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Newz Forum: BASEBALL: Steroids and Baseball Redux

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posted on Mar, 12 2006 @ 05:44 PM
This story is like the old Frankenstein movies. Once they had a hit on their hands, the moviemakers made Bride of Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein, Next Door Neighbor of Frankenstein, Prom Date of Frankenstein and so on. It seemed like the monster would never die. That seems to be the case with baseball and steroids. And the latest is a book - excerpted in Sports Illustrated now and to be released later this month - that chronicles Barry Bonds' use of a variety of steroids to bulk up and become a home run machine. The book is called Game of Shadows and its authors are Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams. If you look at the list of 'Pros' I have on the website listing sports journalists that I think are very good, you won't find either name. The reason is they are not part of the sports staff at the San Francisco Chronicle; they are news department reporters.

Most reviews call this work a great piece of investigative journalism and the reports of the sources used in the book would make it seem very good indeed. But let me be frank here; I haven't yet read the book and I have never knowingly been in the same room with Barry Bonds so I have zero first-hand knowledge of the details of the story here. Nevertheless, let me make a few comments that go beyond the matter of 'did he or didn't he?'

There are three other parties that are complicit in the steroid use/abuse scandal in baseball specifically. I've mentioned before that Donald Fehr and the Players Association are culpable here because steroid use is an unsafe working condition for the association members and the union should have been fighting hard to protect the health and safety of its members all along. Clearly, Donald Fehr and the Players Association fumbled the ball on that issue.

The owners and team management are complicit in the steroid use/abuse scandal in baseball specifically. The owners marketed the exploits of players who used steroids and may have even assisted in enhancing the feats of some players by shrinking the ballparks and making what used to be routine fly balls into home runs. Maybe they juiced the baseballs too. I doubt that any owners or team management actually provided steroids or other performance enhancers to players and there is no evidence to date of such a thing, but the owners did exploit and enhance the feats of the players to line their pockets.

But there is a third institution that is complicit in all of this and that is the Baseball Writers Association of America. These are the folks who cover baseball for a living; these are the people who guard the portals to the Hall of Fame; these are the poets who wring emotion from English words and use them about baseball in variations on odes to the game. These guys live and breathe baseball 365 days a year and they let this story go unreported for the last decade. As I said, Game of Shadows is written by news department reporters for the San Francisco Chronicle. One of the Baseball Writers Association members doesn't write it; it isn't even written by someone from the sports staff at the Chronicle.

How can that be? Am I supposed to believe that the poets of baseball (Peter Gammons, Tim Kirkjian, Tom Boswell, Dan Shaughnessy, Jayson Stark and a whole lot of others) never had an inkling that anything untoward was going on? Were they so mesmerized by their own poetry that they were immobilized and could not dig into the story? Or - - were they so addicted to jock sniffing that they didn't dare break any bad news about players lest they be cut off from their 'sources' and thereby lose their access to this plush gig?

The book in question cites things like court filings, transcripts of wiretaps and documents seized in the BALCO investigation. Sure, news department reporters tend to do that kind of stuff more frequently than 'sports guys' do, but sports sections are still manned by people who profess to be journalists. Watch how fast any of them will wrap that flag around themselves if any were to be confronted to reveal 'a source' by a prosecutor. Immediately, the fate of the First Amendment would be in their hands. Yet these guys couldn't see what was happening around them for 10 years or so.

When any of these folks takes to the airwaves on ESPN or FOX Sports or a local radio station, the question that ought to be asked of them is how the hell did you guys get scooped on this one? It was in your backyard and you were either too dumb to notice or you were complicit in the steroid use/abuse scandal in baseball specifically. Frankly, I don't know which option these guys would choose if forced to answer that one.

With regard to the specifics of the matter, I am on record as saying that I believe that Barry Bonds used steroids and performance enhancers. I have no evidence for that but it is my opinion and I'm entitled to it. Ignoring all the statistical evidence and all the documentary evidence, here is one thing that has led me to my belief for the past several years. Barry Bonds head got larger and larger. I'm talking physically larger and not in some metaphoric sense about his ego. Increased cranial size is one side effect of steroid use and you can work out in the gym for years on end but adding muscle bulk to your face will not increase cranial size. In fact, adding muscle to the face and scalp should tend to shrink cranial size. So, I have had my own suspicions for the past 5 years or so. But that's all they were then and that's all they are now - suspicions.

Now that there is more 'evidence' being brought to light, the next uncomfortable thing for the baseball poets to confront is that they may indeed have to take some kind of stand about how they will deal with records and stats compiled by folks like Canseco, Palmiero, McGuire, Sosa and Bonds. At the moment, these are the 'Legion of Doom' with regard to this mess. So far, the baseball poets have tap danced around the issue - possibly fearing the penalty that might befall any of them who might offend any of the players and cut them off from the sources that give them their fame and fortunes. Well, the story isn't going away and maybe it's time to stop the music and make these folks scurry for the seats that are available.

I've said this before so I'll say it again because I've yet to hear anyone else go down this path. How can anyone be confident that he/she knows what any of the baseball athletes did “'naturally' versus 'enhanced' over the past decade or two? I certainly can't. And if you allow for speculation to exist just because if follows a seemingly logical path, why not take umbrage at this one:

Steroid use can build bodies but it can ALSO make injuries heal faster. Why else would pitchers use them? They don't even come to bat in the American League.

Rapid healing of injuries allows players to 'play through' situations where they might otherwise have had to sit out a game or two or three.

So ... did Cal Ripken use steroids to heal his injuries thereby using chemical enhancement to break Lou Gehrig's record?

I don't know if Cal Ripken did that or not. I am equally convinced that the baseball poets don't know if he did that or not. But I do know that they would never dare to ask him that. And that is a major part of why they got scooped on this story by a couple of guys from the 'news department' on this matter.

But don't get me wrong, I love sports... ... ...


posted on Mar, 12 2006 @ 10:58 PM

You're right. Nobody would dare to ask Ripken that question.

And how about "The Rocket," who has won more Cy Young Awards than anyone else, and, more important, has amazingly won TWO more E.R.A. titles than any player whose name was not Lefty Grove. When Grove was 40, he was sharply in decline, and when he was 42, he was retired. When Clemens was 43 (last summer), he had the second-best Adjusted ERA of his career, and tied for the 16th best Adjusted single-season ERA in baseball history, striking out 185 batters in 211 innings, in the process.

How do you suppose a Sports Illustrated writer would be received if he/she wrote an essay suggesting the Rocket was on steroids? I'm an enormous fan of Clemens', and I LOVED watching his heroic relief appearance in the playoffs, and how long he toiled and how hard he threw, and I'd hate to believe it was largely a product of steroids. BUT... You'll have to admit it's possible.

And you are CERTAINLY right about the complicity, in different ways, of the Players' Union and the scrofulous dirtbags on the owners' side, starting with their leader, Bud Selig. Fehr, Selig and all those other zillionaires won't be the ones dying very premature deaths from that garbage.

You're also correct about the writers. I remember how, back as far as the early 1990's, friends and I commented on how obvious it was steroids were rampant, as we watched shortstops hit opposite-field HR's galore. The game of "Let's Ignore the Elephant in the Room" went on forever, as one unbreakable record after another was obliterated. And the various sports media, the institutions charged with telling us the truth--because the owners, their head shill and the Players Union sure as hell wouldn't do it--acted like today's shameless news media.

But I don't agree with you that we don't know who's on steroids--or, at least, with what I perceive to be your underlying thesis that we don't know who's been cheating. In many cases, we don't. But when I sat there in 1998, as the rest of the baseball world went gaga over "The Chase," and I watched McGwire hit baseballs like they were golf balls, and I looked at his outrageous physique--well, I didn't know precisely what he had taken, but I sure as hell knew it wasn't legit.

When a certain outfielder suddenly, up from out of nowhere, hit 50 HR in 1996, and 24 and 21 were the only two other #'s he ever posted above 18 in his 15-year career, well, I felt like I was on pretty safe ground in drawing the obvious conclusion.

In 1996, Ken Caminiti, who lived all of 41 years, hit over 50% more HR's than he would ever hit in any other year, slugged over 100 points higher than he ever would slug in any other full season, scored over 100 runs for the only time ever, and knocked in over 100 runs (130!) for the only time ever. And this was AFTER he'd left the team with one of the all-time great table-setters (Biggio) and one of the great first-basemen (Bagwell). We didn't need his near-deathbed confession to know he cheated to win that MVP, did we?

And Bonds.... I've watched him ever since the Giants first befouled their clubhouse to get the game's greatest combination of a spectacular player and horrible person since Rogers Hornsby. (Sorry, Barry, but you don't measure up to Hornsby. Try as you have--and you've tried mightily--you're not even close the jerk he was. But I do think you've passed Ted Williams in this regard!)

I've watched his head grow like helium was used on it. I've seen him sit out a game with "heart palpitations." I've seen him gain, oh, a billion pounds of solid muscle. And I've watched him change, during the decline-and-retire years of a player's career, from a far superior version of the kind of player his dad was, to the kind of hitter Babe Ruth was--the ultimate baseball compliment, and while I'm more loath than you can ever know to make it, his stats deserve it--not least of all because managers are too stupid to know that YOU JUST DON'T WALK ANY BATTER EVERY TIME UP, because that will work out to 700 walks per year, and an immense number of runs, in return for ZERO outs.

Anyway, TRD, I agree that the blame for this garbage has to be spread far and wide, and that it's tragic the owners, their idiot leader, Donald Fehr, the rest of the Players Union and the rest of the players have no regard for the game's integrity, history, etc. They've perhaps tainted it irreparably. But I don't think that lets the cheats off the hook for what they've done. And because Bonds was easily the greatest natural player of all the flagrant cheats, he's the one who put up the staggering, phenomenal cheat numbers.

That, plus his repulsive, belligerent and racist personality, make him the natural lightning rod for the bulk of the criticism. It's not just, I grant you, because the ones who would never have been great--or pehaps even good--without the cheating should catch more heat. But Bonds is so consummately despicable, it's hard to stop hating him long enough to allot time to hate the many other deserving candidates.



posted on Mar, 13 2006 @ 12:25 PM

Originally posted by BaseballHistoryNut
How do you suppose a Sports Illustrated writer would be received if he/she wrote an essay suggesting the Rocket was on steroids?


Good point, the book is written by news department reporters. Its meant to be 'a great piece of investigative journalism' and the reports of the sources used in the book would make it seem very good indeed.

Doesnt sound fishy to anyone?

Are the Baseball Writers Association members hiding behind a couple of fall guys?

posted on Apr, 8 2006 @ 12:09 AM
Dear TRD,

Well, you've got to admit it: Selig, with his fatuous, obviously corrupt air of regal self-righteousness (reminiscent of all these damn politicians with I.Q.'s of 85 but Ivy League educations 'cuz of mega-rich families), and Fehr, with his give-not-an-inch and let's-fight-for-the-sake-of-fighting personality (reminiscent of way too many attorneys I know, including almost all deputy attorneys general), make a couple of real good fall guys, don't they?

I mean, do you suppose Bud's and Donald's moms even liked them?


Where you been, TRD? Don't YOU go disappearing, now. You're another sine qua non kind of dude here.

I don't know if saw me say this before, but I did exchange e-mails with Toejam, and I expect him back real soon. Actually, I expected him back sooner than now, but I believe he likes this place a lot still and will be back here as soon as circumstances permit. Now, you've known the guy a lot longer than me, and you probably know as much as I do about the situation. Don't you agree?


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