Friday, February 8, 2013

PEDs: the perpetual headline

Curt Schilling can't seem to help himself. After being an outspoken critic of the media during his playing career, he went and joined the ESPN team upon retirement, and now he's made an offhand comment that's landed him in the headlines just before spring training.

Apparently a member of the Red Sox medical staff suggested to Schilling in 2008 that he try HGH to repair the injured shoulder that would ultimately end his career.  Schilling reported the incident to Theo Epstein, who reported it to MLB, and there was an investigation. If you want to read more about it, there isn't any shortage of places to do so.

I don't know about any of you, but I am tired of talking about this. I'm tired of MLB all but assuring fans that the drug problems have been curtailed, and that now the game is clean and beyond reproach.  Anybody who thinks that is fooling themselves.  Since the onset of free agency in baseball, the steadily rising salaries in a league with no salary cap have all but guaranteed that the players who want to will be able to pay a premium for designer, undetectable PEDs.

Perhaps this year, with in-season HGH testing coupled with the testing to determine levels of player testosterone, it will be harder for players who are using to continue to fly under the radar - but these guys are multi-millionaires, and if they want to cheat, their money will enable them to do so.

Perhaps the most annoying part in all this is people who claim that "The Yankees should forfeit their titles, they had players on the roster doping," or "the Red Sox World Series wins aren't legitimate, Manny Ramirez was cheating," or any variation on this theme with any team and player. It simply proves you haven't been paying attention: there is no team beyond reproach, and I personally assume that every team has at least a few perpetrators.

On the team level, my suspicion is that it balances out - if both teams in a series have users on the roster, fairness is maintained. The parity breaks down when looking at individual players. There's no way to know for certain who is playing clean anymore, and all the players are evaluated assuming that they are (thanks to imperfect testing methods). We've been unfairly comparing the stats of non-users and users for years now, and there will never be a know to tell the truth.

I wish I could speculate that this topic will fade away with the imminent start of spring training, but I doubt it. Inevitably, the first players will be caught during team physicals, and news of their suspensions and speculation about how it will affect their team's performance will dominate the news cycle. We're going to be stuck talking about this for a very long time, and it's certainly a shame - in every possible way.

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