Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Steroids-Records Dilemma
By John W. Schmeelk

I feel like this should be a term paper, the steroid issue is so complicated. There are so many different, yet logically consistent ways to address it in the short and long term. However, it is important to do what is best for the game. The beauty of baseball is its history, being able to compare records and numbers from era to era and debating best players of all time. It’s why the Baseball Hall of Fame is the mother of all those institutions. But this issue with performance enhancing drugs puts everything into question until baseball folds, or they find a test that can truly detect all these illegal substances. It cannot be left to the writers and other Hall of Fame voters to determine this themselves, because as stated above there are so many ways to look at this with a fair eye and come to completely different conclusions.

By my deduction there are a handful of ways to handle this – we’ll explore each one and determine whether or not it works. It will be judged by the following criteria, in order of importance.

Criteria 1: Is it fair? Does this policy unfairly group players with no evidence of steroid use with those that have ample evidence.

Criteria 2: Does it protect the integrity of baseball’s rich history?

Criteria 3: Does it punish those that knowingly cheated?

Criteria 4: Does it provide a baseline and a policy for the game for the future when it comes to performance enhancing drugs?

Unfortunately, I do not think ANY policy succeeds in all these criteria, but we’ll try and find the solution that succeeds in filling as many possible.

Keep in mind the following assumptions I’m making:
- You cant remove team records, since you don’t know who on each team was using steroids.
- Steroids were NOT illegal in MLB when they were used in 98. However they were illegal according to federal law. Therefore players cant be banned from baseball for using them.
- Steroids do, in fact improve a player’s ability to hit HR’s.
- There are substances players use MLB testing cannot detect.

Option 1: Wipe away all records from the “Steroid Era.”

Criteria 1: It immediately fails the first criteria, since players that may not have done anything are grouped with those that did. As much as Sammy Sosa looks guilty, what evidence do we have that he did anything? Bonds has his book and Balco. Mcgwire has andro and his testimony. But Sosa has nothing but our eyes seeing a huge guy hit a lot of homeruns. Is it fair to punish him?

Criteria 2: It does in that it keeps Maris’s and Aaron’s records as the pinnacle of baseball’s homerun record books. This is this option’s biggest strength. However, there is a drawback when it comes to attacking records in the future. (see criteria 4)

Criteria 3: It punishes those that knowingly cheated without a doubt.

Criteria 4: It fails in this criteria as well. There are so many undetectable substances – that if this option was taken, NEVER again would ANYONE be able to challenge Aaron’s or Maris’s records again. Who knows who is taking human growth hormone, or some other undetectable substance? With this policy baseball’s history virtually starts over in 1998. This just doesn’t work.

Option 1 – 1.5 out of 4.

Option 2 – Do Nothing and let all records stand.

Criteria 1: It is fair in that no one is punished that doesn’t deserve to be. HOWEVER, in this case players that didn’t do steroids in this era are grouped with those who did. Still it doesn’t incriminate someone that doesn’t deserve it.

Criteria 2: It destroys the integrity of baseball’s history. It elevates cheaters ahead of men who broke records legitimately.

Criteria 3: It punishes no one. It fails this criterion utterly.

Criteria 4: It works here. All records stand unless they fail MLB drug tests.

Option 2: 2 out of 4

Option 3: Baseball launches an investigation into the late nineties and uses their testing as a means to determine who cheated. Those that fail, their records are stricken from the record.

Criteria1: If they don’t find evidence on someone, they don’t do anything to their records. That way, it is fair. HOWEVER, it helps players who are good at covering their tracks or did their drugs in foreign countries where baseball can’t find any proof. In that way, it isn’t. Mcgwire and Bonds get canned here, but Sosa remains.

Criteria 2: It protects baseball’s history in that it removes the players that definitely cheated. But the point in Criteria 1 stands.

Criteria 3: It punishes those that cheated – but as stated in criteria 1 benefits those that cover their tracks.

Criteria 4: It provides a sound policy for dealing with the problem in a logical matter in the future – but again there are countless substances that testing cannot detect. Half solution.

Option 3: 2 out of 4. (half-credit for each of four criteria)

Option 4: Baseball launches an investigation. Unless there is uncontroversial proof, baseball does not strike any records from the books. However, until testing improves so that it can detect every illegal substance asterisks are placed on all new records set in terms of homeruns. The asterisk denotes the following: “This player played during an era in the game of baseball, when performance enhancing drug use was rampant. Either testing was not done, or not sufficient to detect performance enhancing drug use."

Criteria 1: It doesn’t destroy a player’s reputation that does not deserve it. In fact, barring those proven to have cheated, it puts every player in the same exact book. Considering no players in this time spoke about the issue it is actually somewhat fair. But even so, half credit here.

Criteria 2: It protects records, in the record books showing what was done, but denoting that players may not have been on a level playing field. It allows fans and the media to on some level, draw their own conclusions.

Criteria 3: Those that are proven to have cheated are punished badly. Those that are suspected have an asterisk on their name. However, those that may have cheated but didn’t get caught only get an asterisk, along with those that didn’t. This is pretty fair.

Criteria 4: It gives a strong plan for future records, and a set rule for it.

Option 4: 3 out of 4.

Option four is the way to go. It is FAR from perfect and impugns players that did not cheat with asterisks, but it accomplishes the rest of the criteria fairly well. And let’s be honest, if these players had policed themselves better, and got their teammates to stop cheating they wouldn’t be in this predicament. Throw in how much the Player’s Union did to prevent better testing and more punishment it is actually rather fitting.

I was going to add a longer Kirby Puckett post, but alas my time and space is short.

Some random rumblings

- Oh God – please – don’t let Terrell Owens come to the Cowboys. Don’t make me root for him. Please, I beg you.

- More Larry Brown-Marbury sniping. The team still doesn’t play defense, that’s why they lose. And you can blame Marbury for that. But before Marbury came back the Knicks lost every game by twenty. Now they are at least competitive. He can’t be all-bad Larry.

- The more I watch the WBC – the more I realize it isn’t real baseball. Too many good players aren’t playing and the pitchers have artificial pitch counts. Who cares who wins – it means nothing. That call on the tag up at third base was the worst call I’ve ever seen by the way.

- Now the race is on for who can trade up to number two. It would be smart for the Jets to do so to get Leinart.

- How in God’s name to the Redskins sign all these players? How are they not breaking any rules? The Antwaan Randle-El signing might be the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen.

- If Shawn Chacon isn’t the Yankee’s third starter this year, I have no idea what Joe Torre is doing. Yeah, that’s right, Shawn Chacon.

- Im thinking of implementing the Jack Bauer universal solution in my life. If someone is bothering me, I torture them until they stop, or they die. When you think about it, the only downside is the whole going to jail thing. And getting my butt whooped.

- I’m still down about my FDU knights not making it into the NCAA’s. I’m convinced they are a better team than Monmouth, but they were outplayed in one game. It happens. I was happy to see Monmouth beat Hampton – but their 2-3 zone will get torn up by Nova’s shooters.

- And so will every other team in this tournament. Look out for the Wildcats everyone. Especially you guys in Indianapolis.

- Prepare for my raining on Puckett’s little parade. It may get ugly.


Blogger John W. Schmeelk said...

After reading this over and speaking to my brother I really dont like my final idea much either.

Which is why this is SO frustrating - im not sure there really is something that is fair to everyone. It's like picking the least worst of a bunch of bad ideas.

Is it fair to hang 30 innocent men to 10 that are guilty.

Or do you not hang anyone and let the guilty go free?

Baseball is in an impossible spot. It can't do nothing. It can't strik down everything. They need something in between, what it is going to be, I dont know.

1:20 PM  

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