does to affect the outcome of a game, even if it is illegal, shouldn’t affect how they’re viewed as a player as long as it wasn’t explicitly against the rules.’

                  And that’s ludicrous. If you’re breaking the law to give yourself an edge, that’s behavior that should be sanctioned. But the standard should apply to everyone regardless of the era they’re playing in.

                  At any rate, the fact that steroids are the only illegal substance that anyone cares if major league players ingested in Hall of Fame debates seems relevant.

                  It’s relevant in proving that the people who harp on and on and on about steroids while not giving a shit about amphetamines are hypocrites who shouldn’t be taken seriously, and that baseball punditry has a lot of cranky old men who are still pissed off about things like the Dodgers moving and just want everything to be exactly like it was that one glorious summer when they were nine.

                  And that’s it.

                  What sanctions did MLB impose for these violations of the law?

                  If what you’re saying is that the MLB is pretty corrupt and is willing to turn a blind eye to illegal behavior because stars are doing it or it benefits ‘the sport’ I don’t think anyone here will argue with you.

                  How are steroids more illegal than amphetamines, which nobody give a shit about?

                  I give a shit. I think juicers ought to be regarded equivalently regardless of their era. If you think Sosa and Bonds are scum who sullied the purity of the game, you are REQUIRED to say the same things about Willie Mays if you want to be taken seriously.

                • UserGoogol says:

                  Well, why not let the Tonya Hardings of baseball be in the Hall of Fame? They’d certainly have a lot of fame.

                  It might make sense to simply take a “Hitler won person of the year” approach to this sort of thing and completely detach any sense of right and wrong from the issue entirely. Someone who murdered everyone who challenged them would be a rather… significant force in the history of baseball.

            • Murc says:

              Because I’m pretty sure, based on all of your other writing on this topic, that you’d find a way to excuse the use of any PED, including (as in cycling) stuff that’s not even legal to use in human trials.

              [cite omitted]

          • Sherm says:

            Yeah, its a damn shame for his family that Lyle Alzado popped all those greenies.

        • John Protevi says:

          That would go on the top of my blog if I had one of those LGM rotating sayings thingies

        • John Protevi says:

          When examining the potential medical issues associated with anabolic steroid use, evidence indicates that most known side effects are transient. More so, few studies have been able to directly link anabolic steroids to many of the serious adverse effects listed. Although clinical case studies continue to link anabolic steroid administration with myocardial infarct, suicide, and cancer, the evidence to support a cause and effect relationship is lacking and it may be other contributing factors (i.e. genetic predisposition, diet, etc.) play a substantial role and potentiate the harmful effects from anabolic steroids. Consistent physician monitoring is critical to the athlete who consumes anabolic steroids. However, many athletes may not undergo extensive medical exams prior to androgen administration and few physicians may be willing to provide such monitoring.

          ©Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2006) 5, 182-193 Review article

          MEDICAL ISSUES ASSOCIATED WITH ANABOLIC STEROID USE: ARE THEY EXAGGERATED?

          Jay R. Hoffman and Nicholas A. Ratamess
          The College of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ, USA
          http://www.jssm.org/vol5/n2/2/v5n2-2pdf.pdf

          • Sherm says:

            John, just because the direct evidence of causation does not presently exist does not mean that there is no causal link. Hell, there was a time when there was insufficient evidence of a direct link between smoking and cancer. That the science and the required data are lagging behind the use does not constitute good reason to ignore or downplay the potential consequences of such use, particularly where the known transient side effects are pretty damn bad. Hard to fathom that substances with awful transient side effects to crucial body functions will have not result in any long-term problems.

            • John Protevi says:

              Yes, that’s reasonable to say, but still, there is an awful lot of (not necessarily by you) panic-mongering here in the absence of good studies. In any case, we’ve had a good long time to come up with something, and lots of incentive to do so, and not much good causal studies yet. So I always like citing this lit review and it’s skeptical findings and thing the burden should fall on the others (like “Bitter Scribe” below) who keep repeating the claims without providing any acknowledgement that the links are well-established.

              • John Protevi says:

                Oh Dear God Almighty I used “it’s” instead of “its.” Please kill me now.

              • John Protevi says:

                think the burden

                that the links are not well-established

              • Sherm says:

                The links to the permanent side effects are not well established, but that might simply be because such direct links are difficult to make. I just skimmed your link, and I think the authors even made this point.

              • Sherm says:

                Its quite possible that there the side-effects have been overstated, but the problem is that we don’t know either way.

                “The clinical examination of anabolic steroid use is quite limited. Much of the problem in prospectively examining the effects of anabolic steroids on the athletic population is related to the unwillingness of institutional review boards to approve such studies in a non-clinical population.”

                • John Protevi says:

                  Hey, I’m happy to accept skepticism on both sides here. I just see way too much (again, not necessarily by you personally) dogmatic assertion without acknowledging the inconclusive state of the medical evidence.

        • Rob says:

          The long term negative effects of throwing a ball repeatedly is much better established.

    • Murc says:

      And, like it or not, but a record book full of suspected steroid abusers is a bit of a shameful image to put out.

      Is it more shameful than a record book full of gamblers, philanderers, wife-beaters, drunks, pill-poppers, game-fixers, and racists?

      Because unless the answer is ‘yes’ you are making an argument that the current record books are shameful and have been for some time.

    • Timb says:

      How could they make these records? Baseball has changed the rules and has a testing system in place. If someone wants to “destroy his body” he’ll have plenty of time to do it while he’s on his 50 game suspension.

  10. KBNC says:

    As a non-baby-boomer (somewhere between “generation X” and “millennials”), I don’t think I have the nostalgia complained of above. But I can’t shake the idea that something about PEDs in baseball feels wrong. I think it’s the potential for abuse discussed above. It’s not necessarily moralistic, I just don’t want it to become a de facto requirement for success.

    And if the great players of the past cheated, so what? That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t approach today’s game differently.

    I know that doesn’t answer the HOF debate, but as a fan I don’t want to see open and egregious steroid use as a staple of baseball.

    • Richard says:

      I dont want to see PED use either but I dont think PED use should be a barrier to HOF induction. I feel differently about betting and Pete Rose.

      • Eric says:

        And I really don’t want to see “he was a great power hitter in the steroid era” as a barrier to HOF induction.

      • TT says:

        Betting fundamentally alters the integrity of the game in a way that steroids, scuffing, greenies, etc. simply do not. The latter are used in order to gain a competitive edge that may or may not prove decisive. The former is a deliberate blow against the architecture of the game in which the outcome is decided before competition even begins. That is why for me Bonds and Clemens are cinches for the HOF, while Rose should stay permanently banned.

      • Dilan Esper says:

        Pete Rose should be in too. The rule he violated was important but has nothing to do with his achievements.

    • Murc says:

      And if the great players of the past cheated, so what? That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t approach today’s game differently.

      I know that doesn’t answer the HOF debate

      … if it doesn’t answer the HOF debate, why even bring it up?

      Nobody is saying that because guys in the past cheated we should turn a blind eye to modern abuses. Just that if you don’t apply the same standard to both eras, you don’t have the right to moralize about one over the other.

      • KBNC says:

        Well that’s fine, but there’s a tinge of “Steroids? Who gives a doodle?” floating around in the comments. Just want to be clear that whatever happens with the HOF debate, I don’t want to see open acceptance of steroids in baseball. I don’t think it’s irrelevant.

  11. mikebdot says:

    Random thought to consider: Roger Maris broke the home run record three years after Dianabol was approved by the FDA.

    Also, he was hurt for several years following setting the record.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anabolic_steroid

    Relevant section titled “Development of synthetic AAS”.

    Shoot, Micky Mantle could have used testosterone injections prior to that as well to set his record. In fact, I find it highly likely most New York Yankees did during the late 30s through the 60s. Or perhaps longer.

    • Rob says:

      Hey Tom House said that steroids were prevalant at least among pitchers in the 1970s. But that is never ever to be addressed because those steroids were different because.

  12. TT says:

    Miller continued: “To me, just because the commissioner, the owners and the players’ union abdicated their responsibility to the game for so long by looking the other way only increases the obligation for somebody, somewhere, to stand up for what’s right. And if I can do that even from my small corner of the voting world, then I’m grateful to have that chance.”

    Strange how Miller fails to include the media among those “looking the other way” in the ’80s and ’90s. The overweening self-righteousness of some baseball writers on this issue is as opportunistic as it is grotesque. They knew or at least suspected what was going on at the time but didn’t have the guts to pursue it because, you know, ’98 was the greatest season ever.

    If Miller wants to know who “put the spotlight on others who never should have been there” he and a whole boatload of his colleagues ought to look in the mirror, instead of opting for a cheap and smarmy revenge.

    • NBarnes says:

      This. The media coverage of Sosa and McGwire at the time was fawning. Down the memory hole with all of that!

    • JMG says:

      Much of the moralizing is an overreaction to the shameful journalistic failure to pursue the steroid story. I was there, and I failed to do it, either, but I don’t see why Roger Clemens should be punished because I didn’t do such a good job.

      • Sherm says:

        Yeah, I’m pretty much over it all in no small part because many of those who are engaging in the hand-wringing now were cheering for Mcgwire, although he looked like Tony Mandorich.

        And fuck Murray Chass! Just wanted to get that off my chest.

        • mark f says:

          Plus he acknowledged using legal (and not yet banned by baseball) supplements like Andro and Creatine. And since steroids etc weren’t banned by MLB at that time, really we’re just making a distinction between guys who used things baseball now bans but are FDA approved and guys who used things baseball now bans but are illicit . . . with the caveat that much of it is just speculation anyway. Why should sportswriters be wasting their time with this crap?

          • Sherm says:

            steroids etc weren’t banned by MLB at that time

            That’s debatable. Yes, there was nothing in the CBA, and no testing and penalties were in place. But MLB’s official drug policy prohibited all illegal drugs, including steroids, and the Commissioner certainly had the discretionary power to impose discipline for such violations as evidenced by the 1980s cocaine-related suspensions.

            • Mark Field says:

              Those cocaine-related suspensions went to arbitration (Steve Howe). That’s why the Commissioner’s office never tried to enforce any rules against PEDs (which would have included amphetamines). They knew that the arbitrators would have ruled that the issue must be subject to collective bargaining.

              This, of course, leaves MLB with the worst of all worlds. Its own documents show warnings about steroid use in the early 90s, demonstrating that it knew about the issue, but the owners never tried to enforce it and never tried to bargain over it. MLB was happy to let chicks dig the long ball.

              • Sherm says:

                If a steroid scandal similar to the Pittsburgh drug trials had surfaced, there would have been suspensions. But I otherwise agree with you. Chicks dig the long ball.

            • Timb says:

              There was a sports illustrated story ack in the 90′s about the Orioles serving their players cups Creatine after drills in ST. Too bad the Commissioner was unaware there was anything he could do about it

              • Sherm says:

                Selig didn’t give a shit. No one did after Vincent was forced out. But steroids were still banned by MLB drug policy, although not in the CBA. The moralists claim steroids were banned (the Mitchell report actually states this as fact). The apologists claim steroids were legal. The truth is somewhere in between it seems. Either way, I’m glad they’re testing, and I no longer really give a shit about the past. I’m not going to lose any sleep if some narcissistic, asshole millionaire doesn’t get honored by the hall of fame, but I am not going to take some moral high ground about steroids and cheating when so many were doing it and so few in power cared.

  13. mikebdot says:

    Also, I think the real reason journalists give a crap is because they bet on the games they cover and wish they had the inside knowledge to make some money. Now they are punishing the players they feel cheated them.

  14. Joshua says:

    Babe Ruth wouldn’t have the same level of offensive production if the system in place at the time was more efficient about identifying the best pitchers and getting them into major league uniforms

    Was this just a roundabout way of saying that Babe Ruth didn’t have to deal with black pitchers?

    • Mike Schilling says:

      There were also white pitchers in the independent minor leagues who were damned good, e.g. Lefty Grove until he was 25. Minor league owners had the same reserve clause rights as major league owners, and while they could make money by selling their best players to a major league team, they were under no obligation to do so. Grove himself was only “promoted” because his owner got in financial trouble and needed the cash.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        Yeah. Lefty Grove is an excellent example. With free minors and much less systematic scouting, the best players were not reliably in the major leagues. Jim Crow is the most obvious but not the only example.

        • Alan in SF says:

          Also a great many ballplayers from the western U.S. were not inclined to go all the way east and be totally cut off from their families in those pre-expansion, pre-jet days, when they could make good money in high-quality west coast minor leagues. MLB was not a lucrative or glamorous gig back then.

          • Alan in SF says:

            And a great many of the more intelligent in the potential talent pool chose a better career than MLB. I remember baseball cards where on the back you’d find out that the guy worked as a service station attendant in the offseason. For a long time anyone who had graduated high school or been seen reading a book was automatically given the nickname “Perfesser.”

            • Richard says:

              During college, I had a summer job at an auto parts warehouse making minimum wage. About $2.25 an hour. My new supervisor was Ed Sadowski, recently cut from the majors because of knee problems. He had no savings and was making maybe $4 an hour. And he was damn mad about it and took it out on the crew

  15. Richard Hershberger says:

    I am a 19th century baseball history guy. Statistical records are of dubious significance in this context, and more so the earlier you go back (and my interests run to the early end). I also belong to the school that says that the room with the plaques is the least interesting room in the Hall of Fame building. So I have no horse in this race. But I do think there is a broader issue behind this discussion.

    Every sport has two sets of rules: the written and the unwritten rules. I’m not talking about the “playing the game the right way” talk: that is etiquette. I mean what actions are permitted. The two sets of rules do not always correspond to each other. When they don’t, the unwritten rules take precedence.

    By way of example, there is no rule forbidding a baseman holding the ball to simply push a runner off the base and tag him. (This is not obstruction, which by definition cannot occur if the fielder has possession of the ball.) Despite this absence, the action is so clearly unacceptable that it quite likely never occurred to the rules makers to put in.

    For another example, the infield fly rule only applies to infielders. An “infielder” is defined as “a fielder who occupies a position in the infield.” The “infield” is defined as the “90-foot square” within the bases. The basemen and the short stop usually position themselves outside this square. If we really took the written rules seriously, the infield fly rule would usually apply only to the pitcher. But we all know what an infielder really is, and this unwritten definition is the one that actually counts.

    Going the other direction, a catcher can get away with pushing the limits of obstruction far more than can the second baseman, much less the first baseman. This is despite the written rules making no such distinction.

    Gaylord Perry is colorful rather than reviled because, while spit balls have long been against the written rules, the traditional unwritten rule on them was “whatever you can get away with, and good for you!” This seems to no longer be the case, but the explanation for the shift probably has more to do with ubiquitous video than it does any moral sense.

    The famous pine tar incident is a classic example of the unwritten permissive rule officially and overtly trumping the written restrictive one.

    So what is the unwritten rule on pharmaceutical enhancement? The traditional unwritten rule on greenies was that they were A-OK. Does this extend to steroids? There people–fans, sportswriters, and players, though not league officials–disagree. This is the underlying discussion. The the steroids-era users were breaking the unwritten rule, then they are to be penalized. If not, then there is no reason to keep them out of the Hall.

    Oh, and the 1860s is a great era for unwritten rules, since the written rules were in a comparatively early state of development, and had a lot of holes in them. A foul ball, for instance, became live as soon as it was returned to the pitcher while he was in the pitching position. A runner off his base could then be put out, so he had to know if a batted ball was foul or fair. There were instances of interested bystanders shouting “foul ball” on what were actually fair balls down the line. Is this cheating of a particularly low sort, or clever gamesmanship?

    • Mark Field says:

      Yes, there are unwritten rules. But it seems to me hard to argue that there was such a rule regarding steroids in MLB, given that (1) other performance enhancing substances were permitted; (2) the widespread use of steroids (and hGH) over a long period of time; and (3) the lack of any penalties for use.

      • Alan in SF says:

        Part of the deal is, no one really thought of Gaylord Perry as a great pitcher, they thought of him as a great spitballer. We want to think of Barry Bonds as a great power hitter, but we’re not sure. The whole thing with stats nostalgia people is a false certainty that the numbers are somehow universal and perpetual, and steroids/HGH kind of permanently messes with that faith.

        • Mark Field says:

          Bonds was a great power hitter. His stats through 1998 (i.e., before he is alleged to have used steroids) show that.

          Agreed that people wrongly believe in the universality of statistics. All those numbers are contingent on the conditions of the game (park, mound height, bats, balls, etc.).

          • mark f says:

            Yes. He only led the league once in that period, but topped 30 eight times (three over 40); in fact, from 1988-1998 he was in the top 10 nine times, and the top 4 seven. In those same years he missed the top 10 in SLG only once and was usually in the top 5; he led three times. He also made the top 10 in Total Bases nine times, including four times in the top 5 and leading once. Fangraphs estimates a “great” ISO to be above .200 and an “excellent” one as above .250; beginning in 1987, his second season, Bonds topped .200 all but once and topped .250 eight times through 1998 . . . and went over .300 five times.

            To say we don’t know if Bonds was a great power hitter minus PEDs is really silly.

    • Paul says:

      I’m 100% with what you say in the third sentence. If only we could eliminate the “hall of fame” aspect of sports museums. We all know who the great players were without the flawed mechanism of a vote. Bonds and Clemens were great players and I would want a museum simply to tell their stories with all the positives and negatives.

      As for PEDs: From now on, any drug that scientists prove to be harmful should be outlawed; and tough testing should be in place. No players should feel they have to undermine their health to compete.

    • Rob says:

      Except they wasn’t just a few guys and it didn’t just start in the late 1980s.

  16. DrDick says:

    Frankly, as a Boomer who doesn’t care about sports, I think there is more than a little bit of “Get off my lawn!” about this.

  17. Dave says:

    I’m of the mind that you just vote based on production and leave it at that. You don’t have nearly a good enough way in which to determine who was cheating and who wasn’t and how that relates to their production, not to mention the point about cheating in previous eras. Put those in whose production warrants it and just concede that most in this era are suspected of cheating in some manner. And when the subject of comparing players across eras comes up, adjust for that fact (and good luck comparing across eras, I think that’s a largely fruitless exercise).

    • djangermats says:

      Idk how not inducting a lot of these guys doesn’t invalidate the hall of fame more so than it invalidates any ballplayers career.

      Like its not a hall of fame at that point its a hall of people that a tiny obscure group of dweebs decided to put in a hall.

  18. Alan in SF says:

    Maybe I’m being kinder to the boomer-codger sportswriters than they deserve — ours here in the Bay Area are relatively thoughtful about it — but I think there’s something more at work than not wanting their idols eclipsed.

    I watched Barry Bonds throughout his inflated-performance years and would have been thrilled to see him break the records of my youth’s idols (Harmon Killebrew!). Strong or super-strong, BB was the most perfect torque machine that’s ever stepped into a batter’s box. Most other forms of cheating, you could sort of account for the results, but whatever he was doing made such a huge difference in his results, you just couldn’t project what he could have done without cheating (you know, with just greenies and a guy in the scoreboard relaying pitch locations). That threw the whole system into doubt. He could well have been the greatest hitter ever, but we’ll never know for sure. I can live with that, but a lot of people can’t.

    But Clemens? No way. Dave Stewart totally pwned him. Dave Stewart should be in the Hall of Fame.

  19. JRoth says:

    BTW, I agree that the link in the phrase “wasn’t actually against the rules” is the strongest argument Scott has ever made on this subject.

  20. JRoth says:

    And, for the record, despite all my sniping at Scott on this: I would vote for Bonds and Clemens based on their (presumptively) pre-PEDs performances. Voters who use guilt-by-association are sickening (if they know something about eg Bagwell, bring the evidence). For me the hardest case might be Palmeiro – he never seemed like a HoFer during his career, and there’s a pretty good chance that the only reason he reached the milestones that make him seem like an HoFer now is the PEDs. Since Bonds & Clemens decisively illustrate the career-extending benefits of PEDs (and Mantle and Mays seem to illustrate the opposite about amphetamines, incidentally), it’s hard for me not to see what Raffy did as, yes, artificial. Give a dozen of his comparable predecessors the same pharmaceuticals, and they’d have better HoF cases, and he’s on the outside again.

    Or not. If I had a vote, I’d look into it more, but I don’t care that much. Maybe he was much better when he was younger than what I recall. Maybe his aging curve was much more natural than I’m thinking. But IMO he’s an edge case, because it’s not clear to me that, absent breaking the law, he would seriously be in the conversation. Lord knows baseball history isn’t impoverished if he fails to be inducted.

    • Sherm says:

      I’m of a similar mind. I’d vote for the great players like Bonds and Clemens, and I wouldn’t let mere suspicions stop me from voting for players with clear HOF numbers, such as Bagwell and Piazza.

      But I wouldn’t vote for Palmeiro. The milestones he reached are milestones established in the pre-steroid era. In the steroid era, he was nothing special.

      • CJColucci says:

        That raises the point that a lot of players from just before the “Steroid Era” who might otherwise be considered HOFers look greatly diminished next to the juicers who put up huge numbers just a few years later. I don’t know whether, for example, Fred McGriff is a HOFer, but he would be the subject of serious debate if he hadn’t had the misfortune of playing a few years before the statistical explosion of the 90s.
        That said, I’m equally convinced that the HOF now has juicers in it from the 70′s and 80′s. I name no suspects because I have no evidence other than their physiques, early hair loss, and remarkable power and speed in their late 30′s, but you can probably make up your own list.
        Then again, maybe some of the guys who are now not considered HOF candidates because they pale next to the known or widely suspected juicers that played right after them were themselves juicers and just not as good.

        • Sherm says:

          I doubt the 70′s Weight training was still frowned upon in baseball then. But guys were definitely juicing in the late 80′s.

          Fred McGriff is a great example of a guy whose numbers paled in comparison to the juicers.

        • Rob says:

          McGriff was part of the offensive explosion of the 1990s. He too was better in his 30s than his 20s.

  21. Bitter Scribe says:

    I call bullshit. On all of this. Steroids were an evil and corrupting influence in baseball, and keeping some juiceheads out of the HOF is a small price to pay as part of cleaning up the sport.

    If this guy Kepner is so trustful of Selig and so disdainful about the ability of baseball writers to judge HOF candidates, why not just let Selig just pick all HOF members himself?

    If the ballot means anything, it means writers have the ability to vote based on their own criteria. And if they choose to take steroid use into account, it is not only their right to do so; they have sound reasons to do so.

    Steroids are bad, dangerous stuff. I don’t need to spell out the disastrous potential consequences. They spread as all dangerous drugs do:They seduce. With steroids, the seduction takes the form of enhanced performance.

    When competitors, younger players, etc. see the spectacular results that a Barry Bonds or a Mark McGwire gets, it tempts them into doing the same. Or pressures them. A competitor is faced with a cruel choice: Abuse his body or give away a significant competitive edge.

    That’s why steroid use in baseball has been banned since 1991. The players who took steroids afterward were grown men who knew what they were doing, knew it was against the rules, and didn’t care. That’s not who I want youngsters seeing when they go to Cooperstown.

    • John Protevi says:

      Steroids are bad, dangerous stuff. I don’t need to spell out the disastrous potential consequences.

      Um, yes, actually you do have to spell that out. So please cite peer-reviewed medical evidence that steroids are “bad, dangerous stuff.” Before you fire up your search engines, you might want to have a luck at the review study I cite above.

      • Bitter Scribe says:

        Um, yes, actually you do have to spell that out.

        Here you go: testicular atrophy, decreased sperm count, gynecomastia (enlarged breasts in men), high blood pressure, increased LDL (bad) cholesterol, decreased HDL (good) cholesterol, fluid retention, abnormal liver function, and prostate enlargement.

        • John Protevi says:

          Dude, did you think I didn’t read the article I cited and referred you to? Yes, it’s obvious there is a long list of claimed clinical side effects. What is lacking is good evidence of causation. Since it’s evidently too much trouble for you to go upthread, let me repeat the cite for you:

          When examining the potential medical issues associated with anabolic steroid use, evidence indicates that most known side effects are transient. More so, few studies have been able to directly link anabolic steroids to many of the serious adverse effects listed. Although clinical case studies continue to link anabolic steroid administration with myocardial infarct, suicide, and cancer, the evidence to support a cause and effect relationship is lacking and it may be other contributing factors (i.e. genetic predisposition, diet, etc.) play a substantial role and potentiate the harmful effects from anabolic steroids. Consistent physician monitoring is critical to the athlete who consumes anabolic steroids. However, many athletes may not undergo extensive medical exams prior to androgen administration and few physicians may be willing to provide such monitoring.

          ©Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2006) 5, 182-193 Review article

          MEDICAL ISSUES ASSOCIATED WITH ANABOLIC STEROID USE: ARE THEY EXAGGERATED?

          Jay R. Hoffman and Nicholas A. Ratamess
          The College of New Jersey, Ewing, NJ, USA
          http://www.jssm.org/vol5/n2/2/v5n2-2pdf.pdf

          • Bitter Scribe says:

            Your article basically claims that the dangers of steroid use are exaggerated, not nonexistent. Steroids are a controlled substance, and athletes who used them to enhance performance were using them in a medically unapproved and therefore illegal manner. Moreover, despite the attempts of many including this blog to confuse the issue, steroid use has been a violation of MLB rules since then-commissioner Fay Vincent sent a memo to all clubs declaring it so on June 7, 1991.

            What is it with you steroid apologists anyway? Do you really believe the stuff is as safe as vitamin C, or is this some weird mutant offshoot of Libertarianism?

            • John Protevi says:

              You claimed they were “bad, dangerous things” with “disastrous potential consequences.” I asked for medical discussion of these claims. You listed well-known claims of consequences. I repeated the request for medical discussion, specifying causal studies. I provided a link to a peer-reviewed article surveying previous studies. That makes me a steroid apologist. Gotcha.

            • Timb says:

              What’s frightening is that you may have some power and influence over a baseball team or the perception of the sport and you are clearly a moralizing idiot, who has no idea what he’s talking about

              • Bitter Scribe says:

                No, I’m not a baseball writer, so stop wetting your pants. I’m just an ordinary person trying to understand why so many people on a blog where I usually agree with everything are so astonishingly sanguine about steroid abuse. Is this some weird-ass Libertarian thing?

          • Sherm says:

            From your link:

            “Alterations in serum lipids, elevations in blood pressure and an increased risk of thrombosis are additional cardiovascular changes often associated with anabolic steroid use (Cohen et al., 1986; Costill et al., 1984; Dhar et al., 2005; Kuipers et al., 1991; Laroche, 1990). The magnitude of these effects may differ depending upon the type, duration, and volume of anabolic steroids used. Interesting to note is that these effects appear to be reversible upon cessation of the drug (Dhar et al., 2005, Parssinen and Seppala, 2002). In instances where the athlete remains on anabolic steroids for prolonged periods of time (e.g ”abuse”), the risk for developing cardiovascular disease may increase. “

          • Sherm says:

            Also from your link:

            “Thus, evidence appears to indicate that the risk for hepatic disease from anabolic steroid use may not be as high as the medical community had originally thought although a risk does exist especially with oral anabolic steroid use or abuse.”

          • Sherm says:

            “Gynecomastia is a common adverse effect associated with anabolic steroid use. Research has demonstrated a prevalence rate of 37% in anabolic steroid users (O’Sullivan et al., 2000). Gynecomastia is a benign enlargement of the male breast resulting from an altered estrogen-androgen balance, or increased breast sensitivity to a circulating estrogen level. Increases in estrogen production in men are seen primarily through the aromatization of circulating testosterone. Many anabolic steroid users will use anti-estrogens (selective estrogen receptor modulators) such as tamoxifen and clomiphene or anastrozole which is a nonsteroidal aromatase inhibitor to minimize side effects of estrogen and stimulate testosterone production. Once gynecomastia is diagnosed cosm

            • John Protevi says:

              I read the article, Sherm, and provided an abstract. The point of the piece — which your excerpts show — is that many claims are exaggerated, that many effects are transient, and that abuse is possible. Nowhere did I claim that the article shows that steroids couldn’t be abused to bad effect. In any case, I’m happy to read a similarly well-sourced article that critiques the findings of this one. Please link if you can find one.

              • Sherm says:

                Fair enough. Except that I read the article to mean that the long-term side effects might be overstated because we currently lack sufficient evidence. And damn, if the transient side-effects noted in the article aren’t enough to prevent people from putting that shit in their bodies, I’m not sure what would.

                Thanks for the link. I always appreciate evidence rather than bullshit.

                • John Protevi says:

                  Thank you too. You’re one of the few willing to engage this side of it. My own reading is that physician-supervised cycles for adults are probably safe enough — or safe enough for adults to judge.

                  As I say somewhere else on this thread, I think the other modalities of PE (especially gene expression modification) and the other arenas (from military to yuppie “anti-aging” medicine — e.g. “Low T” ads) are very important but tend to get drowned out by sports and steroids.

    • Jay says:

      This is an amazing parody of a bbwaa voter.

      Kudos to you, sir

    • Murc says:

      Steroids were an evil and corrupting influence in baseball, and keeping some juiceheads out of the HOF is a small price to pay as part of cleaning up the sport.

      As has been said, this statement is only reasonable if accompanied by “And they should kick out all the guys who everyone knew were downing greenies. Ejecting some pill-poppers from the HOF is a small price to pay for cleaning up the sort.”

      If you take this position, we have no problem. If you think Mays should be in and Sosa and Bonds shouldn’t be, then you’re just a hypocrite.

      • Bitter Scribe says:

        I’m not in favor of kicking anyone out of the HOF. But if, back in the day, some sportswriter didn’t vote for Willie Mays based on his greenie use, I’d say that guy was perfectly justified. And of course there’s the factor of how many of the voters knew about Mays and greenies, compared to how many knew about Bonds et al. and steroids.

        • Timb says:

          Anyone who read Ball Four….or are you one of those scribes who can’t read?

          • Bitter Scribe says:

            I’m not sure many sportswriters in 1979 would have considered Bouton a reliable source. At least, not to the point of taking his word about Mays uncorroborated.

            • Sherm says:

              If memory served, John (the hammer) Milner testified about Willie in the Pittsburgh drug trials. But this focus on mays is idiotic. Pretty much all players used greenies. Very common. No attempt to hide. Really unfair to single out Willie mays. Even more unfair than singling our Barry bonds for steroids.

    • rea says:

      OMG, a baseball troll!

  22. Flogger says:

    The “it wasn’t against the rules’ argument is bogus. Unless these guys were getting prescriptions from their doctors and getting them filled at a licensed pharmacy, they were committing a criminal offense – possession of a controlled substance – which is most assuredly against the rules.

    • C.S says:

      That’s a long way to go for the gold, Flogger. And it makes me wonder . . . if they acquired and used them in a country other than this one, with other laws regarding their distribution, would that be against the rules? Like, oh, let’s say . . . Mexico. Or the Dominican Republic. Are there any baseball players from those places, or who go to those places?

      Basically, I’m asking you if you think Mark McGuire broke the rules but Sammy Sosa didn’t.

    • Timb says:

      But the use of greenies was perfectly legit? Oh noes, that was a criminal possession charge too

      • Sherm says:

        My problem with the greenies analogy is that do greenies help performance more than a pot of coffee or a couple of red bulls? And let’s not forget that greenies were still rampant during the steroids era. So the juicers most likely got the benefit of both whereas the old timers just got the benefit of one.

        • Mark Field says:

          There’s quite a bit of research about the ways amphetamines enhance athletic performance. That’s why they’re separately banned.

          I’m not sure who you mean by “old timers”. Amphetamine use dates back to the early/mid-50s or so. Duke Snider mentioned them in 1954; that’s the earliest I know of. They began being used by the military in WWII. As a result, anyone using amphetamines gained an advantage over players from before WWII.

  23. SamR says:

    I always thought Daniel Tosh’s “you set records before black people were allowed to play? Where’s the asterisk on that?” is the best argument I’ve ever heard that this entire thing is totally ridiculous.

    • Mike Schilling says:

      And before those guys from Alpha Centauri with the built-in gloves on all five of their hand were let in, too. Clearly we can’t start giving out awards for another fifty yeas at least.

  24. djillionsmix says:

    IDK if I can exactly blame people for being irrational about their childhood emotional attachments when it comes to sports fandom.

  25. Andy says:

    God do I miss the steroid era. Jacked up monstrosities blasting homers into the parking lot every five minutes. Sigh. Everything was better in the nineties.

  26. [...] Mantle stumbled drunkly upon. I’ll let Lawyers, Guns & Money blog contributor Scott Lemieux jump in, since he says it better than I could. That’s the real issue here—players of the 90s were able to obtain records that properly belong [...]

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  28. [...] But again, the selective freaking out about steroids isn’t about health; it’s about people who erroneously believe that records are ever set in neutral conditions and some people who desperately want to believe in the purity of boomer icons as if Ball Four never existed. [...]

  29. [...] you don’t need to mention, as Lawyers, Guns & Money blog contributor Scott Lemieux says, that the real reason for the steroid outrage is stars of the ‘90s and 2000s broke home run [...]

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