Imagine a world where there is a lot of pressure to succeed academically so you can get into college.
Imagine a test, that takes about three or four hours, that constitutes roughly half of the objective component of your application. This test is divided into three parts; a mathematical “quantitative reasoning” section, a reading/grammar “qualitative reasoning” section, and a writing/essay component.
Now imagine a drug, which can be ingested orally by drink or even pill form, which can increase your cognitive ability and concentration in noticeable amounts that it could significantly raise your score on this (hypothetical) test.
Let’s call this drug “burplesplat.”
Burplesplat would be readily available, and in fact you could flaunt its usage in front of the test proctors. It would not be mandatory to take burplesplat, but many would use it. In fact, one might even think that NOT taking burplesplat would do nothing except hurt your chances at getting into a good school, since there is no reward for completing the test without burplesplat in your system.
If you are so smart and you don’t have ADD so you can ace the test without burplesplat, hey that’s cool, but you’re an outlier anyway.
Burplesplat has many documented side effects, including shaky feet, fast talking, and occasional mild acid reflux, but remarkably your balls will stay the same size.
What if I told you that this is NOT a thought exercise, that burplesplat is REAL. That kids are gaining an advantage over others every DAY by taking it, wired during the day and crashing hard later that night?
Parents and teachers, are you outraged yet? Feel like academics is a joke? Feel like your favorite students rode to the top of the honor roll on a bed of lies?!
Maybe you’re so offended, as a college admissions officer, that you vow not to let another student into your school from this generation, until everyone is declared ‘clean’ and studying on an equal field?
Under similar logic, today for the second time in four decades nobody was elected to the baseball hall of fame.
That is because we are just passing out of the “steroids era”, a time when
baseball owners and sportswriters turned a blind eye our heroes BETRAYED us by accomplishing remarkable feats only through better chemistry of their bodies, not their souls.
From 1994 (the strike-shortened year) to 2004, when steroid testing started in baseball, the runs/game in baseball was vastly greater than before or after. I say “vastly” because I don’t feel like researching the exact statistics right now. But I COULD if I WANTED to. If you don’t trust me on this, I will offer a wager in real dollars.
ESPN, who does employ some good writers, defines the steroids era like this: http://espn.go.com/mlb/topics/_/page/the-steroids-era.
According to them it was a time defined by a few outliers who hit lots of unfair home runs.
Of course, even this article can’t help admit that it was an offensive-heavy era in general, a league-wide event.
Mike Piazza didn’t make the HOF because he is a rumored steroid user because he had great stats and ‘back acne’. Which is like saying a girl is a slut because she’s pretty and ‘i saw her make out that one time.’
Mike Piazza deserves to be in the Hall of Fame just for his inspirational mustache alone.
I don’t believe that steroid users should be condemned at all. I believe that there is no objective way to measure its ability to boost performance and furthermore players are only hurting themselves/their bodies when they use it, nobody else’s. I guess you could argue about roid rage, but that’s also contestable in that you could probably argue that rage might have always been there, the roids just helped let it out. How do you know the anger is the result of a different drug, or lack thereof (ie Derek Jeter forgets to take his antidepressants on the 10-game roadtrip). Also, we’re not talking about bath salts here. Only Barry Bonds-level users get to the point where it’s an issue.
Even if we conceded that steroid users are BAD BAD BAD people, the fact that the steroids era had LEAGUE-WIDE numbers spiking up should ensure that no individual gets punished. The high-offense era proves that there was quite a few users to the point where no individual can really be blamed–peer pressure plus millions of dollars on the line is a powerful incentive.
The rest of this blog post is an attempt at some more analytical crap, so you can skip if you already believe me. But if you don’t:
Because almost EVERYONE was a better hitter in those years, advanced statistics can account for any misleading totals accumulated by players during this time.
For example, lets look at steroid user Rafael Palmeiro. From 1994-2004, his basic rate statistics (Batting Average, On-Base Percentage, and Slugging Percentage) were 35 percent above league average, and for his entire career, he hit 32 percent better than the average hitter. (Ironically, that’s the same as Jose Canseco and Juan Gonzalez, two dubious names from the steroids era)
That puts him tied for 139th all-time in OPS+ (on-base plus slugging as a percentage of the league average). You can look at this fancy table here:
If you know anything about baseball, the chart speaks for itself, in that for first base, this actually isn’t all that impressive. It’s very good, but possibly not Hall-of-Fame good. He’s close to guys like Mark Teixeira or Mo Vaughn. First basemen who are around that area, like Eddie Murphy (Murphy also played almost 200 more games than Palmeiro, which is impressive), either had better peak years or longevity or both. Palmeiro’s longevity helps his HOF case, but the point is that his era-adjusted stats brings his accomplishments down to where normally shoo-in credentials (3,000 hits, 500+ home runs, etc) now combine to only make a borderline case.
If you don’t know anything about baseball, basically Rafael Palmeiro’s normally impressive numbers, when weighed against the era he played, turns an all-time great into merely an all-time very good.
If you look at the top 50 position players in WAR, which is a unifying stat that attempts to combine defense and offense (and pitching), and its value on a position-by-position basis (c, 1b, etc), only 5 players whose peak was during the steroids era make it in (Frank Thomas is no. 52): Barry Bonds, A-Rod, Chipper Jones (!!!!), Ken Griffey Jr., and Jeff Bagwell.
Three of those guys are not even accused/thought to use steroids (Bagwell never had the ‘back acne’ problem, Chipper was a great ‘hitter’ but only rarely was he a prolific HR-hitter, his highest total being 45, and Griffey was a tall lanky center-fielder who didn’t fit the ‘steroid body’ profile).
So yes, if you were to only look at Home Runs, steroid-era users would appear to dominate-there are 19 players in the top 50. But big-picture stats account for this.
That’s why Mark McGwire is the tenth most prolific Home Run hitter, but just the 155th-best position player by WAR.
Notice that I’m not talking about pitching at all. Pitching is a lot harder to evaluate. An abnormal amount of pitchers look great in this era, like Maddux Clemens Johnson et al. Strikeouts were way up, because so many hitters were swinging to hit Home Runs.
Overall, I think it’s more widely assumed that hitters took steroids, not pitchers. Among the only high-profile pitchers who are known to have used steroids are Roger Clemens, who (like Barry Bonds) was great even before he started using, and Andy Pettitte, who is a nice guy so nobody seems to give a shit that he used them. A handful of relief pitchers who nobody cares about used steroids and threw harder.
Maybe what I’m trying to say is that Hall-of-Fame voters and sportswriters (and fans?) are not docking down pitchers the way they are hitters from the previous 15-20 years.
The final thing to point out, to help show how ludicrous the witch hunt is: the Colorado Rockies. The thin air notoriously aids hitters, creating monsters out of previously mediocre guys like Jay Payton, Jeffrey Hammonds, and Charlie Hayes. Guys who might never have gotten off the bench, like Dante Bichette and Vinny Castilla, had superlative careers there.
And don’t think for a second that they didn’t A. know it and B. CHOOSE it. Even Todd Helton, a rare Rockie-draft pick who came up through the system, chose to RE-SIGN with them for millions.
And yet nobody thinks these guys are bad people for inflating their stats in such a heinously obvious way. None of these guys are considered cheaters. Larry Walker even won an MVP when he hit over .370 in 1997. Where is the outrage right now???
It’s nowhere, because while there’s no way to tell EXACTLY how these players would have done if they were the Portland Potholes instead, you CAN analyze their stats against the league, since there’s always a road team in Colorado as well, and the Rockies players all have road-team statistics. That’s why nobody’s mad at Andres Galarraga for “ruining their childhood” even though he used Coors Field to average 40 Home Runs/year over a full season from 1994-1997.
Everybody just assumed he was merely a good hitter who wouldn’t have done as well somewhere else (surprisingly there wasn’t too big a cutoff, if at all, when he finished his career at sea level, but whatever).
So don’t let anybody tell you steroids are bad.