Bill James speaks out on steroids in baseball:
Cooperstown and the ‘Roids
Was there really a rule against the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs? At best, it is a debatable point. The Commissioner issued edicts banning the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs. People who were raised on the image of an all-powerful commissioner whose every word was law are thus inclined to believe that there was a rule against it.
But “rules”, in civilized society, have certain characteristics. They are agreed to by a process in which all of the interested parties participate. They are included in the rule book. There is a process for enforcing them. Someone is assigned to enforce the rule, and that authority is given the powers necessary to enforce the rule. There are specified and reasonable punishments for violation of the rules.
The “rule” against Performance Enhancing Drugs, if there was such a rule before 2002, by-passed all of these gates. It was never agreed to by the players, who clearly and absolutely have a right to participate in the process of changing any and all rules to which they are subject. It was not included in any of the various rule books that define the conduct of the game from various perspectives. There was no process for enforcing such a rule. The punishments were draconian in theory and non-existent in fact.
It seems to me that, with the passage of time, more people will come to understand that the commissioner’s periodic spasms of self-righteousness do not constitute baseball law. It seems to me that the argument that it is cheating must ultimately collapse under the weight of carrying this great contradiction—that 80% of the players are cheating against the other 20% by violating some “rule” to which they never consented, which was never included in the rule books, and which for which there was no enforcement procedure. History is simply not going to see it that way.