Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Hypothetical Scenario

With the players who were named in the Mitchell Report, one of the common refrains is: "They had an opportunity to defend themselves to Mitchell himself, and they didn't take it. Therefore, they are more likely to be guilty."

Allow me to try and apply the same scenario elsewhere to demonstrate why this reasoning is fallacious.

Let's say that you work in a company of 3,000 employees. Management has been concerned for a while that there has been a large amount of theft from the company occurring by employees. To counter this, they hire a well respected investigator, Marge Gitchell, to try and uncover the culprits. Marge immediately sends a company wide email urging employees to talk to her about the large amount of thievery going on in their ranks.

You glance at the email briefly, and then move it to the trash in your email client. It's not really your concern because you don't steal from the company and you don't pay enough attention to your officemates to know if they are stealing either. You feel that you have nothing to add by talking to Marge.

A few months later, you are shocked to find that Marge has listed you on her report as a likely thief. Fellow employees and management are outraged. Heck, it's even on the local news, and everyone wants to know why you didn't defend yourself to Marge while the investigation was ongoing.

What are you going to say?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Andy Pettitte and HGH

Andy Pettitte has admitted to using HGH in 2002 while he was recovering form injury.

I have only a few observations of this subject, which I should note are all going to be influenced by the fact that I personally love Andy Pettitte.
  1. Pettitte claims to have taken HGH while injured. Honestly, taking HGH while injured does not bother me in the slightest, provided it is taken with a doctor's approval. In this case, Pettitte does not appear to have received this approval. This is unfortunate, and certainly implies that what he was doing was at least illegal from a U.S. law standpoint, if not a MLB standpoint. Personally, I don't see the difference between taking a drug to help you recover from injury and having surgery to help you recover from injury.
  2. As far as actually using HGH is concerned, I will simply reiterate that we actually don't know anything about the effects of HGH on athletic performance. In fact the best evidence that we have is that it does not help athletic performance. This is a highly relevant point.
  3. In some circles, there has been gloating over that fact that Pettitte, a devout Christian, has been busted doing something illegal in a very public setting. Some people, it seems, like nothing more than to see publicly religious people exposed as being just like everyone else. This is a sad situation. Being Christian means holding yourself to a higher standard. It doesn't mean that you are always going to live up to that standard. That's not hypocrisy; that's humanity. Hypocrisy is holding others to a higher standard than you hold yourself. In his statement, Andy admits that he "was not comfortable" with what he was doing, and so he stopped. It sounds to me like he was holding himself to the same standard to which he professes to hold others. When violating that standard rightly disturbed his conscience, he quit engaging in the behavior that he felt was wrong. Provided that his account is sincere, which admittedly it may not be, any gloating over the public humiliation of Andy Pettitte exposes both a misunderstanding of what it means to be Christian and a bigoted view of Christianity.

Friday, December 14, 2007

What Roger Clemens should do

Roger probably plans on retiring right now. But he shouldn't. In fact, he should attempt to return at whatever salary for whatever team for one reason: to force Bud Selig to attempt to suspend him.

If Selig chooses not to try to suspend Clemens, Clemens can use this as public talking point #1 that he is not guilty of PED use. If Selig does try to suspend Clemens on the basis of the Mitchell Report, Selig will be forced to fight the players' union. The players' union will drag lawyer after lawyer after lawyer in front of an arbitrator, each saying that the evidence against Clemens is highly suspect and does not warrant a suspension. Clemens would almost assuredly win that fight, giving him public talking point #1 that he is not guilty of PED use.

Plus, he would do this while not being suspended for drugs while he's playing yet another year. Remember, much of Clemens' late career dominance came while MLB had drug testing. If he plays in the National League, he'd probably put up very good numbers, further bolstering his case. He can even make a public show of his lack of positive test.

What does he have to lose?

The Mitchell Report

The Mitchell Report is now big news, and since this is a baseball blog, I suppose I am compelled to comment on it.

I have not read it. I probably will not read it. I just don't find it that interesting. Why?

Well, what did we know before the report came out?
  1. There were guys in MLB using PEDs.
  2. There was no discernible pattern to the people who did use PEDs. That is, you cannot tell who a PED user is based on their physique, statistics, career path, etc.
  3. The effect that PEDs have on baseball performance is hard to quantify. We can say for sure that the players taking them thought that they helped.
So now that the report is out, what do we know?
  1. There were guys in MLB using PEDs.
  2. There was no discernible pattern to the people who did use PEDs. That is, you cannot tell who a PED user is based on their physique, statistics, career path, etc.
  3. The effect that PEDs have on baseball performance is hard to quantify. We can say for sure that the players taking them thought that they helped.
And that's the rub for me. The Mitchell Report added a few names, most of whom were already suspected or had already been linked. The list of names contains superstars and it contains scrubs. It looks surprisingly like a list of randomly sampled MLB players. It provides no evidence that PEDs help baseball performance.

Most importantly, it must be recognized that even if all of the players on the list are guilty as charged, the list is far from complete. In fact, because it's based largely on the testimony of a few dodgy witnesses, the players tend to be clumped around certain teams with whose players the witnesses did business. The list hardly convicts anyone, but most importantly it absolves no one. The single biggest mistake one could draw from the report would be to assume that these players are the only abusers of PEDs.

Finally, I hope that the idiocy already springing up around the country about Roger Clemens' involvement will quickly cease. People are using these allegations as a way to explain ex post facto why Clemens was able to succeed so late into his career and why his career surged at the various points that it did. This is nonsense.

First, it bears repeating that if Clemens did take steroids, it would have been meaningless if not for his legendary work ethic. The work ethic is not contradicted by steroids allegations. Indeed, it is corroborated. Use of steroids requires a more intensive workout regimen. It is not a shortcut that allows one to work less hard.

Secondly, the dates that he allegedly took them do not mesh well with his career. He reportedly began taking them in 1998, his second otherworldly Cy Young season with the Toronto Blue Jays. Indeed, his 1998 was worse than his 1997. Furthermore, he was all set to retire in 2003 after two seasons being a slightly better than average pitcher when he resurfaced in the National League Central and was again a dominant pitcher. It would be very hard to separate the effects of moving from the American League East to the National League Central from the effects of alleged PED use.

Indeed, the fact that the list is so populated with marginal players is telling in Clemens' case. Rare as it may be, transcendent players do appear every so often. Given the list of PED users in Senator Mitchell's report, it is hard to make the case that Clemens owes his success to illegal drugs.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A tip of the cap

I rag on Peter Abraham a lot, because I use his blog for instantaneous Yankee news, but his analysis often drives me crazy. Therefore, I sort of feel obligated to point out when he writes something with which I wholeheartedly agree.

For all fellow Yankee fans out there, Pete's message is spot on: re-f***ing-lax. The worst thing that can happen to the Yankees, now that Andy Pettite is back, is that they replay last year with the same offense (albeit one year older) and a pitching staff fortified with real pitching prospects instead of the stopgaps that they had to use last year. Panic is not in order, even if the Sox do get Santana.