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inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #0 of 106: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Wed 13 Jul 05 08:44
    
Our next guest is sports writer Howard Bryant, who joins us to talk about
his latest book, "Juicing the Game: Drugs, Power and the Fight for the Soul 
of Major League Baseball."

Howard describes himself as "a leper."

"I don't like to think of myself as such," he adds. "I'm just a guy who
misses playing softball in Larkspur, CA with my friends. But Bud Selig, the
Commissioner of Baseball, told me if I wrote this book without blaming the
players for baseball's drug problem, a leper is what I would be."

Sports lawyer Stephanie Vardavas leads the conversation. Stephanie is on the
Board of Directors of the Sports Lawyer Association (see her full bio at
http://www.sportslaw.org/bodprofiles.cfm#sv)

"More importantly," she says, "I have been on the Well for 11 years and
cohost <weird.> (with mcow) and host <biz.>."


Welcome, Howard and Stephanie. Glad to have you here!
  
inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #1 of 106: Stephanie Vardavas (vard) Wed 13 Jul 05 12:33
    
Hey Cynthia, thanks for the warm welcome.

And hey Howard!

I am so looking forward to this interview. I’ve really enjoyed the
book (I am rereading whole chunks of it now) and once again MAJOR
CONGRATULATIONS  on the great notice in the NYT from Michiko Kakutani
(no pushover she, as many have learned the hard way).

You’ve made me do a lot of thinking about the subjects you raise. And
I do intend that as a plural. “Steroids” as an issue seems in some ways
indivisible from other historic tensions and issues that have
afflicted the game for generations.

So I want to start with a set of higher level questions before we
drill down into too much detail. Here’s what I’d like to you to talk
about first:


It is often said that Babe Ruth "saved baseball" after the Black Sox
scandal in 1919.  Ruth started out as a pitcher, of course, and a
damned good one, but he will always be remembered for the home runs.

Seventy-five years later, in 1994-95, baseball suffered an equally
devastating setback in the form of the late season player strike,
cancellation of the World Series, and the owners' desperate
near-abandonment of the game to replacement players. This setback was
followed by an era that seemed to portend renewed glory and relevance
for baseball. You quote observers to the effect that "Cal Ripken saved
baseball" but the story you tell is more complicated. It includes new
ballparks but it also includes a new golden age of offense ...
specifically, yes, home runs.

As (ahem, someone) observed a few years ago, "Chicks dig the long
ball."  Truly, most fans love it. (The appreciation of a pitchers’ duel
is a much more subtle thing.) Were the steroid-using players just
giving the fans what they wanted? How much of the steroid use would you
ascribe to (no pun intended) a kind of “arms race” among big league
hitters?  

After all, they looked around and saw their opponents as well as their
teammates getting bulkier and stronger every day. When you have a
major league club literally handing out jars of creatine in the
clubhouse, how are players to resist?  

Isn't power itself pretty appealing and addictive to all concerned? 

During the same period, as Don Fehr observed, didn't the United States
generally become more of a pharmaceutical culture? 

Or would you say that the owners bear principal responsibility because
they created the underlying business conditions that put baseball into
a state from which it needed to be saved in the first place?

Should we think about creatine the same way we think about the
anabolics? What about "andro?" 

Isn't there plenty of "blame" to go around?  



Here we go ...
  
inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #2 of 106: Howard Bryant (ohmy) Thu 14 Jul 05 08:19
    
Hi Stephanie! 

And thanks for the starting the first game with a 96-mph fastball.
I'll see if I can catch up. 

First, there is plenty of blame to go around. I went into this project
with one simple question to begin my reporting: "What were the reasons
for the greatest era of offense in the modern era?" We all had heard
theories: bigger players, smaller ballparks and strikezones, dreadful
pitching talent, and the use of performance enhancers.

What I wanted to know was how to put a value on each, of how to
measure the effect of ballparks against better nutrition, etc...

But what came as a result of the reporting was a story about power.
The steroid element so overshadowed all of the other variables that
real discussion of these other issues was virtually impossible, and
that led me down the road of: "how did this happen, and who is
responsible?" I began to zero in on the power struggle between _
surprise! _ Bud Selig and Donald Fehr. 

What I began to conclude as I continued the reporting was that the
1990s adopted a culture of bigness, where executives valued size and
power at all positions (even ones that were traditionally defensive
ones), and that the players recognized that this bigness, this need to
produce power was what the game respected, evidenced by the big-money
contracts. 
  
inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #3 of 106: Howard Bryant (ohmy) Thu 14 Jul 05 08:26
    
After reading more of Stephanie's questions, something else struck me
as well: you mentioned the Black Sox scandal and the notion of "saving
baseball." What I believed occurred during this time was that coming
out of the 1994 strike the owners were so fearful of losing the public
a second time that it did not police itself on this issue. The issue
grew outside of the game's confines (just as in 1919), the government
got involved (just as in 1919), and a scandal ensued. 

The DIFFERENCE, and it is significant, is that in 1919, the owners
were convinced their financial fortunes rested on cleaning up the game
from gamblers, from taint. During this decade, home runs flew, and more
fans paid more than ever. The game was never more prosperous, more
immediate, than during 1998-2001. 

This prosperity occurred just as the taint of steroids offended some
of the great retired players and significant records fell. So my
question in the book was this: "Which vision wins out?" Bud Selig says
baseball is in the throes of a renaissance. Jim Bunning says the game
is irreparably damaged. Can these two visions of the same period
co-exist?
  
inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #4 of 106: Stephanie Vardavas (vard) Fri 15 Jul 05 12:05
    


Well, I consider Jim Bunning to be irreparably damaged, but that's a
whole other thing.
  
inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #5 of 106: Stephanie Vardavas (vard) Fri 15 Jul 05 12:11
    

(Sorry to be flippant, well, only a little sorry, I guess.)

Let's talk for a minute about some of those significant records that
fell.

Elsewhere on the Well (in the Sports conference or maybe the Media
conference or maybe both, I don't recall) I have expressed a personal
view that players proven to have used steroids during specific seasons
should lose their stats from those seasons -- their records should not
be allowed to stand. In my mind this is the best way to try to preserve
the integrity of records. Others say, well, Player X was on greenies
when he set that record in 1958, so why does it matter?

I might rejoin, as nearly as I can tell, in 1958 EVERY player was on
greenies, and greenies did not have the kind of disparate effect on
hitters and pitchers that the steroids seemed to have.

But maybe I'm just rationalizing? 
  
inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #6 of 106: RJ Johnson (rmj) Fri 15 Jul 05 14:15
    
May another Sports host pop in here for a minute? :-)

Howard & Stephanie, I don't want to run this to a reductio ad absurdum
argument, but where do we draw the line for punishing players for
using items that weren't explicitly banned at that particular moment in
history?  Yes, steroids were banned but not nutritional supplements
which was how androstenedione was being advertised. Do we take
McGwire's 1998 stats out of the book if all that can be proved is that
he was using items that weren't at-that-time outlawed.

Howard: I'll state upfront that I'm in a union myself and I'm in
disagreement with you somewhat about how the MLBPA should have stepped
forward to submit for testing without reasonable individual suspicion.
I think that curtailing civil liberties to address a public relations
problem scares the hell out of me, not just in baseball but as a
precedent for overall society.

I'm not sure I have a question on this point right now, but I wanted
to let you know where some of my biases lie.
  
inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #7 of 106: Cynthia Dyer-Bennet (cdb) Fri 15 Jul 05 14:57
    
(Note: offsite readers who have comments or questions may send them to
<inkwell@well.com to have them added to this conversation)
  
inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #8 of 106: Sam Delson (samiam) Fri 15 Jul 05 16:32
    
If I can jump in with another question, Howard, congratulations on a great
book. It's nice to see a former colleague achieve a new level of excellence.

Did you see the recent Real Sports report on HBO in which Armen Keteyian,
who for years has reported on the dangers of steroids, took the contrarian
view that steroids, when properly administered, can be used safely by adult
males without major side effects? Keteyian said he was amazed to find that
there are in fact no peer-reviewed scientific studies that document major
health risks in steroid use for adult males (although dangers to youths and
females have been better documented) and that there is no solid evidence
that Lyle Alzado's death was linked to steroid use.

Obviously the issues surrounding steroids in baseball include many other
issues than health risks, and include concerns about the integrity of the
game's records, but I found the HBO report surprising and wonder if you give
it much credibility.
  
inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #9 of 106: Stephanie Vardavas (vard) Sat 16 Jul 05 00:15
    

"When properly administered" ... any sense of what that means?
  
inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #10 of 106: Howard Bryant (ohmy) Sat 16 Jul 05 03:57
    
Hey everyone. Thanks for joining the discussion. Already, there is
much to discuss. Hiya Sam!

I think Stephanie's first question struck me directly: yes, there is
plenty of blame to go around, and yes, power is *extremely* appealing,
warping, frightening, etc...And also, yes, players have been trying to
find what will give them an edge forever. 

But I don't believe this decade, with the powerful confluence of
science and technology, has much of a precedent. I think because we're
at a point in the game now where the leadership is running from its own
creation, we can assume that "mistakes were made" at the executive
level, many of which we can get into over the coming days.

But <rmj>'s point is a good one. Spoke to Bob Costas yesterday about
his HBO show, and the Armen Keteyian report that appeared on Real
Sports and the question of "where do you draw the line" in terms of
discipline is at issue. It is one of the reasons why Bud Selig is so
against an investigation of the decade. "Okay, here's what we found.
What do we do about it?"

I think the thing that struck me most about the research is that
Keteyian, to some degree, is correct. There is no irrefutable evidence
that says with certainty what steroids or hGH will do to a 35-year old
person. The lack of consensus in the medical community about these
substances only clouds the debate-- but to a point. The ethical
argument is different. John Hoberman, the U. of Texas professor who has
written extraordinary books on the subject (Testosterone Dreams is his
latest) believes this notion of "well, because we don't know for
certain, we can do anything" is the most cynical form of smokescreen.
To him, boundaries need to be established, at the very least, to move
forward. 

What we DO know is that in people who are still producing hormone at a
maximum level (ages 15-24, roughly), steroids and human growth hormone
are lethal. This is indisputable. And the biggest area is in the
brain. 

Richard Melloni, one of only four scientists funded by the NIH to
study the effects of steroids on the brain likens the dynamic to a
gas-brake mechanism. The gas is aggression. The brake tries to control
it. The brake chemical is called seratonin. Anabolic steroids increase
the power of the gas while simultaneously reducing the seratonin, which
produces more than double the effect: the gas is revved while the
brake is weakened. 

But what Melloni has been trying to appeal to people _ especially the
athletes who say "I'll just use steroids for a while, then get off once
I reach my goals" _ the gas/brake mechanism never returns to normal,
even after steroid usage has ceased. The result is the creation of an
altered brain, one very reactive to stress with a weakened ability to
deal with it. This is the portion of the debate that never gets
discussed. It was one of the more fascinating parts of the research as
well.  
  
inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #11 of 106: Howard Bryant (ohmy) Sat 16 Jul 05 04:04
    
<Vard>'s question as well, the Jose Canseco phrase of "when
administered properly" is one that has stirred debate and the
frustration of numerous scientists. This book first came to be during a
series of articles I wrote in June 2003 for the Boston Herald called
"A Tainted Era? Major League Baseball 1995-2002" Knowing what I know
now, I cringe at it today, but the most interesting thing that came out
of that series occurred the day after the steroids-hGH medical
explanation story ran. I must have received 40 voice and e-mails about
that story, and the overwhelming majority of the questions from readers
were not of outrage, but "where can I get some of this stuff?" When it
comes to anabolic steroids, there isn't a "proper way" to administer
at all. Growth hormone is, as they say, another kettle of fish
altogether, especially after at a science conference in Norway, a
Finnish scientist declared in a research paper that growth hormone had
no muscle-building value whatsoever.

  
  
inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #12 of 106: RJ Johnson (rmj) Sat 16 Jul 05 11:27
    
Howard, one of the things that made the book a bit of a difficult read
for me was the confluence and occasional conflation of several
different perspectives:

Medical: What are the physiological effects, short- and long-term of
steroid, hGH, and other supplement use?

Competition, point one: What effects do pharmaceutical measures have
on the quality of the game?

Competition, points two through N: what effects do new stadia,
increased revenues, et al have on the quality of the game?

Mediation: How does MLB ownership, the MLBPA, and the commissioner's
office intervene *going forward* to address competetive and medical
concerns?

Moral Outrage: What can or should be done to address the supposed
tainting of baseball's legacy that supposedly occured in the roughly
past 10 years?

IMO it is the last point that seems to skew meaningful discussion
about the first three, much the same way that the bleatings of "We must
protect the chilllldren!" skew discussions about drug and sexual
education policy in the US.

85 years ago, baseball banned the spitball but I've not heard of
anyone wanting to edit the records of Burleigh Grimes nor remove him
from the Hall of Fame; so why the sudden rush to judgment on items that
at the time they were being used were not legislated against by
baseball?
  
inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #13 of 106: Howard Bryant (ohmy) Sat 16 Jul 05 15:17
    
All good questions, and I'll try to answer each in turn.

1) Medical: While there is great debate about the efficacy of hgh and
androstenedione, the muscle producing effects of steroids and the
recovery characteristics of creatine are well documented. Steroids
enhance muscle, speed recovery from injuries, enhance quickness and
torque. Creatine does not enhance muscle mass, but allows muscle to
recover faster and sustain higher level of performance. It is produced
in small amounts by the body. 

2) Competition, part one: It is important to remember that there is no
precedent for the addition of these drugs into the discussion. But
clearly, these substances have a profound effect on the game because
they allow for increased and better-sustained output. This isn't
necessarily a bad thing. It is one of the ongoing arguments in cycling,
where the question is "do you want to see a race at 5 mph or 15 mph? 

For the players, these substances are vital to play at peak
performance, especially in an era of greater travel and more
prohibitive schedules. The question has been posed in this way: what
happens when the performance-enhancer becomes the performance-enabler. 

Competition, pt. 2 - Trying to understand the complexity of these
confluences was the challenge of and the attraction to the book.
Steroids were the sexy topic, but was it possible to place a value
system on the effects of stadia, revenue, laser-eye surgery, etc..? 

What I think became clear was that a fair number of pitchers who would
not be major-league quality in a previous era found themselves in the
big leagues as a consequence of economic stratification. The effect on
the quality of the game at the low end of the spectrum is clear. Listen
the Oaklands, Kansas Citys and Pittsburghs of the world complain not
necessarily about raw talent, but about depth and pitching depth. Those
clubs can compete for a short time,  be it a season, a few seasons or
a couple of months during a season, but eventually, the inability to
retain and attract talent diminishes the product. There have always
been also-rans, naturally, but during this era, the number of 90-loss
teams _ meaning the number of not just bad teams,  but dreadful ones _
increased dramatically.

On the high-end, one of the arguments inside the game is that the very
rich clubs became, at least in the AL, less nuanced and more about
power. The Yankees and Red Sox, especially, were star-laden teams.
Stars are less-inclined to do the little things that made baseball more
intricate. Money buys the biggest club. And the bashing began. 
 
  
inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #14 of 106: Howard Bryant (ohmy) Sat 16 Jul 05 15:27
    
Mediation: I think this goes back to the point raised earlier. The
owners have never articulated a clear strategy for moving forward,
other than being convinced they don't want to look back. 

The players believe the conversation to be so layered that outside of
testing, the rest of the game is merely evolution. What I enjoyed about
the book was the pitchers' contention that everything they need to be
successful has been taken from them, that every new element to the game
has helped hitters. Tony Gwynn believes the mound should be raised
back to the 1968 level.

When Jim Rice retired in 1989, it was clear that his eyesight over the
past three years had weakened. Bernie Williams had laser-eye surgery
in 2000, I believe. What is to say that increased vision isn't more of
an advantage than any type of supplement?

<rmj> sounds nonbelieving about the "tainted era" question, and that's
what I was trying to get at. I did come to one conclusion, however, 
and that was the lack of leadership vision gave the steroid issue much
more weight than perhaps it deserved. The surrounding variables are
equally, if not more, interesting.
  
inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #15 of 106: RJ Johnson (rmj) Sat 16 Jul 05 16:00
    
I think the idea of a "tainted era" is a pointless one. Did a player
or players use substances that were at the time banned by baseball? If
the answer is a provable "yes" then you move on to the penalty phase
against the player(s) found in viloation.

If the answer is "not a provable yes" then drop it and move on.

The notion of "Baseball as an inviolate, invariable ideal" is what is
flawed.  Gloves and bats are better now than they were 30, 40, 80 years
ago: does that make our era tainted or the earlier ones?  Societal
norms have changed so that athletes of all races can participate in the
sport; does that make pre-integration baseball a tainted era?  Gay men
cannot be out and play at the professional level; does that make all
of baseball history tainted?

I do agree with you that the management of MLB, starting with Bud
Selig and working down, has not shown much if any leadership on these
issues. I wouldn't object to them saying, "We can't go backward in
time, so let us look at what we can do now and going forward."

Howard, if you were the commissioner of baseball, how would you
address the situation?
  
inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #16 of 106: Stephanie Vardavas (vard) Sat 16 Jul 05 16:37
    


And, Howard, let's talk a little bit about the terrible tensions and
conflicts between labor and ownership in baseball that fed this
problem.

Obviously both sides were in denial for a long time, and that served
their mutual interest.

In a way the best thing that could happen to both sides would have
been federal legislation -- because this whole issue would have been
off the table for bargaining.
  
inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #17 of 106: Howard Bryant (ohmy) Sat 16 Jul 05 17:37
    
<rmj>, I couldn't disagree with you more that because substances
weren't banned specifically by baseball that there was no violation.
Steroids are a schedule III drug, no different from heroin or cocaine.
Because baseball chose not to act on information it had or was readily
available is exactly the reasons for considering the era to be tainted.


Nor will I dismiss the strong feelings of the players who came before,
who believe that something has been lost, not necessarily by the
changes in the game, but by the leadership's refusal to confront one
issue specifically: the use of illegal muscle-building drugs. 

That is an argument that is inconsistent with history, and the
commissioner's "best interest of baseball" powers

And what do you mean by a "provable yes?" It is clear if you polled
1000 major-leaguers who played between 1994-2002 they would tell you
steroids were a significant fact of their lives. 

in 2002, 79 percent of big leaguers said they felt pressure to use
performance-enhancers to compete. Bud Selig knew in December 2001 that
of 2,000 minor leaguers tested, nearly 430 players tested positive for
steroids. It stands to reason that some of those players made the big
leagues. 

I think the notion of a "tainted era" stems from inaction, not
"prove-ability" We'll never know the pervasiveness of steroids because
they did not try and find out. That's the point. 

I could see if investigation proved inconclusive. That's one thing.
Actively refusing to look is another. 
  
inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #18 of 106: Howard Bryant (ohmy) Sat 16 Jul 05 17:49
    
Hey <vard>. At the center of this story is power. And you're right.
Denial served interests on both sides. Murray Chass, the HOF journalist
for the NYT believed the entire mechanism was flawed. It reminded him
of the drug trials of the 1980s. There was no way the owners would rat
out their own players. It was a better risk, he said, to hope either no
one found out or that the public forgave and forgot. A crusading
organization would take money from its own pocket and put itself at a
competitive disadvantage if players were distrustful of the front
office. Word would get out, and free agents might not want to go there.


At one point during the research, I called Bud Selig to ask him some
questions. He said, "What frustrates me is that we get blamed for
everything but couldn't the Union for once put the game ahead of its
agenda?"

I relayed this to a few Union people and they cited historical
grievance. "Look at what happens every time we give in. in '85 we gave
them a year on arbitration. What did they do? Collusion." 

The union issues were clear: They did not trust baseball to not screw
them on testing. How would they know that an organization would test
for what they said they'd test for? The tests would be independent, but
the union still didn't buy it. 

How did the players know that testing wouldn't  be abused during
contract time or when an organization wanted to get rid of a player? 

There was so much mistrust between the two sides on a thousand issues,
many of which dated back to the '60s, and the original fights. The
prevailing attitude was that as long as Fehr and Selig were in charge,
nothing meaningful would ever get done. 

A union official just called me a couple of months ago with a similar
grievance. Remember that Saturday in April when Bud announced he wanted
to impose 50-and-100 game penalties for steroids? Well, the Union was
frosted because that memo was supposed to go to the Union for
consideration. Instead, it went public, backing the Union into a public
relations corner. A union lawyer told me, "This is the kind of shit
they've been doing for 40 years."
  
inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #19 of 106: Howard Bryant (ohmy) Sat 16 Jul 05 19:42
    
After reading your last point about the government getting involved as
a remedy for the infighting, it actually seems to have created more
problems, as the MLBPA is of the mind that Bud's reversal from "we
don't have a problem" to "We can handle our problems in-house" to "I'm
for whatever the government says" as potentially undermining a new
agreement. 
  
inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #20 of 106: Howard Bryant (ohmy) Sat 16 Jul 05 20:37
    
What I would do as commissioner is a funny question. After the Canseco
book was released this past February, I appeared on "60 Minutes" with
Mike Wallace. The next day, I received a phone call from the
Commissioner's Office. One of his representatives was livid, suggesting
 I did not know anything. I told him I would investigate. If baseball
could spend $3 million on Pete Rose, finding out the depth of the
steroid problem _ to finally have some answers _ was worth the
investment. 

Then I was asked, "Well, how would *you* proceed?" 

I don't think anyone wants or needs the Kefauver hearings. I do think
people want the Commissioner's Office to investigate, if not individual
players, then the depth of the problem. They would have to interview
trainers instead of threatening them with fines for talking, as Bud
Selig did ($10,000). They would have to talk to the traveling
secretaries, who know where the bodies are buried. They are the ones
who fly in the families, friends, entourages and mistresses. 


I think the reasonable goal would be whether it is possible to glean
enough information to determine whether or not the notion of a "tainted
era" is indeed pointless. Right now, I think there are so many
questions and not enough answers. But that doesn't mean there are no
consequences to this miasma. Hank Aaron is disillusioned. So is Reggie
Jackson. Willie Mays has been silent, Mark McGwire disgraced. I think
there should be some form of factual basis to begin closure, because
right now, other than the accountants, people don't feel particularly
good about celebrating 1998 anymore, or Barry Bonds today. 

That said, what do you do if you conclude that there was sufficient
evidence of a rampant steroid problem? Good one. I think the asterisk
is unsatisfactory, but I think the NCAA Tournament-style expunging is
harsh as well. If there is no middle ground, I might choose the latter,
but doing so discounts the other extremely important variables of the
decade that I look forward to talking about. 
  
  
inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #21 of 106: Chip Bayers (hotwired) Sat 16 Jul 05 20:40
    
The "players who came before," at least those who played in the 50s, 60s,
70s, and 80s, were either scarfing down amphetamines by the handful, or
looking the other way while their teammates did. Their outrage over a new
generation's performance-enhancing drug use sure rings hollow to me.

Also, a number of the players named this year as testing positive have been
pitchers. If hitters who used steroids as part of a strength-training
regiment are hitting homers off pitchers using steroids as part of a
strength-training regimen, who has the "unfair" advantage, if there even is
one?
  
inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #22 of 106: RJ Johnson (rmj) Sun 17 Jul 05 02:21
    
Howard, can I get a clarification on which items were banned by law
and which items were banned by baseball along with when each item was
outlawed or banned?

'And what do you mean by a "provable yes?"'

Something substantive enough to pass muster in a court of law given
that should owners or the commissioner's office seek to limit a
player's earning ability the matter would most likely wind up in a
lawsuit.

'It is clear if you polled 1000 major-leaguers who played between
1994-2002 they would tell you steroids were a significant fact of their
lives.'

Has such a study been done? If so, could you post a link to it; I'd
love to read it.

Again, I have no quibble with proceeding from a set methodology and
actively investigating the present (which baseball seems to have begun
this year), I just have yet to see a methodology laid out for
meaningfully investigating the past. Until such a method exists, I'm
unwilling to pre-emptively label a period and the players within it
"tainted." I still have a fondness for "innocent until proven guilty"
and not the other way around.
  
inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #23 of 106: Howard Bryant (ohmy) Sun 17 Jul 05 22:25
    
I too have a fondness for innocent until proven guilty, but that's not
the point with baseball. The point is that the sport hasn't been
willing to have a trial. 

Let's back up for a second. I went into this book project without
preconceived notions. I have never been convinced that steroids were
the reason for the decade of offense nor that eliminatinig them from
the game would provide the answers. The quest in the project was to
find out about the varying reasons for the uniqueness of this period. 

What ensued was a fascinating discussion with people who know more and
have forgotten more about major league baseball than all of us
combined.  Some of the best discussion, which I hope we will be able to
get to over the coming days, was about the fundamental attitude by
baseball executives toward the sport, such as Sandy Alderson's
contention that during the 1980s, executives stopped looking for
baseball players to fit traditional positions in favor of bigger,
offensive-minded players to fit *every* position. He does not believe
that an Ozzie Smith or Luis Aparicio today would even have a chance to
be a Hall of Fame player becauase they don't hit enough. 

I very much enjoyed listening to pitchers talk about how they believe
that everything they need to be successful, in this era of offense, has
been taken away from them. 

Bill James and I had very spirited discussions about the decade from a
valuation standpoint: how do you place values on each of the disparate
variables that created the decade, from steroids, to parks, to
drafting 6-3, 210-pound Alex Rodriguezes to play SS instead of 3B or
LF?

But then something happened: as the steroid  question became more
pronounced, it appeared that it was not possible to have that sort of
reasoned baseball discussion. Steroids overshadowed these different,
possibly more important variables. The  book became a story or
leadership and how a powerful industry failed to confront its greatest
crisis. 

The reason why there is such difficulty in answering many of these
questions is because the sport never chose to find out the answers when
the opportunity was present. I don't think that the sport is tainted
because there is definitive data that says so. The sport is tainted
because of the degree of uncertainty, much of it due to a deliberate
lack of desire to construct the kind of mechanisms that could answer
the questions being raised here. That's the story. 

Along the way, you find out why. You find out that the players and
owners did not trust one another to even begin dialogue. 

You find out that things are complicated. <hotwired> brought up
amphetamines, a great issue and example of the varying viewpoints I
tried to convey. To a lot of players, Greenies aren't
performance-enhancing at all, but are enablers. They believe the sport
could wipe out Greenies immediately by reducing the hardship of travel
and the schedule: too many day games after night. Too many night games
on the West Coast following an East Coast trip. Too many days in a row
without off days. Too many night games in spring training, etc...

The players make the distinction between steroids and amphetamines,
which is why the older guys grouse about roids while having taken
greenies. That's part of the discussion. 

You find out that there are conflicting visions of the decade. Bud
Selig refers to it as a "renaissance." I refer to it in the book as
"Bud Selig's Renaissance." Is it possible to have a renaissance at the
same time great HOF players say the game is tainted, Congress is
breathing down your neck and the game's greatest players must defend
their achievements? 

<Has such a study been done? If so, could you post a link to it; I'd
love to read it.>

We all would, <rmj>. The closest thing was the USA Today study in
2002. I have it in my archives. But it, too, is flawed because it came
from an outside source, not from baseball. But it does speak to the
culture of the times: players felt pressure to perform. They believed
that the game respected power and were willing to compensate for it.
And they were right. 
  
inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #24 of 106: Stephanie Vardavas (vard) Sun 17 Jul 05 23:59
    <scribbled by vard Mon 18 Jul 05 10:26>
  
inkwell.vue.249 : Howard Bryant, "Juicing the Game"
permalink #25 of 106: Chip Bayers (hotwired) Mon 18 Jul 05 09:41
    
Federal legislation to do what? Mandate drug testing? Weaken the 4th
Amendment for everybody because there's too much antagonism between labor
and management in a particular entertainment industry?
  

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