Monday, November 16, 2005

Knock, knock. Hear that Mr. Selig? That's Congress knocking on your front door to enforce a stricter anti-steroid program in your sport. Of course you, and MLBPA representative Donald Fehr are going to comply: a player is suspended 50 games for the first positive test, 100 for the second, and barred indefinitely from the sport for a third. Don't forget to lock up once your dinner date with Congress is over.

Bud Selig

Finally, according to some, baseball will return to its better days, days when sacrifice bunts etched more marks in the box score than homeruns. Days when fans had similar bicep sizes as the game's top sluggers. It's hard for some to let go of the past, and they've gone ahead and dug it back up from its grave. It's not that they envied all of the green overflowing Selig's wallet during the "Steroid Era" (they were pretty much oblivious to that fact, most likely), it's that people want to see a more intellectual game played. It wouldn't be the first time a sport has flexed to suit the strategical thinkers: football not so long ago instituted the recently famed two-point conversion after a touchdown.

If you wanted baseball to become more of a thinking man's game again, why not just phase out the American League's designated hitter? With a pitcher - stereotypically a weak hitter - in the lineup, the sacrifice bunt would return. Strikeouts in clutch situations would rise, and the final scores would read "1-0" more often. It's hard to tell what America wants, it wasn't happy that the NHL frequently posted low-scoring affairs, describing it so vividly as "boring" and "lifeless". But Congress, speaking on behalf of America, told baseball to get off the performance-enhancers or else.

John McCain

Or else what? You'll continue to waste the time of Congressmen, Bud Selig, and on down to the television, magazine, and newspaper crews who have to report all this? They must have forgotten about a place called the Middle East, where a hearty portion of American forces continue to fight so that Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) can throw his arms up every time a player admits to juicing up. Baseball needs steroids, and more importantly, America needs steroids.

Not so long ago, following a nightmare of a 1994 lockout that cut a season of baseball short, baseball was on its knees begging its fans for forgiveness. After four years of watching fans toss in their baseball caps for football helmets, baseball got its wish granted by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, an androstendione and corked bat user, respectively. They piled up homerun after homerun all the way down to the 162nd game of the season to bring the sport back into television sets in America's living rooms. We loved the homerun; the longer, the better.

And then it came crashing down. After Barry Bonds swatted 73 homeruns in 2003, suspicions floated around that he wasn't hitting homeruns naturally, and the finger-pointing was extended to most of the other prominent sluggers in the league, including Yankees Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi. Books were written, testimonies were leaked, and baseball was surely headed down some familiar tubes, but then a 10/30/60 plan was instituted before the 2005 season, and slowly but surely, players were weeded out for trying to play their best. First it was Tampa Bay's Alex Sanchez, then was eventually highlighted by Baltimore first baseman Rafael Palmeiro's positive test. And it wasn't just hitters who were getting caught, pitchers were using them too, just ask Seattle's Ryan Franklin.

But why focus just on steroids as performance-enhancers? Why not go ahead and outlaw Cortizone injections? They allow a player to recover from and play with injuries just like steroids. How about banning weight-lifting and protein shakes? They add muscle mass just as easily as steroids do. While you're at it, disable players from smoking and drinking, for they are just as detrimental to one's health as steroids can be (if not more). These athletes are adults, they should be able to dictate what gets put in their bodies.

Players will always try to find an edge any way they can, and banning steroids won't stop unfair play. Over the years, we've seen pitchers use spit, pine tar, and even their own finger nails to get a better grip and/or better aerodynamics on the baseball. We've seen batters bone their bats, or give them a polyurethane coating to make them harder, and we've certainly seen players who have corked their bats by hollowing out the center. You can't stop cheating, not until you standardize everything in baseball, such as allowing players to only use a proportionally-sized bat (according to height and arm length), and allowing them only to eat certain foods so as to curb muscle cell reproduction. It may even get so bad as to standardize the height and weight of the ballplayers, because certainly the smaller guys will feel sleighted by the bigger guys. Or maybe it will be the bigger guys feeling sleighted because they run the basepaths much slower and have limited range.


If Congress is involved to save America's youth, it, nor baseball, should be doing the parenting. It should be the parents. Some kids are impressionable, and will take steroids as soon as they hear their hero ballplayer is testifying in a Supreme Court case involving BALCO. Good, and if he dies, it will be because of "Survival of the Fittest". The kid had weak parents and a weak will to go along with a weak mind, the country is better off that way. I'm sure the sport's public image is way at the top of Bud Selig's priorities list, but it shouldn't stretch so far as to affect the outcome of a child's life. Instead of focusing on these kids popping performance-enhancers, Congress should be focused on improving public education so that we can inform these kids about steroids, rather than completely shutting that road down. If, after being given adequate information on steroids, the kid still wants to use them, that should be his decision. And if the players want a level playing field, they should join the party or work harder.

It sure is easy to shun science when it has negative effects, but don't tell that to the millions of people gulping down each prescription drug they seem to come up with every day of the year. Nexium, Viagra, Adderall, Allegra, Crestor. You name it, it's being gulped down somewhere in America. Aren't those performance enhancing, just like steroids? I don't think Bob with the corner office ought to be able to come back from fierce heartburn so quickly just by taking Nexium. Nor should his daughter Cindy be able to ace all her tests in school just by taking Adderall. Oh, what's that? Bob just got a raise for increasing company production 65.75% and his daughter got a full ride to Harvard for acing the SAT? That's life, and life isn't fair.