Larry Mahnken and SG's

Replacement Level Yankees Weblog

"Hey, it's free!"

The Replacement Level Yankees Weblog has moved!  Our new home is:

Larry Mahnken
Sean McNally
Fabian McNally
John Brattain

This is an awesome FREE site, where you can win money and gift certificates with no skill involved! If you're bored, I HIGHLY recommend checking it out!


Disclaimer: If you think this is the official website of the New York Yankees, you're an idiot. Go away.

March 8, 2004

by Larry Mahnken

The Yanks beat the Red Sox yesterday in a wholly meaningless exhibition game where most of the stars didn't play, and none of them were around at the end. But the game was a sellout, and many fans paid hundreds of dollars to get a seat--I suspect that if the game was played in Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park, it still would have been a sellout. The first regular season matchup between the Yankees and Sox is going to be broadcast on FOX. It's a Friday game, in April, in prime time.

But baseball is in trouble, and the Yankees are killing the game.

Total dominance by one team is unquestionably bad for a sport, but baseball isn't in anywhere near that bad a fix yet. When people complain about competitive imbalance, they're not really complaining about hope and faith for all teams, they're talking about making the Yankees suck. It's not bad enough for them not to win the World Series, and it probably wouldn't be good enough for them to not make the playoffs. People want them to just plain suck.

But what people want and what people are willing to pay for is not always the same thing. And when the Yankees are good, people will pay to see them--even if it's just to boo them. The fact is, the Yankees being good is good for baseball, it's just that nobody wants to admit it.

* * *

The report indicating that Bonds, Giambi, Sheffield and others had recieved steroids from Greg Anderson has been written about in the media as if it was a smoking gun, when what it really was is an unidentified person saying that someone says they saw someone give someone a gun. It's a fairly credible report, but I think that we had firmer intelligence about Iraq's WMD programs.

But I do now think that it's more likely than not that Barry Bonds took steroids, and mostly based on the comments of Johnny Damon, I'm pretty sure that Jason Giambi did, too.

But if the steroid in question was THG, then they didn't break the law. If Bonds took HGH, he didn't break the law. Nor did any of them break the rules. The records shouldn't be expunged, there shouldn't be any asterisks, all that this changes is the dicussion of Bonds' place in history. He's still one of the greatest that ever played the game, but if he was using performance enhancing drugs in the past three seasons while others weren't, then you can probably safely remove him from the discussion about the "Greatest Player of All Time".

Baseball players have always cheated. Pitchers threw curveballs when the rules explicity forbid a pitcher from bending his wrist as he threw. King Kelly used to cut across the infield and go directly from first to third when the umpire wasn't looking. Jack Chesbro was one of the first pitchers to throw a spitball, and he won 41 games with it. Whitey Ford scuffed the baseball with his wedding ring, and when he was caught doing that, he had Ellie Howard cut it with his shinguard buckles. Players have been corking their bats for decades, even if the benefits of it are questionable. If there's some way to get an advantage, baseball players have always tried it. Babe Ruth didn't use steroids, but if they had been available to him when he played, you can bet your ass he would have used them.

Still, steroids are different than other methods of cheating because they involve the manipulation of the player's body. Even if the negative effects are overblown, there are still more than enough questions that a player should at least take pause before using them. For that reason, and that reason alone, steroids should be banned from all sports. If they were safe--if there was a performance enhancing drug that was 100% safe--then they should be entirely legal.

People are too quick to bash baseball's penalties for steroid abuse. I certainly agree that "treatment" for a first offense is a slap on the wrist--okay, it's less than that. But a fifteen-day suspension is a forfeiture of nearly $30K for a player making the minimum, and nearly $1.5 million for Barry Bonds. An Olympic athlete banned for life forfeits no money, because he's not getting paid. And suggesting that players be banned for life ignore the interest of the team. In the Olympics, the competition is what matters, the specific athletes are an afterthough, but in baseball, especially in a franchise, the specific players are crucial. Suspending a player does not only punish the player, but the team, and if you were to ban for life all of the best players, they'd form their own league to compete with you, and probably do quite well. Could the penalties for getting caught be made more effective in dissuading players from using? Absolutely, but the penalties for getting caught aren't meaningless.