Stephanie Vardavas (vard) Mon 18 Jul 05 11:08
I scribbled my response 24, which was double-posted due to some web-based weirdness. Howard, what about those exhilarating early years of "Bud's renaissance?" I was at Cal Ripken's record-breaking game (#2131) and OK, I'm a lifelong Orioles fan, but even so, it seemed to me that you did not have to be an O's fan to be deeply moved by what was happening. I am told that the ESPN coverage included 21 minutes of total silence on the part of the guys in the booth, who decided to let the ambient sound tell the story. I don't mind admitting that I cried like a baby throughout most of the post-5th-inning festivities. Ripken, although to my knowledge he has never been charged with steroid use, was one of the avatars of the "big shortstop" era you talk about, the era in which Luis Aparicio or Ozzie Smith might not have been able to find work in the major leagues. When Cal came up I remember all kinds of debate about whether he was actually too big to be a shortstop. I attended many O's games during Brady Anderson's 50-home run epoch. It was THRILLING to see a leadoff guy knock the ball out of the park like that. I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about why this was. Fast forward a year or two or three and you've got some more major home run action going on, including the titanic battle between McGwire and Sosa, and Barry Bonds, for single season supremacy. They made Maris' record look QUAINT. I didn't want to spend a lot of time thinking about the nuts and bolts of how that happened, either, because it *was* exhilarating, like being on a really good roller coaster, and I wanted as a fan to just soak it up.
Chip Bayers (hotwired) Mon 18 Jul 05 13:09
Before this conversation goes much further, I want to add my more general feedback as one of the invited readers here. First off, I'm enormously impressed by the depth and breadth of Howard's reporting in this book. But like <rmj>, I've struggled through my reading of it because of the "confluence and occasional conflation of several different perspectives." Some of that boils down to a structural critique - too often I found myself wishing for a stronger narrative thread that would tie together the various anecdotal scenes. Beyond the structure, though, I think there's another reason for my struggles: your sympathy Howard, and therefore your authorial perspective, ultimately comes from the people you seem to respect the most - as you say here, the current older generation who "know more and have forgotten more about major league baseball than all of us combined." And I think because those people have gotten very, very confused in their own thinking about the history of the game, the book ends up reflecting their confusion. The rationalization condoning the use of "greenies" (and to me the distinction between performance "enhancers" and "enablers" is nothing more than a rationalization) is but one example of this. Baseball's elder generation today understands _their_ history, as they've lived it playing and managing the game, and "greenies" were a widely accepted and widely used part of the game then. But none of them seem to stop and think about whether the "pep pills" the '80 Phillies used to get themselves up for the game after an overnight flight to start a West Coast road trip might have been just as useful to the '27 Yankees, if they had had a chance to pop a few between games while they played back-to-back days of doubleheaders. (In one four-day stretch around Memorial Day that year, the Yanks played NINE GAMES - and five of them were on the road in Philadelphia!) As a result, despite all their homages to players of the past, and baseball's supposedly "timeless" records, most of them seem unable to step back and put their own history in context. Which is what causes them to believe that there's something profoundly unique about the shifts in emphasis in the game today, relative to their own era. And it becomes, in their mind, profoundly troubling, because it is so foreign to their personal experiences. And yet paradigm shifts in offensive emphasis, and in particular the waxing and waning of power hitting from one era to the next, is integral to the game's history. When you look back, you see that the contemporaries of John McGraw and the Ty Cobb in the 20s were as troubled, if not more so, by the changes Ruth introduced to the game as today's older baseball generations are by the past decade. Because it wasn't the game _they_ played, or were taught to play. Anymore than the plodding, station-to-station, power hitting players of the 20s and 30s could relate (in terms of experience) to the renewed emphasis on speed in the game after integration arrived in 1947. The difference is that in those previous shifts, the purported reasons for the change were easier to identify, because they were personified by single men: Ruth and Robinson. In this era, the confluence of events (many of them described in the book) and the way each has fed on the other, is much harder to identify, and can't be boiled down into any single player, although people have been desperate to try to - because for them it's all too difficult to sift and separate: is it the effects of the bigger players at skill positions (personified by Ripken), or the smaller ballparks, or the multiple expansions of the leagues that diluted pitching in the short term, or the lacquered bats, or the new wood types and bat designs, or the weight training, or the year-round training regimens, or the improved diets, or the growth of a wider international talent pool, or the improved scouting and systematic development of that talent, or the fact that emphasizing power pitching may actually aid power hitting, or sundry other factors? So the search for the "right" answer seizes on something else - aha, it's the steroids! - which happens to be bound up in the wider culture's general confusion about the use of pharmaceuticals and physical enhancement. As for my reply to the scribble: I don't mean to sidetrack discussion of Howard's book into yet another civil liberties debate about the WOSD. But given how unsuccessful drug testing as been at removing "taint" in other sports (track and professional cycling, for example), I have trouble seeing how you're going to solve the perceived problems simply by introducing Federal oversight of baseball drug testing, as <vard> suggested in her earlier post. Doing it because of frustration with owner-player tension also strikes me as the wrong reason. And that's before you start talking about what kinds of legal precedents you'd be setting in the process.
Stephanie Vardavas (vard) Mon 18 Jul 05 14:50
Well, I'm not sure the distinction between greenies and anabolics is all that spurious. Greenies enable a player to do a little longer, a little sooner, that which he could do anyway if he had more rest. Cortisone, although a steroid (nonanabolic) basically does this same kind of thing. So does ibuprofen, if you think about it. It seems to me that the thing about creatine, andro, and the anabolics that makes them different is precisely that they *remake* the body of the player, creating new abilities he never had before, and reshaping his body.
Howard Bryant (ohmy) Mon 18 Jul 05 15:01
<hotwired>, I'm not sure what to make of your post, other than accepting it as the natural criticism that comes with any project. I don't consider David Halberstam a friend, but he has been very generous the dozen or so times we've spoken. The last time was in considering the structural challenges of the book, and I thought his advice was very helpful: Think about the various intersections where the leadership had an opportunity to confront the problem. There must be a half-dozen or so major events. It doens't have to be more. Think about those moments, and how the leadership responded. That, he told me, was the book. I agreed, and don't think I've been successful in my belief during these threads that I never considered steroids to be "the answer," rightly or wrongly. What I believed was that it was the issue that pushed the story forward, was the most dangerous to the leadership and its unanswered impact created the confusion and complexity regarding the decade. As I tried to say earlier, I don't believe there *is* a right answer to sum up the decade. What I do know is that the leadership's inability to deal with the most explosive issue _ steroids _ created this appearance of a taint. I have had this conversation with Bud Selig, Sandy Alderson, Donald Fehr, Richard Pound, and a host of other very smart people, and the answer has very much been the same: had baseball not been so aggressive in its denial, in separating itself from the larger question of performance-enhancing drugs that have plagued all sports ("There's nothing in a bottle that can help you hit a baseball") I don't believe it would have been treated differently from football, the Tour de France or Olympic swimming or track. But baseball's position was "we don't have a problem at all." That was the beginning of the separation between it and football, where the players themselves in the mid-1980s asked for a steroid policy (though it is still clear that drugs are being used). It was in the approach. I was in Phoenix with Sandy and I said to him, "Why didn't baseball just come out in 1998 or 99 and say what everyone knew: there was no precedent for what these new drugs can do. No one knows exactly what they can do, but from this day forward we'll be behind the eight ball. It's human nature to improve performance." That wasn't baseball's response. baseball's response was: Players in our sport don't use these drugs. That is why this story made baseball different. I do quibble with you about my sympathies. The notion of performance enhancer vs. enabler did not come from the old generation but is a very contemporary argument. If you remember the section of the book where it is most prominent, the person at the center of the discussion isn't some '60s All-Star, but Donald Fehr. The players today tell me this all the time: if you want to get rid of greenies, then cut the schedule down to 145 games and give us a few more off days. This is a "today" argument. Maybe it is not convincing, but I believe it is one of the reasons why amphetamines don't receive the same attention as steroids. John Hoberman, the professor at the U of Texas who is quoted in the book, sees amphetamines as nothing more than workplace doping, no different than students cramming for mid-terms, truckers loading up to make it across the country to deliver shipments, doctors working 18 hour-shifts in the ER or Silicon Valley workaholics loading up to make the next software launch deadline. I think this is a more appropriate framework for the amphetamine argument.
Chip Bayers (hotwired) Mon 18 Jul 05 16:48
But Hoberman's not talking as an authority on the physical effects of the drugs, he's talking about how society perceives them. Or at least, that's my understanding of his research and writing. He's not any kind of medical professional. And I think <vard> is dead wrong when it comes to the "reshaping" effects of amphetamines. They certainly can and do change the way the brain and central nervous system work - sometimes permanently, if abused. But we don't see that the way we do the bigger muscles that steroid use can generate. With both amphetamines and steroids, though, you're supplementing the body's "natural" chemistry in order to enhance your abilities. The fact that we see aids to concentration as different from aids to musculature says more about our social views of athleticism than it does about the power of the chemicals involved. As for baseball's "we don't have a problem" response in the 90s - well, they've always been bad at PR. But so what? Just because they're worse than the NFL in that department tells us nothing about whether there's a problem, or how it should be addressed. Which reminds me of something William Saletan wrote for Slate back during the March steroid hearings on Capitol Hill: "Harold Henderson, the NFL's vice president for labor relations, tells the committee that in each year of high school, his son gained 13 pounds for football season and then lost it for wrestling season. On his college football team, at a steady height of 5 feet 8 inches, the young man went from 152 pounds to 165 to 180 to more than 200. Henderson proudly reports that his son did this without taking a 'substance.' It was all diet and weight training, he says. Tagliabue calls this an exemplary case of "perfectly clean" self-improvement. "This is what happens when you equate unnatural performance enhancement with drugs. You end up thinking that a kid who puts 33 percent more weight on the same frame is okay because he's 'clean,' and a sport that offers millions of dollars to guys carrying 90 pounds of fat is exonerated. You end up asking Waxman's question about the NFL's weight explosion: 'Is this just a natural phenomenon, or is this the use of drugs?' Maybe it's neither. And maybe that's the problem."
Stephanie Vardavas (vard) Mon 18 Jul 05 19:36
I think we can all agree that football is very badly screwed up. Three words: William "Refrigerator" Perry. Drugs or no drugs? Hardly matters. But the fans loved him, as they loved the slugging and the home run chases. One way or another, the pursuit of BIGNESS was going to happen. It's irresistible. In an environment of mutual trust and respect, perhaps the owners and players could have reached some mutual understanding to preserve the health of the players (and incidentally the integrity of the stats). But in this toxic environment that wasn't going to happen. Bill james' analysis of pitchers' and hitters' eras is particularly interesting. It more or less puts to rest any idea that the stats were not severely slanted in the "steroid" era. (see pp 246-248) Circling back to the laber relations issues, Howard, how would you analyze the trouble caused by (on the one hand) the more or less historically standard tensions arising out of the game's economics, and (on the other hand) the tensions created/ stoked by this Commissioner specifically, and his staff as instruments of his will?
Howard Bryant (ohmy) Tue 19 Jul 05 21:12
Very interesting question, <vard>. I did an interview the other day and was asked if I executed the book exactly the way I had hoped. The answer, of course, was no. And I told the interviewer that there were two major areas I simply could not fit in the book. The first was the profile chapters on Greg Maddux and Pedro Martinez. One of the arguments in the book is the contention by pitchers that in this age of offense, everything pitchers need to be successful is being taken away. For Maddux, Randy Johnson and Pedro to deal as they have in this era especially is remarkable. I wanted to try and pull something different out of each of those pitchers. Didn't happen. The second issue was the economic tensions you suggest. I wanted to do this through one concept _ Bud Selig's strategy of forcing municipalities to build new ballparks for clubs, or else, while judging the viability of a baseball market almost solely on its ability to wrangle a sweetheart stadium deal _ and by profiling four cities: Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Montreal and Toronto. The first concept was Selig at his most manipulative. And ironically, backfired most in his own city, Milwaukee. The reason why these cities are important is because Bud sees himself through the eyes of the one commissioner he truly admires: Pete Rozelle, the late NFL Commissioner. Selig never idolized Landis, but he was completely taken by the idea of a single commissioner having longevity and the ability to produce revenue sharing among the clubs and dominate its players association. What Bud believed to be the a Rozellian strategy was to increase revenue through new ballparks, which would make each team feel better about itself, and then approach them with revenue sharing. It didn't work. The Brewers, Pirates and Reds all have stadiums less than five years old but claim to be losing money. The result may soon be another Kohler-like summit where the big clubs look at the small and mid-market with the conviction that (because they have the new revenue streams of new ballparks and are still struggling) they will never be able to compete....without a salary cap. That tension has been highlighted over the past five years where you've seen more 90-loss teams than ever before , suggesting that while there have always been bad teams, the gaps are widening during this era that the Commissioner calls a renaissance. it is one of the reasons why some baseball people believe it is not a fluke that the Yankees won 100 games three straight years for the first time in their history and both the Yankees and Mariners broke season-victory records within four seasons of one another. Already, Selig began opening day by saying that more teams can compete than ever before, a quip that was immeditely seized upon by a union official who called me, gearing up for a battle royal in '06. "If more teams are competitive than ever, which is what he said, then competitive balance will no longer be an issue. Why then, would we agree to a cap? We won't." I was told. Also the official told me that the union believes it has given so much on the drug issue that there will be no concessions on other issues. Sounds like the battle lines are hardening already.
Michael R. Walsh (mrw) Wed 20 Jul 05 00:06
Now that the BALCO trial has concluded without naming a single name (even ones who confessed), do you think Selig is under any pressure to censure the steroid abusers himself, as Landis did with the Black Sox?
virtual community or butter? (bumbaugh) Wed 20 Jul 05 04:52
Question for both vard and ohmy: As I understand things, contemporary chemistry can benefit pitchers as well as hitters, especially in allowing more rapid recovery from the rigors of an outing, so why do we focus almost exclusively on slugging? (And a reminder that readers not members of the Well can participate by sending comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org for us to post.)
Howard Bryant (ohmy) Wed 20 Jul 05 05:42
<mrw>, I don't think the commissioner was *ever* under any pressure to censure players. I have heard the comparison between the steroid scandal and the black sox, even made the connection in one section in the book. It is true that I believe steroids _ like gambling _ grew to its current proportion only because the story grew outside of the containment of the baseball circle. Once the government gets involved, anything is possible. The critical difference is that in 1920, the owners were convinced they would suffer financially by the gambling scandal. The interesting thing about 1920 is that the dip in attendance was less severe than the aftermath of the 1994 strike. Today, the owners *made* money during this scandal. They had very little incentive to move on this story on their own. The muscle of the story was produced by three events: Canseco/Caminiti 2002, BALCO 2003 and the interest of a heavyweight like John McCain. Bud Selig calls this period a "renaissance" and, because he uses the balance sheet as a barometer, he makes a very good argument. It is very similar to 1994. Anecdotally and emotionally, the strike was devastating. In terms of real finances, most of the good teams (minus Toronto) returned to pre-strike levels within two seasons.
Howard Bryant (ohmy) Wed 20 Jul 05 06:00
<bumbaugh>, you're right. And its one of the elements in the book where MLB made one its most compelling cases. In its constant blaming of the union for this crisis getting so far out of hand was the vigilance (or lack thereof) on the part of the players. The MLB argument was this: "If the hitters a pushing the game so far out of balance, why don't the pitchers complain to their union and effect change?" This was the same argument for body armor, elbow pads that reduced the fear factor that should be an essential part of hitting. And what MLB concluded, through its own intelligence and some damning medical reports that the reason why there was so little union commotion about hitters was because it seemed the pitchers were using, too. The two people most convinced pitcher steroid use was one of the real underreported elements of the story was Billy Beane in Oakland, who told me: "Do you really think that baseball people, desperate for arms, aren't going to discover a guy throwing 96 until he's in his early 30s?" Bobby Valentine said during this decade, he had never seen pitchers *gain* velocity as they had during his last few years as manager of the Mets. The pitchers I spoke to didn't deny this, either. There were some very clear examples of pitchers coming from nowhere. That is not to say that a pitcher cannot master his craft without steroids. It is to say that the rising velocities among pitchers, especially relievers, was a sign of suspicion. Here's a good example. One of the pitchers hounded by steroid suspicion is Alan Embree, reliever most recently with the Red Sox. Embree was released by Boston yesterday. On the broadcast yesterday, Jerry Remy spent a good part of an inning talking about Embree's lack of velocity this year. "When he first came here, he was throwing 96-97. That's overpowering. This year, he was around 91-92. That's a significant drop..." I know this is code talk about Embree because off-camera, the talk surrounding Embree this season was "let's see what he does now that testing is a little tougher." When I go to the ballpark today (who could miss a chance to cover the D-Rays?), it will be interesting to hear the reasons and theories for Embree's release.
Stephanie Vardavas (vard) Wed 20 Jul 05 15:00
hey <bumbaugh>, to your question (and Howard's excellent answer) I will only add: the economic impact of juiced pitchers on the game is less clear than that of the sluggers. Starting pitchers occupy a unique economic niche: their effect on attendance can actually be measured, since the starting rotation is well understood by the fans and publicized every day in the newspapers. Guys like Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Pedro Martinez, etc. over the years have been big box office draws (at home and on the road) and those effects are clear from some simple math. However, it is also safe to say that most fans do not hope for a pitchers' duel when they come to the ballpark. The scoring of runs, especially by way of home runs, has pretty much always been the bigger crowd pleaser. It's just human nature. Also, specific relief pitchers (except for the high-end professional closers) don't reliably get into most games -- middle relievers enter only if the starter falters -- so (while a juiced middle reliever could have a big impact on some games) no one buys a ticket to see him perform. (He gets six tickets per game, so his mom doesn't have to buy.) %^> As for the closers, I doubt one out of a thousand Yankee fans would tell you that he or she went to the game primarily or even secondarily in hopes of seeing Mariano Rivera pitch in the 9th. (They'd rather be four runs ahead.) On the subject of revenue sharing, Howard, an observation and a question. The owners have always linked the concept of revenue sharing to various salary cap / luxury tax initiatives which have had varying degrees of nonsuccess in equalizing competitive balance. But despite the fact that it is probably 100% legal for them to do so, they have not made any serious moves toward simply equalizing revenues (as the NFL has done since long before the NFL salary cap) and then letting player payroll find its own level. Would the rich-market owners have any interest in revenue sharing if they did not envision it as a way of controlling player salaries? In America we have capitalism (for the most part, anyway). We have Labor and we have Capital. Capital's role is to take the risks and earn the rewards. Labor's role is to get paid as well as it can for the work it does in the service of Capital. Since when is it Labor's responsibility to pretect Capital from its own excesses?
Chip Bayers (hotwired) Wed 20 Jul 05 20:11
The only way Selig could truly mimic Rozelle would be to turn all the TV revenue into a single stream, and split it equally among the teams, since the local cable networks are the real advantage held by the big market teams. Good luck to him, though convincing Steinbrenner that YES should be in effect a wholly-owned subsidiary of MLB. As for the 100-win teams: isn't that as much a function of the move to three divisions as anything else? The reason the Yankees and the Braves have registered so many 100-win seasons in recent years is because they've each had a surplus of games against Tampa and Montreal, respectively. As for first time with three straight teams over 100 wins: the current Yankee dynasty also obviously has eight more games to do that than the dynasties of the 50s, or the 30s, or the 20s. The late 70s group had 3 100- win seasons, today's has had 4. Anyway, while the Yankees had never done it before, other teams had. The Orioles did it from 1969-71 (not coincidentally, right after an earlier league expansion and realignment into division play); the Athletics did it from 1929-31 despite the then shorter schedule, in the midst of stretch when the AL champ won 100 six straight years. One final historical footnote: in Bill James' list of the offense up/offense down eras in baseball history, he notes that the current era, while the greatest for scoring in "modern" times, still doesn't approach the offensive explosion of the 1890s. That decade, like the most recent, followed a huge battle between Labor and Capital, which resulted not in a cancellation of a season but in the players marching out to form their own league, killing the then-dominant National League's attendance for the year. In that case, however, I don't think they were accusing Dan Brouthers and Ed Delahanty of juicing.
Howard Bryant (ohmy) Wed 20 Jul 05 20:33
<As for the 100-win teams: isn't that as much a function of the move to three divisions as anything else? The reason the Yankees and the Braves have registered so many 100-win seasons in recent years is because they've each had a surplus of games against Tampa and Montreal, respectively.> I'm not sure, <hotwired>. I would tend to doubt it, because to me it is more a function of undercapitalized clubs getting their heads bashed in by the good teams. If the Devil Rays or Expos were better clubs, they would reasonably be more competitive against the big clubs, winning a better share of those 19 games. The fact that you play them more is secondary to the fact that they have no payroll and no talent. I also think it is the reason why _ because of sorry teams in Pittsburgh, Milwaukee and Cincinnati _ that you have St. Louis steamrolling as well over the last couple of years. <I don't think they were accusing Dan Brouthers and Ed Delahanty of juicing.> I don't, either. I think Selig recognizes he can't "mimic" Rozelle because of the fundamental differences in their sport's structures, but he admired him more than he did any baseball commissioner. <vard> wrote: Starting pitchers occupy a unique economic niche: their effect on attendance can actually be measured, since the starting rotation is well understood by the fans and publicized every day in the newspapers. Guys like Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Pedro Martinez, etc. over the years have been big box office draws (at home and on the road) and those effects are clear from some simple math. I'm glad you brought this up. It is off-topic and an area I didn't get to in the book (a swing and a miss!) but in 2003 when the Sox were forced by time to seriously consider whether or not to make a big play to retain Martinez, I was in John Henry's office with him and Larry Lucchino, and neither were convinced that Pedro had much impact on bottom line attendance. The old guard at Fenway tried to convince Henry and Lucchino that this was not the case, that Pedro at his best turned a drizzling Tuesday night against Tampa into a must-have ticket. The old guard, men like Lou Gorman and Dick Bresciani, tried to tell them that even Roger Clemens in the '80s didn't have the kind of magnetic pull of Martinez. H&L were convinced that the Sox logo was buying power enough and thus balked at the notion that Martinez contained that much power. It was one of the reasons they were convinced the Red Sox could live without him. One of the arguments, they did not buy that I believe they should have, was the idea that all 35,000-fan crowds are not the same. There is the sellout with some people deciding to keep their tickets and go, and there is the sellout with 20,000 more fans trying to get in. It is the latter that the Red Sox believe they can sustain, what with the highest tickets in baseball but a 180+ game sellout streak.
Chip Bayers (hotwired) Wed 20 Jul 05 22:21
The Devil Rays were/are an expansion team that has been mismanaged from day one as a franchise; the Expos were a franchise that was deliberately driven into the ground by Jeffrey Loria in order to serve the MLB oligopoly's interests on the labor front, for which he was duly rewarded. Then they were taken over by the other owners and starved some more. Undercapitalization was part of the business plan in both cases. I'm all for improved revenue-sharing, but the lack of it is not why teams aren't competitive. Poor management is the biggest culprit. The A's, Marlins, and Twins in recent years have all shown that low payrolls are no barrier to winning, even consistent year-after-year winning; the Kansas City A's and the St. Louis Browns franchises of the past show there have always been teams as badly run as Vince Naimoli's Tampa Bay operation. Any argument that claims undercapitalization accounts for poor play also has to explain how the A's managed to put up back-to-back 100 win seasons in a division where they had the smallest revenue stream, and where the capital backing the other teams in the division included Nintendo, Disney, and a guy who sold his radio station chain for billions.
Stephanie Vardavas (vard) Thu 21 Jul 05 00:03
I didn't see anyone asserting that "undercapitalization accounts for poor play." In my view, stupidity is the equalizer. A smart and lucky poor team can keep up for a little while with the smart and better capitalized teams, perhaps a bit longer with the stupid and better capitalized teams; a team that is rich but spends foolishly will waste its natural advantage. I would say this is an instance where the exception proves the rule.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Thu 21 Jul 05 09:39
Note: Howard will be interviewed today (Thursday, 7/22) on "Fresh Air" on NPR. For those who miss the program, it'll be archived at the Fresh Air site.
Chip Bayers (hotwired) Thu 21 Jul 05 10:03
>I didn't see anyone asserting that "undercapitalization accounts for poor play." In #39, Howard described Tampa and Montreal as "undercapitalized clubs getting their heads bashed in by the good teams."
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Thu 21 Jul 05 10:22
(The Fresh Air with Howard is indeed today, but 7/21, not 7/22 -- I've been working all morning on a project that'll get published with tomorrow's date; sorry for any confusion.)
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 21 Jul 05 11:32
I'm really enjoying this topic. It's got me thinking about what a real asterisk system would look like. The era of poor childhood nutrition. Eye surgery. The age of just knowing that there is microsurgery to repair joints. The age of players having to work winter jobs. Minor and legal stimulents taken. Not to say that all of those things are the same, but since we are on the first few steps of a journey into gene therapy and designer babies, what does that mean for a much more complicated future?
Stephanie Vardavas (vard) Thu 21 Jul 05 14:21
I'm not sure any of us can speculate even semi-knowledgeably about that. My own not-very-knowledgeable viewpoint is that things you wear (like braces, arch supports, and eyewear) are OK as long as they normalize subpar attributes instead of trying to build a superman. I think laser eye surgery is OK because it normalizes subpar vision instead of creating freakishly good vision. Speaking of good vision, Howard, can wee talk about the strike zone for a little while, and the umpires' backstory power struggle? The book tells it so well. This is another aspect of the game where the pitchers felt they were really getting hosed, more and more each year, as the high strike was taken away from them by the umpires. The hairtrigger use of "warnings" was also a big part of this. And this circles back around to "things you wear." What about all those pads and body armor that the hitters get away with? How can a pitcher assert himself and protect his teammates?
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Thu 21 Jul 05 14:45
[Meanwhile: Excellent "Fresh Air" interview today, Howard.]
Howard Bryant (ohmy) Thu 21 Jul 05 23:02
RE #43: <hotwired>, I was merely suggesting that the reason for the rise in 100-win seasons was not merely due to playing bad teams more. There are underlying economic reasons why some are bad. I would *never* absolve anyone in the Tampa front office of responsibility. But Montreal is a different case. Were they run into the ground by Loria under the orders of MLB? Absolutely. If you read my earlier post about what I didn't get to in the book _ a further explication of the Montreal situation _ you could assume I have a decent handle and interest in the Expos situation. However, the Expos were never anything but a small-market team, even during the years they were considered viable. As for the A's and Twins, they have enjoyed remarkable runs. But lets not forget that both playoff streaks came after nearly a decade of abysmal baseball, and both have seen their talent diminish recently. I consider Ken Macha a friend _ he attended my wedding, so I'm not overreaching _ and he and I talk often about whether or not he was "hired to oversee the demise of the A's." The A's have smarts, and they have talent, but they have suffered considerable losses in talent. Look at the Oakland record against Anaheim, New York and Boston over the past two seasons, as opposed to the previous three. Moreover, how much worse would the Red Sox and Yankees be if there were other teams in a position to bid for the Giambis, Foulkes and Damons of the world. Eventually, that talent drain catches up to even the smartest of organizations. Meanwhile, the Red Sox and Yankees, for the most part, lose only the players they choose not to keep.
Howard Bryant (ohmy) Thu 21 Jul 05 23:13
#45 - Gail, the future is indeed going to pose numerous ethical and medical questions where answers will be in short supply. There was one funny moment during my research where Don Fehr and I were on the telephone and he was clearly getting exasperated by the steroid discussion. At one point, he finally sighed and said with resignation, "This conversation is already past tense, anyway. Steroids are nothing compared to gene therapy." <vard>, thank you for the compliment on Chapter 11 (pitching/strike zone/QuesTec), but already I'm feeling that annoying tug that happens at the end of any project, because Tom Candiotti, whom I covered in Oakland for two years (98-99) comes up to me at Fenway the other day and says, "you barely scratched the surface. You wouldn't believe how out of control the umpires were. I had umpires, and you can ask Piazza about this, too, who used to come into the training room and ask us to sign balls for their memorabilia collections. If we refused, they would intimate that our strike zone was going to be microscopic unless we changed our minds." I said to Candy: "NOW you tell me." He said: "You didn't ask me about *specific* umpires. You asked me about the zone." I said: "This is getting into the paperback." I will return to this story quickly...switched coasts today....heading for bed. and leave it to me to be a terrible marketer. For anyone bored or who wants to discuss in person, I will be at: A Clean, Well-Lighted Place for Books Tomorrow, Friday, July 22 Reception: 6:15 Reading: 7 p.m. Come on by. I've been on the Well since '93, but have only met one comrade in person, <dsg>, in Boston a few years ago.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Fri 22 Jul 05 07:33
Not quite true. We met at your last Clean, Well Lighted reading, Howard, the one for "Shut Out." I've got the signed copy to prove it!
Members: Enter the conference to participate