FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Crash of 2006?

Last week T.J. Quinn of the New York Daily News wrote an article entitled "Post-steroid era is eye-opener" that discussed the drug issue in baseball in the context of the winter meetings in Dallas.

Interestingly Quinn makes the argument that baseball's new and tougher drug policies are making it more difficult for statistically-minded front offices since it is harder to evaluate players based on statistics.

"With baseball ushering in a new policy for next season - the Players Association approved it unanimously this past week - scouts and executives agree that they are still sorting out the end of baseball's steroid era. Statistics compiled in the years before baseball started incrementally toughening its policy in 2003 are considered suspect, making it tough to plug numbers into a computer to determine a player's value. "

That makes sense since some player's career trajectories have been altered by the use of steroids. With baseball cleaning up its act, it stands to reason that those players who were using performance enhancers and have quit will suffer more precipitous declines in performance than they would have otherwise. This makes a GM's job harder if he's thinking about signing a veteran with an established level of performance.

Quinn then discusses the situation from the perspective of the Mets GM Omar Minaya.

"As for the more immediate problem of evaluating players who might have been doping for years, Minaya, a classic lifelong baseball man with a scouting background, says the tougher anti-doping rules have eliminated some of the guesswork from his job. 'The past couple of years we've been conscious of a potential problem and it seems to be getting rectified,' he said. 'Before, you wondered if a performance was enhanced or not. I trust the numbers the last two years.'"

What's missing here, and what Quinn acknowledges, is that it is still easy to beat baseball's drug policy. Human growth hormone, for example, still cannot be tested for.

However, Quinn believes that the amphetamine policy will have the larger effect.

"The biggest question, some executives said, is how the banishment of amphetamines, announced only last month, will change the game. Players have relied on 'greenies' for decades for an extra boost of energy and intensity. Some players have said they simply cannot get through a six-month, 162-game season without mother's little helper. "

Aside from greenies incorrectly being labeled "mother's little helper", which I think has traditionally been associated with Valium, I think he makes a pretty good point. Greenies have been used by far more players than steroids and so removing them will likely have a greater effect on the player population as a whole.

However, since their effects are generally subtler and since there are negative side effects like decreased appetite and disrupted sleep patterns, players will probably adapt by taking legal stimulants or simply taking better care of themselves. And so statistically speaking I doubt we'll see numbers come crashing down.

One of the hallmarks of humanity is its' ability to adapt and survive. In 1998 some psychologists published a meta-study on childhood sexual abuse. What they found when looking at the subsequent mental health of those who had been abused and comparing it to those who hadn't, was that the difference between the two groups was just two-tenths of a standard deviation. In other words, those had been abused had more problems later in life, but not to the degree that we've been conditioned to expect based on pop-psychology and modern media portrayals of abuse.

This result triggered a firestorm of controversy which even included the United States Congress passing resolutions which condemned the analysis. Why? Because rather than be comforted by the fact that human beings are a resilient species, they saw it as providing ammunition for those who support pedophilia and other morally reprehensible acts. But we can have both. We can be glad that early traumas don't necessarily mean a wrecked psychological life and at the same time condemn acts that are immoral.


obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

I totally agree that the ban of amphetamines will have a greater effect. This drug has been used apparently since WW II when soldiers who were prescribed it brought it home.

For all the consternation over how steroids affects records, amphetamines has probably had a greater effect overall, as the usage is more pervasive and over a longer period. Just as all stats from 1993 on are suspect because of steroid use, the stats since WW II are suspect because of the use of amphetamines.

Many of the complaints over the use of steroids' effects on records can apply to amphetamines as well. Players are enabled to play more games in a season and at their peak levels rather than at a tired level. That helps players with both seasonal totals as well as career totals.

I agree that players will try to switch and find legal alternatives, helping to lessen any drop. Frankly, I doubt that they will necessarily take better care of themselves. If millions of dollars didn't make them take better care of themselves in the first place, I don't see them switching now.

I agree that humanity is incredibly resilient. However, I don't blame Congress from condemning the analysis. Yes, it is a reprehensible act, but if you can make the argument that the damage done is not "really that bad", and show this analysis as proof, these monsters will start attacking current laws and eventually one prison-house lawyer will sue to lessen the penalties placed upon them by law since the damage done is not "that great."

I'm watching a local case of a serial pedophile - came here from another state where he was convicted and served time - and he's been pulling all sorts of legal tricks that he learned while in jail for his trail for his lastest victim. I have no doubt he would view this analysis as interesting, he has no remorse for what he's done, he obviously feels that he's not doing anything wrong, and if he ever hears about this study, he would then have "proof" that he's not really doing that much damage. Makes me all the more fearful for my children.

rluzinski said...

I'm a little skepticle about the actual benefits of amphetamines for baseball players. We know that the stimulant makes people FEEL more confident and responsive to stimuli, but is it mearly a change in perception?

Has there been studies as to the effects stimulants have on atheletes during competitions?