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February 16, 2009

[Business Day One] Roid Rage

Filed under: Baseball,Business Day One — Tags: , , , , — Serpico @ 10:46 am

I’m still upset about this A-Rod thing.  The past few days haven’t done anything to ease the frustration of having Bud Selig, who watched the biceps of his best players swell along with average attendance, declare that Rodriguez ‘shamed the game.’  Is the act of putting performance enhancers in your body to compete with the hundreds of other players that put performance enhancers in their bodies any more shameful than turning a blind eye to it until memories of the baseball strike faded?  Is that act more shameful than faking outrage once he realized that the fans were back?  The men that returned the crowds to baseball were coursing with banned substances.  People knew.  Staffers knew.  The commissioner’s office knew.  They must have known.  They’re not stupid – far from it.  They’re smarter than all of us.  Think of it this way: we’re all disgusted, but we’re talking about it.  I’m talking about it right now.  Heck, I just set my keepers in my fantasy baseball league.  We’re complaining about this steroid issue the same way we complain about U.S. foreign policy.  We’re disappointed, but we’re not going anywhere.

When will it end?  When will the stories about baseball be about baseball again?  I wish I had an answer for that.  I think this season is shot.  The hundred plus names on that report that mentioned A-Rod is coming out this year, no doubt about it.  There will be a lot of outrage and the season will essentially be a washout.  Right now, we’ve got a whole spring training, regular season, and postseason that will be absolutely, totally dominated by talk of steroids first and play on the field second.  So prepare for that.  And be angry.  You have every right to be.

We’re really got two options for this upcoming season.  We can view it with a bit of distance and skepticism, or we can ignore it totally.  I don’t know of any real fans that are doing the second.  So in that respect we’re as much to blame as Selig or BALCO or anyone else.  We’re not going to boycott.  We’re going to pay $100 for tickets like always and then, if we have time, make up a clever sign with a syringe on it that might get up on television.  We’re part of the monster, so we better feel bad as we keep tuning in to SportsCenter to track allegations.  As a sports fan, you owe it to the Gods to feel bad.

So we’re angry and we’re guilty.  Let’s just make sure that’s taken care of before we even think about talking about the season.  Maybe next week is when I start hoping that the Yankees pitching staff is healthy.  Maybe the week after is when I think about my fantasy draft.  I’m not ready for any of that yet.  I hope I will be soon.  I hope you all will be too.

February 9, 2009

[Business Day One] The Baseball Rule of Thumb

Filed under: Baseball,Business Day One — Tags: , , , — Serpico @ 10:14 am

I’m going to use as few words as possible so that the ones I use will carry a bit more weight.

When it comes to baseball, assume that every record broken in the last dozen years is tainted. Assume that the greats of yesteryear are still the best and that no one born after 1970 can hold a candle. Assume that the best and purest days of baseball are behind us and will never come back.

If you want to go to the ballpark after you think through all of that, then go.

February 21, 2008

A Birthday Gift

Filed under: Baseball — Tags: , , , — Willis @ 2:47 pm

So Today is my birthday, but instead of asking for gifts, I am going to give one away. I am ordering a copy of Baseball Prospectus’s new Guide to the 2008 Baseball Season for myself, but I thought I could share the nerdiness. I’m also going to give away a copy of the book. Hopefully next week at this time, I will declare a winner.

Now, don’t worry, I’m not setting up some crazy contest. It will be a random drawing of everyone who comments on this post and answers my question. Right or wrong doesn’t matter (actually, I prefer wrong).

The Question:
Roger Clemens, like Barry Bonds, is too trusting of creepy looking trainers (have you seen the guy, he looks like a human/rat hybrid). So I say he didn’t know he was being injected in the buttocks with steroids. What did Roger think was in the needle?

February 20, 2008

Exceptional Exemption

Filed under: Baseball — Tags: , , , , — Perich @ 11:00 am

More than once in the last few months I’ve heard someone ask, “What business does Congress have investigating steroid and HGH use in Major League Baseball?” And while I agree that it’s stupid, and a waste of time (and possibly wrong), there is precedent.

Not everyone knows that Major League Baseball has a special exemption to the Sherman Antitrust Act, the 1890 law that governs how inter-state businesses may conduct themselves without being prosecuted as monopolies. MLB is a monopoly. They have wielded that power explicitly in the past, most famously to prevent players from separating themselves from teams and to prevent teams from moving to different cities.

There’s no actual law on the books that says, “Major League Baseball is exempt from antitrust regulations,” but there’s the next best thing: eighty years of court precedent. In 1922, Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the majority opinion on Federal Baseball Club of Baltimore vs. National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, saying that the “interstate commerce clause” didn’t technically govern interstate travel to play away games. The exemption was upheld in 1953 (Toolson v. New York Yankees), when the Supreme Court said that “Congress had no intention of including the business of baseball within the scope of the federal antitrust laws.”

So Major League Baseball lives in a special legal pocket. Is that the only thing getting Congress’ attention?

Not quite. Almost all MLB teams and stadiums reap the rewards of sweetheart deals with local politicians. The New York Yankees have been deducting five million dollars a year from their taxes since 2001. Tampa Bay’s no longer getting a sixty million dollar sales tax refund on their new stadium, but they’re still hoping the state of Florida will sell them the new land at a discount. Breaks like these always come in the name of “creating jobs” (out of what? fairy dust and wishes?) or “revitalizing” a particular neighborhood.

All politics is local, as Tip O’Neill famously observed, and he was Speaker of the House. A member of Congress answers to their constituents. They answer to the local party machine: the neighborhood wards that run their campaign ads and put up their posters. So the state of Arizona’s investment in the Diamondbacks gives John McCain an interest, justified or not, in how MLB conducts its affairs.

Finally, recall that the President becomes the de facto pace-setter of the party he represents. Recall also that the Republicans controlled Congress for years, even if they’re no longer the majority, so they have most of the plum committee seats. And above all else, recall that the current President is the former owner of the Texas Rangers. If that doesn’t tell you enough about Congress’s interest in baseball, then go back to reading the funny pages.

January 28, 2008

[Business Day One] Stacks and Stacks of Letters! (pt. 2)

Filed under: Business Day One — Tags: , , , , , , — Serpico @ 1:04 pm

The opening line on the Big Game was 14 points. That means that in initial Vegas action, anyone that bet on the Patriots believed that they were two touchdowns and two extra points better than a Giants team that has won on the road in three straight weeks and mounted an effective pass rush against the Patriots the week before. I don’t think I’d take that bet.

The line has come down since then, but the Pats are still favored by a touchdown, a field goal and some change. I still don’t think I’d take that bet. I, and most of the western world, do believe New England is going to win. But by twelve? Thirteen? That’s a fairly tough thing to do. In the past five years, only one team has won by a touchdown, a field goal and some change. And that team wasn’t the Patriots, though they’ve played in three of those games. Granted, this Pats team is far different than the XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX versions, but in a game this big, I’m not going to give the points.

In fact, I challenge someone to tell me why I should. That’s right. I challenge someone!

There, a gauntlet has been thrown down. In the meantime, I believe I still have more mailbag to get to:

Dave L (Somerville, MA) – Do you think baseball will ever have a salary cap? (in say… the next 30 years) why/why not?

I think we’re going to see a “salary floor” of some sort before we see any salary cap. (more…)

January 15, 2008

Ankiel SMAASH!

Filed under: Baseball — Tags: , , , , — Perich @ 9:33 am

The furor over steroids in professional baseball continues to rise. Roger Clemens categorically denied his steroid usage in a 60 Minutes interview. A fan is suing the New York Yankees, claiming that Yankee players’ reported use of steroids is akin to “consumer fraud.” And the hearings on Capitol Hill continue.

Roger Lets You Know Who CaresRegarding steroids, I agree with the Boston Metro’s Sarah Green: the competitive advantage conveyed by steroids is so profound that making them legal would be the same as making them mandatory. If you played “clean” in a steroid-happy league, you could not compete. And given the wreckage that anabolic steroids level on the human body, this would destroy the sport of American baseball.

But what about HGH?

HGH, or human growth hormone, is the output of the human body’s pituitary gland. Your body produces it naturally. Your body also produces less of it as you grow older. Some studies suggest that dosing HGH once you’re past your forties may combat the aging process.

The Mayo Clinic advises that HGH increases muscle mass and reduces body fat, but doesn’t necessarily translate into increased strength.

Get these results to Mitchell - stat!CNN reports that some doctors campaign against HGH usage, citing research that links growth hormone in mice to increases in cancer. But those results have not been documented in humans yet.

Of course, as with any popular scientific breakthrough, a number of scams have arisen to profit off the name. You’ll find websites touting HGH in pill and cream form, despite the fact that it’s only effective when injected. And HGH is still not completely legal – doctors have had their licenses stripped for not running thorough diagnostics before prescribing the hormone.

Read through all the conflicting reports, though, and one conclusion stands out: the downsides of HGH are not as bad, and definitely not as well-proven, as the downsides of steroids. Using steroids is a stupid and destructive way to ruin your body in the name of a paycheck. But HGH is not the same kind of monster.

I’d like to believe that Major League Baseball and their Congressional overlords can separate the hype from the facts. Human Growth Hormone clearly isn’t the same kind of poison that anabolic steroids are. We hope that, if MLB wants to ban HGH, they’ll do so only after the hormone’s effects have been better documented.

We hope, anyway.

December 18, 2007

Two Up, Two Down

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Perich @ 6:15 pm

It’s a quiet evening around the Nerds on Sports offices. Most of us have gone home for the holiday season. The Dolphins’ climb out of the winless basement goes unheralded. SportsCenter plays to an empty break room. Even Tom Gorzelanny can pass through the halls unmocked.

In lieu of original content, I link you to two interesting sports-related posts I read from sources I don’t expect sports from.

First, re: the Patriots’ streak, here’s Jim Henley of Unqualified Offerings:

Idiot sports radio personalities – and I apologize for the redundancy – constantly ring variations on The Patriots realize that the real prize isn’t going undefeated, it’s winning the Super Bowl. Nonsense. Somebody wins the Super Bowl every year. The NFL has had 41 of the things and they don’t look like they’re going to stop staging them any time soon. There are plenty of Super Bowl champions. There’s only one post-merger, undefeated champion. Why pass up a chance to make history?

What I suspect and hope is that the Patriot organization thinks the same way. The core members – Kraft; Belichick; Brady; Vrabel et al – have already won a bunch of Super Bowls. They haven’t matched the most annoying achievement in modern NFL history. (In fact, by going 19-0 they’d exceed it.) Don Shula ran his mouth worse than Steeler safety Anthony Smith – you have to figure a vindictive bastard like Belichick will want to rub his nose in it.

An interesting thought. Which would you like more – a fourth Super Bowl ring or to have your name mentioned every time someone brings up the word “undefeated season”?

I think winning the Super Bowl says more about a team’s ability to perform – as it’s the best of the AFC against the best of the NFC – but going 16-0 says more about your endurance. Sure, you can’t win the Super Bowl by beating the Jets twice, Buffalo twice and (going out on a limb here) Miami twice, but sixteen games should be a sufficient sample size for any statistician.
(more…)

December 14, 2007

At Last, Our Long National Nightmare Is In Print Form

Filed under: Baseball — Tags: , , , , — Sean @ 4:00 pm

The Mitchell Report(Unlike most NoS articles, I feel the need to write this here: this article is about the Mitchell Report and is my personal opinion and not necessarily the other guys’ here on what’s going on. Other columnists may have their opinions and you may see them here, too.)

The Mitchell Report will not end steroid use any more than a nuclear bomb will end warfare. (more…)

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