Is it Good or Bad for Baseball?

The most memorable times in baseball, the most illusive records, and the most dominating player. Would we be mentioning these things in our era if there was no steroids/performance enhancing drugs? In the year 2000 Barry Bonds joined a nutrition company called BALCO, who is under investigation for dissemination of steriods. Ever since then he gained 20 pounds of muscle and his home runs jumped from 46 to 73. He has also earned the MVP award every year since then. Before the year 2000 Barry Bonds has never hit a homer over 450 ft. He has now done that over 21 times.

As you know Mark and Sammy's performances in 1998 was considered a baseball's revival. At the decline of baseballs attendance, millions of fans tuned in to watch them battle it out for the title of home run leader in a single season, a record that has been there for over 30 years. Now in 2004 millions of fans tune in to see Barry go for 700 and in the near future we will be tuning in to see him go for 755 to beat Hank Aaron for all time home run leader. Would this be possible if there were no performance enhancing drugs? That is my question to you, are these drugs good or bad for baseball?


Janet said...

Drugs were not made to make or break a home run record. Because of these drugs, we are seeing better performance. Performance should be based on the sole person rather than how many steroids they have injected into their body.

C-Dizzle said...

It’s true that we are seeing better performance in our athletes but at what cost? The records that are being stomped on now are all relative to the time period in which they were played. The game of baseball has evolved from the beginning. I’m under the understanding that there are more games per season now than in Hank Aaron’s time giving today’s athletes a better chance to beat former records. It’s sad that these athletes don’t think highly enough of themselves to challenge the game without “enhancers”.

Dr. Tufte said...

Two spelling errors in the post.

LOL. C-Dizzle is a student from a previous class that is still following this blog. That makes me feel really good about requiring this sort of work. Hey C - are you even in Cedar City for the fall semester?

I think it is pretty scary that performance enhancing drugs appear to be good for the business of baseball. On the other hand, there are other performance enhancing things that we don't worry about. Remember when the average Chinese person was shorter than the average American, and there were no Chinese players in the NBA? That isn't the effect of drugs, but rather of a better diet. That's certainly performance enhancing, but it isn't a drug. So, where do we draw the line? I don't have a good answer.

I will tell you that players are in a prisoner's dilemna. It is optimal for all of them to not take steroids. But, it is also beneficial to take them before anyone else does. So, they will tend to make the choice that leads to short run gains of better performance and long run costs of poorer health.

peter_parker said...

The situation with Barry Bonds is difficult. On the one hand, it can be speculated that the enhancers have made all the difference in his home-run total. On the other, he has always been a great hitter, whether the result is a home-run over 450 ft. or a double. I wonder what he would have been like if he were a chain-smoking quasi-alcoholic like Babe Ruth. (who is still ahead of Bonds)

Back to the subject, the prisoner's dilemma is fascinating. It's evident in all aspects of life, especially in high-pressure situations like professional sports. It's crazy to think that perhaps humans have progressed so far physically that it is impossible to "enhance" yourself naturally through work-out routines, diet, etc. Does this mean Bonds is superhuman now that he progressed so far and then had to rely on enhancers? I don't agree with using them, but fans pay his paycheck indirectly so overall it seems we all support it.

John West said...

This has turned into a sticky situation as of late. Barry Bonds is no question a great ballplayer, but this cloud has been hanging over his head now for some time. I personally believe that there probably is something to all of the allegations directed towards Barry. However; I don't blame athletes for turning to alternatives that enhance their performances, but in no way do I think that their is any place for steriods in organized sports.

Bruce Banner said...

Anything can be possible without the use of drugs. If Hank Aaron did it someone else can. It might take 30 to 100 years to break it but I believe a record is made so a record can be broken.

Today's athletes are using alternative ways to increase their perfomance. They are using weight training to performance enhancing drugs. In the end, if an athlete broke a record by natural ability with out drugs has a greater defeat than an athlete who use drugs.

Dr. Tufte said...

I loved the Peter Parker comment.

The point about Babe Ruth raises the question that athletes are free to make their performance worse with some drugs. What's interesting then is the asymmetry. You are free to do worse, but not better. I don't have an answer for this, but asymmetries like this are usually a sign that there is something fishy in our thinking.

Then there is the idea that the overall level of athletic quality is so high that performance enhancing drugs are one of the last ways to differentiate one performance from another. Again, I don't know what to make of this yet, but its got the wheels in my head turning. (I am actually reminded of the science fiction classic Dune where the nobility hires people to think for them who in turn take a drug specifically to allow them to think faster and better.)

Bruce Banner's comment also leads to a good idea to take away from this (or any) class. Be very suspicious of records that are frequently broken. It probably indicates flawed thinking on the part of the record keepers. For example, the recent stink about record high oil prices is an artifact of not adjusting the oil prices for inflation. Newspapers are at record high prices too, but you don't hear the media crowing about that. So, going back to Barry Bonds, the home run behavior of the last 10 years or so definitely smells rotten.

However, in Barry Bonds defense, he is arguably the best batter ever, in the sense that he waits for the right pitches better than anyone that ever played the game. Perhaps he's taking something that makes him artificially patient. ;)>