Thursday, December 13, 2007

Steroid-Powered Rocket to Rescue of Barry Bonds?

The Mitchell Report, detailing widespread steroid use by Major League Baseball players, may carry a silver lining for Barry Bonds. In addition to the obvious juicers---sluggers like Bonds, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, Sammy Sosa---the report names, indeed headlines with, pitcher Roger Clemens. It also names pitchers Andy Petttite, Jason Grimsley, Steve Bechler (who died in spring training in 2003), Ron Villone and others as users of performance-enhancing substances.

The report (and I confess to not having read all 311 pages plus appendices) suggests at one point that pitchers started taking performance-enhancing drugs in earnest once it became apparent that juiced hitters had gotten the advantage. And for some players, at least, the drugs pretty clearly worked. For example, the report indicates that Clemens had his best seasons while on the 'roids.

So how does this report help Barry Bonds? Well, not at all in his perjury case. The fact that "everybody was doing steroids" is not a defense to a charge of lying about his own use. But in terms of his legacy, it is now open to Bonds and his supporters (if he has any) to say: 1) There is no reason (other than that you don't like Barry Bonds as a person) to single Bonds out as having gained unfair advantages over other hitters in his era because so many of them were doing the same thing; and 2) Relative to batters of earlier eras, it's true that Bonds had the advantage of a juiced body (not to mention his head and neck) but he had the disadvantage of having to face juiced pitchers. So, all in all, a terrible day for baseball's public image, but not so bad a day for Barry Bonds.

Posted by Mike Dorf


egarber said...

Well, at least this takes the focus off the Falcons' troubles (my team). Hopefully we'll be able to snag Bill Cowher while nobody's watching :)

PG said...

pitchers started taking performance-enhancing drugs in earnest once it became apparent that juiced hitters had gotten the advantage

That goes against your second points in Bonds's favor. If he started juicing before the pitchers did, then he was just getting an unfair advantage on them. Indeed, one could argue that the juiced hitters drove the pitchers into using steroids. This seems to make a further argument for Why Drugs R Bad: not only do you set a bad example for kiddies, you apparently set a bad example for the grown men facing you.

AF said...

not only do you set a bad example for kiddies, you apparently set a bad example for the grown men facing you.

According to published accounts, this is why Barry himself started taking steroids. It drove him crazy to see Sosa and McGwire, two inferior players, get all the attention.

Neal said...

If Clemens stays retired this time, and Bonds does not find an owner willing to put up with the circus that surrounds him next season, both Clemens and Bonds will be on the same Hall of Fame Ballot (5 years after retirement). Because both are equally Hall of Fame worthy (or not, if you weigh the steroid allegations against them), one can only hope that the voters treat them that way.

I hope, for the game and our culture's sake, that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are treated similarly. A federal indictment for Bonds has little to do with his culpability for the HOF.

egarber said...

So I don't see ARod on the list (I don't think). It would be interesting if he's cleared in all of this.

If so, and if he sets big-time records, that'll be a pretty good story: a guy hanging out with a bunch of cheaters STILL has a better career.

Nathan said...

I really wish someone would actually publish the work out routines that these guys did while on the juice. I say that because all of the players named worked incredibly hard to be the best performers in their sport, and much much harder than the supposed athletes playing baseball in earlier eras. Steroids don't make you look like Barry Bonds unless you're an absolute monster in the gym--they just allow you to be even more of a monster in the gym than you could be otherwise. They don't let you take days off.

I realize that someone might say "but, why should someone have to sacrifice their health by using 'roids to be competitive in professional baseball--thats unfair." Well, I would respond with "why do you draw the line at 'roids' when nearly everything else about the life of a professional athlete, baseball players included, is really bad for your health. Athletics at that level puts a tremendous amount of stress on your body beyond the point of being beneficial to your health.

And, this isn't unique to athletics. High achievers in all domains experience detrimental levels of stress and their health suffers as a result. And many turn to legal chemical aids to help them perform. Perscription sleep aids, anti-anxiety drugs, etc. are widely used by people of import to manage their demanding careers. What's so different about taking steroids to overcome your natural physical limitations?

I'm not saying that drug use is a good thing in either domain as much as suggesting we shouldn't be myopic in how we approach this issue. Otherwise we end up drawing arbitrary lines and unfairly targeting certain people for heightened scrutiny.

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