Restoring purity?

From an article with the headline “Next generation must restore baseball’s purity:

THE DAY after Alex Rodriguez’s disillusioning steroids admission, local top baseball prospect Jason Castro was at Canyon Middle School speaking to a group of about 200 youngsters about the importance of education, the rewards of hard work and the dangers of poor associations.

He was talking to the same kinds of kids, presumably, whom A-Rod now says he wants to advise and help now that he’s rediscovered honesty, accountability and his conscience.

Sorry, Alex, but you’ve had your chance and you blew it. Please leave it to the young guys now, OK? If the sanctity of Major League Baseball is to be restored, it’ll be the next generation of players, not the ever-growing cast of tarnished stars, that does it.

Emphasis supplied. And now some definitional assistance:

Pure: (adjective) 1. free from what vitiates, weakens, or pollutes; 2. containing nothing that does not properly belong; 3. free from moral fault or guilt;

Sanctity: (noun) 1. holiness of life and character; 2. : the quality or state of being holy or sacred : inviolability

Restore: (transitive verb) 1. to give back; return; 2. to put or bring back into existence or use 3. to bring back to or put back into a former or original state

Someone please point me to a single time in the game’s history where purity and sanctity existed, and if you can’t, please explain to me how a state of affairs which never existed can possibly be “restored.”

The steroid era has brought about enough problems which need to be fixed as it is. Why make the job harder by setting the goal so unreasonably and unprecedentedly high?


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Richard in Dallas
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Richard in Dallas
OK, how abot purER than it’s been?  As a fan, I just want to be sure that everyone is playing to win with all the gifts that God gave them.  I’m not interested in who can hire a better chemist.  As the parent of a very gifted young ballplayer, I don’t want to see my son pressured into doing something detrimental to his well being so he can make a living by showcasing his natural given talent that he has worked very hard to develop.  Isn’t that what we all want for our kids?  If there were a substance that… Read more »
Jacob
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Jacob

Through all of this, people have been talking about the purity of the game.  When will people start worrying about what really matters…the purity and essence of our natural fluids.

Craig Calcaterra
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Craig Calcaterra

Richard: please tell me you’re not serious.  As someone who obviously (and admirably) appears to be tired of the non-baseball BS surrounding the game right now, you surely must appreciate how much litigation and general ugliness even attempting to do such a thing would cause.  It’s an utter non-starter and should rightly be dismissed out of hand.

Jacob:I don’t avoid those who oppose steroids. I just deny them my essence.

Ted
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Ted

I had this long comment, complete with quotation from Freakonomics, but it can be summed up thus: what Craig said.

General Jack D. Ripper
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General Jack D. Ripper

“God willing, we will prevail, in peace and freedom from fear, and in true health, through the purity and essence of our natural… fluids. God bless you all.”

Richard in Dallas
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Richard in Dallas
Craig:I am absolutely serious.  The original commissioner (Judge Landis) was given the authority by the owners to do whatever was necessary “in the best interests of the game”.  How is it in the best interest of the game to allow this lethal (see Ken Caminiti) behavior to continue.  One or two lifetime banishments of note should do the trick (how many spring training camps still have a March Madness pool?). As a point of reference for you, my 15 year old HS freshman son is the proud owner of an 85+MPH fastball with which he can hit a Coke can… Read more »
scatterbrian
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scatterbrian

Thank you Craig. I’ve come to the conclusion that fans may be projecting their own innocence and self-purity from when they were introduced to the game and confusing that with the game itself.

Richard in Dallas
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Richard in Dallas
Scatterbrain:Please go back and read my answer to Craig.  Then put yourself in my place, and the place of countless parents that have unwittingly raised potential future victims of the pressure to use steroids.  I do not confuse what has been introduced to the PLAYERS of the game with the game itself.  I do not advocate reducing the game to 6 innings for TV purposes.  I do not believe that it would be a good thing to add an extra out per inning to allow for ridiculously high scoring games.  I do not believe that the mound should be lowered… Read more »
scatterbrian
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scatterbrian

Richard: My comment was not an attack on you or what you wrote. That is my opinion based on a false notion that baseball was pure and/or can be restored to a pure form. Provided baseball is competitive—and will always be a business—it will be sullied by people trying to get an edge over the competition. This is not a recent development. Ever heard of greenies?

I completely understand your position, but I also believe that it is the responsibility of parents to steer their children away from drugs, performance-enhancing or otherwise. Not baseball or it’s commissioner. Not television or PSAs.

Chipmaker
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Chipmaker

The only things the ex-preznit was effective at was ruining companies and utterly disregarding the law. Al Qaeda didn’t use lawyers—the MLBPA can and does and will.

If one does not want another “weak” commissioner, avoid this person for the office.

James
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James
Hi Richard! While I agree with you in the abstract and in an ideal world, there’s such a fog surrounding the classification of “substances” that the reality of the situation makes your suggestion, while admirable, completely untenable. There are genetically-modified foods like chicken or broccoli, multivitamins taken in unnatural and varying concentrations, steroids of varying strengths with varying effects, some safer than others, some far safer in proper dosages than alcohol and tobacco, human growth hormone, and so on and so on. I certainly don’t trust the government to make good decisions for me on what I should or should… Read more »
Richard in Dallas
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Richard in Dallas
James: Thank you for the kind words and encouragement.  I appreciate it, and my son does, too. Whatever raising there is to be done with a kid is done with mine at this point.  Very little, if anything can be done to change his propensities at this point, and I DO hope that I’ve done it right. As my name indicates, I live in the North Dallas metroplex.  The Rangers (those of steroid storm center) are my home team.  Pudge Rodriguez, Juan Gonzales, Raphael Palmiero, Jose Canseco, Sammy Sosa, John Rocker, Gary Matthews, Jr. and now, the great A-Roid.  And… Read more »
Sara K
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Sara K
Richard- as a baseball fan and mom of two young studs-in-training, I am with you in wanting a drug-free sport. The problem I have is with draconian solutions to complicated problems.  If MLB could guarantee a system which treated every player with total equality in the application of testing, assured that no player could get around the test through either influence or access to “better” drugs, and eliminated all chance of false positives, *then* they can “end players’ careers” for positive tests. Until then, absolutism exists in proportion to idealism. It sounds like you are already giving your son the… Read more »
Richard in Dallas
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Richard in Dallas
Sara:  As with James, thank you for the kind words.    I agree you can’t just end a career based on rumor and inuendo.  Random tests (at least 6 per year per player) need to be the rule.  If we must allow leeway for everybody making A mistake, fine.  First offense, a suspension of one full season, plus the remainder of the season during which a positive test result was recorded.  Upn reinstatement, WEEKLY tests given on a random day of the week, 52 weeks a year at the palyer’s expense.  If someone is stupid enough to fail a second… Read more »
JYD59
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JYD59
Cheating has ALWAYS been in baseball, in every era. Spitballs, corked bats, stolen signs, amphetamines…you name it. PEDs are just the latest thing to come along. We all romanticize the past because we miss The Good Old Days but there is no way that-had they only been available back then-players like Ty Cobb or Houus Wagner or Christy Matheson wouldn’t have used steroids. I’m not saying I condone using PEDs, but given baseball’s sordid past we really can’t condem people for using them without being hypocritical. And the very LAST person I want to be a Hero for my son… Read more »
Richard in Dallas
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Richard in Dallas

Heroes, no.  But, unfortunately, role models…
AND, if you’re lucky, in some cases, mentors.

Jack Marshall
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Jack Marshall
“Why make the job harder by setting the goal so unreasonably and unprecedentedly high?” Craig,the simple answer to your question is that if you don’t aim high, you never achieve a respectable level of integrity at all. Yes, the article chose its words badly. But “realists” who ridicule the aspirations of idaalists not only settle for a grubby world, but implicitly embrace the false ethical standards pf “everybody does it,” “it’s been this way for a long time,” and “nothing’s going to change, so why bother” that ensure keeping it grubby. And that, in turn, gives cover to Bonds and… Read more »
Dave Studeman
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Dave Studeman

I’m not feeling defensive at all. After all, I’m right.

It sure helps to put emoticons after a joke.

Rick Johnson Blair
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Rick Johnson Blair

I completely agree with you guys.

If you appreciate scathing satire, I found this little jewel of a blog on Pete Abraham’s blog roll yesterday.

http://theyankeesrepublic.blogspot.com

The author makes the same points you guys do.  I think his title, “The Trial of Alex R.” is an allusion to Kafka’s Joseph K.

I’m pleased to see some baseball fans actually are rebelling against the pundits.

Jack Marshall
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Jack Marshall
Dave, the fact you knew it was a joke proves that I don’t need smiley faces. Pretty soon Stephen Colbert will have to flash emoticons on the TV. (Besides, I couldn’t figure out how to do it.) Craig, it may have taken 3 years to get Rocker out, but his comments were the catalyst for his decline. He couldn’t take the pressure, and I think you’ll agree that once he did start getting hit, his opportunities were further reduced by his unpopularity. (I think what SI did to him was blatantly unfair, by the way.) Not that the reasons for… Read more »
Jack Marshall
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Jack Marshall
I read Abraham’s post. I appreciate satire, and that showed hard work, but his message could not be more wrong-headed. It’s Bonds all over again: critics are hateful and jeolous and racists…using PEDs are like cocaine or spitballs…because the authorities looked the other way, cheating is less objectionable, etc…the whole, tired, corrupt list of rationalizations. They are completely invalid here as the have been for Barry, and cheering them just embraces a cover-up and easy excuses for a player who has no excuse but greed, cowardice and bad character for his conduct. Sure, let’s let Alex, who is 100% responsible… Read more »
Dave Studeman
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Dave Studeman

Hey Jack, I’m willing to be lots of people didn’t interpret your comment as a joke.  That’s why I made my comment.

Excellent use of emoticons in subsequent messages!

smile

Jack Marshall
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Jack Marshall

“I’m willing to be lots of people didn’t interpret your comment as a joke.”

That’s their problem! 😀 (I guess its only possible to paste the full smiley on one’s own website. How the heck do you do that?)

Phil
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Phil
Alex Rodriguez is a cheat, albeit an ineffective one (http://www.sabernomics.com/sabernomics/index.php/2009/02/what-impact-did-steroids-have-on-alex-rodriguezs-home-run-performance/), and a liar and deserves whatever opprobrium he encounters from fans. For $33 million (his 2009 salary + signing bonus payment) he can put up with it. However, calls for his career to be ended are ridiculous over-reactions by hysterics who fantasize about a return some virginal era of purity that has never existed in major-league baseball or any other professional sport and is not likely to exist in the future. Rodriguez was hardly the only player using steroids. One of the few believable admissions in his completely disingenuous and… Read more »
Sara K
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Sara K
Jack – I think I’m getting closer to understanding what you are saying: You believe that the attitude of owners should be such that they would terminate the contracts of any players found to have used steroids or other PEDs, and the attitude of the fans should be such that if a team hires the services of a player known to have used PEDs, they should boycott that team.  You feel that if this were the case, there would be no need for MLB as a body to have rules in place to impose penalties on offending players (or teams). … Read more »
Richard In Dallas
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Richard In Dallas
Sara; The “best interest of the game” clause was intended to be put in the hands of someone that actually had the game’s best interst at heart.  It would need to be someone with good old-fashioned American values.  Someone with a high moral standard.  Someone with a good business sense.  Someone level headed, to whom you might go for crucial personal life advice, like a grandfather or older uncle.  It would also have to be someone that was willing and able to implement what they knew to be best without fear of public opinion.  After all, they were being entrusted… Read more »
Jack Marshall
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Jack Marshall
“Stricter regulations” are not the solution and are never the solution. An ape can understand punishment and will usually avoid it. The solution is to make a clear cultural statement that using PED’s is wrong, bad for the game, bad for society. A “cool, rational” approach to reform that just concentrates on punishment and rules will never achieve success, because it never has the courage to make an argument—-it just uses power to punish. Those who demonstrate their “ccolness” and moral relativism by declaring clear judgements of right and wrong “moralistic bluster” make reform impossible, tying it up (as lawyers… Read more »
Sara K
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Sara K
@ Jack I don’t know that I did call any “clear judgments of right and wrong” moralistic bluster. I was referring to (as Craig was in the original post) the overly-emotional, sentimental language that tends to get used to discuss the PED issue – things like “sanctity” and “back to how it used to be” and a whole lot of other unclear language that doesn’t add any content or clarity to the situation. Rules tie up the process?  How is it possible to have an effective policy that does no more than to offer “values”? I can understand your point… Read more »
Richard In Dallas
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Richard In Dallas
Sara:  I won’t address the two or so contributors just before you, since it might be considered confrontational, but I will comment on something you said.  Yes, the outrage needs to inspire a well-considered solution, and, in fact IT DID. In 1919.  I hate to sound like a broken record, but, it’s the “best interests of the game” clause.  Use of the rule has been sparse throughout the years, and with good reason.  It is intended only for those situations that bring the most serious threats to the game. THIS is one of those situations.  All we need now is… Read more »
Jack Marshall
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Jack Marshall
I’m not feeling defensive at all. After all, I’m right. The observation that “it wasn’t against the rules then”  has never been valid when it involves illegal substances. It is against the rules of any profession to break the law, and no profession has to explicitly say so. The basic player agreement could and should be interpreted to permit voiding the contract of any player who intentionally breaks the law or broke the law, whatever the state of baseball’s regulations were at the time. (A-Rod, however, was violating baseball’s regulations in 2001-2003) Sure, you need policies. But as long as… Read more »
Jack Marshall
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Jack Marshall

Richard: I am in absolute agreement with you. A true Commissioner with the original Commissioner’s powers and independence would go a long way to resolving the problem.

Jack Marshall
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Jack Marshall
I cop to being excuciatingly inarticulate in this exchange; internally, I’m blaming Tylenol 3 [see? The evil of drugs!  ], but officially, I’m embarrassed. Let me try agin, on the off chance anybody is still listening: yes, let’s have clear rules and laws, and aggressive, fair, consistent enforcement. But what I see from the widespread lack of what you call outrage and the employment of time-tested rationalizations by fans, players and commentators tells me that the rules/enforcement approach is doomed to failure, just as the U.S. private sector’s forced adoption of ethics codes after 1990 led to the worst two… Read more »
Craig Calcaterra
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Craig Calcaterra
“That sounds naive, I know. But John Rocker was run out of the sport for being a bigot, something that has no impact on the game on the field and is, in fact, Constitutionally protected.” Actually, John Rocker wasn’t run out of the game because he was a bigot.  His racist comments came prior to the 2000 season. In 2000 he had 24 saves, an ERA under 3.00, and retained the closer roll for the Braves all season.  He was run out of the game because over the following three seasons he (a) hurt his arm; (b) lost velocity; and… Read more »
Pete Toms
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Pete Toms
I don’t think I “get it” because I’m not an American.  What baseball means to America, the purity of the game, the national pastime etc.  Olney asked a question this week that has been posed many times; why do we get so upset about roids in baseball and not in football?  You don’t hear or read the same bleating about the shame brought on the game, yada yada.  It’s a good question. I’ve read that baseball represents the American myth and football represents the American reality, or somethin like that….is that it?  I think we see that represented in American… Read more »
Pete Toms
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Pete Toms

Woops forgot…Richard in Dallas…you are the most important role model for your boy and I suspect a damn fine one.

Jack Marshall
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Jack Marshall

The reason is, though some people like to pretend it isn’t, is that baseball is connected to America’s culture, history and values through tradition and literature in ways that football and other sports are not. There is no “Field of Dreams” or “The Natural” about the NFL.

It has zero to do with race.

Sara K
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Sara K
@ Jack Far be it from me to speak for Craig, but I get the sense that he and other like-minded fans are not saying “don’t try to eliminate steroids from baseball.”  What we tire of is the sanctimonious posturing that inevitably occurs in reaction to “new” steroid stories – which is exactly what was happening in the article Craig was responding to. What’s wrong with a rational, cool-headed, realistic approach to reform?  Why does it have to be couched in moralistic bluster?  And why make a straw-man of Craig’s post? @ Pete – as so often happens, the clearest… Read more »
john Henning
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john Henning
What I enjoy about this site, and this is a credit to Craig really, is the level of respect in the comments. Richard in Dallas makes a comment that runs counter to Craig’s post (and I would imagine runs partially against the viewpoint of many of his readers) and the responses are respectful and thoughtful. Add to this Richard’s own respectful responses to those responses, AND the fact the Pete Toms can make a politically incorrect but interesting and important comment without being attacked and you have the makings of a pretty darn good community I’d say. Sara K and… Read more »
Jack Marshall
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Jack Marshall

“So you’re interested in who inherited better genes, instead?”

As rejoinders go, that one is pretty lame. I think it’s fairly well documented that a lot more goes into being a successful ballplayer than “good genes,” and that factors like hard work, practice, dedication, focus and training can make up for a lack of superior physical ability. And all of them are a credit to the individual athlete’s character and determination. See: Outfielder Michael Jordan, Infielder Pete Rose; Outfielder Clint Hurdle; Infielder John Kruk.

Richard In Dallas
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Richard In Dallas
Neil:  Absolutely!  Physical competition is supposed to be just that.  It’s about being blessed with the gifts necessary to compete at the highest level, and having the character, from a young age, to develop those gifts.  The character part comes from upbringing, as well as the foresight on the parents’ part to provide the physical, emotional and moral guidance to succeed at the sport for which they are best suited.  The addition of chemicals to the competitors body, while providing a short term edge, is sure to cause problems for the users later in life (think Lyle Alzado).  While the… Read more »
Neil Stevens
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Neil Stevens

However all of the things that hard work, practice, dedication, focus, and training give you are things that are not given to you by steroids.

You still have to lift weights a lot.  You still have to watch what you eat.  You still have to take lots of BP.  You still have to research your pitchers.  You still have to know the strike zone.  You still have to keep conditioned.  You still have to show up every day and grind it out.

Richard In Dallas
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Richard In Dallas
Neil: I get it that you still have to work hard when using PEDs.  And I see your point that what they basically do is give you what genes didn’t.  But look at it this way: If SOME players use, and take away the genetic advantage that others may have, eventually, those that no longer HAVE that advantage will be pressured to use to regain the advantage that God gave them.  Eventually, what you have is the same balance of abilities that you had in the beginning, but everyone playing will suffer pain and disfigurement later in life and die… Read more »
Neil Stevens
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Neil Stevens

You raise an excellent point Richard.  If everyone has to do it, then it’s not going to go away.

On the other hand, you already have to do major league damage to your arm in order to be a major league pitcher.

So while I can buy the argument that we should ban PEDs to keep that sort of thing from happening, what I don’t buy is that the game would be anywhere near pure with respect to the players and their health without them.

Richard In Dallas
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Richard In Dallas

Neil: With respect to damaging an arm in order to pitch, see drmikemarshall.com.  It’s all in the mechanics.

As far as purity goes, no kidding.  There are evils everywhere.  Therefore, you have to pick your battles.  This is my battle.

Sara K
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Sara K
VanderBirch – Amen, particularly on points 5 and 6.  Changing behaviors requires understanding of the information, of the motivation, and of the consequences.  Neither stricter rules nor moral judgments alone can effectively address a complex and pervasive issue like PED use.  This thread was originally about the rhetorical value of a particular column.  I would definitely like to see links to any story where the writer is not offering a simplistic moral view (or equally simplistic refrain from judgment), but saying “This is one place where the current policy lags, and here are some suggestions for making it better.”  Your… Read more »
Dave Studeman
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Dave Studeman

Awesomely good post, VanderBirch. And I don’t mean to single just you out. I have to say that, over all, this is one of the best threads I have read about steroids.

Jack Marshall
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Jack Marshall
1. a) I said that violating the law is inherently wrong. That is true, unless the violator is engaged in some form of civil disobedience, in which case A-Rod would take steroids, put out a press release declaring so and announce, “I believe the law prohibiting this is wrong, I am defying it, and will accept whatever punishment I receive!” Fat chance. Laws ARE a declaration by society that particular behavior is harmful to that society and undesirable. Until society changes its conclusion and hence the law, a law-breaker is violating a social norm and doing what his society has… Read more »
William J.
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William J.
Two points: 1) It is silly to suggest that the commissioner invoke “best interest of the game powers” to ban players who use steroids because MLB has a CBA with defined penalties for steroid use. If Selig attempted to do as you suggest, MLB would be sued and eventually forced to pay monstrous penalties once they were blown out of court. Comparisons to Judge Landis are irrelevant because he ruled over the game at a time when the players had no organization. As we know, that isn’t the case now. The MLBPA is strong and vibrant, and has proven very… Read more »
VanderBirch
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VanderBirch
Nice post William J. Regarding PED’s, I’d like to add that the stigmatism of such substances tends to be harmful to informed discourse on the subject. I’m no postmodernist, but the line between what is acceptable and what is not is very hazy. Consequently the notion that using steroids is inherently wrong is something of a construction. Lasik eye surgery is performance enhancing but is considered acceptable. No one finds injured pitchers getting tommy john surgery problematic. Weight lifting and conditioning work change the physiology of an athletes body but are perceived as signs of a good work ethic, not… Read more »
Jack Marshall
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Jack Marshall
“Consequently the notion that using steroids is inherently wrong is something of a construction.” 1.) Your mostly rational post is marred by this persistent mistatement. Using steroids is against the law (and was so in the 80’s, when they first came in), SPECIFICALLY against the rules since the early 90’s and is thus cheating, because players who don’t violate the law and rules won’t and can’t use them. Thus using steroids is cheating. CHEATING is inherently wrong. 2.) Lying to conceal one’s own cheating, avoid punishment, and continue to have an edge over non-cheating players is also inherently wrong. 3.)… Read more »
Neil Stevens
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Neil Stevens

“I’m not interested in who can hire a better chemist.”

So you’re interested in who inherited better genes, instead?

VanderBirch
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VanderBirch
1.) Just because steroids are illegal does not make them ‘inherently wrong’. Alchohol is a highly destructive drug, yet it is legal. Steroids are illegal, but there is considerable evidence to suggest that if used correctly (and granted, many athletes totally have totally disregarded this fact and ruined their own health) they are not particularly dangerous. I think, quite rationally, one can argue that like alchohol, steroids should be legal for adults capable of weighing up the dangers of their use. What makes unprescribed steroid usage wrong is the legal status of these drugs (which is largely unenforced on individual… Read more »
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