Friday, December 03, 2004

 

Jason Giambi and me

I was talking with someone this morning about Jason Giambi's admission that he used steroids. I've read some baseball fans' opinions that he should be suspended or even banned permanently from MLB. I can't make myself agree with that. Whom, other than himself, has Jason Giambi really hurt? Okay, if it's true that he used steroids, and if it's true that his use of steroids contributed to the health and physical problems that have plagued him since he joined the Yankees, then yes, he hurt his teammates and Yankee fans, who have had to pay, one way or another, for his hefty contract.

If. And, again, if. And then, then.

And yes, I know the argument that records set by the use of chemicals must be tainted when compared to records set by normal human beings. Worse, pennant races may be affected - if a team with a monster plays a team of norms, they may have an unfair advantage. The fact that the Yankess have not won a World Series since Giambi joined them, that the Giants have won nothing with Bonds - they undercut but do not entirely negate the thesis. Barry Bonds would be the best player of his generation without steroids, and Giambi would be in the top 20.

In any case, I just cannot get overly exercised by the whole thing. I'm not advocating using steroids - we saw what they did to Lyle Alzado, and there are probably numerous other only slighly less tragic examples of their ill effect. As I said to someone this morning, as far as I'm concerned, the real danger is that young people, especially teenage boys, will see Bonds and Giambi and others taking steroids and conclude that they, too, must do the same if they are to have any hope of pursuing an athletic career. It's one thing for an adult to make a stupid decision, especially after he's banked his millions. It's entirely different for a kid to crap up his life in hopes of achieving something ridiculously improbable in any case.

I'm just saying that I think it's absurd for baseball fans to get more pissed about Jason Giambi taking steroids than they are about, say, the Milwaukee Brewers cheating their fans by failing to live up to the agreement they made to get their new stadium built, or MLB as a whole acting in collusion to cheat the fans in Montreal by loaning Jeffrey Luria money to buy the Marlins and then not letting the Expos compete fairly before shoving them on DC. I think those things are far more destructive of fair competition than a few players overreaching for an edge they didn't really need and which, you have to admit, potentially hurts them more than anyone else.

Okay, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm a biased Yankee fan. Maybe Jason Giambi taking steroids is actually worse than the Cubs not spending their massive TV revenues on players and also not sharing their massive TV revenues with the other teams like they're supposed to. Convince me I'm wrong. I'm listening.
Comments:
It's wrong to use steroids because steroids are a form of cheating. It's one thing if you know that absolutely the entire field is using them. I suspect that the Olympic 100 meters is that kind of contest. In that case, the ethical issues become more complicated because the real rules don't match the official rules.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I suspect that steroids are the exception rather than the rule in MLB. If so, Giambi and Bonds are cheating in the most literal and obvious sense. It's bad enough to cheat, but when you're a big name professional athlete you take on the responsibility of being a role model.

You're right, any potential incentive for young athletes to use steroids is very serious. Much more serious than, say, Pete Rose using cocaine. I'm not saying cocaine is healthy or virtuous, but at least it's unlikely to make anyone sterile, accelerate atherosclerosis or provoke liver cancer in very young people (as steroids have been shown to do).

I'm not qualified to weigh the relative egregiousness of Giambi taking steroids vs the unethical business decisions by the Cubs or the management of MLB. Based on what you describe, it sounds like there isn't nearly enough outrage about these unfair business decisions--but that does nothing to excuse self-professed cheaters like Bonds and Giambi.
 
Well, what Pete Rose was busted for (in a baseball sense) was not using cocaine but betting on baseball. I don't even know if he was ever even accused of using cocaine. He certainly was not one of the players suspended in the 1980s, such as Dave Parker or Keith Hernandez.

To me, what Rose did is far worse than what Bonds or Giambi is accused of. He was a manager of a team, in a direct spot to affect everything regarding his team during a game. And it doesn't matter that he probably never bet against his team. When he bet, he was in effect telling other gamblers that he expected his team to win that day. When he didn't, it might mean that he did not think his team would win that day. Who knows if he managed differently depending on whether or not he had a bet down?

And who cares? A) The rules say, you may not bet on a game in which you have duties to perform. Pete Rose knew that from his first day in organized baseball. B) Even raising the perception is incredibly dangerous. If the fans start to get the idea that someone is interfering with the free nature of the competition, they will lose interest rapidly. It's one reason why pro wrestling, as popular as it is with some fans, is rightly treated as a fringe entertainment.

I think many of the fans outraged by the use of steroids are the same fans who want to forgive Pete Rose. I don't understand that. But then, I want Pete Rose to fry (metaphorically speaking) while I'm not as outraged by steroid use as you are.

I don't see it as bad as you do. They were seeking an edge. Same as a spitball or scuffball pitcher, or a batter with a corked bat. The Tigers always used to keep their infield grass too high, the Dodgers for years were accused of having a mound that was too tall. It's not right, it should be banned and stopped, but I just don't see it as potentially destructive of the game as betting. Or the owners colluding not to sign free agents. Or MLB owning one of the teams.

The difference between baseball and the Olympics is, baseball is a team sport. One player gaining an edge cannot throw the entire competition. When a track-and-field athlete uses performance enhancing drugs, he is not getting just a slight edge, he is getting an enormous edge because he IS in effect a team. Also, setting records is far more important in the Olympics, the Olympics happens only every 4 years, most fans (most Americans, at least) don't follow track-and-field except during the Olympics, etc.

Also, as of now, baseball does not have stringent rules against using steroids. They should, and the rules should be enforced. But they currently don't. Therefore, what Bonds and Giambi are accused of doing (and what Giambi has admitted to doing) is wrong from a societal sense, and maybe maybe criminal (I don't know), but is not wrong from a baseball sense.

That said, athletes will always seek an edge and need to be discouraged from doing so by professional incentives (or perhaps in this case disincentives). I don't object to changing the rules to make steroid use an infringement. As I said, for me the worst danger is that kids will think they need to use steroids too. Anything that would reduce that danger is something that needs to be considered.
 
I'm kind of with you on this one---after watching generations of athletes use anything at all to gain an advantage, I just can't seem to get too excited about any of this. I have enjoyed Barry Bonds career and he is without a doubt that greatest baseball player I have ever had the privilege of watching. I could take steroids from now until Iraq stabilizes and I'm not going to be able to hit like that.
Besides, there are so many things worth getting pissed off about; this stuff is merely a minor distraction.
 
egg whites
 
Post a Comment

<< Home
Comments: "
It's wrong to use steroids because steroids are a form of cheating. It's one thing if you know that absolutely the entire field is using them. I suspect that the Olympic 100 meters is that kind of contest. In that case, the ethical issues become more complicated because the real rules don't match the official rules.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I suspect that steroids are the exception rather than the rule in MLB. If so, Giambi and Bonds are cheating in the most literal and obvious sense. It's bad enough to cheat, but when you're a big name professional athlete you take on the responsibility of being a role model.

You're right, any potential incentive for young athletes to use steroids is very serious. Much more serious than, say, Pete Rose using cocaine. I'm not saying cocaine is healthy or virtuous, but at least it's unlikely to make anyone sterile, accelerate atherosclerosis or provoke liver cancer in very young people (as steroids have been shown to do).

I'm not qualified to weigh the relative egregiousness of Giambi taking steroids vs the unethical business decisions by the Cubs or the management of MLB. Based on what you describe, it sounds like there isn't nearly enough outrage about these unfair business decisions--but that does nothing to excuse self-professed cheaters like Bonds and Giambi.
 
" "
Well, what Pete Rose was busted for (in a baseball sense) was not using cocaine but betting on baseball. I don't even know if he was ever even accused of using cocaine. He certainly was not one of the players suspended in the 1980s, such as Dave Parker or Keith Hernandez.

To me, what Rose did is far worse than what Bonds or Giambi is accused of. He was a manager of a team, in a direct spot to affect everything regarding his team during a game. And it doesn't matter that he probably never bet against his team. When he bet, he was in effect telling other gamblers that he expected his team to win that day. When he didn't, it might mean that he did not think his team would win that day. Who knows if he managed differently depending on whether or not he had a bet down?

And who cares? A) The rules say, you may not bet on a game in which you have duties to perform. Pete Rose knew that from his first day in organized baseball. B) Even raising the perception is incredibly dangerous. If the fans start to get the idea that someone is interfering with the free nature of the competition, they will lose interest rapidly. It's one reason why pro wrestling, as popular as it is with some fans, is rightly treated as a fringe entertainment.

I think many of the fans outraged by the use of steroids are the same fans who want to forgive Pete Rose. I don't understand that. But then, I want Pete Rose to fry (metaphorically speaking) while I'm not as outraged by steroid use as you are.

I don't see it as bad as you do. They were seeking an edge. Same as a spitball or scuffball pitcher, or a batter with a corked bat. The Tigers always used to keep their infield grass too high, the Dodgers for years were accused of having a mound that was too tall. It's not right, it should be banned and stopped, but I just don't see it as potentially destructive of the game as betting. Or the owners colluding not to sign free agents. Or MLB owning one of the teams.

The difference between baseball and the Olympics is, baseball is a team sport. One player gaining an edge cannot throw the entire competition. When a track-and-field athlete uses performance enhancing drugs, he is not getting just a slight edge, he is getting an enormous edge because he IS in effect a team. Also, setting records is far more important in the Olympics, the Olympics happens only every 4 years, most fans (most Americans, at least) don't follow track-and-field except during the Olympics, etc.

Also, as of now, baseball does not have stringent rules against using steroids. They should, and the rules should be enforced. But they currently don't. Therefore, what Bonds and Giambi are accused of doing (and what Giambi has admitted to doing) is wrong from a societal sense, and maybe maybe criminal (I don't know), but is not wrong from a baseball sense.

That said, athletes will always seek an edge and need to be discouraged from doing so by professional incentives (or perhaps in this case disincentives). I don't object to changing the rules to make steroid use an infringement. As I said, for me the worst danger is that kids will think they need to use steroids too. Anything that would reduce that danger is something that needs to be considered.
 
" "
I'm kind of with you on this one---after watching generations of athletes use anything at all to gain an advantage, I just can't seem to get too excited about any of this. I have enjoyed Barry Bonds career and he is without a doubt that greatest baseball player I have ever had the privilege of watching. I could take steroids from now until Iraq stabilizes and I'm not going to be able to hit like that.
Besides, there are so many things worth getting pissed off about; this stuff is merely a minor distraction.
 
" "
egg whites
 
" Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?