random friday, 1990 edition: garth brooks, “friends in low places”
by popular request

eric walker on drugs and baseball

One of the good things about having a blog is that you get to pass along things that catch your eye. For the most part, I’m not a big fan of Lists o’ Links … if you’re a good enough writer to have a blog, you’re good enough to write something about those links.

Once in awhile, though, something comes along that doesn’t really lend itself to a quickie summary. Eric Walker’s “Steroids, Other ‘Drugs’, and Baseball” is a clear example of such an item. The link will take you to the summary page, as Walker calls it. Well, I don’t know how to count pages on a web site … I guess it’s only one “web page” … but it took me 39 mouse clicks to get from the top of the summary to the bottom. So you can appreciate how hard it would be to reduce Walker’s work to 39 words.

Therefore, I’ll just encourage anyone interested in the subject of performance-enhancing drugs in sports to take in Walker’s tome. It will take awhile … just to read the summary will cut seriously into your afternoon … and I know people like to read-and-run online. But it is worth it. I’ll leave you with this quote:

The chief problem--as it always is--is that the crucial decisions are not being made by people with knowledge on the subject sitting down and considering the facts and the implications of those facts: they are being made by demagogues and irrational scare-mongers, many of whom have an obvious axe of self-interest to grind.


Phil Dellio

There've been a couple of posts about this on the I Love Baseball message board--no discussion as of yet. I'm going to try to read it this weekend, even though I hate reading off a computer screen (it looks way too long to print out). Based on Joe Posnanski's overview, he won't have any trouble convincing me that the role-model and players-influencing-players arguments are empty--I've never subscribed to either of those. On the health hazards argument, I'm an agnostic, so I can be persuaded there, too. But on the other-factors-besides-steroids producing the home run barrage, he'll have to be very, very persuasive. Because the short version of the counter-argument, the one I subscribe to right now, makes perfect sense: 1) two steroid users go on a home run binge in 1998 and break a 37-year-old record; 2) a third guy resents the attention they're getting, so he decides to start using too; 3) being a much better player than the other two in the first place, he proceeds not just to better their three-year-old record, but to enter into a four-year period where his offensive production borders on science fiction--doubly so, when you factor in his age. So it's going to be a case of, should I believe your research or my own lying eyes? I'll try to read with an open mind. Not sure that I can, but I'm also wondering if Eric Walker didn't set out on his study with his mind already made up too.


Walker's got a good track record, to me, which doesn't make him right in this case, but I start from a friendly-to-Walker view, plus I don't care if athletes use enhancers and don't see the difference between, say, steroids and Lasix surgery. That's why Walker is more trustworthy than I am ... I have a tendency to get snarky on the topic.

The section in Walker's piece that might relate specifically to your counter-argument would be here:


The two main points (and if I have this wrong, blame me, not Walker, I'm not much of a scientist) are 1) despite what we call "perfect" or "common" sense (or "my lying eyes"), the evidence of a power burst during the "steroid era" doesn't hold up, and 2) the primary effect of steroids on musculature are in the upper body, while power for a hitter comes primarily from the lower body, meaning there is little evidence that steroids help you hit more homers. Neither of these points are relevant to the question of whether players took PEDs ... the best comparison, as Walker notes, is with hitters who used to cork their bats. Corking bats didn't help hitters, but hitters believed it helped, so they did it. Steroids didn't turn you into Henry Aaron (that would have required amphetamines, Steven said snarkily), but hitters believed it helped, so they did it.

I'll add that Walker spends quite a bit of time in the above section on Barry Bonds. Since I am a fan of Bonds, I particularly enjoyed that segment.

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