August 6, 2009

Bill James Sold His Soul

You aren't supposed to say bad things about the beloved Bill James, the ex-boiler-room attendant who revolutionized the interpretation of baseball statistics, but now that he has finally spoken up on the issue of steroids in baseball, I have to say that his head-in-the-sand, don't-rock-the-boat act over the last 21 years has been disgraceful.

For example, his New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract of 2001 mentions steroids maybe twice, in passing, in 1012 pages.

By largely staying mum on the impact of steroids on baseball statistics since the topic first became widely discussed when Jose Canseco enjoyed the first 40-homer 40-steal season in 1988, James got himself a nice front-office job with the Boston Red Sox, and got to be part of World Champions in 2004 and 2007, teams whose biggest stars, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, were found to be on the juice in the 2003 test.

So, what does James have to say for himself now about his silence? Well, not much. Instead, he's written complacently, in "Cooperstown and the 'Roids," about how all the notorious drug cheats of the last two decades will eventually be enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
But it wasn’t really an issue of some players gaining an advantage by the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs; it is an issue of many players using Performance Enhancing drugs in competition with one another. Nobody knows how many. It would be my estimate that it was somewhere between 40 and 80%. The discrimination against PED users in Hall of Fame voting rests upon the perception that this was cheating. But is it cheating if one violates a rule that nobody is enforcing, and which one may legitimately see as being widely ignored by those within the competition?

Hey, thanks for giving us that 40% to 80% estimate in 2009, Mr. Baseball Statistics Guru!

Moreover, that's a misleading way to phrase it. Perhaps 40% to 80% tried drugs at one point or another, but it's clear that 40% to 80% of the man-years weren't enhanced. Otherwise, we wouldn't see so many silly anomalies when players went on the juice, like Brady Anderson's 50 homers, or Ken Caminiti's second half of 1996.

Consider Barry Bonds. We have the full inside story on Bonds, and he comes out looking a little better than his public image would suggest. We now know he didn't touch performance enhancing drugs during his first 13 seasons, 1986-1998. From 1990-1993 he was the best player in the National League each year, and from 1994 to 1998, he was the second to fourth best player each year. If, say, 60% of his competition was on the juice, how could he compete with them?

During the 1998 season, obvious juicers Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa got all that publicity for "restoring the innocence to the game," and nobody paid attention to Barry's usual monster season (.303 BA, 37 HR, 122 RBI, 120 runs, 130 walks, 44 doubles, 7 triples, 28 stolen bases, .438 on-base average, .609 slugging average, 1.047 OPS, 178 OPS+). If Barry had retired right then, he would have been a first ballot Hall-of-Famer.

Instead, resentful of the lack of press appreciation he got compared to what the cheaters got, he started dabbling with drugs in 1999, got good with them in 2000, and great with them in 2001 through 2004. When Bonds hit 73 homers in 2001 (previous career high 46 when he was eight years younger), it was perfectly obvious that he was cheating, but Bill James preferred to talk about Bonds' new maplewood bat, telling the WSJ in 2007:
I strongly suspect that the influence of steroids on hitting numbers is greatly overstated by the public. ...I've never understood why nobody writes about it, but the bats are very different now than they were 20 years ago. [Barry] Bonds's bats are still different from everybody else's.

Yeah, sure, if only I'd gotten me one of those special bats when I was 39, major league pitchers would have issued me 232 walks, too.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

82 comments:

Anonymous said...

World class sports are all about determining the limits of human performance. If drugs improve performance and you aren't in jail, you should be able to compete. That goes for baseball football, Tour de France, Olympics, whatever. Levels the playing field for certain and provides a better show. Darwin will establish the "controls"...

Anonymous said...

Steve,
I know that some of your libertarian readers will tell us that there is no problem, but there is. Using steroids is a case of cheating to gain a competitive advantage and it isn't fair to the non-cheaters. I'm not a doctor or a scientist with relevant expertise, but its been suggested that steroids do have side-effects, (such as mood disorder in the short term and liver damage in the long term). This possibility is why most people don't want to take them, and why many athletes don't want them to be come de rigeur for athletes, and they would if the cheaters aren't dealt with (harshly i might add).

Mike M said...

As a long term Californian now living in Red Sox Nation, I am pleased that some of the quant analysis of Money Ball is working out. After all, we get to watch Youk on a regular basis. Sure, he strikes out too much, but he also has an OBP 100 pts above his average, which is generally above .300. He hits for power, and, in a way not scored by James or others, he hustles all the time, and works hard in the field, including not just 3rd and 1st, but tonight left field against the Evil Empire.

OK, he pissed Manny off, but hustle and no hustle don't get along.

Subcomandante Dave said...

I remember when the line was "steroids can't help you hit the ball." Not only do they, they help you throw the ball and apparently HGH helps you to see the ball better too.

OK I read Bill James' piece; I detect libertarianism and atheism:

"Is it fair to Will Clark to compare him to players who chose to cheat in order to move beyond that level? No, it is not. Absolutely, it is not.

But the critical issue is, Is this cheating? If you choose to regard it as cheating, if you choose not to support the Hall of Fame candidacy of a
steroid user because you regard it as cheating, I would not argue with you. I think that Will Clark has a perfect right to feel that he was cheated out of a fair chance to compete for honors in his time, and, if you choose to look at it from the standpoint of Will Clark, I don’t think that you are wrong to do so."

No, Bill, the "critical issue" is not IF this is cheating. It is cheating, no "if" about it. It's not something normal people merely "regard as cheating", nihilist not-gettin'-any nerd, it IS cheating.

People who say that roiders were cheaters are making a choice, you see, and James very generously chooses not to argue with you. Right and wrong are merely a choice in the opinion one chooses, or so amoral asshat James would have you believe.

I lay ten to one he's an atheist and a libertarian, I can spot 'em from light years away. They're not just amoral; they're stridently opposed to the idea of morality, and view the very word as a pejorative.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for touching this topic, Steve.

It has always bothered me how James and his followers are so insightful about so many facets of the game but don't understand that the proliferation of performance-enhancing drugs will kill the game by making the public lose interest in it.

I think the sabermetricians' outright support of steroid use comes from their obsession with winning. The whole point of their enterprise was to come up with analytic tools for figuring out what helped a team win and what didn't. Every time they challenged the conventional wisdom of the inside-baseball lifers, it was pretty much to point out that some popularly glorified aspect of the game (like the SB) doesn't really help you win very much, while underappreciated skills (like getting a lot of walks) really do. That's obviously a valuable contribution since everyone plays the game to win, but I think somewhere the lines got blurred and they went from thinking "walks help you win, therefore they're good" to "steroids help you win, therefore they're good."

This kind of fixation with winning sounds natural but it's actually rather peculiar. I regularly read a bunch of blogs by Bill James's followers and I'm not sure I could tell you what most of their favorite teams are. They don't root for the home team or any other favorite team; they just root for winning baseball, and any team that wins is covered approvingly. There is something deeply disturbing about someone who can intensely watch a Red Sox/Yankees game without having any preference about the outcome.

Ian said...

Steve - as an SF Giants fan, I feel that our man Barry has already had waaaay too much negative attention on him, relative to all the other stars who now it turns out were on the juice as well. When BLB was going for his various records, opposing fans and the national media were rabid in calling him names, singling him out for negative attention, trying to break his concentration.

Luckily (or unluckily), he had the personality type that fed off that sort of confrontation. But it still seems unfair to me that he was (and, in your article, still is) such the poster child for PEDs, when, clearly, so many other dudes were doing it too - Sosa, McGuire, Palmiero, Manny, Papi, IRod, ARod, Tejada, Giambi, Clements, Palmiero, Pettite, Glaus, Piazza, Lo Duca, Sheff, Mo Vaughn, Gagne, Kevin Brown, etc etc

I mean what were Barry's biggest misdeeds? Besides being a surly, angry, and difficult personality, seems to me his biggest offense (relative to so many his peers) was being superhumanly, unbelievably, intimiadatingly good at the game. And, as someone who followed the team, yes his late career surge was clearly chemically enhanced. But a big part of it too was that the guy had a fitness routine like nobody's business - he worked out about as solidly as a human is capable of doing.

So - maybe it's time to find a different angle than the same one we've been hearing for ten years now - Barry Bonds as the face of steroid use. There are plenty of candidates for that crown now.

Eric said...

I know that some of your libertarian readers will tell us that there is no problem, but there is. Using steroids is a case of cheating to gain a competitive advantage and it isn't fair to the non-cheaters.

I used to be in this camp, but the question is if the rules are strictly enforced, are we going to benefit the people who don't cheat or the the people who are good at cheating?

Geoffrey Falk said...

"Manny Rodriguez"? You may want to double-check that name, Steve.

Anonymous said...

What's next, old-timer? You gonna ban people from the Hall for "stealing" bases? Everybody does it!

Seriously, though, we're going to have to accept this era for what it is. We can't say that everyone who did 'roids should be banned. Induct Pete Rose, pardon everyone else, and let the best of the best in. Put the asterisks next to the numbers, not the names.

James Kabala said...

"There is something deeply disturbing about someone who can intensely watch a Red Sox/Yankees game without having any preference about the outcome."

Wasn't this considered the sportswriting/sportscasting ideal long before sabermetrics? The old slogan was "no cheering in the press box." "Homer" sportscasters were common but often viewed with disdain. Red Barber believed that Russ Hodges's famous "The Giants win the pennant! The Giants win the pennant!" call was highly unprofessional. Barber's view was that Hodges may have been a Giants employee, but should not have let on that he wanted the Giants to win.

Dave: I don't know much about Bill James's political or religious views (I believe he once boringly claimed to be a centrist in politics; no idea about religion), but he is married with several (four?) children, so he has been able to get any.

Zylonet said...

--I know that some of your libertarian readers will tell us that there is no problem, but there is. Using steroids is a case of cheating to gain a competitive advantage and it isn't fair to the non-cheaters. I'm not a doctor or a scientist with relevant expertise, but its been suggested that steroids do have side-effects, (such as mood disorder in the short term and liver damage in the long term). This possibility is why most people don't want to take them, and why many athletes don't want them to be come de rigeur for athletes, and they would if the cheaters aren't dealt with (harshly i might add).--

I don't know if this is a repost since Chrome fizzled out.

In any case, your logic is flawed. PEDs should be viewed in the same light as corrective eyewear and Lasik. Here is an excerpt I wrote on Steroid Nation (the excerpt does not directly address your point, but close enough):

From a natural law perspective what matters is that PEDs are effectively the same as corrective lenses or surgery. Both change the natural performance basis of the athlete. So basically your argument rests upon the use of positive law, and requires ignoring the obvious hypocrisy of the logic under natural law. By this measure, we can conclude that if the agencies who determined the rules said that blacks need not apply, for any covey of reasons, then you would vigorously advocate for following the new “positive law.” Arguing that the rules should be followed because they are the rules is hardly an argument that others should respect. History has proven time and again that bad laws are constantly passed and enforced. The question is how can you vigorously advocate for rules that clearly allow some men to achieve an advantage over others, but deny other men similar enhancement.

end


In the same post that goes on for some length, I address all of your other points. You can check them if you like and get a different perspective.
http://grg51.typepad.com/steroid_nation/2009/06/danica-patrick-gets-caught-in-typical-thinking-it-aint-cheating-unless-you-get-caught.html#comments

I would advise anyone who actually cares about truth and justice, to consider the massive suffering that is perpetuated by the lie that androgens are bad. People want to believe steroids are bad, even in moderation, because the topic is very hard to penetrate and research. So it's easy to claim they are dangerous because "that is what the government says." Pathetic. There is more danger without TRT than with TRT.

Anonymous said...

"I mean what were Barry's biggest misdeeds?"

The problem with Bonds is that he has put some quite possibly indelible marks in the record books. If the Steroids Era had come and gone without fundamentally altering the history of the game, it would be much easier to let it go. But Bonds' name in the books is our everlasting reminder.

Anonymous said...

With tongue in cheek, one wonders if the reason that Bill James wants to do away with discrimination based upon steroid testing is the disparate impact on Hispanic minorities, especially Dominicans, of the current and recent tests.

Seriously, you hit the nail on the head: Bill James has been amply rewarded for his silence on the issue. All of the major sabermetric writers were blabbing about the bats, the baseballs, the park dimensions, and pointing out that there was no evidence that steroids even improved performance. My understanding is that MLB may have suggested that writers more critical of steroid use might get less access to interviews, which would be a very strong disincentive in a field such as sports journalism where casual readers value routine trite quotes more than serious analysis. A few sabermetric writers, including Bill James, were rewarded with positions in MLB Front Offices, either for their analysis or for the chance to control their writing more directly. Notably, in a field where every nuance of the game is studied so carefully, there was no serious attempt to quantify the amount by which PED use improved play on average. There are now almost 50 MLB players with careers including parts of ten or more seasons who are implicated as PED users, and those known users with long careers had career peaks two years later than the norm for MLB players, with peaks 20% higher than their third-best seasons. That's my own research, done with little more than search engines, Excel, and a handful of hours of time. Many serious sabermetric writers, with their databases and connections, could have done far better, and readers would have been happy to purchase such research. That none of them try anything more precise than a 40-80% estimate of use, without any corroborating evidence, suggests that the writers, as a group, were bought off.

There's a different coverup going on right now in MLB. Stat splits are very popular: how do pitchers do against particular hitters, how do hitters do against particular pitchers, and how players do against particular teams can all be determined by the use of databases of games and play-by-play info. There's one split that you won't find anyplace, though: the splits of umpires calling pitches by hitter, pitcher, or team. MLB has left the umpires' names off the Pitch f/x database, but it wouldn't take too much work for a pro to merge information from the Retrosheet database into the Pitch f/x database to create such splits by call error rate, showing umpires' bias (or lack thereof) precisely. MLB has passed the word to the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR), however, that if any such work is published the Pitch f/x database will be pulled from the web. A few of the leading researchers in the field were scooped away by MLB, and one writer, Josh Kalk, removed several posts on exactly this issue, apparently as a term of his employment. MLB teams are allegedly not allowed to use the Pitch f/x database in any way to determine the characteristics of umpires.

Interestingly, when the topic of steroids or umpire bias are brought up around those associated peripherally with MLB, I find that the response is an ad hominem attack. I'm thinking that it's a sign of our times: when individuals do serious research that demonstrates and quantifies that an alleged prejudice is actually a documented fact, the researchers are demonized. When those who could do research instead offer excuses, platitudes and praise, they are rewarded for their loyalty.

In the Golden Age of Baseball, baseball defined America. Perhaps we have not come too far from that time in more ways than we realize.

Anonymous said...

Brady Anderson, Steve. Not Grady.

Brady...

josh said...

That would be BRADY Anderson, Steve. There have also been a number of sabermetricians that have taken over for James and greatly improved on his work. My understanding is that steriod can't account for the entirety of the offensive levels in part because the jump was too sudden. Don't get me wrong, I don't like cheaters.

Anonymous said...

"I lay ten to one he's an atheist and a libertarian, I can spot 'em from light years away. They're not just amoral; they're stridently opposed to the idea of morality, and view the very word as a pejorative."

So judging by your comment and your blog, you're a Christian who can't get laid?

DCThrowback said...

For a balanced look at steroid usage, I highly recommend "Bigger, Stronger, Faster*" in which Chris Bell looks at the history of PEDs, how they fit in with our culture and the effects they had on those who have used them.

I will say that after watching it I became a bit more libertarian in my views of their usage.

Furthermore, I disagree with take that that people will be less interested in baseball if everyone used PEDs. People will pay to see excellence in any form.

I am surprised no one brought up James' final point - that in fifty years citizens will be wondering why we didn't use these drugs (HGH, steroids) sooner.

Anonymous123 said...

Bob sprints 100m in 19.8 seconds. He's out of shape with his office job and all that. At 17 he could just manage 11.8 seconds.

Wishing his youth to return -- and more; he takes 100mg of Chlorowtfazpine and runs 100m in 4.5 seconds. Wins Olympic Gold. At 52.

Hooray! Forget the drug: it's like corrective eyewear. And that flying Formula One aircraft, I mean car, won legitimately...

Anonymous said...

I think the most important part of the article is James' point about how steroids will eventually get to the point that they have NO negative side effects. Everyone takes caffeine today, and everyone will take steroids then. I don't really care about baseball, though I do agree with the person above who wrote that once we have the cheat codes, baseball may be less interesting. But if these athletes are guinea pigs so that the rest of us can eventually be muscular and healthy well into our fifties without working out...well, that's fine by me!


This fits with another theme of your writing. I've been reading you for more than 10 years and have noticed that you've become less interested in genetics and more in immigration. Also less optimistic about genetics. Is that fair to say? I'd like to hear your thoughts on why you changed, or whether you think you've changed.

For example, would you say that you've changed your mind since this article:

http://www.isteve.com/Thatcher-Speech-Text.htm



Domestic scenes like this will ultimately revolutionize the human race more than the Internet, the atomic bomb, and the wheel all rolled into one. Through genetic selection and modification, we will be able to transform human nature, for better . . . or worse.

Subcomandante Dave said...

"So judging by your comment and your blog, you're a Christian who can't get laid?"

Fact: seven out of every three arguments which begin with the word "So" are garbage, yours is no exception.

"I know that some of your libertarian readers will tell us that there is no problem, but there is."

Looks like I'm not the only one who's on to libertarians; Anon smells what I'm cooking.

AllanF said...

Bill James in an enabler of the worst kind. There is a very interesting talk on cheating and people's reactions to it. Basically, if one can rationalize "everyone's doing it", one is incredibly more likely to cheat.

http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_ariely_on_our_buggy_moral_code.html

testing99 said...

Baseball is supposed to be a game of tradition, and fairness. Steroids destroys that, as most fans see Baseball as a competition based on who can inject the most junk in their body, baseball becomes like soccer or tennis or hockey. A minor sport of passing interest but not the National Past-time.

Of course, the widespread cheating allows a competitive edge. A team that suspects most of it's players are clean, say for example the San Diego Padres as a hypothetical, can early in the season, say around May, file a formal complaint with the Commissioner and release it to the Public, that a statistical analysis shows a high likelihood of say, several star and key players in the SF Giants organization (assume they are leading, Padres 2 or 3 in the division) are on the juice in violation of the rules.

Now an investigation has to be started, and anyone juicing has to lay off, along with controversy sure to break up concentration and start a slide. Particularly for juicers. You could even pull this with another team in another division, hoping to force a trade as they slide out of contention.

The opportunities for leverage PED if you are relatively clean and opponents are not are endless. Which makes legal maneuvering as important as what happens on the field, which in turn destroys fan interest.

Shouldn't it be between 1986-1998 for Barry Bonds 13 year period Steve? Typo? You have it listed as 1986-1988.

Anonymous said...

Gee Whiz, Steve, it's a huge negative overstatement to say Bill James sold his soul. I am know as a strong spiritual "black and white" type, a moral absolutist. This is baseball and while steroids help ruin my interest in the game, it is still a game. So Bill James makes a living crunching numbers and opining and doesn't bust a vein over steroids. It doesn't make him a bad man. Not everyone is called to be the voice crying in the wilderness. He specializes in dispassionate analysis, not sackcloth and ashes. This article is and attempt at objectivity. However read his original work, 20 or so years ago, condemning any move to put Joe Jackson in the Hall. The man has principles.

Victoria said...

I lay ten to one he's an atheist and a libertarian, I can spot 'em from light years away.

Gee, do atheists and libertarians get reported to a special Thought Police squad? Should we be grateful and relieved that you can "spot 'em?"

I am surprised no one brought up James' final point - that in fifty years citizens will be wondering why we didn't use these drugs (HGH, steroids) sooner.

James and you are so right. I say, in much less than 50 years.

Anonymous said...

"I lay ten to one he's an atheist and a libertarian, I can spot 'em from light years away. They're not just amoral; they're stridently opposed to the idea of morality, and view the very word as a pejorative"

The funny thing about atheists/libertarians like James is they don't believe in morality - but always get upset when you accuse them of being immoral.

Gosh, where's the cool, Spock-like Logic we expect our from village atheists?

Here's my suggestion, lets let all the players take drugs, AND use whatever size/type bat, glove, and ball they want. Why should it be be just about natural ability (and drugs)? Let the man who can afford the biggest bat win.

Anyone who disagrees is probably a fascist or a Fundy.

CJ said...

Subcomandante Dave!

Some enjoyable reading for you, if you're not already familiar with it:

Marxism of the Right

Ian said...

> The problem with Bonds is that he has
> put some quite possibly indelible
> marks in the record books.

Not as simple as that. I mean, as a Bonds/Giants fan, I am embarrassed that the guy achieved his milestones in (large?) part cuz of the juice. But to call the records tainted or somehow not valid misses some key points:

First off, as Steve details, most of Barry's career numbers were compiled while clean.

Second, you'll notice that all Barry's juiced superstar compatriots didn't set the lasting records - *Barry* did. That's because, during both his clean years (86-99) and his juiced years (00-07), he was blessed with supernatural genes and he worked his butt off. See how many players who have tested positive couldn't even stick in the majors for > 100 pas. Just juicing does very little - unless you are good also (and Barry was very, very good).

Third, many of the pitchers he was batting against were juiced.

Fourth, to pick one example oh kinda at random : Hank Aaron, like many of his generation of players, admitted to methampetamine use (use of which certainly creates an unfair competitive advantage, and is something you less want to be role modeling for kids than steroids), and his teammate Tom House said that lots of guys on the late sixties Braves were experimenting with HGH.

So to say that Barry's records were as a result of cheating is an assertion I will admit is partially true, but many people seem to carry it way too far,

And for testing99's "A team that suspects most of it's players are clean, say for example the San Diego Padres", I say : Ken Caminiti, your 1996 NL MVP.

John Seiler said...

Anyone who read James' stuff, from the early 1980s on, knew his emphasis that a batter almost always hits best at around age 27-28. That was true for Bonds. Except that, 10 years later, Bonds suddenly did EVEN BETTER not only than his early career, but than anyone in the history of the game. So something obviously was fish.

On the other hand, George W. Bush, as a Texas Rangers executive, excused obvious juicing. Then he became president. So if the president said it was OK, then wasn't it? Especially after he insisted, "You're either with us, or with the terrorists"?

John Seiler said...

James might look at it this way: He was the ultimate bean counter for years, earning a decent but not great amount, while a lot of baseball pros ignored him.

So James is hired by Boston in 2003. In 2004, they bury "the Curse of the Bambino" and win the World Series for the first time since 1918. They win again in 2007. They make the playoffs every year but 2006.

His theories, his life's work, are vindicated in dramatic fashion. That some of the players were juiced is another concern. After all, as he noted in his latest "Historical Abstract," even the Bambino used a corked bat.

Anonymous said...

World class sports are all about determining the limits of human performance.



No, that is not what world class sports are all about. Goof-ball libertarians need to pretend that that is what they are all about in order to arrive at their desired conclusion. They thus demonstate yet again how disconnected they are from nornal human feelings.

"World class sports', like all sports, pit the skill and determination of one competitor against another. It is not a competition to see whose bio-chemist is the smartest, competitor A's or competitor B's.

Anonymous said...

So judging by your comment and your blog, you're a Christian who can't get laid?




Libertarians always struck me as the sort of sad nerds who can't get laid, and blame that fact on the up-tight Christo-fascists.

Anonymous said...

Second, you'll notice that all Barry's juiced superstar compatriots didn't set the lasting records - *Barry* did. That's because, during both his clean years (86-99) and his juiced years (00-07), he was blessed with supernatural genes and he worked his butt off.




No doubt. But he would not have broken Aarons and Ruth's records without drugs. Neither would his juiced compatriots. That is the problem. Contrary to what what some here seem to think, basesball is not about a "better show" or "the limits of human performance". It's about trying to compete, on a level playing ground, with the legends of the past.

Anonymous said...

nihilist not-gettin'-any nerd.... I lay ten to one he's an atheist

Well, we know James isn't a Christian, then, because Christ was all about petty legalism and gettin' some!

Alan Stewart said...

James is definitely not a libertarian. He has said, "In political discussions, I am absolutely dead center...In my judgment, everyone on the political landscape, from David Duke and Rush Limbaugh to Howard Metzenbaum, is right about some things. I will listen to any of them and think that there is some truth in what he or she is saying. But al the same time, they all bullshit...If Allan [sic] Simpson would just admit that Barbara Boxer is right about 30 percent of the issues, and he has just been bullshitting to avoid acknowledging this, and vice versa, we could reach a consensus on the remaining issues."

"Politics of Glory" at p. 28.

Aaron said...

I'd think 80% (or 100%) could have been juicing, but only a small number got the best drugs, maintained the proper injection schedule, and worked out hard enough to get the most benefit from it. And of those, only a small number had the raw talent to combine with that new strength and speed to put them at the top.

Anonymous said...

Besides being a surly, angry, and difficult personality,

You forgot mean-spirited and racist.

~Svigor

Anonymous said...

but deny other men similar enhancement.

Okay, I'm totally uninformed so don't bite my head off, but...

Isn't the difference between surgery or corrective lenses and potentially dangerous drugs a non-trivial one?

Theoretically, if doctors sign off on enhancers, I say fine, but have they or should they? I don't want pro sports to be a situation where guys have to shoot junk to compete.

In other words, if there REALLY IS no difference, as you say, then I say fine, but I'm going to need convincing. Why aren't PEDs flying out over the counter?

~Svigor

Benjamin Hoffman said...

You are making some seriously giant assumptions here. One of which is that you actually know when Bonds started using. Yes, some people have said he started in 1999 or 2000. But there is no way to know that with any certainty.

You also assume that Brady Anderson and Ken Caminiti had just started juicing during their anomaly seasons, something you can't know or prove. And I suppose you are also assuming Anderson stopped the next year, something that would seem unlikely. Yet your post offers no explanation for how a player would fail to continue to have the same success despite not stopping the steroids.

Bonds' career high was 49, not 46, and it was one year before, not 8 years before. Getting names wrong was bad enough, but you should at least get your numbers right.

You also are not accounting, at all, for the fact that steroids have failed to produce giant numbers for plenty of players who used them, such as Marvin Benard, Matt Lawton, Randy Velarde, etc. so you are not accounting for the greatness of the players who took them AND succeeded. Bonds, Ramirez, Ortiz, Canseco, McGwire et. al. likely did benefit from steroid use but they were the best players in the game likely just because they were the best players in the game.

If Roger Clemens is juicing on the mound and Alex Rodriguez is juicing at the plate, who exactly has an advantage?

Subcomandante Dave said...

"Some enjoyable reading for you, if you're not already familiar with it:"

Thanks, CJ, that's a bookmarkin', it elucidates some ideas that have been bouncing around in m'brain for a while. Actually my original comment alluded to libertarians=crypto-Marxists, but I edited out so as not to go too off topic, but since it's out there, yeah, both groups seem to have destroying western civilization as a goal and differ only in how to get there. I actually respect Marxists more because they're more forthright.

How does this relate to Bill James and baseball? It - the near-violent opposition to everything virtuous and true that Marxists and libertarians share - permeates everything they say and do. They take the most evil position on everything, not to put too fine a point on it, and roids in baseball is a good example.

What is the DNA breakdown on roiders, by the by, and I'm not just talking black and white here? Not dissimilar to that of the Pittsburgh drug scandal is my guess. I'm not saying anything that hasn't been said here by Steve; Anglo-Celtics lack hustle, and not in the Pete Rose sense of the word.

James Kabala said...

I'm a bit curious why the tone of this post is "I finally had to speak out against Bill James now that he wrote that dumb article" when Steve has actually written on the same subject a couple times in the past (the latter featuring a smackdown with an actual libertarian atheist!):

http://isteve.blogspot.com/2007/06/bill-james-is-not-perfect.html

http://www.colbycosh.com/mt/2007/07/new_bill_james_judging_the_pas.html

Erica said...

Ah, Ian,

As much as I liked your other post on another thread, I dislike this one in which you argue it is unfair that Bad Barry is the face of steroid use.

What do you expect? A guy breaks... no, check that...SMASHES the single season HR record AND passes Hank Aaron's legit record and you DON'T expect that he'll be the poster boy? Add surly on top of that? Come on.

You said,

" But a big part of it too was that the guy had a fitness routine like nobody's business - he worked out about as solidly as a human is capable of doing."

Yep, but so did Jose Canseco. I remember his first season with the A's, pre-season, in fact. Bill King, A's announcer, in introducing him to radio fans, spoke of the body Canseco had and the hours he spent in the gym. True. (Of course, some of those hours, I am sure, were devoted to looking in the mirror.)

As a woman who appreciated (still do) a very nice physique on a good-looking guy, at my first A's game of that year, I saw what King meant. Wow. However, looking back at those pics of him as a youngster, he looked mighty small .

The fact that Bonds, Canseco, McGwire, etc. worked hard----so damn what?

Barry is the poster boy because he holds the long ball records.

Anonymous said...

Of all the many good points made by the Anonymous who wrote this:

There's a different coverup going on right now in MLB

is the one he makes about the suppression of splits stats concerning umpires. I've seen Bonds at bat many times on TV, and I'd say some significant fraction of those 232 BBs were umpire gifts.

Only other observation re 'roids: Those 2003 tests were confidential, or so the players were told. There's plenty of moral indignation to go around, including a generous portion directed at the lawyers who leaked those 2003 test results.

josh said...

I really like the way Conan O'Brien keeps harping on the guy--Manny Ramirez,??--who used the female fertility drugs to mask his massive steroids use. He deliberately makes the absurd conclusion that the use of the womens drug makes him,Ramirez,either gay or effeminate. In reality,'course,steroids made him bigger and badder,which makes it all the more funny when he is mocked as a girly-man. Some good has come out of the roids scandal tho. I believe Sonya Sottameyer consulted with Mark "I'm not here to talk about the past" McGwire before her confirmation hearings!

Steve Sailer said...

Q. "If Roger Clemens is juicing on the mound and Alex Rodriguez is juicing at the plate, who exactly has an advantage?"

A. Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez. They both have unfair advantages over the guys who aren't cheating, including the Triple A pitcher who would be in the Big Leagues if Clemens wasn't illegally extending his career beyond its natural limits.

Anonymous said...

Without steroids, I wonder just how pedestrian a baseball player Jose Canseco would have been?


I bet Canseco would have never bulked up much without the roids, and would have been a merely 6-4' 215 lb average hitter (.250's anyone) that merely hit perhaps 20-25 homeruns per year), with average speed.



Brady Anderson's 50 homerun year (depsite never hitting more than 21, and usually on reaching the teens for the rest of his career) told me just how important steroids are.


A baseball swing is one big, huge twisting thrust of your body. Your hamstrings contract, the muscles along your spine, and the muscles in your hips and abs also contract. Then your shoulders, upper and lower arms, and even lats contract lastly. It starts low, and moves right up your body. Everything, or nearly everything, gets involved. Being juiced adds a bit to each and every muscle group involed, and the synergy adds up to more than the mere sum of its parts.


Barry Bonds, and some of the other juicers, will probably end up having heart disease, prostate cancer, and a host of other androgen-related long-term disorders in their fifties and sixties. Just wait.

albertosaurus said...

I'm disappointed in you Steve. What's all this talk of cheating? What we are witnessing is medical progress. There will be more. You need to adjust. The future is on its way.

Baseball is a "game of inches". When they raised the pitcher's mound one inch no one except Yastremski hit .300. They lowered it the next year and the averages went back up.

Make the diamond just six inches larger and batting averages will plummet as few will be able to beat out a bunt or an infield hopper. Bring the diamond down by half a foot and averages will soar.

Obviously the same is true for outfield fences and the ball's construction. Baseball is competitive because it is so finely balanced. Steroids have upset that balance, but new technology is always causing disturbances in sports records.

Consider the Nurburgring. Automobiles have raced on this circuit for decades. There are statistics for the great Nazi era battles between Mercedes and Auto Union. But none of their records have endured. In those days all the tires were made with "natural" rubber. Every year tire improvements have led to faster times. Should we then say that the new record times are the result of cheating?

Grand Prix racers operate under a set of formulas that have to be constantly adjusted because of technological immrovements. In general the displacements and forced induction methods have had to be restricted every couple years to preserve the competitive balance - and preserve life.

There is nothing wrong as far as I know with Barry Bonds (except for his personality of course). He has simply developed into a person who is too strong for the current baseball parks.

By a strange quirk of fate I predicted Bonds' success. I was a coder at a company in China Basin when they were erecting the new ball park. One day looking out the big windows I noticed the long streaming flags on the poles outside. I stood up and loudly announced, "Barry Bonds will hit 70 Home Runs". There weren't too many others there that day but they all thought I was nuts.

The new park was built to avoid the winds at Candlestick. But the China Basin location also was plenty windy and the winds were predictable. They blew such that a left handed power hitter would be able to hit a ball up and over the short right field fence after it got caught in the wind.

The winds near the ball park are strong and persistent. From the street there is often a howling sound from the wind in the cables above.

So if you are going to put an asterisk in the record books next to Bonds name for steroids, you will need another for stadium architecture. Of course Ruth benefitted from stadium architecture even more.

What about Sam Ramey? If you don't know he's the greatest operatic basso on earth. But he's developed a wobble. An Internet buddy of mine who was an olympic power lifter (lots of drugs) thinks he can cure that wobble with Human Growth Hormone. Who knows? If he could, would you say that Ramey was cheating? Certainly opera is competitive. If Ramey fixed his voice others would lose opportunities and his records (literal records - CDs and LPs) would be better than those of others like Pinza or Siepi who had to retire when their voices went.

No you will say, of course that use of HGH would be legitimate because it cures a medical deficiency. My guess is that Jose Canseco saw his inability to hit really big Home Runs as a medical deficiency which he saught to cure - and did.

That same Internet buddy talked me into getting my testosterone level checked. Alas I was normal - no late life power boost for me. Now I see that testosterone checking is being advertised on TV. Undoubtedly many will benefit from such tests and replacement therapy. At least some of credit for this development is due to the likes of McGwire, Canseco and Bonds.

Ian said...

Anon said:
> No doubt. But [Bonds] would not have broken Aarons
> and Ruth's records without drugs.

Aaron popped greenies. Babe didn't play against the wider talent pool we see now (i.e. black, Hispanic, and Asian players). The pitchers both of them hit against didn't have the modern fitness regimens, video/computerized mechanics analysis, etc. that the pitchers Bonds hit off had.

Erica said:
> What do you expect? A guy breaks... no, check that...
> SMASHES the single season HR record AND
> passes Hank Aaron's legit record and you DON'T
> expect that he'll be the poster boy? Add surly on top
> of that? Come on ... Bonds is the poster boy because
> he holds the long ball records.

Well certainly there's that. But there's also the factor that Bonds was the first dude where "something fish" was clearly going on, where the general public could reasonably infer chemical enhancement. Combine that with the fact that he had pissed off so many of the baseball/sports writers, and, for years, you got him singled out for intense negative attention, as if steroids were a simple issue of Bonds (cheater) vs. the other 649 major leaguers (saints). I think that you maybe had to be a Giants fan, wanting your guy to lead your team into the post-season, to see how frustrating this was. I especially hated that it seemed to me like pressure to stop harboring the evil outlaw had the Giants not resign Bonds despite the fact that he still walloped in 07, and they certainly could have used his bat in 08 (and it would have been a joy for us to see him extend the career HR record with every shot).

Bottom line to my contention is that now, with so many of the other big names have been sullied as well, that it seems like the problem was endemic to large segments of the game *as a whole*, I feel like it is time to take the spotlight off of Bonds in particular.

You mentioned that Jose Canseco worked out like a fiend too. But El Hermano del Bash was not as good at baseball as Bonds was. Barry's father was a serious hall-of-fame candidate, and passed on those lightening-quick-wrists, eagle-eye baseball genes to his son, as well as having him play all the time from a young age. So - Bonds was the best player in baseball while he was clean, and was the best player in baseball when he was old and juiced. No one else in his generation could have done either.

Svigor said:
>> Besides being a surly, angry, and difficult personality,
>
> You forgot mean-spirited and racist.

No, I didn't - I just didn't feel like mentioning all of his sins. But, yes - his racism is actually the biggest problem I have always had with Barry. But, as for mean-spirited - I doubt he is any more of an asshole than the legion of the gun-totin, gangsta-rap listening, wife-beatin-and-infidelityin guys in the NBA and NFL.

The Steveness Himself said:
> Q. "If Roger Clemens is juicing on the mound and
> Alex Rodriguez is juicing at the plate, who exactly
> has an advantage?" A. Roger Clemens and Alex
> Rodriguez. They both have unfair advantages over
> the guys who aren't cheating, including the Triple
> A pitcher who would be in the Big Leagues if
> Clemens wasn't illegally extending his career
> beyond its natural limits.

Shriveled testicles and heart problems notwithstanding, an analogy could be made to an office environment, that the Triple A pitcher was the guy who knocked off exactly when the clock struck five, while Rocket and ARod are the guys still working in their cubicles at seven thirty pm. I'm not sure that that's my opinion - I don't know enough about the actual medical risks of steroids to know if they really are that bad for the taker or not - but I do find that point somewhat compelling.

Subcomandante Dave said...

"In political discussions, I am absolutely dead center"

Yeah, but that's textbook libertarian atheism; what, you expect him to be forthright about his politics? Pffft, telling the truth is for conservatives, with their stupid "morals".

Audacious Epigone has some data in a recent post showing what should be obvious: people who call themselves non-partisan\moderate tend to be leftist, which is to say libertarian\athiest, and female\gay.

Ideologies are not hats one dons, they are badges one earns, and James has earned the libertarian atheist badge by eschewing morality. Don't tell me what you believe, do your thing and I'll tell you what you believe.

"when Steve has actually written on the same subject a couple times in the past (the latter featuring a smackdown with an actual libertarian atheist!)"

Ha, You couldn't find a better example of a libertarian atheist asshat than Cosh, the kids over at Reason are dripping with gravitas compared to that chump.

Back to besebol, what about the juiced ball of 87? Boggs, Dawson, and Bell among others all had huge, never again approached HR numbers.

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070915083508AAQsYan

Anonymous said...

What's all this talk of cheating? What we are witnessing is medical progress.



Medical progress should have no impact on home runs.

Anonymous said...

Aaron popped greenies.



What?

Babe didn't play against the wider talent pool we see now

We don't have a wider talent pool now.

We already know how well Bonds (and others) would have done relative to Aaron and Rugh, sans juice. He would not have done as well. So why pretend that Bonds is better?

Anonymous said...

Bonds was the best player in baseball while he was clean, and was the best player in baseball when he was old and juiced



Non sequitur. The best player in baseball is not "best" compared only to his peers, but compared to the players who have gone before him. If you were an actual fan this would be blindingly obvious to you.

Anonymous said...

Roger Clemens is juicing on the mound and Alex Rodriguez is juicing at the plate, who exactly has an advantage?




Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriguez.

The pro-juicers argument is contradictory. On the one hand, they say that we should not care about the juice, because if all the players are using them, nobody has an advantage.

On the other hand they think that juice is great, because it leads to more super star players having impressive stats. (In the eyes of these "fans", stats being the entire point of sports.)

Both of these arguments cannot be true.

Anonymous said...

I was lucky enough to be able to drive sonme of the truly great vintage road racing cars when vintage racing was still a gentleman's hobby rather than a megadollar phallus length contest. I drove Ferrari F1 cars (front engine), Bugattis, Talbot Lagos, the Birdcage Masers, you name it.

Even then the tire compounds had improved so much that the side loads were completely beyond what the cars had been designed for.

Today it's nuts. I gave up on watching most mainstream motorsports in the late 80s, because the "cars" bear no relation to what you could call an automobile in the usual sense. Downforce and tire compounds along with electronic engine controls have made it a sport bearing no real relation to the old one.

What really changed everything was the big money sponsorship that making racing basically safe made possible. Up until the early 70s, corporations were dissuaded from sinking too much in racing because the sight of a fiery death for a favored driver in a car with your logos on it was seen as a PR disaster. Racers basically stopped getting killed in the late seventies or so, and Big Money meant colossal tire, chassis and engine budgets.

The racing was way better in the old days, but it was paid for in blood. I wouldn't want to return to that for anything, but the modern version lacks the flavor.

albertosaurus said...

Baseball fosters the illusion that its records can be meaningful for centuries because it has stable performing conditions. This is nonsense. The reason steroids are controversial is because we have foolishly accepted the notion that there can be no technological improvement in man.

Racing cars are expected to improve each year. No one cried foul when disk brakes were introduced. Come to think of it they did cry foul when Andy Granatelli introduced the gas turbine at the Brickyard. Too big a change I guess.

Every man wants to be big and strong. I had a pair of shoes that made me two inches taller. I loved them. Nobody can stop thse urges. Baseball players are just the pioneers, lke the volunteers for Walter Reed who let mosquitoes bite them. Humanity as a whole benefitted.

It's pretty easy to figure out what the man of the future will look like. He will be tall, he will have a full head of hair, he will not be fat, he will not have acne or bad teeth.

A lot of young boys have noticed that Jose was much bigger and more muscular than his identical twin brother Ozzie Canseco. Who is going to keep them from trying to be the next Jose? You?

Anonymous said...

I have read and enjoyed lots of Bill James' writing, so I owe him a debt of gratitude. But he has had blinders on as to both the steriod issue and the Pete Rose gambling issue. James was claiming there was insufficient evidence of Rose betting on baseball as a manager (on his own team--but it's still a problem) when the evidence was a mountain. I believe Rose has finally admitted it, which was admitting the obvious.

I think the sabermetricians are a bit contrarian, so if the conventional wisdom is X (Rose gambled, Bonds roided up) then the truth must be closer to minus X. But if they would get there collective heads out of their kiesters they would be honest about the fact that Bonds hitting 73 home runs at age 37 after a previous career high of 46 or so was so out of line that something must have been up. And it was clear from one look at him, or from Lenny Dykstra in the early 90s. Commissioner Selig must have known about Dykstra because it was common knowledge--his face got comically huge. Yet Selig claims ignorance until after McGwire/Sosa. Liar!

What's the big deal about steroids? A talented eighteen year old should be able to feel that he can compete for a job in MLB without risking his life and his organs.

Sideways said...

So - maybe it's time to find a different angle than the same one we've been hearing for ten years now - Barry Bonds as the face of steroid use. There are plenty of candidates for that crown now.

Bonds was the best player of his generation who turned himself into the best hitter ever by cheating with PEDs, breaking records along the way and transforming his well-known body into something else late in his career. Sorry, he's the obvious, easy choice for the face of the steriod era.

Mark said...

Steve, Thank you for your website and for this entry in particular.

I like James and was surprised at how clever his article was but I am not buying it. He suspects that 40 to 80 percent of baseball player were using PED's. Then he states that if 80 percent of the players are using, should it be considered cheating. OK, what if 40 percent of the players are using, a clear majority of the players are not taking PED's and does Mr. James now consider it cheating. Baseball players anonymously using drugs or lying about using drugs aren't advancing sabermetrics or science. It would seem to me to be very difficult to gauge the effectiveness of drugs on the average ball player if the best guess is that 40 or maybe 80 percent of players were using drugs over some undefined time period(James seems to imply that we are in a cleaner period now but who knows).

Lastly A-Rod(Yankee)versus Clemons(Astro) who has the advantage.
I root for teams and I sure would rather my starting pitcher have a great day then my third basemen.
Maybe James was implying that 40% figure is for the Royals and the 80% figures is for the Red Sox and Yankees.

Anonymous said...

"I bet Canseco would have never bulked up much without the roids, and would have been a merely 6-4' 215 lb average hitter (.250's anyone) that merely hit perhaps 20-25 homeruns per year), with average speed."

It's an interesting point you point out. I've always suspected that juicing changed the pecking order of who was good and primarily in two areas:

1) People react differently to most drugs, PEDs probably help some athletes more than others.

2) I get the impression that muscle building PEDs may be helping players at extremes of stature more than average sized players. They probably help very big/tall people exploit the leverage in their bodies (increase a levers length and rotate it at the same speed from the pivot point and velocity at the end of the lever is faster), whereas unjuiced, they may not be able to move, swing, and throw with enough athleticism because they weren't strong enough to move their bodies well (longer levers = more torque and muscle contraction power increases as a function of cross-sectional area whereas weight increase with volume). I think the 6'4" Canseco might fall into this category. I notice that there seem to be more very tall players even though, according to the NCHS, Americans haven't changed much in stature since the 1950 birth cohort. I also think juice helps little fellers like Lenny Dykstra who would otherwise lack the size and strength to play the game. Without PEDs I suspect that the top players would tend to fall more in the average to high average stature category with a sturdy, compact physique (e.g., Mantle 5'11"/198 lbs., Mays 5'11", 180 lbs., Bonds pre-roids 6'1" 185 lbs.)

James Kabala said...

"Yeah, but that's textbook libertarian atheism; what, you expect him to be forthright about his politics?"

Eh, on the contrary, libertarians tend to mention that fact at every opportunity. I'm not sure "leftist" equals "libertarian" either.

"A guy breaks... no, check that...SMASHES the single season HR record"

In fairness, it was McGwire (and Sosa) who "smashed" the record with the jump from 61 to 70; Bonds then made only a slight advance to 73.

Anonymous said...

Let's not equivocate on the pitching vs. hitting argument.

Juiced pitchers and juiced batters both result in harder-hit balls. It might be tough to get good wood on a 99-mph fastball, but any contact you do make will be thunderous. And that doesn't even take into account all of the successful junkballers, who don't reap any benefits from juicing.

Also, the harmful effects of steroids on juiced pitchers are probably greater than those on juiced hitters. Hitters might strain an oblique every now and then, but pitchers routinely blow out their arms permanently with torque from muscles that their body couldn't have developed naturally.

Yes, steroids probably prolonged the careers of a few power pitchers like Clemens. But they have probably destroyed many more pitching careers than they have saved.

It's obvious from the statistics that power hitters benefited tremendously from the Steroid Era. Let's not pretend that widespread steroids evened everything out.

Anonymous said...

The reason steroids are controversial is because we have foolishly accepted the notion that there can be no technological improvement in man.




We're talking about steroids in sports. Can you kooky techno-fetishists please keep your obsession out of this? It has nothing to do with sports.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to thank whoever wrote this (it was very interesting, and probably the best explanation on the effect of roids' on certain performers that Ive ever seen):



"2) I get the impression that muscle building PEDs may be helping players at extremes of stature more than average sized players. They probably help very big/tall people exploit the leverage in their bodies (increase a levers length and rotate it at the same speed from the pivot point and velocity at the end of the lever is faster), whereas unjuiced, they may not be able to move, swing, and throw with enough athleticism because they weren't strong enough to move their bodies well (longer levers = more torque and muscle contraction power increases as a function of cross-sectional area whereas weight increase with volume). I think the 6'4" Canseco might fall into this category. I notice that there seem to be more very tall players even though, according to the NCHS, Americans haven't changed much in stature since the 1950 birth cohort. I also think juice helps little fellers like Lenny Dykstra who would otherwise lack the size and strength to play the game. Without PEDs I suspect that the top players would tend to fall more in the average to high average stature category with a sturdy, compact physique (e.g., Mantle 5'11"/198 lbs., Mays 5'11", 180 lbs., Bonds pre-roids 6'1" 185 lbs.)"





By the way............does anybody remember the force that was Juan Gonzalez for a few years (Texas Rangers), and how he fell off the planet when he could no longer juice? Man that guy fell apart. Ken Caminiti literally fell apart physically.

I dont think a man should have to risk his health to merely keep up in a sport by taking hormone alterning-testicle-shrinking-heart-disease-promoting-acne-inducing-behavior-affecting-kidney-and-liver-straining drugs. Should we allow for doping of racehorces? I dont think we should either.


It would be different if it were women that we were watching roid' up. When we seen them going bald, growing facial hair, losing their ability to have children, making them very man-like in appearance, we would then all say: "Softball isn't this important". I, and I might be one of the few, dont think baseball is all that important.


I dont think the long-term of effects of HGH and roids will be known until the current generation of ballplayers reach their mid-60's. I imagine that many of them wont, or will be unhealthy at that time. m

erica said...

"Barry Bonds, and some of the other juicers, will probably end up having heart disease, prostate cancer, and a host of other androgen-related long-term disorders in their fifties and sixties. Just wait."

Lyle Alzado come to mind.

Anonymous said...

Ian said,

"You mentioned that Jose Canseco worked out like a fiend too. But El Hermano del Bash was not as good at baseball as Bonds was"

Didn't say he was. Would never be idiotic to suggest it, even.

However, Ian, I was addressing your point that it seemed unfair to you that Barry was the "poster boy" of the steroid era.

In route to answering your question, I addresed another point of yours--that Barry worked hard. Well, okay, but as I pointed out, so did others. However, neither your comment about hard work not mine in response to it is either here or there when it comes to addressing why Bonds remains the poster boy.

It's simple. Baseball fans, even those whose love has the breadth and depth beyond the casual fan's interest, prize the long ball records. The sluggers are the ones that live atop the summit of our mythology. Perhaps three-quarters up the mountain come the great pitchers, then the high average hitters, then the speed demons like Henderson and Brock, then the great fielders. The positions of all of these greats on the mountain of baseball history are debabate. What is not debatable is who is atop the mountain in the lore of the game--the long ball hitters. Bonds knew that too. I am sure he was not about to let the McGwires and Sosas of the world sit higher atop that mountain than he since they couldn't begin to carry his bat for him.

That is why Barry is the poster boy even as revelations involving others reveal the scope of abusers.

BTW, someone's comment about Canseco got me to wondering this: does steroid use actually help or hinder speed? Yes, I know steroids help the user bounce back more quickly from injury and so if someone like Canseco has a 40-40 season, the steroids would have helped him recover more quickly from some injuries he had, enabling him to appear in more games so that he could steal more bases... but what does steroid use do to speed? Can anyone answer?

erica said...

James Kabala said,

"In fairness, it was McGwire (and Sosa) who 'smashed' the record with the jump from 61 to 70; Bonds then made only a slight advance to 73."

You are right, it was. Everyone should have known then that something was beyond fishy. Sports writers knew, but either they or they and their editors were not about to dump cold water on baseball's comeback from the strike. Perhaps writers were intimidated into not writing about what they knew, but more likely, they went along for the historical ride.

When Barry surpassed McGwire, they were even surer. There was talk the year of McGwire and Sosa about a juiced ball (there's always talk in baseball about dead ball years versus live ball years), but I think all dead serious baseball fans knew something was wrong.

In my family we had talked of Canseco and McGwire's bodies for years. Then, when Barry's face turned totally round and his ...we knew.

The "journalists" of baseball are the like the "journalists" covering the Chosen One today--enablers, obfuscators.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who thinks all this steroid use is just peachy either doesn't know what these drugs do, or knows just a little too well, and is defending it for personal reasons. Or...is very confused about something. i.e. libertarian.

HGH I can see; it has side effects but it doesn't turn you into a freak show. Steroids not only shrink your junk, give you acne and maybe reduce your average life expectancy, they make a lot of guys piss brown (and some have trouble pissing period), and I think they increase body odor as well.

But I suppose it really isn't fair to single out steroids. What about the surgical side of sports medicine? It too has the purpose of making people into sports-playing machines without much concern for the long-term health of the man being redesigned.

And to say that these guys "choose it" because they "want to be the best" is just dumb. If nobody could get away with juicing, nobody would feel pressured to juice.

zylonet said...

--but deny other men similar enhancement.

Okay, I'm totally uninformed so don't bite my head off, but...
Isn't the difference between surgery or corrective lenses and potentially dangerous drugs a non-trivial one?
Theoretically, if doctors sign off on enhancers, I say fine, but have they or should they? I don't want pro sports to be a situation where guys have to shoot junk to compete.
In other words, if there REALLY IS no difference, as you say, then I say fine, but I'm going to need convincing. Why aren't PEDs flying out over the counter?
~Svigor --

Svigor, all drugs are potentially dangerous as are most human behaviors. Calling some drugs PEDs, but not others is also intellectually dishonest. Aspirin is a major PED so is Sudafed. If you want to increase your endurance, then pop two Sudafed and take some Advil. Painkillers are regularly used by pro athletes to fantastic effect and they are rarely referred to as PEDs. Since it is clear that certain drugs are singled-out and re-defined, you can bet that it's pure bunk. I am not an expert on why some people crusade against testosterone supplementation except to say that many people are highly intolerant.

Regarding your last question, as to why PEDs are not flying off the shelves, they are when you consider aspirin, sudafed and similar drugs. Anabolics, however, do not fly from the shelves because they are now listed as a controlled substance. Their listing as such is a crime against humanity. Until you do the research you cannot imagine how many millions of men are suffering from lack of access to androgen therapy.

Zylonet said...

--Anyone who thinks all this steroid use is just peachy either doesn't know what these drugs do, or knows just a little too well, and is defending it for personal reasons. Or...is very confused about something. i.e. libertarian.

HGH I can see; it has side effects but it doesn't turn you into a freak show. Steroids not only shrink your junk, give you acne and maybe reduce your average life expectancy, they make a lot of guys piss brown (and some have trouble pissing period), and I think they increase body odor as well.--

HGH doesn't have side affects? Taken at high doses, it surely does. Check Google.

As for testosterone and testicular shrinkage, I wonder why one man would concern himself with the testicles of another man. In any regards, testosterone supplementation does not always reduce testicle volume and volume is easily maintained with HCG.

The therapeutic values of TRT are profound, while risks are far lower than alcohol usage. What many people fail to consider is that all drugs must be used responsibly. Idiots like Jose Canseco suffer because they are stupid to begin with. Who cares if he has suffered from misuse; that is his problem. Tylenol has been known for years to cause liver damage, but only recently are there any positive movements towards educating consumers. This should be your first clue that the government should not be trusted for accurate information.

For those actually interested in learning the truth about steroids here are some interesting articles:

This article demonstrates the degree of stupidity surrounding androgen therapy.
http://www.mesomorphosis.com/blog/2009/06/24/middle-aged-german-man-on-hormone-replacement-therapy-arrested-flying-into-florida/

Joe Biden as the talentless hack that he is and possibly choosing to advocate against androgen therapeutics because of his inferiority complex:
http://www.mesomorphosis.com/blog/2008/08/26/joseph-biden-and-criminalization-of-anabolic-steroids/

Anonymous said...

The stupidity on this comment thread is unbelievable.

Nobody gives a flying "F" that baseball players damage THEMSELVES by using steroids.

The problem is BASEBALL IS A COMPETITION. If your competitor is using steroids - you have to start using them or suffer the consequences. The end result is men who normally wouldn't use it are pressured into using it.

Lets let the pitcher scuff up the ball and spit on it. Let batters use any bat they want and let the fielders use any kind of mitt - that's Libertarianism.

Anonymous said...

Zylonet, I'm curious as to how you can quote me saying "HGH has side effects" and then ask incredulously "HGH has no side effects? I don't think so."

High androgen levels are unnatural and not good for you. You can say that the health dangers are exaggerated, I don't think the subject has been studied exhaustively (for instance I don't think there's any good study out there about the effect of steroid use on life expectancy), but let's just take the side effects everyone agrees about, and admit that whether or not these are acceptable is a subjective judgment each man should make for himself.

Suppose a sports player has the subjective judgment that he doesn't want to screw with the natural androgen levels in his body, because he doesn't want to turn into a circus sideshow. Is it right that he is at a disadvantage?

Those are the people for whom rules about PED's exist - not the fans, who are generally callous bastards that couldn't give a rat's ass if a player tears his body to pieces so long as he performs, and not the enthusiastic juicers who don't care about the costs of juicing up.

keypusher said...

A few random reactions to points in this thread:

Steroids don't get you anywhere by themselves. Steroids plus a brutal workout regime get you ahead. So athletes who were juicing probably found it very easy to rationalize what they were doing. They ALL worked hard.

Barry Bonds is a jerk, and as far as I know always has been. But it's hard not to feel sympathy for a guy who was a first-ballot hall of famer as non-juicer and only started using after getting overshadowed by McGwire and Sosa.

I have Bill James' 2001 Baseball Almanac, and I treasure it (though even for 2001, he has a blind spot for steroids). If I had to guess, I would say he was right of center politically and had definite moral standards. We always need to be careful of assuming that, because someone doesn't condemn something we oppose, he has no standards at all.

Re the people who want to see steroids legalized in baseball, it's going to take a long time, if ever. There is no thought of legalizing PEDs in track, because track is all about records. On the other hand, steroids don't create much controversy in football, because records mean very little. The importance of records in baseball is much closer to their importance in track than in football. Fans will not accept records that are the product of steroids.

Anonymous said...

"BTW, someone's comment about Canseco got me to wondering this: does steroid use actually help or hinder speed?"

More muscle = greater power to weight ratio = more speed. Think Ben Johnson and many other Olympic sprinters. (Probably also Usain Bolt - 2007 - 165 lbs. 10.03 100m personal best; 2008 - 200 lbs. 9.69 100m personal best. Bolt is probably another example of juicing allowing an unusually tall person to make better use of the leverage in his fram (he's 6'5", unheard of for a sprinter)).

Zylonet said...

--High androgen levels are unnatural and not good for you.--

Define high and define "not good for you."

--for instance I don't think there's any good study out there about the effect of steroid use on life expectancy--

Just how do you plan to conduct such a study? There are so many steroids and limitless usage protocols. Therefore, you cannot definitively study the subject. We do know, however, that high normal testosterone is associated with higher quality of life. The only way most men will maintain high normal levels is through steroids.


--Suppose a sports player has the subjective judgment that he doesn't want to screw with the natural androgen levels in his body, because he doesn't want to turn into a circus sideshow. Is it right that he is at a disadvantage?--

Who cares if he is at a disadvantage. That is between the player and the league. I care only about yahoos who use the plight of athletes to advocate against the rights of the general population.


--but let's just take the side effects everyone agrees about--

What side affects have universal agreement? I know of not one. You might be of the false belief that all steroids are the same and that all are used in such a way to induce negative health affects, but I know differently.

Reactionary said...

We're talking about steroids in sports. Can you kooky techno-fetishists please keep your obsession out of this? It has nothing to do with sports.

Uh, you need some discernment my friend. The distinction you're looking for is between "sports," which is a ruthless and extremely lucrative business, no, an industry, and "athletics," which is a hobby designed to instill virtues of fitness, discipline and teamwork. I trust you have the same level of outrage for the greatest obscenities of them all: college football and basketball.

Granted it takes fitness, discipline and teamwork to win a World Series but the end sought is the same as for any business: mounds and mounds of do-re-mi.

If you want to "clean up" sports, then you will have to return it to its roots as an amateur pursuit for the leisure class. At the least, you'll need it to be a strictly patronage arrangement, where sponsors pay the expenses of people willing to play and coach the game for its own sake when they're not at their real jobs.

Hell, I'd do it in a heartbeat, and I'd leave everything I had out on the field every effing game. But I wouldn't do it nearly as well as the pro's do it and that doesn't make for good TV. And of course, good TV is what it's all about.

Marc B said...

Why is baseball getting all the heat when roids have been used in football and other sports for decades? Is this "innocence lost" for it's devoted? Does anybody believe a 6'2, 330 lb lineman that runs the 40 in under 6 seconds gets like that purely from training and being corn-fed? Leave MLB alone unless your prepared to apply the same standards to other pro sports performed at the highest level.

I say this as a hater of all things MLB, particularity it's fan base of statistics crazy, nerdy jock-sniffers like Bob Costas and that it is played during the hottest time of the year in primarily the most humid locales.

Anonymous said...

Few NFL players are on steroids. The NFL has had stringent testing since the 80's. A couple guys get caught every year but most are too smart to risk it. MLB was irresponsible to wait so long to introduce serious testing of their own.


There was college player in the 80's named Tony Madarich(sp?) who was totally dominant at that level. He had good natural ability but he was also using massive amounts of steroids and switching urine for the tests. When he got to the NFL, he knew he would not be able to beat the league's tougher testing regimen, so he stopped taking the steroids and showed up at camp smaller and weaker than he had been in college. He played poorly and washed out of the league after a couple years, then made a comeback in 90's, where has won a starting spot played decently for several seasons.

Truth said...

"There was college player in the 80's named Tony Madarich(sp?)"

Stuff white people like #1,112

Putting (sp?) after a word they have probably misspelled but are too lazy to look up.

White people love to show off their knowledge of arcane trivia by commenting on blog threads, they do not however like being the target of other white posters who are "spelling flame sharks."

Often replying from the office (graphic design, a community newspaper or the marketing department of a microbrewery), they should be working but are addicted like moths to a flame to the latest rather negligible topic. They reply quickly with no time to edit as they are terrified of the boss sneaking up upon them seeing Motherjones.com, the Huffingtonreport.com or Isteve.blogspot.com on their computer, so they use the (sp?) designation as a literary way of saying:

"DON'T FLAME ME BRO!"

Rick Johnson said...

James and just about ALL commentators, especially at ESPN have moral blinders on. Baseball was more important than it being just a game - it was the American pastime. Maybe it isn't anymore, but its importance to America is not diminished. It stood for tradition (stats going back over 100 years) and culture. To sever that link by "allowing" performance enhancing substances, lazer surgery, hyped up bats, juiced balls, levered arm supports, and Little League outfield dimensions only shows what our culture has become.
The obtuse and greedy Commissioner Selig paid himself $17 million last year to award himself on his ability to suppress the scandal over the last two decades.

The deadbeats who cheated wronged not only their peers and fans, but they cheapened the traditions of the past and threatened the hopes of the future. Steroids and other issues are more than just cheating at baseball. Those who participated and/or acquiesced in the activity are guilty of true un-American activity. Those who played before this era have been disrespected.

The managers are just as guilty and they should be denied public approval. I am waiting for a major leaguer to say that he would not allow himself to be inducted into Hall of Fame because the institution has been corrupted. The rot began when induction to the Hall of Fame allowed exceptions to major league service for Negro League players in the interests of Political Correctness under another moral leper Bowie Kuhn. And I am waiting for some of these clean players to suit the cheaters.

Latin ballplayers will frequently "deny" use of steroids and then get caught - Palmeiro, Sosa, etc. Their culture like most of the non-western world sanctions lying in their own interests and those of one's family. They reject moral universals. Get the Gringos' money, amigo!

Anonymous said...

"I'm not a doctor or a scientist....liver damage...." . You know nothing about steroids, yet you're passing judgement on their use, swallowing govt. propaganda and media hysteria (liver damage is rare and only common with oral steroids--look it up).

I personally think that this whole furor over steroids is a bunch of nerdy, unathletic sports writer engaging in sermonizing about the so-called honor and nostalgia of professional sports. It's all BS.

You should watch the documentary "Bigger, Faster, Stronger". The maker interviews Henry Waxman, who proceeds to not even know the drinking age in America.

Anonymous said...

erica said...

"Barry Bonds, and some of the other juicers, will probably end up having heart disease, prostate cancer, and a host of other androgen-related long-term disorders in their fifties and sixties. Just wait."

Lyle Alzado come to mind.

8/08/2009


Lyle Alzado's brain cancer was NOT caused by steroids, you ignoramus! Look it up; NONE of his doctors said that the tumor was a result of steroids. On top of that, there have been no long term epidemiological studies on steroids, like there have been with crack, heroin, coke, meth, etc. Could it be because steroids are NOT a public health problem, and a cause of daily street crime? You may also know that most steroid users are college-educated white men, hardly the type to rob people for a fix.

Anonymous said...

"BTW, someone's comment about Canseco got me to wondering this: does steroid use actually help or hinder speed?"

More muscle = greater power to weight ratio = more speed. Think Ben Johnson and many other Olympic sprinters. (Probably also Usain Bolt - 2007 - 165 lbs. 10.03 100m personal best; 2008 - 200 lbs. 9.69 100m personal best. Bolt is probably another example of juicing allowing an unusually tall person to make better use of the leverage in his fram (he's 6'5", unheard of for a sprinter)).


Bonds stole less bases when he came back the Home Run hitting Linebacker though some would say that was because he was not getting on base as often and slowing with age.

1998 as a 33 year old Canseco stole 29 bases and was caught stealing 17 times which was his last time putting up big totals though he was 4 SB 0 CS as a 30 year old in 102 games 96 games as a 31 year old produced 3 SB 1 CS and 8 SB 2 CS in 108 games as a 33 year old.

As a 28 year old in 1993 was the last time Barry Bonds had more SB than HR.

As always statistics illuminate but also cast deceiving shadows.

Anonymous said...

I think the 6'4" Canseco might fall into this category. I notice that there seem to be more very tall players even though, according to the NCHS, Americans haven't changed much in stature since the 1950 birth cohort.

While on Wolframalpha looking up Body Mass Index ( Kgs / cms squared OR Lbs * 711 / inches squared) and 24 and 26 were the same height whereas when Quetelet created the index 25 was the cut off point for calling in people to see if they were overweight.

Has the population gotten bigger? The measure was thought up in the 1920s which is a few decades after 5' 6" was the average height in the British Army.

Or did the original sample size suffer from being too small?

I recall 8945 being the sample size the current numbers are based on when wandering around the site before.

Wolframalpha data