Friday, February 11, 2005

How to remove steroids from baseball

Since Jose Canseco's new book, Juiced has hit the news, the already hot-button issue of steroids in baseball has hit a fever-pitch. Some folks are saying that Canseco is just trying to make a quick buck; others are saying that his book will finally support the anti-steroids campaign since Canseco "names names". The 24-hour sports radio shows have being talking about the issue around-the-clock, especially here in Chicago, where one of our star shortstops (no, not Juan Uribe, the other one) was named, accused, vilified, unnamed, and exonerated all within a short period. Most of the outcry has continued to revolve around Barry Bonds, although there have been no reports about his connection to the book whatsoever. To be fair, Bonds is the most accomplished and most controversial star of his generation and due to past allegations of steroid use, he's usually the first name to pop into people's heads when they hear the magic "S" word. Folks want him banned from baseball, asterixed, barred from the Hall of Fame or elected with a plaque that states that he's a big fraud that poops his pants.

But this does nothing to solve the problem that we are supposed to be so outraged at: the rampant steroid abuse in baseball. If you really think that vilifying a couple ballplayers that you hated and have been looking for an excuse to excommunicate for the last dozen some odd years is going to cure the ills of the world, I fear for you. My prescription: Read "The ones who walk away from Omelas" twice and call me in the morning.

As usual, the good folks at Baseball Think Factory have stepped up their pastime of cage matches debating the issue and have come up with a few constructive responses rather than the pure vitriole running through most of the sports community:

Here is crazy, reactionary kevin's constructive suggestion in terms of a policy response.:

Bonds, Giambi, Sheffield and anybody else who tested positive has one strike on them.

Strike 1-drug counseling and 2 week suspension with pay.

Strike 2-1 month suspension with pay and more counseling.

Strike 3-banishment and cancellation of all contract obligations.

By not fining on the first two offenses, teams would be penalized when their players get caught so there would be incentive for them to discourage juicing and incentive not to sign free agents who are suspected of juicing.

My main problem here is that first, the Bonds, Giambi and Sheffield picks are rather arbitrary in the face of what many have described as an epidemic in which nearly every teams has at least three or four users. Penalizing just the players who happened to be called before a grand jury that was illegally leaked doesn't seem equitable. Especially since they have never tested positive.

That's the key problem here: No one has tested positive because there has never been a decent testing system in place. Who is responsible for that? Most would place the focus on the player's union which has resisted most proposals for widespread testing. But that's their right in negotiating the privacy rights of their membership. The single person most responsible for maintaining the integrity of the sport is its commissioner, Bud Selig.

Selig has been in baseball's top position since 1992 and has time and time again put the owners' profits above the integrity of the sport. In past crises, the commissioners have intervened to clean up the messes. But Bud is not like other commissioners, he is the first commission to have been appointed to represent the owners rather than the game itself. This conflict of interest has hurt the game in minor ways up to this point, but now we can see its most serious affect. Bud has happily watched the steroid waves engulf the game as long as the blame for it was placed firmly on the players and there was no evidence to force him to take any action. Now, it is too late to find out who has been doping for the last ten years, but there is still opportunity to banish steroids if that is what's best for the game.

I believe that baseball should take the following steps:
1. Banish Bud from the Commissioner position.
2. Set up a full testing system and compensate the players for their loss in privacy.
3. Establish a strict penalty system with a short suspension for a first offense, a long suspension for a second suspense and banishment upon a third offense. There should be no provision for compensation of the player's franchise unless their contract already has a steroid clause.
4. Allow players to establish exempt status if they can demonstrate an ability to produce a false postive. I'm not exactly sure how this is scientifically done. Unfortuately, if this is not possible, the whole system may have to be reconsidered.
5. Pass an amnesty for all players who may have used steroids during the period where proper testing was not undertaken. The circumstantial persecution of small pockets of players is not fair nor healthy for the sport.

With these steps hopefully baseball can move out from the cloud of steroids without resorting to pointless scapegoating.


Blogger Paul said...

Had to write an essay on Omelas once for a philosophy class, though to be fair, I was never much of a fan of Le Guin. The point I tried to make in the essay is that you get a pretty realistic picture of the way things are if you make all the people in the utopian society white, and the child in the room a minority, and multiply him by a billion or two.

People can say whatever they want, but the only people who will ever know the truth about Barry are his ex-manager and himself. As long as steriods continues to be one of those things people avoid talking about, it'll never be removed from any sport.

4:43 PM  
Blogger xian said...

Yeah, my main problem was that the options were either, "Stay and be complicit" or "Walk away". I understand that the "walking away" could be philosophical, but I'd still like a better allegory for "staying and raising hell".

The point about Barry is good, but I guess my feeling is that it's not just a simple "Who's legalistically right?" question. A justice system can't just be predicated on being right, it must also be equitable.

12:13 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

The natural reaction is always grab some baseball bats, a few molotov cocktails, and fuck some shit up. Whether it be Armani suit stores or those posh yuppie wine bars or some of those bull shit wall street offices. I always found it pretty disturbing that they was never an analogy in there to help the poor kid.

I understand what you mean, all accusations, even if they are true, ever mean is fans being dickheads and suspensions. There's no empathy there for the huge pressure that lead to the use in the first place, and the dependancy that follows. People just don't have the decency to understand that a lot of people use they because they have serious self-esteem issues that need to be addressed. Punishment is never a viable cure to a deep seated psychological problem.

7:11 AM  

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