Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
March 7, 2009
BASEBALL: Piazza and Steroids

Matthew Artus has a good post on the topic, which I pretty much agree with across the board.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:03 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

The amazing thing about the entire steroids scandal is how little anybody knows about what effects, if any, steroids actually have on baseball performance, and the contradictory nature of what evidence exists.

Just think of all the careers, money, business credibility, professional reputations, Congressional hearings, legal fees, collateral damage to the innocent (if any) and all the rest, wagered on steroids with nobody knowing what they actually do.

Regarding which, a modest if obvious proposal.

I mean, A-Rod, with the game's biggest contract, shoots steroids on the advice of his gofer/limo driving cousin Yuri. Geeze...

Posted by: Jim Glass at March 8, 2009 9:04 PM

Well, we know physical strength helps with hitting for power and we know steroids help with physical strength. The fact that the precise relationship is hard to stucy and variable by the individual is not a reason for disregarding it.

Posted by: Crank at March 8, 2009 10:41 PM

The proposal isn't to disregard it.

Exactly the opposite, in fact.

Posted by: Jim Glass at March 9, 2009 2:58 AM

Jim,

There's one reason and only one reason that people take anabolic steroids: they work.

Posted by: RW at March 9, 2009 8:31 AM

BTW, back in my college basketball playing days, I had horrendous acne on my back. However, since I've suffered from psoriasis since my years of puberty, I can count the number of pimples that have been on my face with my two hands. The reason that my dry skin kept the acne away from my face & concentrated on my back, I assume (since I'm not a doctor), is because I was wearing sweat soaked shirts a lot while I was playing many hours per day. That's the only way I can explain it, since the acne went away as soon as I stopped playing ball. Since Piazza was a catcher, his being covered w/sweat could've added to the situation.

I dunno, he coulda been using, but the more obvious offshoots of steroid use are premature male balding (not in all cases, Canseco still has his hair), water retention (see: Bonds, Barry), an increase in speed/strength, and a noticeable change in the physique. The only item I've seen about Piazza is back acne.

I need more to be sold, especially since the guy would've obviously suspected me had someone told him about my back. Of course, once they mentioned that I was 6'5" and around 175-185 lbs all doubts would be erased, but still...sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Posted by: RW at March 9, 2009 8:40 AM

RW, the reason players take steriods is because the think they work, not because they are proven to work. Many players also wear titanium healing bracelets, but that doesn't mean they actually work.

Crank, while it is certainly true the increased strength helps with hitting for power, we don't know how much it helps. I really don't think that they help so much that they would take a 62nd round draft pick and turn him into the greatest hitting catcher of all time (at least before Matt Wieters), as Mr. Chass implies. I don't doubt that steriods help baseball performance, but I really don't think they help anywhere near as much as the media believes they help. I also think that the steriod era in baseball almost cetainly began in the 1970's, when many players began weight training, and when steriod use was legal in the U.S. (as well as in the MLB).

Posted by: Paul at March 9, 2009 1:29 PM

Paul,

Offensive and defensive linemen use steroids because they work.
Pitchers use steroids because they work.
Bodybuilders use steroids because they work.
Power lifters use steroids because they work.
Ben Johnson used steroids because they worked. His fast twitch muscles improved so much that everyone watching him run in Seoul knew immediately that something wasn't right.

Summary: slower twitch muscles get bigger via steroids. Fast-twitch muscles become more explosive via steroids. Since fast-twitch muscles are used in hitting a baseball....well, the prosecution rests.

Steroids don't just help strength.

I also think that the steriod era in baseball almost cetainly began in the 1970's, when many players began weight training, and when steriod use was legal in the U.S. (as well as in the MLB).

Quite right, but there was not much known about them at the time & no one knew what was "good" or what was "bad" or how much of what to take in order to get peak performance. Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted to taking all kinds of things in the 70s and he said that they had little knowledge of what was working or how much to take. Since then, the science of juicing is easily available for anyone to get & quickly gain knowlege (A-Rod's ignorance accepted).

Unless someone is willing to argue that Barry Bonds' 73 home-runs (up from a career best of 49) did not come by way of steroids - and if that's the case, I have some beachfront property in Tennessee I'm willing to sell - then that one person personifies the extent to which steroids can work for a baseball player.

Posted by: RW at March 9, 2009 2:17 PM

BTW, just to add to the above (if Bonds isn't enough); one can simply look at the career statistic of McGwire & Sosa and determine via "guess" about the time each one started using steroids. Not only did their power numbers increase dramatically (very much so in Sammy's case), but their batting averages also climbed.

Reason for both: faster bat speed, via fast-twitch muscles (same as Ben Johnson)

If money is the mother's milk of politics, then bat-speed is the lifeline for a MLB hitter and a 1%-2% improvement in bat-speed can be the difference between a AAA-er and someone having a 5 year MLB career.

Or, an all-star and an MVP.

Posted by: RW at March 9, 2009 2:33 PM

This is confusing - Chass rips Sherman for not mentioning back acne. But Sherman did mention it. Chass also rips the NYT for not allowing him to write about the back acne. But the NYT did allow him to write about it. So Chass is 0 for 2. Huh?

Posted by: Keith L. at March 13, 2009 10:58 PM
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