Over the weekend, our little world of baseball got shaken up a bit when news was leaked that Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, the MVP of the National League as voted by the BBWAA, tested positive for performance enhancing drugs at some point during the MLB playoffs.

Ugh.

I’m often called a “steroids apologist” by those in favour of a more hard line approach to performance enhancing drugs in baseball, and to a degree that’s probably fair. I’m of the opinion that former MLB players, as individuals, shouldn’t be punished for their use of drugs during a time when such use was prevalent, not because of some moral looseness, but rather because of the extent of the use and the inability of anyone to properly decipher who was using and who wasn’t.

In my mind, punishing former players through avoidance on Hall of Fame ballots is made further laughable by the inability of any expert in such field to provide evidence that so called performance enhancers actually enhance performance in a predictable way.

To a certain degree, my opinion stretches like a cover over the current players. I’m of the belief that baseball players still use performance enhancing drugs, just as in any other sport, despite the limited number of those getting caught. Again, I would never defend that use. It’s essentially cheating. However, it’s always seemed rather ridiculous to chastise those who do test positive for a lack of foresight or moral ineptitude.

They, like many, see a way to get ahead and take it, despite its place outside the rules. It’s a risk, and knowing the punishment as they do, users see it as an acceptable one. It’s unfortunate, but it happens.

What’s far more distasteful to me than its part in the game is the way in which many baseball journalists, making up for years of blind eye turning, pretend to be personally insulted by drug use, as though while standing on their own moral high ground, they are shocked and appalled and personally insulted by a player taking any means necessary to improve their performance.

Put plainly, this grosses me out.

For his part, Braun is adamant in his claims of innocence as he undergoes the appeal process for what would be a fifty game suspension. However, as he attempts to reconstruct his ingestion of every material during that time, it’s unlikely that he’ll be successful in convincing Major League Baseball of his innocence.

And The Rest

Manny Ramirez has been officially reinstated after another positive test for banned substances induced his premature retirement from Major League Baseball last season, but how will he deal with not being the hot commodity that he once was? [ESPN Deportes]

The trade that brought former Chicago White Sox closer Sergio Santos to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Nestor Molina could have been an even bigger deal, including names like Carlos Quentin, John Danks and even Gordon Beckham. [MLB Trade Rumors]

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price wisely didn’t fight the man urinating on his car. [FOX Sports]

The Boston Red Sox are going to make Daniel Bard a member of the starting rotation this coming Spring. [Boston Globe]

It seems ridiculous to me that Albert Pujols would be insulted by the way that his former team handled negotiations. A five year deal with a high average annual value was unlikely, but it was part of the St. Louis Cardinals attempting anything they could to keep him on their team. [St. Louis Post Dispatch]

Felix Pie signed a Minor League deal with the Cleveland Indians that could pay the outfielder as much as $1 million if he can turn it into a Major League deal by making the team out of Spring Training. [Twitter]

The Los Angeles Angels aren’t interested in your offers for center fielder extraordinaire Peter Bourjos. [FOX Yard Barker]

It’s ridiculous to me that Tim Raines doesn’t receive more consideration for baseball’s Hall of Fame. [The Hardball Times]

Today in reasons why Joe Maddon is better than you: Here’s a picture of him getting hands on during his annual “Thanksmas Dinner” for those less fortunate. [Twitter]

Comments (25)

  1. what the hell’s a ‘thanksmas’ dinner?

  2. What’s with all the fascination over Gordon Beckham?

  3. “Felix Pie signed a Minor League deal with the Cleveland Indians that could pay the outfielder as much as $1 million if he can turn it into a Major League deal by making the team out of Spring Training. ”

    Though it’s not related to this particular contract, methinks this sort of contract structure will become a common workaround for international signings and draft picks under the new CBA. Get placed on the 40-man, get a million bucks. Make the 25-man, another couple million. I know it’s not the same as guaranteed money, but there can be some wink-wink gentlemanly expectation of at least making the 40-man.

    • I don’t think MLB would be too happy with the wink wink stuff.

      • Happened with arb deals… Any time there’s a mutual compelling interest, things get done. Also there are so many names on 40-man rosters, it’s hard to say that the league could reasonably sniff out a name that was undeserving of the 40-man. And if the league did make a habit of challenging such moves, the union would scream murder over the league’s attempts to deny players their bonuses.

        Right. So, the point is, a prediction: teams will do creative things (like roster incentives) to compensate for lack of allowable guarantees…

        • I don’t doubt there will be some creativity, but I just don’t see MLB being cool with fast promotion to 40 man. Arb deals really harm no one, whereas fast promotion sets service time clocks a ticking.

  4. So who thinks that if Ryan Braun was using PED’s it’s likely that Prince Fielder was also using them?

    • And how about McGeehee. They guy came out of nowhere and quickly regressed again…

    • Yeah, that’s a completely reasonable conclusion….

    • Here’s a partial list:

      1) Trolls
      2) Idiots
      3) Jose Canseco
      4) Writers who dabble in sanctimony
      5) “Writers” looking for page views (looking at you, Bleacher Report!)
      6) All of the above, about whom it should be noted would not want the same standard of guilt-by-association applied to them in a court of law, but happily do it to others.

  5. I asked Travis to provide at least one source on PEDs, and he has posted one on HGH. I don’t think the reference is quite right, but I’m pretty sure I know the paper he is talking about and my comments in Travis’ post yesterday do apply to that paper.

    Dustin, would you like to add any sources that would back up your viewpoint?

    I’m most interested in this statement:
    “…made further laughable by the inability of any expert in such field to provide evidence that so called performance enhancers actually enhance performance in a predictable way.”

    The source I would use to question your statement is Kadi (2008, BJP) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1038/bjp.2008.118/full

    Here’s the conclusion to the paper:
    “Testosterone has a powerful effect on human skeletal muscle. Data gathered on the muscular effects of testosterone clearly demonstrate that drug abuse is associated with an intense recruitment of multiple myogenic pathways. Clearly, testosterone administration in sports provides an unfair muscular advantage over non-drug users.”

    If the scientific argument doesn’t work for you, then how about putting into baseball context. Try to keep a straight face while looking at this isolated power graph of Bonds, Sosa and McGwire while arguing that PEDs don’t enhance performance.
    http://www.fangraphs.com/comparison.aspx?playerid=1109&playerid2=302&playerid3=1008559&position=OF&page=6&type=full

    • I think the key word in Dustin’s sentence was “predictably.”

      • I’m not sure who said that taking any PED would turn any player into Babe Ruth. I certainly didn’t.

        If you want predictable clinical results then you have unrealistic expectations of what clinical studies are capable of showing.

    • I haven’t read any articles on the matter, but I think that the truth is somewhere in between. Smacking a tater involves a lot of mechanical skills that have nothing to do with someone’s strength: a good eye, plate discipline, hand-eye coordination, and most of all, bat speed, all contribute to someone’s prowess as a hitter. Obviously, with a lot of these factors, taking testosterone won’t help.

      As for Bonds, Sosa, and McGwire: in a sense, these guys were great hitters before they started taking PEDs. Jordan Schafer, in contrast, who was twice suspended for taking PEDs, has hit exactly five homeruns in the past three years combined.

  6. Er, “predictable.”

  7. I don’t argue that steroids make people stronger and allow for faster recovery. I argue that this is the end all and be all when it comes to baseball. There’s a whole smorgasbord of users, some of which are/were great, some of which are/were ordinary and some of which are/were just awful.

    • I agree with that, but I don’t think the point is that PEDS make an otherwise poor baseball player an all-star. The point is that PEDS will improve the individual performance of any player. There is no clinical support for the idea (which you support) that some athletes aren’t any better at what they do if they take steriods. At a minimum, any athlete that takes steriods will be stronger, faster, and recover better than he would have if he didn’t. That will improve performance over the season.

      Of course it’s impossible to know what the performance of the player in those games would have been at the same time if he wasn’t on steriods, and was therefore weaker, slower, and more beat up, but I think you can safely infere the result on that…

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