Keith Law is, by far, the best writer at ESPN, in my opinion. I used to be an ESPN insider, primarily so that I could read his articles and chats. Now, you don’t need to be an insider for that, so thankfully I no longer have to give ESPN money.
In his latest chat, he answered a ton of questions regarding PEDs:
Will (Philadelphia Pa) [via mobile]: Why would the Mlb look to punish ARod for his admitting of taking PED, when other people within the league admitted to PE D and didnt get anything?
Keith Law: That’s one of the dumber memes of the week. They can’t punish A-Rod. Period. So stop bringing it up. And to the blithering idiots in NY saying the Yankees should release A-Rod – just stop talking. It would be better for everyone if you just … stopped … talking.
Only in baseball, and perhaps NY in particular, could we get such an inane argument. The Yankees should release their best player, and absorb the largest contract on their books, because he made some decisions in his past that, when looked at at a certain angle, were ethically questionable?
Bill (Chicago): If steroid/HGH provides, as you claim, “negligible” benefits, then why do athletes continue to take chances by using them? And do you feel that Barry Bonds hitting 73 HRs compared to what he would have hit sans ‘roids is “negligible”…
Keith Law: This is easily one of the stupidest arguments made in favor of steroid usage. Athletes use steroids because they BELIEVE they will help. People take echinacea because they think it will cure colds, despite copious evidence that it does nothing. That “immune system booster” Airborne is useless, yet it’s sold in every drugstore in the country and has to be racking up millions in sales … even though it’s a vitamin C megadose which can actually reduce your immune system’s ability to fight off an infection. Athletes who take steroids are just as dumb as people who take Airborne or echinacea or who buy into Ponzi schemes, and the fact that there are people who do these things doesn’t make doing those things smart.
This is a great point – the actual effect of steroids is still a mystery. Sure, they definitely help you if you’re a professional body builder. But a baseball player?
Dr.Fixit: KLaw, I think I have the solution to this whole steroid/statisticle mess. Simply legalize steriods and HGH for pro baseball and mandate that every player must take steroids & HGH. This way all will be on equal footing and there won’t be any cheaters.
Keith Law: JC Bradbury has been pushing for legalization of HGH, since it doesn’t enhance performance anyway. He and others have argued (correctly, I believe) that banning these substances is a tacit indicator that they are effective in enhancing performance.
Here’s the thing about HGH – if it doesn’t really enhance performance and doesn’t harm you either, why is it illegal? I would argue that any drug that doesn’t harm you should be legal, right?
On that note, regarding Roger Clemens:
Keith Law: I’ve covered a lot of this, but it’s worth pointing out that Clemens’ career path isn’t that of a PED user; he became a command/control guy in the 2000s, rather than returning to form as a power guy. Perhaps he used something that kept him healthy, but I’ve never quite understood why people get so outraged over that. If something keeps you healthy, or helps you recover more quickly, isn’t that a Good Thing? What’s next – banning cortisone? ibuprofen? ice?
Again – we need to understand what the final goal here is. What makes something a PED versus just something that helps you (ie, vitamins and “clean” supplements)? Why are some things considered “natural” and others “unnatural”? We want things that help us, right?
Joe – Tampa: Hi Keith love the chats and respect your opinion highly, but we clearly disagree on our interpretations of the “benefits” of steriods. I believe that if you assume Bonds and McGwire/Sosa used steriods, that it proves to me that the human limit in baseball over 162 games is ~61 homers in the same way 100-102 mph seems to be the human limit in terms of velocity…and only with steriods can you hit 70…you don’t see that point?
Keith Law: I don’t agree with it at all. I think we’ll see 62 homers in a season again. Perhaps at the next expansion. It’s not a coincidence that McGwire/Sosa went off in an expansion year, and so did Maris/Mantle in ’61.
People assume steroids were the cause of the offensive explosion of the 90s, but is that possible? Let’s assume steroids DO provide an advantage. If both hitters and pitchers were using them, wouldn’t the effect on offensive output be essentially nullified? Expansion, meanwhile, favors offensive performance, particularly by star players. Sure, expansion means that there are both hitters and pitchers who weren’t major league caliber that now are, but that will always help established stars (ie McGwire, etc) because they get to face inferior talent. Plus, as everyone knows, it is harder to find pitching than hitting – the talent depth is just different.
These things have an ebb and flow to them. In the 90s, teams valued hitters more and the hitting outbalanced the pitching/defense. If you wanted to be on Sportscenter every night, then you wanted to hit the long ball . So of course, emerging players focused on that. But once pitchers become in high demand, there’s more young ball players who will instead focus on pitching. It’s supply and demand.