A conversation about MLB, on the field, off the field.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


The simple & obvious reason that there is widespread steroid use in MLB is that it is good for everyone in the game. BIGGER, FASTER, STRONGER is what sells. In every sport, the evolution of the athlete is a key element of the appeal.

Baseball's chattering classes are in a tither, their hallowed game being ridiculed far and wide for allowing the proliferation of steroids amongst it's players. As much as we like to debate and proselytize about BALCO, Bonds, McGwire, The Hall, Canseco, Game of Shadows, Congress et al., the fact is MLB is healthier than ever. Attendance hit a record 76 million last season, revenues are at a record 5.2 billion per year ( still don't understand the Gil Meche contract? ) up 40% from the last CBA and triple what they were in the early 90's. The Juiced era and the era of record MLB revenues coincide. I am not arguing that steroids in the game are directly responsible for it's growth in revenues, but it is clearly apparent that it hasn't had a negative impact.

Fans know the players are juiced, we've known for years and evidently most of us don't care. The fans who expend the most time and energy on this subject are the hardcore geeks like myself and we will never abandon the game over drugs / cheating, because we love it. The casual fans, who comprise most of the gate, don't engage in these debates. They want cold beer, sunny weather, a 6-4-3 double play, a home run, a win for the good guys and a game played in under3 hours.

So if the fans didn't, don't care, why should the owners & players?

Let's accept as fact that the owners have known about steroid use in the game for a long time. What motive did they have to change anything? Fans loved the home run era, and not just the McGwire / Sosa sideshow. Balls were flying over fences at record levels across the game and fans were coming in droves.

What about the players? With money falling out of the sky and no drug testing in the sport, why should they have cared? ( Well for health reasons, but the lust for fame and fortune trumps concerns about mortality ). Players don't care about the "sanctity of the game", we members of the geekdom take care of that for them. They care about making it, and once they make it staying there as long as they possibly can. So a lot, I guess most, take steroids, HGH, amphetamines, to help in accomplishing those goals. Talk to Chad Motolla.

That leaves us with the PA. If this were a John Sayles movie, Donald Fehr would be Chris Cooper, and he would be on a crusade to remove steroids & amphetamines from the game because they are destroying the lives of players and families and lining the pockets of evil captialists. ( I don't disagree entirely. ). Well, this ain't a John Sayles movie and the PA, which is de facto the Player Agents, were stuffing their pockets with cash as well.

So, what next? The Chattering Classes will talk and talk. George Mitchell will point some fingers. There will be more positive tests and suspensions until there is sufficient public opinion that " the problem " is being managed and starts to fade from our consciousness. Barry Bonds will continue to be everyone's whipping boy.

But what is most important and only time will tell, is will there be a fan backlash to the Juiced Era? Will attendance decline this year and in years to follow? I'm betting no, and I am absolutely certain of this, THE GAME WILL NOT GET SMALLER, SLOWER, WEAKER.

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