"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

A Fine Mess

Bonds. Clemens. Now Rodriguez. These are the names of some of the greatest players of our era. In some ways, it’s just been a matter of time with Rodriguez, hasn’t it? He’s another top dog, a historically great player with an enormous competitive drive to go with his ego. My question is: How long will we have to wait for the others? The other great stars. Historian Glenn Stout hit the nail on the head a few years ago when he wrote:

One has to be not only blind but considerably and willingly dumb to look at the last two decades of major league baseball and not raise an eyebrow at each and every number and achievement, not only of every single player, but of every single team, a point the Mitchell Report underscored. Apart from pushing the use of PEDs on the young, that is the worst aspect of this entire scandal, for just as the one player trying to throw one game calls into question everything that happens in that game, so too does the use of steroids and other PEDs by even a small number of major league players ripple through the game and undercut everything that happens after the umpire calls “Play ball!” The effects of steroids and PEDs on the game are not isolated events, but a like a disease, a long-term condition that affects every second of the patient’s life.

…When historians look back at this era there will be one irrefutable conclusion; it all stinks. Every number, every stat and every place in the game is suspect and tainted, artificial and enhanced. Since we cannot now and never will be able to state with any certainty who used what and who didn’t, how much and for how long, no player and no team comes out of this era pure. The implications of that are no more pleasant locally than they are in Oakland, New York or anywhere else, for just as the Canseco’s MVP award and McGwire’s and then Bond’s home run records are suspect, so too are the performances of those teams with those players in their lineups. And as the Mitchell Report told us, no team during this era was unaffected. There was a Jose Canseco on the field for every team in every inning of every game for most of two decades. Therefore the A’s 1988 pennant with Canseco in the lineup is as spurious as the Yankees four world championships in five seasons from 1996-2000, and – it pains me for m y Boston friends – as Boston’s two long-awaited championships in 2004 and 2007.

It is also personal. As an occasional writer of baseball history I do not look forward to a time in the future when I have to write about this era. And I am somewhat embarrassed by the way I have written about it in the past. Although I wrote about steroids in the pages of this magazine in 1998, my books barely mention PEDs and hardly consider their impact. Were I to re-write them today, armed with what we now know of the era, my recounting of the last twenty years would be radically different.

There’s so much to be disppointed in here, and it starts at the top with Bud Selig and the union and the owners and the players for allowing thier collective avarice and self-absorbtion to get out of control. I’m turned-off by how this story was reported–we’re talking about leaks from confidential documents. Why not release all of the names on the list? Why just Rodriguez? Color me cynical, I respect Selena Roberts as a veteran journalist, but I also know she’s got a book on Rodriguez coming out this summer. You can’t tell me that didn’t play at least a small part in all of this. Has she been sitting on the information waiting for the right moment to drop this bomb? I wish I knew. I don’t mean to discredit the story, but it’s hard to come away from it not feeling dirty.

It will be fascinating to see how Rodriguez handles himself in the coming days and weeks. The Torre flap is now meaningless, trivial. So will Rodriguez take the fight to these accusations or will be come clean, if in fact he’s guilty? I suspect he’ll deny everything. For a guy who seems to have two left feet when it comes to public relations, Rodriguez could potentially come out of this looking good if he copped to using PEDS in a way that satisfies our lust. The public craves blood but we are suckers for forgiveness. We love illusion but demand authenticity.

I’m left feeling that this is all one big, fat, ugly mess. On one hand it has ruined the game for many fans. It spoils the precious numbers that we use to evaluate our heroes. It reveals the players to be human, frail and weak, far from the kind of guys you’d want to have lunch with nevermind worshipping as role models.

At the same time, the game is thriving; attendance is up, and the game is viewed as a success–big time entertainment, ethics be damned. Baseball’s drug years forces us to either quit the game, to reject the culture of enhancement and cheating and find something else to enjoy, or accept the moral ambiguity that is part and parcel of the show and still root-root-root for the home team.

Never a dull moment, eh?

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1 Ken Arneson   ~  Feb 7, 2009 7:43 pm

"And what victories arise are always magical, mysterious, haunting and untrustworthy."

(This is nice, from now on, I don't need any more original thoughts, I can just quote myself.)

2 rbj   ~  Feb 7, 2009 8:14 pm

"On one hand it has ruined the game for many fans. . . At the same time, the game is thriving; "

If only I could quit baseball. But I can't. I just love it too much.

3 Max   ~  Feb 7, 2009 8:20 pm

>>accept the moral ambiguity that is part and parcel of the show and still root-root-root for the home team.<<

Yes, exactly.

I love your writing Alex, and always appreciate the many fine writers you link to as well on this blog, even the more florid ones. But the sooner we can be done with the idea of professional athletes as "heroes" (I winced when I saw this word in your second to last paragraph), the better off we will be as fans.

4 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Feb 7, 2009 8:52 pm

Am sure I am not alone in saying that I couldn't care less if ANY baseball player did steroids or HGH. For me, baseball is such a beautiful game, it's chess on a playing field with all the drama and intricacies, strategies and confrontations. I forget who said this but I agree: what's the difference between Tommy-John surgery to unnaturally repair/replace damaged body parts, and taking HGH to get stronger??

Frankly, people who feel "morally shaken" about the whole issue make me question their priorities..baseball is truly the "beautiful game", let them all roid up if they want. Mariano is still going to strike you out, A-Rod will still be a great hitter, Ichiro will still be a wizard with the bat..

my rambling two yen..

5 zack   ~  Feb 7, 2009 9:23 pm

To be fair though Alex (and great piece btw), the notion of the purity of the game is all kind of hogwash int he first place. Greenies,which have a real, documented affect on performance, have been around since pre-Aaron. I would put money on him having used them in fact. Mantle of course did too. That moral ambiguity has long been a major tenet of the game, whether its the spit ball, throwing games, betting on games, greenies, roids, segregation, or whatever.

I think the problem now is how widespread the "cheating" is, which, of course, also begs the question that if everyone is doing it, does it really affect anything? )the answer of courseis obviously yes)

6 Mattpat11   ~  Feb 7, 2009 10:02 pm

I think it almost goes without saying that he'll handle the situation in the worst possible way imaginable, because he always does. I think he'll pull a Bonds or Palmeiro and try and drag someone else down with him.

The sad thing is I thought this year we might last a couple of months without the A-Rod circus. (I'd never say a full year, because, if June came around and no one was talking about him, he'd surely do something stupid to get back in the headlines) The last three weeks or so have killed that dead.

In other news, does anyone know when tickets go on sale?

7 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 7, 2009 10:24 pm

I think it almost goes without saying that he’ll handle the situation in the worst possible way imaginable, because he always does.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Also, I'd say I'm not morally horrified by all of this. Not that it sits comfortably, but I see it as what it is--the way the game was played in this era.

I'll still be watching come opening day.

8 mehmattski   ~  Feb 7, 2009 10:50 pm

If anyone really does care what I think about this, you can click through to my blog. I'm not trying to pimp it or anything (since I rarely post on it anymore), but it was just too long for a comment here.

Short version: Nope, I still don't care whether a particular player did use, or is still using, performance enhancing drugs. I will still cheer Alex Rodriguez because his ridiculously long home runs entertain me. It just doesn't matter to me whether the bulked up arms he uses to hit those home runs are the result of dangerous, "banned" chemicals (like Androstenedione) or equally dangerous, not-banned chemicals (like Creatine).

I do agree that A-Rod will continue to be the Human PR Disaster, though.

9 Raf   ~  Feb 7, 2009 10:53 pm

Baseball survived the Pittsburgh Drug Trials, it will survive this.

10 Just Fair   ~  Feb 7, 2009 11:14 pm

I am guessing that along with the economy, this is not going to help set another attendance record this year. What a mess. Alex should just come clean and move on with his redemption.

11 monkeypants   ~  Feb 7, 2009 11:46 pm

I guess I am old-fashioned, a moralist and hypocrite, a simple-minded sort. Yes, this bothers the hell out of me. i held out hope against naive hope that A-Rod was clean, so he could expunge Bonds--the arch roider--from the top of the record books. But it looks like I was duped.

I love baseball deeply. it is indeed a beautiful game, as noted above. But I really despise this era of the sport more and more, and with each passing year, for a variety of reasons, I find MLB less enjoyable.

12 yankee23   ~  Feb 8, 2009 12:03 am

This doesn't bother me nearly as much as it should. I was happy with A-Rod's new contract, excited to see him finish his career in pinstripes. I don't truly care about 2003 drug tests. Color me cynical, whatever, but there are 104 known positive tests during that season. Sure we only know one name, but these were positive tests from a sample size during that season. The "steroid years" are forever tainted, I'll agree to that. But now it's 2009, it's time to move on. We have stricter tests in place and we'll still have people testing positive. When will we be satisfied? Will this require daily testing and the outing of the other 103 names?

So far my favorite aspect has been the press attempting to argue that we should ignore that fact that these names should have been released. That it's more important that the game is further tainted. It disgusts me. I won't delve into this, but it seems every "report" in the last few years reads more like an op-ed piece than traditional journalism. I would desperately like to know the possible legal ramifications for those who leaked the list, or his name. That list is none of our business, that's nobody's business. The number should just be a number, not names.

"We all know that crap is king / give us dirty laundry."

13 joejoejoe   ~  Feb 8, 2009 12:06 am

Baseball aside, it's very much wrong that grand jury testimony leaks and that test samples that are collectively bargained to be private leak. The health of our judicial process and privacy of records are both far greater issues than who takes steroids but it never seems to come out that way in the sporting press.

You don't have a right to know what goes on in grand juries or what is in somebody elses confidential medical tests. It's just voyeurism masked as a crusade for truth.

14 yankee23   ~  Feb 8, 2009 12:19 am

[13] I couldn't agree more. Those results are not our business, nor those of any reporter.

Also, I wanted to add to my earlier post that I'm certainly not looking forward to the way this will be handled by Alex. There's no doubt in my mind that it will a poorly orchestrated series of overly-prepared statements.

15 williamnyy23   ~  Feb 8, 2009 1:55 am

[13] The irony in this story is that the seizure and leaking of these confidential tests as well as the constant flow of what is supposed to be grand jury testimony is much more harmful to our society than professional athletes experimenting with chemicals.

Instead of leading the lynch mob to string up Alex and find out the other 102 names, I would rather see Selena Roberts and Mr. Epstein arrested and placed in prison until they reveal who illegally leaked to them this information. It's shameful that our lust to oust baseball players who took steroids is blinding so many to the greater transgressions being perpetrated against our justice system. The bottom line is Roberts and Epstein cheated when they used illegal means to procure a scoop. Condemning Arod and applauding these “journalists” would be hypocrisy to the nth degree.

Aside from their criminal actions, Roberts’ and Epstein’s motives can only be seen as motivated by an agenda because the only name revealed was Arod’s. If the two authors were really interested in performing an investigative piece, why would they only seek information about Arod? I guess when you have a book to sell, all else become irrelevant.

As for Alex’ situation, I think the devil is in the details. Was he a habitual steroid user throughout his career, or did he just try them in 2003 and happen to get caught up in the survey testing? According to the reports, he actually didn’t take a steroid that fostered muscle growth, but rather one that boosted the immune system and prevented muscle deteoriation during weight loss. Why would an athlete take such a drug? Maybe the substance was part of a weight loss supplement? Maybe Arod was experimenting with something about which he didn’t know anything about? These are all legitimate questions and mitigating circumstances.

Of course, the facts wont matter because they don’t satisfy the blood lust. So, we’ll be treated to months more of holier-than-though media and fans sitting in judgment while their own skeletons remain hidden in their closets.

[14] I am not sure how Arod will handle this situation, but I am one who doesn’t think he should appease the angry mob and throw himself on the mercy of court. If it was me, my response would be “I have no comment on illegally procured information, and if you don’t like that, too bad. What I did in 2003 is none of your business…worry about yourself.”

16 RCK   ~  Feb 8, 2009 5:49 am

[11] "I guess I am old-fashioned, a moralist and hypocrite, a simple-minded sort."

Right there with you. This bothers me a lot. I am also disgusted by the way it came out: the obvious opportunism, illegal breaches of privacy, everything that everyone has cited here. It is possible to consider this an unfair hatchet job and also think that if it's true (and I believe that it is), it's inexcusable.

There are many ways that I can rationalize this from the general circumstances of pressure, youth, and wide-spread use to the more specific to Alex circumstances of being easily influenced and staggeringly insecure.

In the end, they do mitigate, but they don't excuse. It is wrong, and not everyone does it.

17 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Feb 8, 2009 6:51 am

[11] [16]

I really try to stay out of this whole steroids debate but.. why exactly are they wrong again?? There really are worse things going on in baseball...teams to go scouting in the D.Republic for kids who never finish school.. it's ok for billionaire owners to fleece the city for stadiums.. Fox & MLB start World Series games at 8:20pm...

I don't think it makes anyone simple-minded or a hypocrite for being outraged at steroids. I just don't see the point..there is still NO definitive proof that these drugs make that much of a difference. A player like Bonds was alREADY a phenomenal player..how many guys "juiced" and never saw any of their stats increase??

I really can't wait for the season to start!

18 joejoejoe   ~  Feb 8, 2009 7:28 am

I'd like to note that modern investigative reporting is filled with powerful people using cut outs that manipulate the press into reporting what the powerful want reported without the press knowing it. The Bonds case has been a long odyssey that is collapsing under it's own weight, with more than a handful of evidence problems that are bogging down the case. Perjury is a hard case to make. There is a new President in office with different priorities. The US attorney's office prosecuting the case is running out of steam and may end up folding up it's case if the new Attorney General says "Our resources are limited and we have more important concerns than steroid abuse. Wrap it up." So you've spent years of your life on what seems like a silly distraction, nothing really happened other than some chatter in the baseball world, and you have no heat in your case.

Why not leak a name like A-Rod to make your case sexy again?

19 Horace Clarke Era   ~  Feb 8, 2009 8:33 am

I am completely with the trio above [13,14,15] noting that it is very possible that more damage accrues to society through illegal leaking of confidential documents. I'll add that this is an abominably SELECTIVE leak. One name. As for throwing the journalists in jail ... it does happen, if and when they refuse subpoenas, and are thus guilty of contempt of court. How this, however, ultimately solves larger issues, I'm not sure. And I can as easily see a case made that secret deals to hide info do damage to 'us' as well.

I do want to make a point to OK Jazz ... it is one thing to say to an athlete 'I don't care if you mess up your body or your morals and use proscribed substances' ... but it is surely another to say to an athlete who does NOT want to damage either his body or his ethical sense by doing so that 'Sorry, the cheaters will have an edge on you. You may not even keep your JOB in pro sport unless you cheat.' For this reason I was actually more upset with stories that minor players like Randy Velarde used steroids ... if true, it means that Randy V kept a job on the margins of the game, earned his 2-3 million over 2-3 years (I think a bit more, actually) and kept someone ELSE, clean, from having that roster spot. And we all know there will be and are others like that.

I'm not getting into role models and heroes, others have made the ironic, cynical points that need to be made. We're supposed to treat these guys as gladiators, out there to entertain us, and ignore their humanity or lack of it. I can see the logic to that, but it gets hard to do. I've argued that some of the Torre Trauma comes from seeing him as 'more than just a manager' ... and I think this ripples right through all sports fandom.

Yankee fans are all smiting our brows (you smite mine, OYF, I'll smite yours!) and saying 'this is going to be a circus now, it'll hurt the season, be a distraction' and it will. It will also ripple through HoF issues in a big way. Do you really keep McGwire and Sosa and Bonds and Clemens out, if A Rod used ... or do you just add him to the exiles? Or declare a tacit amnesty because - as Alex suggests - the whole era was screwed up. And do we then start looking more closely at greenies, which were endemic a decade earlier?

My bet is that most people are going to try to avert their eyes, because what is under the rock is just too widespread and ugly. But OK Jazz, I think it is wrong to not at least call it ugly.

20 Joel   ~  Feb 8, 2009 9:11 am

The moral rationalizations in some of these posts are horrendous. What a message for kids!

Steroids are against the law. They give their users some kind of unfair advantage. They are very dangerous drugs that I would not want my son or any kid to take.

Any enforcement mechanism run by MLB or the MLBPA will be a joke. Right now you can't test for HGH because the union is against blood testing. What you have is multi-millionaire ballplayers and their hangers-on paying chemists to come up with the latest designer PED to stay one step ahead of the cops.

The only way this is going to get cleaned up is if the feds get involved. If MLB's anti-trust exemption has to be taken away or if the union has to be broken, so be it.

21 monkeypants   ~  Feb 8, 2009 9:21 am

[17] I am not going to get into a debate over why steroids are or are not wrong, or whether they are worse that greenies (within the context of baseball) or worse than other behaviors (in society at large). Here is my position, then I'm done:

1. I subscribe to an old-fashioned notion that certain mechanisms for improving athletic performance are natural (ie, lifting weights) and are therefore laudable and "good."

2. Other mechanisms are not natural, like taking PEDs, and are therefore "bad."

3. I recognize that certain mechanisms fit into a grey area: is reparative medicine really natural? I also recognize hypocrisies: we laugh at the old spitballer, but become outraged by the roid user. But I accept that society is built on such contradictions and I am comfortable with the categories as they exist.

4. I do not care whether steroids actually "work" or not, though I a have a hard time believing that NO advantage is accrued from their use. Rather, they are considered cheating (ie "wrong'), both explicitly (now there are stricter rules) and implicitly (there use even before explicit rules was stigmatized and relegated to the shadows).

5. That the greatest players of this generation all seem to be involved with PEDs bothers me deeply. I love the historical and numerical aspect of the game. Now, every record set--permanently etched in the books--will have a shadow cast over it. This is why it bother me more that a great player like Bonds or A-Rod is implicated. For a marginal player to use has little "historical impact." When guys start whomping 70 HRs in a season and 800 for a career, then it makes a greater difference to me.

6. I realize that some will view #5 as hypocrisy. See #3. I realize that my disappointment in #5 derives from #1 and #2. If one rejects the initial premise (#1 and #2), then the subsequent anger dissipates.

7. I tend to put great emphasis on personal responsibility. Thus, I am further angered when the actions of Bonds, et al is defended by those who claim that "they were under pressure" or "everyone knew about it" etc. This seems to my simple mind a smokescreen to exonerate the individual player, and thus remove any lingering guilt from the fan who adores him, by blaming a nebulous "society." The individual players knew or believed they were doing something wrong (see #4).

8. That said, the widespread use of PEDs, the blind eye turned by owners, the commissioners, by us fans, by the media, by the players themselves also disgusts me.

9. Further, I am bothered by the attitude that seems to be emerging, at least on threads such as these: "Who cares? Let them roid up? I just wanna see A-Rod smack the ball real far." I think that this attitude betrays just how cynical we have become as a society, and that grieves me.

9a. On a related note. Those who raise the "who cares" argument often, but not always, invoke it alongside the "athletes are not role models anyway" (usually coupled with a comment about Ty Cobb being a racist), in effect blaming less sophisticated fans for misguiding priorities. Yet, it is this very argument that allows the more sophisticated fan, who has seen through the hero-worship, to continue to relish the exploits of his favorite, roided athlete. In other words, I believe that the "who cares/athletes are not heroes" argument is a rationalization that allows him to continue to hero worship his favorite athlete. This too is cynical in its own way.

10. Finally, a personal note. One of the things that attracted me, a not very physically gifted male--can't really jump, slow of foot, not particularly strong--to baseball was the fact that it could be played by normal human beings, or at least that was the myth. You didn't need to be 300 lbs and run a 4.4/40, you didn't ned to be a 7 foot tall genetic freak, nor a 12 year old girl. Phil Rizzuto played this game at the highest level, for example, and that meant something to me.

I always appreciated that, from an aesthetic standpoint, about the game. I remember watching baseball on TV when I was a kid, and most (not all of course) of the players looked like normal human beings. It encouraged dreams of playing in the big leagues--and yes, I knew these were dreams, but at least ones rooted in a basic plausibility. I knew I was never going to be 7 feet tall.

But the game has changed, it seems, a lot in the last twenty years. And PEDs are at the center of the change (even if they do not "work," their use is bound up with a more general "bulkification" of the players in the sport). The steroids mess is the topper of general trend. As a kid I loved that "normal" guys could play this game, and now that too is gone, it seems.


Anyway, Tokyo, those are my thoughts on this topic. You will, of course, not agree.

22 williamnyy23   ~  Feb 8, 2009 11:05 am

[20] Before recently, possession of steroids WAS NOT a crime unless it was with intent to sell. Before 2004, there was no penalty in MLB for using steroids. In other words, our government didn't criminalize mere possession, while the sport didn't even care to test or punish their use. The only thing horrendous is when people try to retroactively enforce their own morality onto an environment they don't understand.

Also, so many of these substances DO NOT have a performance enhancing effect, such as HGH. Why people have no problem ignoring this fact in making their righteous proclamations about cheating is amusing.

[21] Those are all fair points, but it strikes me as the typical manifesto of one who pines for the days yore. I have no problem with that, and in other realms, feel similarly. Because I am so invest in baseball, however, I realize and understand that baseball is not played in a fantasy land of youth, but in the cold reality of adulthood. Until 1992, steroids were legal (things like the cream, clear, andro, etc. were legal into this decade); in addition to the old school steroids, there are a myriad of substances, many of which are ingredients in OTC supplements; until 2003 MLB didn’t even bother to test for any of these things…these are all facts. Trying to have 10 commandments about the moral certitude of steroids seems like a very difficult task to me. If a positive test were to happen now, after the full weight of the law, the league and public opinion has been put forth, then you could make a case. But in 1998, 2000, 2003, that wasn’t the case. There were a lot of grey areas, but everyone seems to be judging these cases in terms of a current day black and white viewpoint.

23 RCK   ~  Feb 8, 2009 11:24 am

[17] I will attempt to answer your question as well. I don't think I'm going to be quite as ordered as [21], but I'll try.

The degree of difference that steroids make in a person's ability to play baseball is unknown. However, those taking them are doing it with the intent to gain an edge. An edge that they know they are seeking in violation of the rules and thus know that not everyone will avail themselves of. Whether or not the cheating is successful, it is an intent and an attempt to cheat. Basically I agree with all of points 1-5 in [21].

I also agree with [19] that the idea that fringe player keeps himself in the majors with PEDs, denying a spot to someone breaking his back in the minors upsets me more than inflated numbers via PEDs. But if it's wrong for that guy, it's wrong for A-Rod too.

No, taking steroids is not worse than fleecing taxpayers for stadiums and treating the neighborhood where the team plays like crap. And in fact, it's all part and parcel of the way young kids, particularly kids from outside the U.S., get exploited by the game, but I'm allowed to think more than one thing is wrong at the same time.

I do see what you mean, though, that this is the issue that gets us all talking, that spills gallons of ink, and trillions of pixels, while the other issues are not nearly as sexy. And I admit that they don't give me the same sick feeling in my stomach. I think it's because this problem, the steroid problem, while clearly systemic, is also comprehensible at an individual level and has, on its face, a simple yes or no answer. Take the pills/injection, don't take the pills/injection. Whereas the problems you cite are wholly systemic and do not allow for individual finger-pointing.

And then there is the simple matter that this is someone I admired letting me down. Perhaps I was wrong to place my admiration there in the first place, but I did.

24 williamnyy23   ~  Feb 8, 2009 11:56 am

[23] You have to keep in mind that the allegations against most players took place in an environment during which neither the law or the game punished the action. It's hard to call someone a cheater when no one cared about the infraction. Now, someone like Palmeiro, is another case, but with the likes of Clemens, Bonds and perhaps Arod, they were pretty much doing something that was tacitly approved.

As for looking up to Arod, I admit that I admire him...but not the man...I admire his talent. Quite frankly, I don't see how anyone can admire a person without knowing him, but that just me. Besides, if I did admire Arod, I think I'd be more let down by the fact that he divorced his wife and two kids than that he took steroids. I'd say it's sad that more people are let down more by the latter, but perhaps I am out of touch.

25 Joel   ~  Feb 8, 2009 11:58 am

[22] "Retroactively" enforcing my own morality? Please. You have no idea what my morality was before 2003.

Keep making excuses for these guys. And the moronic statement that "so many of these substances DO NOT have a performance enhancing effect, such as HGH" only shows that you have spent little time near a ball field, let alone a weight room.

26 monkeypants   ~  Feb 8, 2009 12:49 pm

[24] William, we agree on many things, but not this issue. I refer you to my point #4 above. Even though steroids were not illegal nor were there explicit rules against it in the before time, that does not mean there was not a social sanction or stigma against using them. Within the context of the sport itself their use was obviously frowned upon and considered by a good many to be "wrong" on some level, or else the users would not have skulked around the shadows to obtain and make use of the substances.

Laws (or rules) are often codifications of what everyone knows or thinks is wrong already, not the other way around.

27 williamnyy23   ~  Feb 8, 2009 1:08 pm

[25] And you have no idea what my statement meant. I could careless about your morality in 2003, but like it or not, you are retroactively applying your 2009 morality to events that took place 5-10 years ago.

As for you second response: (1) Yes, I have been on a ball field and a weight room...in fact, I was on a ball field this morning practicing for the mens fast pitch league I play in. I have played on ball fields my whole life and worked out in numerous weight rooms. (2) I don't base my opinions of scientic matters on experiences on ballfields and weight rooms. I prefer to base them off of what is discovered in labs. The internet is a wonderful thing...do a google search on HGH and performance enhancement and read some of the studies you find. Then, get back to me on whose statements are moronic (or, just keep ignoring facts).

28 williamnyy23   ~  Feb 8, 2009 1:20 pm

[26] Again, that's a valid point, but a lot of things we are broadly calling steroids now (like HGH and andro...and as we are learning now, the cream and clear) were not labeled as such 10 and even 5 years ago. That's why Mark McGwire stood in front of his locker in 1998 giving an interview with some Andro right over his shoulder. With the Arod case, my point is that we should at least know what Primobolan is before deciding whether it enhanced his performance.

I also disagree that "Laws (or rules) are often codifications of what everyone knows or thinks is wrong already, not the other way around". Often times, they are codifications of what we think "should be wrong", while their lack of enforcement is a concession to a more practical reality. There are tons of examples of laws on the books without enforcement...in those cases, I think the lack of enforcement is a tacit admission that the law isn't really valued, and means more than the codification.

In this case, MLB didn't test or punish, and the federal government didn't prosecute. Consider someone who might fail to report some side dollars on their taxes (or pump up their charitable donations). Do they proudly trumpet their actions? Probably not. But, do you really think they are cheating, or just doing what everyone else does...something that really doesn't harm anyone anyway? Again, there are so many similar examples one can give in this regard. The gray areas of life are vast...I just don't see why steroid use has achieved such moral certainty.

29 monkeypants   ~  Feb 8, 2009 1:48 pm

[28] "I just don’t see why steroid use has achieved such moral certainty."

I see your point, but the fact is that it HAS achieved this status, and it has for some time across all sports, regardless of when individual sport organizations began to regulate their use. And so, relative to the standards of their own culture (ie, MLB), players who used were "cheaters" and the competitive integrity of the sport compromised.

By the way, to respond to one of your rhetorical questions in the last paragraph. Yes, I would consider all tax evaders to be cheaters, regardless of how many people do it and how diligently the law does or does not pursue them. There is no grey area here: they have broken the law. It's pretty black and white.

30 williamnyy23   ~  Feb 8, 2009 1:59 pm

[29] But I would argue that it has only received "moral certainty" right now, and only in baseball. For example, there was a headline about Dana Stubblefield and his steroid involvement. It's football, so I didn't read it because I just assume that every in the NFL takes something. I think everyone else does too...which is why a Shawn Merriman could take steroids, get 4 games and then make the Pro Bowl.

So, it isn't true that our society is uniformly outraged about steroids. Instead, it seems something very unique to baseball. Maybe it's an overreaction to MLB's lax policy before 2003, or maybe it's just because baseball, being the national pasttime, is simply held to an impossible standard, one that we all don't meet in our own lives?

As for the tax cheat question, I respect your stand, but when the President can't fill out his cabinet because so many nominees didn't pay all their taxes, well, that makes me believe that most others don't quite see it as black and white. I think we all face some kind of gray area in our lives. It's not an excuse for doing something "wrong", but it's not a reason to be disproportionately punished.

31 monkeypants   ~  Feb 8, 2009 2:40 pm

[30] "As for the tax cheat question, I respect your stand, but when the President can’t fill out his cabinet because so many nominees didn’t pay all their taxes, well, that makes me believe that most others don’t quite see it as black and white. I think we all face some kind of gray area in our lives. It’s not an excuse for doing something “wrong”, but it’s not a reason to be disproportionately punished."

This may say something more about our politicians than about grey area with regard to taxes. I think you mix up "grey area" (ie, actions or conditions that make right and wrong difficult to discern) with "disproportionate punishment". There is no doubt that tax evaders are cheaters--it is a black and white issue. More difficult is to establish what the appropriate punishment should be.

Same with steroids (in my opinion). The players who used were "wrong." Not much grey area from my perspective. But what to do with them is a tougher call.

That said, I think it is better in general to maintain clear standards of "right" and "wrong," even if it means making practical concessions when it comes to punishment and enforcement. That everybody commits X crime (or Y sin, if you prefer) should not make us, as a society, discard the notion that behavior X or Y is "wrong." This only, in my mind, further undermines what little sense of personal responsibility remains in our increasingly cynical and irresponsible society. A dude cheats on his taxes, it's wrong, plain and simple. Now, we don't have to chop off his hands or give him a life sentence with hard labor.

32 williamnyy23   ~  Feb 8, 2009 3:05 pm

[31] I don't think I am mixing up grey areas, but I think we might disagree about the link between wrong and illegal. For example, jay walking is illegal, but I don't think it is wrong. While jay walking laws exist, they are rarely, if ever, enforced, meaning that the law really doesn't have any value. Therefore, those who jay walk are committing a crime (if you look at things in black and white), but they are don't ding anything wrong.

Similarly, with the tax issue, I think there are a lot of gray areas, both in terms of people not really knowing what they are doing (thanks to the complexity of our tax code) as well as people not agreeing that illegal is wrong. To me, it isn't a black and white issue. We could debate this particular issue, but it veers off the road of baseball.

Ironically, the issue with steroids is different. In this case, while I think taking them is "wrong", I don't think the laws/rules involved were explicit enough to convey that message. I can see a lot of gray area.

While I agree that relativism is not an ideal way to run a society, I also believe that absolutes should be reserved for the most important things we face. I don't think that encourages cynicism or personal irresponsibility. If anything, I think trying to create absolutes out of every moral dilemma does instead.

33 Mr. OK Jazz TOKYO   ~  Feb 8, 2009 5:46 pm

Thanks to Williamnyy23, monkeypants, RCK, Joel, Horace Clarke and anyone I missed. Very interesting reading all your thoughts on this. Will try to reply in time..(and break my self-imposed rule on posting repeatedly on steroids rather than how much I worship Mo, or chatting with thelarmis and Chyll about jazz!)

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver