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Sunday, September 25, 2005

More Bonds

I've gotten a variety of reactions on my article on Barry Bonds. While most have been very positive I wanted to address some of the issues that readers have brought up. And BTW, thanks for writing and please keep it up.

Why did you include Kimbery Bell?
I had considered whether I should even include the sentence on Bell but I ended up putting it in there with the intention of saying something like "and here's another problem for Bonds". It came across as using her as some sort of evidence but of course she's got a huge motive to be lying (not the least of which is simple revenge) and so I don't consider her allegations as definitive of anything. Her inclusion doesn't impact my argument since my conclusion that he knowningly used steroids is based on his relationship with Anderson, not on anything Bell said.

Does Barry still belong in the Hall of Fame? What about Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and others in the "lively player era"?
I guess I would say that even if Bonds is shown to have knowingly used steroids he still deserves to be in, not because baseball didn't have any rules in place against the use of steroids, but rather because of what he did pre 2000. He was already a Hall of Famer with 445 career homeruns, three MVPs, eight Gold Gloves, and on and on. Perhaps he should have to wait a few years as a sort of penalty for bad behavior but he certainly deserves to be inducted. However, had it been shown that he was using steriods for the majority of his career then he wouldn't be deserving and shouldn't be voted in because his performance was so tainted as not to be a reliable indicator of Hall of Fame talent.

Incidentally, this is the same stance I have on Pete Rose. He was a Hall of Fame player and so deserves induction. However, when he gambled on baseball he forfeited the right to be inducted on the first ballot and should have to wait awhile.

As a result I don't think the standard for not being is as simple as failing one or more drug tests but rather the conclusion of history based on information that comes out over time. That's why the five-year waiting period is important and becomes more so as those like McGwire and Bonds retire.

The same argument is in effect for McGwire and Palmeiro. In the case of McGwire his testimony before Congress this spring ("I'm not here to talk about the past") to me indicated that he used much more than andro and probably did since early in his career. If that's ever shown more definitively then he doesn't deserve induction at all, with or without a waiting period for bad behavior. I say that because without his 1996-1999 seasons he's clearly not a Hall of Famer. Palmeiro was also clearly a Hall of Famer before his positive test and so should be inducted as well unless it's shown (aside from Jose Canseco's book, which, despite everything's that come out, still don't take that much stock in) he had a history of using steroids over many years.

Isn't Bonds innocent until proven guilty? Isn't it just a case of guilt by association?
I guess for me the probability that he knowingly used and benefited from steroids far outweighs the probability that the stats, science, and circumstance I mentioned in the article are just coincidences.

He's innocent until proven guilty in a court of law but that doesn't mean rational people like you and I can't come to our own opinions given what we know. We do that everyday on a variety of issues.

Since even if Bonds was taking steroids from 1999-2002 he wasn't doing anything illegal since baseball had no policy, how can you criticize him?
It is absolutely correct that technically Barry wasn't breaking a baseball rule. The dullness of the owners, a weak commissioner, a recalcitrant players union, and a failure of the media and fans to call for accountability all conspired to ensure that testing was not implemented sooner and when it was it was ineffective. That of course is an article in itself and there is a great exploration of it in Bryant's book.

That said, steroids were and are illegal and more importantly the use of them is clearly unethical as there have been debates going on about them in sports for 30 plus years. That leaves today's athletes no moral or ethical wiggle room.

I also don't buy the argument that professional athletes should be held to a different standard than Olympic athletes merely because they’re professional, and therefore it is their job is to maximize performance. If anything, they should take it more seriously and understand the legal, moral, and health issues better than amateurs.

Why did you single out Bonds instead of focusing on the hundreds of other players or the baseball establishment itself?
My focus on Bonds was the result of my reaction to his 704th homerun. That reaction stems from the fact that it is Bonds whose statistics will impact the record books more than any other player of his era and have a lasting effect on the statistics we used to communicate about the game. I also mentioned 583 and 70 in my article as two more tainted numbers put up by Mark McGwire. I'm saddened in the same way about those numbers.

As to the baseball establishment I'm left without words to how negligant they've been. The ongoing war between the owners and players served to effectively quash this issue when it should have been fully discussed after the strike. The illogical and totally unreasonable stance of Donald Fehr and the player's union on privacy grounds ensured that nothing would be done. That was even after 5-7% of the players tested positive in a test that was easily beatable. Who know what the real numbers were. As it turned out only the threat of action by Congress got the parties as far as they've gotten.

That said, my article was about the stats and Bonds but certainly baseball deserves plenty of critcism.


Will said...

Plenty of players took steriods. We'll never know exactly how many, but it was more than a few. Out of all these players, only McGwire and Bonds could hit 70+ HR. With the exception of Sammy Sosa, no one else has had a 58+ HR in the past 40 years. If steroid boosted Bonds and McGwire could beat the rest of steroid boosted baseball by so much, doesn't this say something?

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