The Tenth Inning Week 11 – Steroids ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>
By Mike Ivcic
By now, you’ve all likely read stories of the “Biogenesis 20,” the list of players suspected of receiving performance enhancing drugs and/or supplements from Tony Bosch. I’m not a lawyer, I’m not a union rep (thankfully), and I’m not part of MLB’s vast investigative team, so were I to try to write anything tangible about the investigation or case proceedings of any sort, it would really be a rather pointless attempt at speculation as opposed to any sort of concrete analysis based on any relevant information.
So instead of that, I will instead pose a question, and then provide an answer. Consider this, if you will, my attempt at a mini-baseball thesis. Remember back to grade school with the scientific method? It’s a little like that, and it starts with a question â what will the lasting effect of the “Biogenesis 20” investigation be, regardless of the end result?
The next step is to gather data. For that, let’s start by comparing apples to apples, i.e. past results of similar attempts to ban the use of performance enhancing drugs within the game of baseball itself. Clearly, if Alex Rodriguez is, in fact, part of the Bosch clientele, then baseball’s current “3 strikes” system of 50-game ban, 100-game ban, lifetime ban is not enough of a deterrent to stop the best player in the entire sport to use PED’s – after already admitting to using them once and then denying any continued use! Really, there’s no need to look any further than A-Roid… err… A-Rod… to see that the league and union are using a preventative system of punishment that doesn’t exactly scare some of the game’s premier players.
Beyond Rodriguez, though, there have still been some marquee players caught for using PED’s since the implementation of steroid testing in the middle part of the 00’s. Melkey Cabrera, Carlos Ruiz, and Manny Ramirez are the first names that come to mind. All were suspended by MLB for violating the league’s drug policy, and a number of other players saw their production drop significantly in 2008 and 2009, the first two years following the full-scale testing regulations. So it worked for some and not for others â and likewise, some got caught and some did not. Still, the fact that baseball has still had to deal with regular, full-time starters on big league clubs getting suspended for steroids is a clear sign that the PED issue isn’t really solved in any tangible way.
Baseball’s also not the only sport dealing with this issue – in fact, by all accounts it’s significantly worse in football than any other sport. Even the threat of losing a quarter of the season isn’t enough for some players, and the NFL has routinely been forced to suspend some of its more well-known players for four games for “violating the league’s drug policy,” and means it’s a player’s second failed test. There are no public repercussions for the first violation whatsoever, and yet not a season goes by where at least half a dozen teams have to play without a top performer for four games, with most of those suspensions PED-related. If anything, baseball’s penal system is actually ahead of football’s – and that’s saying a great deal.
So now, the hypothesis. What will we actually be testing, now that we’ve delineated the issues that professional sports, and specifically baseball, are still facing with regards to steroids? Well, I have two distinctly different theories – one dire, one not so much. The dire situation is a league-union standoff that has been mentioned by some of the more cynical media prognosticators. After all, players are always looking for an advantage, so they’re not typically warm to the idea of MLB invading their privacy for additional testing or any enhancement of the current process in any way. They want to find the loophole, not close it. Meanwhile the league is clearly going to suffer an image crisis if players continue to get caught using PED’s, so Bud Selig and his crew are certainly well within their reasonable minds to attack this head-on. If neither side budges, however, it could lead to a labor dispute and, ultimately, the loss of games. Baseball’s currently second to the NFL in the longest current streak of not losing games to any sort of issue between players and owners or players and the league, but this is definitely a subject with the potential to drive a wedge between the camps and lead to just that outcome.
More likely and less “dire,” though, is that we all just grow tired enough of this subject that everyone gives a little bit, and people like me who are still on the young side of 30 will look back when we’re Selig’s age and wonder why this was ever a controversy in the first place. I’m not saying that’s a good thing – in fact, I would argue quite the contrary – but it’s the most reasonable outcome. Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Clemens – they’ll all eventually get into Cooperstown, despite whatever Joe Morgan and Frank Thomas would like to think. They don’t belong there, but they’ll be there. Steroids will remain a part of the game as players continue to push the envelope looking for more and more advantages, and as the public grows increasingly weary, the owners and the league will have no choice but to allow them to stay because interest will wane in the sport otherwise. It’s the plague of the American population, and it’s called apathy. And it would be death to baseball, or any other sport that succumbed to perceived pressure to end the steroid debate the easy way, instead of the hard way.
And the final hypothesis? Well, maybe that the situation described as “dire” above may actually be less so than what would, on the surface, seem to be the preferred alternative. Because something gained easily isn’t usually something worth fighting for, and if the integrity of baseball isn’t worth fighting for, then why are we watching?
Consider this day one of the final sports experiment – and for the sake of sports, I’ll take the hard way.
Playoff “Dead” List
Three series to watch this week…
Three series to watch this weekend…
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