Results tagged ‘ Gene Orza ’

Eleven reactions to the A-Rod/steroids story

arod_250_020909.jpg1. Not steroids again. Not A-Rod again. I have seen both of these movies before, and wasn’t clamoring for a re-release or a sequel. This is how I imagine most people feel about Steve Martin’s “Pink Panther” films.

2. I’m still not certain what we’re upset about. We don’t know how performance-enhancing drugs affect a hitter’s performance. We intuitively feel that it should, but actual evidence is nonexistent. I have had acquaintances and fellow writers tell me, “They help you hit the ball farther,” or, “They help you see the ball better.” Unfortunately, none of them could cite a legitimate source for these effects. Indeed, any attempts to tease out the evidence of PED use in baseball statistics tend to come up with few persuasive results (for one effort, see Nate Silver’s chapter on PEDs in Baseball Between the Numbers — in the interest of full disclosure, I contributed a chapter to said book). The key fact is this: steroids help one build muscle. They do not necessarily help one hit a baseball. Indeed, there is no evidence for the latter.

3. Most of the players caught taking steroids have been of the most fringe-y types. These fellows did not turn into Barry Bonds or Alex Rodriguez. It’s hard to see that they received any benefit at all. When we turn to a Bonds or an A-Rod and say that they received a great benefit from using, not only are we automatically in the realm of conjecture about the basic effects, we’re also positing that they received a benefit beyond what other users received. While it is known that certain medications will affect various individuals differently (the impact of side effects varies, for example), it is something of a stretch to say that one guy gets nothing and the next guy gets 50 home runs, or even 10 extra home runs. If you’ve had radiation administered to your eyes, as I have, you will find out that some people have their vision reduced, and some go completely blind (as I have). One guy in a hundred does not turn into Cyclops of the X-Men and go about shooting bad guys with his optic force beams. That kind of result just isn’t on the menu of possibilities.

4. Given the chimerical benefits of PED usage and the fact that Rodriguez lacked the monetary incentives to use that seem to inspire most of the aforementioned fringe-type users, I am forced to fall back on one of the great explanations for everything, vanity. We already knew, or suspected, that Rodriguez was something of a narcissist. This is the confirmation.

5. Rodriguez had the best offensive season of his career in 2007. His 2008 offensive output wasn’t too different, when adjusted for context, than his now-tainted 2003 performance. How do we reconcile these things, assuming Rodriguez was clean after 2003 or 2004? Wouldn’t it be nave of us to believe that 2003 was the only time A-Rod was using?

6. Clearly, using PEDs does not help you come up with the big hit in a postseason game.

7. Rodriguez could play for another eight or 10 years. He won’t be eligible for the Hall of Fame for another five years after that. Get ready to become intimately familiar with this topic, because we’re going to be kicking it around for something like a decade and a half.

8. The bigger story here is not that A-Rod might have used, but that what should have been a confidential testing record was picked up by the government for no particular reason, and further that the government, as custodian of those records, were sloppy enough in their handling of them that we and Rodriguez have come to this reckoning. Whatever one thinks of what Rodriguez did, whatever one thinks of about Rodriguez, he does not deserve to be a victim of drive-by assassination in a legal proceeding against somebody else, and it seems like the 4th Amendment would give him (and you, and me) the right not to be. Of course, the 4th Amendment ain’t what it used to be.

9. The second-biggest story is the Gene Orza of the Players Union might have been tipping players to upcoming tests. That would throw the whole testing regime into question.

10. The “good” part of the Bonds story was that A-Rod was likely going to erase his home run record anyway, so we would have a “clean” all-time home run leader. Now, not so much — despite the complete and total lack of evidence that what Rodriguez might have done has had any impact on his home run totals anyway. This is yet another aspect of the story that will never, never go away. Thanks, A-Rod. Thanks, Feds.

11. The ‘net is teeming with unqualified advice for A-Rod and how he should handle these disclosures, and I’m not even tempted to join the parade. Despite the points cited above about the lack of evidence for the impact of PEDs on hitting performance, that doesn’t mean that Rodriguez should be perceived as being any less corrupt for having failed a test. The records may be safe but our estimation of this already unpopular player is not, and I imagine it will never be restored.