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Steroids, Other "Drugs", and Baseball

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#1 BucketOBalls

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Posted 07 August 2010 - 09:30 AM

Eric Walker posted a fairly expansive amount of materialwith the thread title.Pozwrote about it, so I suspect people would see it eventually, but I thought it was worth linking as stuff of interest.

His conclusions are

1. Walker contents steroids are not nearly as bad for responsible adults as people say and are significantly less dangerous than countless other things athletes do as a matter of course (he does say that steroids are extremely dangerous for adolescents).
2. Walker contends steroids do not help players hit more home runs.
3. Walker contends that other players are coerced to do MANY semi-dangerous and vaguely unnatural things to play high level sports this is the price of playing sports at the highest level.
4. Walker contends kids absolutely do not take steroids because pro athletes do it.

Now 1 is probably pretty obvious actualy. Roid rage is a known urban legend and does anyone expect Bonds or McGwire to drop dead of health complications from roids anytime soon? Me neither. It's been pretty clear for a while that roid use by pro's is pretty safe. Probably safer than being in the NFL.

The others seem more debatable.

I'm not sure I totally buy his reasoning on #2, blaming the ball seems to be a bit of a cop out, as that is also equally unknowable(at some point you would think someone would start keeping balls from different years for comparison purposes; would be interesting at least).

I think for most of the others there simply is insufficient information(4 seems difficult to measure, although at this point professional atheletes do all sorts of stuff you wouldn't want kids to do; steroids seem to be way down the list actually).

Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to talk about.

Edited by BucketOBalls, 07 August 2010 - 09:37 AM.

#2 Alternate34

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 10:27 AM

I read it and it is interesting, but I am not sure I buy all of its premises. I think it is a good read to temper any mega-rage over steroids however. The fervor over steroids including asterisks, HoF bans, decrying the lack of purity, whining that stats mean nothing now has got to stop. It's a bunch of bitching by old players and writers who can't grasp the reality that (1) early players would have done steroids as well and did cheat to win (2) stats never meant anything because of changes to the ball, segregation, increase in knowledge of physical fitness, changes to the rules especially the strike zone, improvement in equipment, improvement in quality of the average player etc.

Some specific beef with the article. First, the true power issue. He makes adjustments for ball changes without providing a strong foundation for how large those adjustments should be. I looked at the studies (BucketOfBalls, the studies he cites do compare balls from different eras) and they do demonstrate a livelier ball and I have no reason to doubt that, but they don't give anyway to quantify how significant that would be. I think other factors cannot be ruled out as insignificant with this basis including changes in general approach by players (another reason for a power surge during the Ruthian era) and other shit. As I said above, it is good to point out that tons of factors could have gone into the 90s and 00s power surge but this part of the article could have been more explicit about other causes as well.

I am unsure that steroids are not that effective in improving player performance. His claim that upper body musculature has barely any effect seems wrong. Yes, the trunk generates alot of power, but better upper body strength could do more than increase velocity of the swing. It could increase bat control as you fight the mass of the bat less, meaning more sweet spot contact. It could increase grip strength which effectively makes the bat haveless give and more spring. Rotational velocity is one component of power, but is not the be all end all.

The point about the health risks being minimal is well argued, but he does gloss over the issue of extreme overuse, claiming that level of overuse is only typical in bodybuilders. I don't see how there wouldn't be some risk of overuse in professional athletes. That level of overuse is one of the more compelling reasons to ban it within the sport even though it only physically harms the abuser. One player may consider the health risks of abuse as too dangerous while another will go the distance and pump themselves up further. There are short term benefits to that abuse to baseball playing ability. Banning that abuse is at least a goal to achieve. As BucketOfBalls notes, most players will not stray that far, but there is some suspicion that Ken Caminiti was at or near that level of abuse.

Lastly, his argument that adolescents will not model the behavior is pretty shitty. He doesn't try to identify the important subset of adolescents, those with serious professional athletic aspirations, and study them. Also role modeling is not the only way to measure this problem. He also blames competitive sports in general for youth steroid use and claims that as separate and distinct to professional use. That seems disingenuous. Organizations are capable of modelling too. If youths are doing steroids because an overzealous coach pressures them to do so, where does that coach get the steroids idea? It is especially egregious when he blames the win at all cost mentality and doesn't attribute that at all to the trickle down of professional sports standards to college and high school atheltics. Lombardi was the one who made the quote famous and he was a professional sports coach. Which professional sports teams are lauded? The winners. It is not a logical leap to believe that the behavior of players within the professional system would not trickle down along with the win at all costs mentality, even if the adolescent who takes steroids doesn't specially consider an athlete as their role model.

#3 knucklecup

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Posted 10 August 2010 - 01:59 PM

1. This is 100% true. If taken properly and under doctored supervision, there are very few negative health effects, and depending on the individual, may experience no negative health effects.

2. Steroids can help improve your strength. Improved strength can help a player hit more home runs. While I agree with a lot of what he's stating, this is where he comes off as bitter.

3. This is 100% true, as well. Why do players chew/dip? The same reason normal people use tobacco, to calm fears/to relax/etc. Just because they're doing it in the batters box in a high leverage situation as opposed to the fenced off smoking area outside of your office doesn't make it any better or worse. Tobacco is linked to far more health problems than steroids can be linked to. For the same reasons steroids are classified alongside heroin and other outrageous drugs that nobody in their right mind should try, marijuana is still illegal in this country. Stupid, stubborn, ignorant people who refuse to base their arguments on facts create the laws of which we're supposed to live.

4. Kids take steroids because they're looking for a quick fix, just like everybody else. The fat fuck at your office who brings up the P90x, or the lemon juice/cayenne pepper/honey "detox", or the shake weight are doing what they're doing because they want to sit on their ass/do nothing while making magazine-esque gains. Don't think the people that buy these quackery products are any different than the High Schooler looking to get an edge on the playing field.

Pretty solid research, though nothing will come of it because people already have a preconceived notion about steroids that won't be changing any time soon. The part that makes me laugh is that the people who are outspoken about it are the ones drinking too much, smoking too much, eating too much, etc. which is far worse than taking steroids.

#4 Fred not Lynn

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Posted 15 September 2010 - 12:12 PM

Now 1 is probably pretty obvious actualy. Roid rage is a known urban legend and does anyone expect Bonds or McGwire to drop dead of health complications from roids anytime soon? Me neither. It's been pretty clear for a while that roid use by pro's is pretty safe. Probably safer than being in the NFL.

Competitive athletes are not reasonable adults. If taking two pills is safe, a competitor will take three to be sure he gets an edge, and the next guy will take four to beat HIM. Truth is, former athletes ARE having serious heatlh complications due to doping, look no further than the former German Democratic Republic for the evidence.