BayAreaBall Musings – PED’s
Bayareaball Musings will be our weekly attempt to take a light hearted look at a weekly topic based on the back and forth conversations of our writer’s.
Frank Gomez: Well, Well, Well the Bay Area is back in the PED discussion taking its rightful place as the epicenter of all things testosterone & performance enhancing. But seriously though, who ever thought Bartolo Colon was going to be the 3rd guy to get popped this season from the Bay. What is this world coming to Aaron?
Aaron Rubenstein: You mean morbidly obese players don’t have a career resurgences in their late 30’s without help? “I’m shocked, SHOCKED to learn there is gambling going on in here.” The truth is that it’s probably a coincidence that 3 players from the Bay Area got caught using PED’s this year, but at the same time when you go all the way back to the Bash Brothers it’s also hard to deny that there’s a pretty long history of use by the Bay Area’s teams.
FG: Oh and lest we forget the legend that is Barry Lamar Bonds to included in the who’s who history of the Bay Area and PED’s. How are we supposed to feel about this now that everything is supposedly clean and every MLB exec yells down from the mountain top , “The testing is WORKING!”? Personally, after all of this PED talk, I’m feeling like Bartolo probably feels after a long stay at Hometown Buffet, weary with a case of the Itis.
AR: I talked about this in the post on Melky last week (shameless plug alert!): when you’re trying to find diamonds in the rough there’s a stronger chance that you’re going to unearth some PED use. The Giants obviously spend a lot more money than the A’s but most of that money goes to pitching and aside from Posey and Sandoval the Giants haven’t displayed the ability or willingness to rely on younger, cheaper players. That means they’re going to be looking for guys who don’t have a long history of MLB success, guys who are hoping to turn a couple of good seasons into a big contract, or older players who are trying to hang in for a couple more years.
Maybe good players on big contracts have more to lose by getting caught. Maybe those fringe type players have the least to lose and the most to gain from using. Maybe the truth is that everyone is using and it’s just that the guys who are already making money can afford the good stuff that doesn’t show up in testing. I suppose it could be possible that there’s some sort of league-wide conspiracy to hide the use from star players after Bonds and McGwire and Palmeiro and Clemens and all the rest, I just see that as incredibly unlikely and unnecessarily risky. Whatever the reason, I think what we’ve seen since testing was instituted is that, with a few exceptions, the stars aren’t the ones getting caught so when you’re looking for players who significantly overproduce based on their contracts this is one of the risks you’re taking.
FG: Well let’s delve head long into the moralistic aspect of the fringe guys taking PED’s to stay in the league. I for one don’t judge these guys for using because when millions of dollars are at stake for playing a game, the urge to use PED’s and squeeze out one or two more years and rake in 3-4 million and in Melk’s case possibly 10-12 million more is sometimes just too good to pass up. Especially when MLB testing is about as stringent as a liquor store clerk. But what pisses me off is when everybody and their mother rides in on their moral high horse talking about “how could you do this to us?” or my favorite “Well if that was me, I would have never taken PED’s!” First of all, GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE with all that talk you late baby booming KNBR callers. Especially since probably half these people are going to these new HGH Wellness Spa’s and stocking up on EX-tenze. Who are they to judge a guy when they themselves have probably never even been in a position to make a multi-million dollar decision that could affect their livelihood?
Now don’t get me wrong, I won’t pass up the opportunity to fire a couple of shots off at Giants fans for Bonds, Mota, and Melky. Just like Giants fans wouldn’t bat an eye at bringing up Canseco, McGwire, and now Colon. We’re all PED brethren, whether we like it or not so why not just embrace it and move on. But where do we go from here with the scarlet PED letters boldly emblazoned on the Bay Area from the Oakland Hills to the majestic span of the Golden Gate Bridge? Should we just go full bore and field the 2 most juiced out of their minds baseball teams of all time and lay waste to the MLB landscape?
AR: It would be pretty funny to go all-in with the juicing but ultimately unproductive if they all get suspended before the end of each season and the Giants and A’s are left with low level minor league rosters as they head down the stretch.
I don’t really have a moral issue in terms of how these guys set an example for kids and stuff, but I do worry about the longterm effects of these drugs and I think when it comes to PED use someone has to save these players from themselves a little bit. We know that most of them will go to any length possible to get to the top and secure that big money contract, and there is something sort of admirable about that, it’s just that they don’t view their lives through a wide angle lense because they’re often making these decisions at a young age and they know their careers will probably be short.
I’ve heard a lot of debate, and actually talked with a few friends, about how much PED’s actually help you play baseball. The argument I hear most is that players still need to have the hand-eye coordination to make contact with the ball or the skill to be able to pitch regardless of what the drugs are doing to their bodies. Totally true, but isn’t that also true for spitballs and corked bats and stolen signs? In those cases you still have to be able to throw the ball over the plate or make contact, and we’ve all agreed that spitters, corked bats, and sign stealing should be banned. Regardless of how much the drugs actually help a player play baseball (and I believe they can help a lot, just indirectly) they’ve been banned, so I would say my biggest moral problem with the drugs is that guys who take them know they are against the rules and do it anyway. The players certainly believe they help because, let’s not kid ourselves, none of them would take such a big risk if there was no reward for doing so.
FG: Damn you Aaron, why did you have to go and make sense! This conversation is supposed to be about irrationality, godzilla-roided baseball teams, and the fans who love them. Now that you mention it, since we do live in the epi-center of the PED black market, don’t you think it would be possible to create some dopplegangers for all the roided out players on both teams that will always test clean no matter what. I’m sure there is some bio-engineering firm here in the Bay Area already dabbling in creating super humans. So let’s just have both team’s pool their resources and have them create a replica of all our players that will get rolled out for testing and then put back in the freezer where they keep the garlic fries at AT&T and beer at O.co. That way both teams never miss the playoffs and we then create the new fad of human humidors and give the big middle finger to Colorado. It’s a win, win I tell ya!!
Alright, maybe that is going a little too far so let’s finish up this email thingy with one last question. Should Bay Area baseball fans be ashamed of the fact that 3 players in the last year have tested positive? Or should we just say screw it, both end up in the world series and hold the first ever Official PED Fall Classic? A no holds barred drag’em out PED series where both teams have 1 week to cycle up before the World Series and let the best testosterone injecting team win? Tell me that doesn’t sound intriguing.
AR: A crazy testosterone and steroid fueled primetime event? Isn’t that what the WWE is for?
I’d like to see the elimination of PED usage in MLB because I think it’s damaging to the long-term health of the players, but mostly because I want to see the players compete on a level playing field. I really believe that the lack of a level playing field, combined with Bonds’ ego, is what caused him to juice in the first place (he basically said “want to see what happens when the best players juice too?”). My heart says that it’s possible through testing and suspensions to create that level playing field, but sadly my brain says the only way to really do it is to take your suggestion and have everyone juice to the max.
I don’t know that Bay Area fans should be ashamed because just about every team has had someone get caught along the way, it’s not like the fans were the ones that made the decision to take the drugs. At the end of the day I don’t think most fans will care that much how it happens if their team is winning.
The question of whether the organizations should care is probably a little more interesting from a Giants perspective because of the way they’ve tried to fashion themselves as Red Sox West over the last 2-3 years. Bonds was probably the most polarizing figure in the history of baseball, maybe in all of sports, with people either loving him or hating him (and most people fall into the latter group). When you’re trying to build a national or global brand the last thing you want is for a wide segment of the world to actively hate you. In that sense the more the Giants can distance themselves from Bonds the more likely they are to build the fanbase beyond those that already support the team, and every time one of their players gets caught failing a drug test we have this debate about the history of PED use by current and former Giants players. They’re never going to shun Bonds, and they shouldn’t, but it might make sense from a business perspective to make a stronger effort to distance themselves from any and all PED use. Whether the long-term reward for doing so is worth sacrificing wins or profits in the short-term is a question that only ownership can answer.
For what it’s worth I’ve been a Giants fan all my life and my favorite sport to play as a kid was baseball. I would sneak a radio into my room at night so I could listen to the end of games and I practically slept in my Giants hat for a few years. There aren’t a lot of fans more diehard than I was. And despite that, sometime after the BALCO scandal erupted I got steroid fatigue and just stopped enjoying watching the Giants and watching baseball and kind of zoned out for a couple years. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that if you have enough of this stuff happening there really is a risk of turning off not just the casual fans but the diehards as well. Maybe I’m just weird like that though.
Does this stuff bother you that much? If the A’s were constantly in the news for PED stories do you think there’d be a point at which you started to lose interest in the team and the sport?
FG: As a fan of baseball, it bugs me and like you at a certain point I just kind of accepted the fact that drugs were going to be a part of the game for better or worse. Sure seeing guys hit home runs in bunches was awesome during the PED golden years but when you start seeing guys like Brett Boone hitting 37 home runs like it is nothing, it just turns into a dark tragic comedy as opposed to a thought provoking documentary. Obviously if the A’s were constantly in the news for PED’s it would really suck because no matter what would happen on the field that would be the focus. Just like I’m sure it sucks for Giants fans to always have people talk about the types of fans they were for rooting for Bonds during his demigod years. But just like they still support their team, I would still support mine. It would just mean that I would have to focus a lot more on my comedy comeback stylings or something like that.
In the end, as die-hard fans we just roll with the punches because the team we root for is the team we grew up with and developed an emotional attachment to. So no matter what anyone tells us, that is our team come hell, high water, or evil testosterone filled syringe.
Alright enough of this PED talk because I’m starting to feel like if I keep talking about it someone may suspect that my writing is tainted by PED use. Hey wait a second, who’s knocking on the door?
Until next week..
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