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Same Doping, Different Treatment?

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by user DNL

Last week, in the comments at this Baseball Musings post, Josh Rovner looked at the Bonds steroid imbroglio and wondered, why is Bonds being treated more harshly than Gary Sheffield. Said Josh:

 

     
  With all due respect, the NEW news today is about Gary Sheffield. That letter from a Giants fan could easily be written by a Yankee fan who ought to be equally embarrassed for cheering Sheffield (and Giambi). I, however, am not a Yankee fan.

Bonds has been made into public enemy number one. How he's any different than Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi is utterly beyond me.

Yankee apologists, I await your reply.

 

Benjamin Kabak took the charge, and replied, in part, as follows:

 

     
  As for Bonds, what people don't like is that he lies. And he does so over and over again. He lies about steroid use, about taxes, about everything. Sure, the sources against may not be the most upstanding citizens, but at this point, I'm inclined to believe Kimberly Bell and Greg Anderson over Bonds. I don't care if Bonds is a dick or the second coming of Ghandi. Everytime he starts talking about conspiracies and such, his credibility takes a hit. It seems that he started using steroids around 1999 when he saw what McGwire and Sosa were doing while he was getting old and fragile. At that point, he already was one of the best players ever. He choose this route and it's hard to deny it. The physical evidence is there and even the statistical evidence is there.  

Ben and Josh agreed to take their debate here. Over the coming hours and maybe days, they'll be adding to their thoughts in this space. With that, we turn it over to whichever edits this page first!

Josh Opens it Up

At Baseball Musings, I was the first one to raise the issue of race, but in a rather different context than Enybo did below. Here's what I wrote:


I think [another user is] right about being more forgiving for players who seem likeable. (We, as fans, will never know who these guys really are.) Part of this, I hasten to add, may be our latent racism, since the players that we've all defined as "good guys" in this scandal are white -- McGwire, Giambi -- and the bad guys are black -- Bonds and Sheffield. (Note that I wrote "we." I'm not exempting myself.)

Now, there's a lot of complicating factors here that go well beyond race, but I think we ought to admit that it probably plays a role in our assumptions. For that reason, our host is right that everyone suspected out to be investigated, not only the public's appointed villians.


And so I recoil when another user here said that Bonds is an "animal and deserves to be treated liek [sic] one." Hyberbole aside, I'm not really sure what that means. It's not good, and it's not what I'd call latent racism, but just racism. Can we keep language like this out of here? (Does anyone else see the difference between calling Bonds a jerk and calling him an animal, or am I imagining things here? And I hate the guy, too.)

My essential point is in that second paragraph. There are many players who are suspect and guilty, others who have escaped our notice and are just as guilty. I support comprehensive testing for everyone, but with a particular focus on players who have had hard-to-explain increases in power, or whose age-predicted declines never occured. Is that particularly controversial? --Josh 13:05, 27 March 2006 (EST)

Ben's Reply

I think a program that pinpoints people based on statistical oddities is controversial. In my view, it overlooks the main effects of steroid use in favor of targeting people with gaudy numbers. In many cases, and Howard Bryant stressed this in Juicing the Game, steroids help a player by improving healing time. While you can certainly point to Bonds and say steroids contributed to his strength, you certainly couldn't say the same to Ryan Franklin or Alex Sanchez, two guys suspsended last year for violating the drug policy.

I don't think MLB can or should be targeting outliers. I would however like to see players be a bit more willing to show some remorse. --Ben 13:46, 27 March 2006 (EST)

Josh Agrees, Sort of

Like Ben, my steroid testing programs starts with random testing. (And I'm pro-remorse, too. Don Zimmer should apologize for wearing out the starters in 1978. Then, can the healing begin.)

Off the top of my head, these are red flags that ought to increase your probability of being randomly selected, some things ought to increase the chances or frequency that you'll be tested randomly:

- A sharp increase in homeruns, like Derrek Lee? One flag. - An increase in power numbers after 32, like Bonds? Three flags. - An unusual performance after age 40, like Clemens or Randy Johnson? That's a flag. - A suspension for something that looks an awful lot like a roid rage, like Kenny Rogers or Jose Guillen? Two flags. - Did you gain 30 pounds in the off-season, like Trot Nixon did a few years ago? That's a flag.

Yes, the lab guys would have to work this out. But as much as I believe that the rules ought to treat everyone as innocent until proven guilty, some players ought to have to prove it more often. So: test everyone. Test the outlyers more.

--14:01, 27 March 2006 (EST)

Ben disagrees completely

I don't think you can at all start doing flagged testing. What did Derrek Lee deserve to merit a flag? If you look beyond the pure numbers and examine his splits, you'll see that he moved from an extreme pitcher's park (Pro Player) to a hitter's park (Wrigley). More importantly, he was no longer playing as many games in Atlanta, Shea Stadium, or, as in 2003, Olympic Stadium in Montreal. Rather, he was playing against much worse teams. His power explosion was the result of a peak at age 29. I don't think you can begin to put people's season accomplishments doubts by testing someone who hit too many home runs or shows a temper.

Meanwhile, we still haven't addressed the other issue: How is Bonds different from Sheffield and, more noticeably, from Giambi or any of the other guys who are under suspicious. I stand by my claim: Bonds has been antagonistic to a fault while Giambi hasn't. Sheffield has managed to deflect attention away from himself. Look at Sammy Sosa as another example. He was fairly antagonistic and no lonager has the same reputation.

--Ben


Date

Mon 03/27/06, 11:08 am EST



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