Monthly archives: November 2007
Cocaine, Amphetamines, and Steroids
I like to see this site as a place where the status quo is taken on. As much as I dislike Barry Bonds the person, I hate watching anyone end up being the scapegoat for a large group of offenders. We have all heard the rumors of future Hall of Fame pitchers who used steroids, let alone most of the top power hitters of the past 2 decades. I've been of the mindset that as soon at MLB starting testing for them, throw the book at any players who found using PED's. But to treat players like pariahs, who used prior to testing is wrong, as they were just competing in the marketplace where it was encouraged.
And then we come to the idea that the past greats wouldn't have used steroids. From reading Lawrence Ritter's Glory of Their Times, I feel pretty confident that many of the top players during the turn of their century would have thrown their Mother* down a flight of stairs, if it would have given them 10 points on their batting average. (*Lou Gehrig was definitely an exception.) We know from Jim Bouton's Ball Four that greenies (amphetamines) were prevelant in the clubhouse during the time he played. During the Pittsburgh Drug Trials of the 1980's, Bonds' Godfather, Willie Mays, and another Hall of Famer, Willie Stargell were described as providers of the drug. An excellent piece written by the Dallas Morning News' Gerry Fraley discussed much of the history of amphetamines in MLB, featuring an illuminating quote from David Wells' book Perfect I'm Not.
While speed doesn't show the physical effects that steroids do, it is hard to argue that they haven't given an edge to many players. While it appears that I was erroneous in stating that Tim Raines' career was enhanced by cocaine, as Jay Jaffe torched me on Baseball Prospectus for, I do think the question of benefits that players from who used the drug is being underrated. Jaffe brings up an interesting question in his Unfiltered piece.
...while there may possibly be some short-term performance benefit to using cocaine, the high potential for addiction, the rapid buildup of tolerance requiring greater quantities, and the deleterious physical effects of continued usage make this a route of performance enhancement that can’t be taken seriously. Think about it another way: of the hundreds of professional athletes who have found trouble with the white lady, wouldn’t you think at least one ego-inflated Canseco type would come forward to tell us how it improved his career?
Jaffe's article is well-done and does a great job of outlining Raines' career being a slam dunk Hall of Fame career, which I agree with wholeheartedly. The one minor point I have a problem with in Jaffe's effort to campaign for Raines is when he speaks about Raines' "youthful dalliance" with cocaine. I have to say that carrying coke in the pocket of your uniform and not sliding feet first because you are worried about breaking the vials of powder in your pocket seems a bit more than a dalliance.
Finally, let me offer up to people that want to go to a online journal which discusses PED's in sports, check out Steroid Nation, which is written by Gary Gaffney, an M.D. from the University of Iowa's College of Medicine. In September he discusses an interview done with Jim Bouton. Gaffney brings up an important point on the subject of drugs and athletes:
While using Tim Raines' as an example seems to be improper, I still believe the notion that cocaine and amphetamines has helped players achieve better results on the field. I'm sure that there were players who were negatively impacted by these drugs, as well, but the same I'm sure can be said for steroids. There is a reason that people in many different professions have used these substances and that is because of the energy boost they provide. Athletes have taken short-cuts to achieve success for as long as they have been available for them to use. We might not like this, but it is fact of life and it isn't going to change just because of drug testing, which can't even detect some PED's.
Went 2-2 last week, with the Rams really dropping the ball at the end, in a game which they absolutely dominated. It was bad beat central last week, as you would know if you were on the Bears or Cardinals. I was all over the easiest side of the year, with the Eagles almost winning outright. Eagles this week are the best play I've seen in a couple of months, as they ride their more confident play at home versus a Seahawks team going cross country and playing at 10 AM their time.
Oakland (+3.5) Denver
Tampa Bay (+3.5) New Orleans
(4 star) Philadelphia (-3) Seattle
Miami (-1) NY Jets
Arizona St. (-7) Arizona
Oklahoma (-3) Missouri
How Tim Raines' Eligibility Opens Bigger Questions on Hall of Fame Inductment: Postnote Added
Let me begin this intellectual exercise by stating that Tim Raines should be elected to the Hall of Fame. Any player that Bill James rates as the 2nd best leadoff hitter of all-time should be in Cooperstown. Now let me also add that Joe Jackson and Pete Rose should be there, as well. Oh and while we are discussing great players with character flaws, let me mention that Barry Bonds should go in with 100 percent of the vote when he is eligible. Some players reach levels of greatness on the field that supercede their own personal judgement mistakes.
Of course, Shoeless Joe and Charlie Hustle aren't in Cooperstown and Bonds looks to be a long-shot for making it in at least during his first year. Why I mention these men with Raines is that there seemed to be more than one reason why his nickname was Rock. Here is Raines in his own words on the subject of cocaine use from an interview he did for Baseball Prospectus with David Lauria in August 2007.
Now many would offer up in defense of Raines that unlike steroids, cocaine would not have helped him perform better. While I never consumed anywhere close to the amount that he did, I used the stuff some during college and I can tell you that I can see where it could have had a benefit. For many of the same reason players have been using amphetamines since the 60's, doing a few lines could help stimulate your body and have the added bonus of making you feel a bit more confident. Do you think these players would have risked using this illegal substance if they thought it hurt their ability on the field? Now I'm not saying it was the reason for Raines success and I'm not singling him out, as many other major leaguers were using blow than as well, (at this time, coke wasn't seen as the absolute evil it later became when crack came on the scene), but I don't see where voters can okay this transgression, but castigate Bonds.
Anticipating some of this discussion, BP's Joe Sheehan in January offered this on the subject.
I don't disagree with anything Sheehan offers here. My problem is with the Hall of Fame hypocrisy that is steroids versus cocaine. Sure both of them are illegal, but ask about anyone who isn't a supermodel or child actor which is the worse drug and 9 out of 10 times you would get cocaine as the answer. It is ridiculous to me that Bonds might end up going to jail over lyring about using while so many other players who used as well were never put in this courtroom situation. (This includes NFL and NBA players, as well.)
I have a mostly Libertarian-view about drugs, so my problems with players using drugs only begins to bother me when the drugs have been made illegal by the sport, itself. Since baseball didn't have a real drug policy until a couple of years ago, it is impossible to know who was on them and who wasn't.
Here would be my Hall of Fame voting rulebook.
I didn't write this piece to try to hurt Raines' chances at the Hall. It just seems unfair that a player like Rock, who admitted during the Pittsburgh drug trials that he would keep coke in his uniform, use it during the games, and would slide headfirst so not to break the vial, would get a pass, while modern players who used steroids are seen a pariahs. Sure, Raines' rehabilitated himself, but do we really know that cocaine didn't aid his career? His best seasons were when he was under the influence. During a period when basestealing was at its peak (1980's), who is to say that cocaine didn't have as much to do with this spike as steroids did with the increase in homeruns? Yes, I know it is a pretty explosive question, but I think it is a fair one to ask, especially considering the careers of similar type players like Lonnie Smith, Vince Coleman, and Tony Phillips, who also were cocaine users.
Put Tim Raines in the Hall of Fame. He deserves for his career resume. If you believe he should be selected as well, just keep in mind that if you are also one of the people who feel that steroids should eliminate you from Cooperstown, it is time to reexamine your reasoning. Since amphetamines came into the game of baseball, drugs have had varying degrees of influence on the abilities of many of its players. We will never know how many or what percentage were using some illegal substance, so slamming the door on future enshrinement for those who were outed is unfair. The best approach the Hall of Fame voters should take is grading everyone on the curve.
Postnote: In the comments section it is brought to my attention that Raines claimed that he only used during the 1982 season. My belief had been that he had used up until 1985, before the Pittsburgh Drug Trial happened. I regret putting out any wrong information towards Mr. Raines. The point of this piece was one where I was trying to get to the issue that steroids are not the only drug that has helped players achieve more success on the field. Considering the massive usage of cocaine during the eighties by athletes in all sports, I believe that it had its benefits on the field. Sure, over time, users have to use more to chase the same high, which becomes more dangerous and destructive to the individual. Guess what, same goes for steroids. While they achieve different things for their user, steroids, amphetamines, and cocaine all have a lot of similar affects.
Finally, the drug that has negatively impacted and often destroyed more players careers than any has been alcohol.
Let's Just Forget Last Week's Picks
My football selections last week had the sucking power of Marilyn Chambers during her prime. Let's hope this week is better. I only liked 1 college game this week, so didn't mess with the limited schedule. (If you can still get down on Oklahoma, I highly recommend it.)
Cleveland (-3) Houston
St. Louis (+3) Seattle
Philly (+24) New England
Tennessee (-1.5) Cincy
Supporting Most of the Troops
The biggest misunderstandings in regards to standup comedy is that comics like to be heckled. While most of the audience understands this, there are a surprising amount who don't. Very few comedians are very adept at dealing with hecklers. Some comics have a character they inhabit, others are very low-key in their delivery, while most have a set routine and heckling wrecks the timing of their act.
I'm one of the exceptions when it comes to hecklers, as even though my goal is to do the act that I have planned, I'm more than willing to verbally evicerate whoever gets in my way. Dealing with hecklers is not my goal, though. Let me explain it this way.
Outside of psychiatrists, I can't think of a profession where people get uncomfortable having a conversation with you, as many believe they will somehow wind up me analyzing them and then put them into my act. There was a woman who lived in my neighborhood, who would always bring this up saying “I bet you will end up putting me in your show.” Finally, I decided to alleviate her fears. I explained that “don’t think for a second that anything in your life would be interesting enough to make its way into my act.” I think I can speak for most comedians in saying that we are not trolling for material and most of what does come to us is when we are by ourselves. Same goes for hecklers. You are not going to help our show, unless it is a completely dead audience and the comedian you heckle just happens to be adept at the art of roasting.
Last Friday night, I had a drunken heckler. (And yes, there are sober hecklers, sometimes.) I slammed the guy a few times, but he kept jumping in during the middle of a joke, wrecking the timing of the material. I finally got so pissed off that I went off, savaging him to the point that the audience was cheering me to go for the jugular. One thing you learn early on is if you are a funny comedian, the audience will behave like they are at a Roman Coliseum, wanting you to go for the kill. Considering that they have paid a cover to watch the professionals, the tolerance for some a-hole who believes he is “helping the show” is very limited.
After unloading a couple bombs on my heckler, I hoped that this would be the end of it and I could back to the regularly scheduled portion of the show. Feeling wounded, my heckler offered up the excuse that “I’m going to Afghanistan next week.”
This was a pretty crafty response, as almost every comic I know would back off and instead act like the guy was some kind of hero. I’m not that guy. I have what can be a fatal flaw and that is that I don't pacify people I should often ignore. Since I’m not like the Comedians of Comedy, who go around performing only for audiences who generally agree with their political points of view, conflict does happen sometimes at my show. I’m a touring standup who goes basically where I can get work and who will pay me a decent wage. I’m not a great comic, but I do feel some pride in not just preaching to the converted. Here is what I offered my heckler.
Youch…that is some cruel stuff to say to someone, let alone someone who is serving our country. I’m not sure it is completely defensible, but I will offer that this jerk would not stopping interrupting the show. I gave him a couple mulligans, but he wouldn’t stop. After I offered up the quote from above, I was a bit concerned how the audience would respond. They were very supportive, laughing and hooting. Now, just for a little bit more info, I wasn’t performing at a Moveon.org rally. The audience was just a bunch of middle-class Americans from a small city (less than 40,000) in northern Wisconsin. I’m guessing the city votes overwhelmingly Republican. After the show, I had a man who looked like he stepped off the cover of some “Greatest Generation” book come up to me and offer this point of view. “I fought in the Korean War and I can tell you that guy who was heckling you was an embarrassment for me. If that is the kind of soldier we have fighting for our country, I don’t think we will ever solve our problems overseas.”
Now, I want to mention that I don’t think for a minute that my heckler that night was a good example of what our troops are like. I’ve done comedy shows at military bases and have had nothing but good experiences, as these soldiers are not the Sean Hannity-lovin’ robots many Liberals think they are. While they might not be as diverse politically, as the general public, they are often more aware than anyone how larger policies have put them in a state of constant FUBAR.
I decided to relay this story, as I know 4 years ago, my words would have caused a different outcome from the audience at this venue. I think it is good that many Americans have stopped blindly leading with their patriotic hearts. We should support the troops, but not pretend that they are all outstanding human beings anymore than we should do the same with politicians. While your job might give you a little bit of extra credit, it shouldn't be a teflon for all of your actions.
After my final slam of my dim-witted heckler, I didn’t hear anything more out of him. At the end of the show, I mentioned that I might have been hasty in my words when I had said that (him) losing a limb wouldn’t tear me apart. I wished him the best of luck and the safest of travels. Not exactly a “We are the World” type moment, but I’m all about giving people a chance to redeem themselves. Well, except for this guy.
Went 2-4 in the Colleges, 3-2 in the NFL, last week. I really don't like the games for this week, so I have a smaller than usual amount of releases.
Kentucky (+8) Georgia
Northwestern (+13.5) Illinois
Kansas St. (+7) Missouri
Ohio St. (-4) Michigan
Louisville (+8.5) South Florida
Baltimore (+3) Cleveland
Detroit (+3) NY Giants
Tennessee (+2) Denver
Diamond Views of Alex Rodriguez
Recently I was contemplating the world of Alex Rodriguez. I kept coming back to the idea that he is a Solitary Man. This got me to thinking, where better to go to explain his recent Yankees past and future, than with the lyrics of one Neil Leslie Diamond? Hopefully Scott Boras will use the words of Neil to understand better what Alex has went through and what he wants in the future.
Or maybe a more succinct A-Rod would have offered this type of explanation.
So he decided to opt out of his contract, no longer wearing the Pinstripes.
Sure Alex could have shown more class with his announcement, but I’m betting if you knew what was inside the man’s heart, he would have offered up something to the Yankee fans like this.
I mean, how emotional is that? Bravo, Mr. Rodriguez! So now he is offering himself up to other teams. Sure many fans look at him like he is the sexy girl, who has a little too high of an opinion of herself, but I see something else. A Solitary Man offering up his latest Traveling Salvation Show. I say pack up the babies and grab the old ladies because everyone goes and everyone knows, Brother A-Rod’s show. What are Alex’s thoughts on his possible destinations? I would suggest they would be close to these.
Many think his most likely destination is with the Angels, Dodgers, or Mets. Maybe another work of Neil Diamond will give us some insight on where A-Rod’s mind is on these options.
Wow, what an emotional guy, this A-Rod is. I’m not sure I follow the frog analogy, and sure palms trees do grow in LA, but the rents are not exactly low, so he should rethink that part. The rest, though, is right on the money. I’m guessing he realizes that the Angels are the best fit, but he probably has reservations, all the same.
This is a big decision, so asking your Mom her thoughts are a good idea. I’m not sure, though, I would do it like you’re a 5 year-old at a candy store, Alex. Mama, mama, mama, mama, mama, mama, mama, mama.
No matter who ends up with A-Rod, his basic need is a simple one.
Hey, isn’t that what we all want? Just for someone to believe in our talents. I can imagine A-Rod saying “sure my years with the Yankees had a lot of ups and downs, but I am the best player in baseball, so how about giving me what I need most. Respect. Support. Love. Well, that and 40 million per year, because...
AIN'T THAT THE TRUTH.
College Picks 4-1 last week. 30-22 for the Season
In a college football world where teams like South Florida, Kansas, Missouri, and Boston College can make appearances in the Top 5, one thing holds true. The Juice Blog will bring you winners on the games. While I went 2-3 in the NFL last week, the regular season game of all-time went about the way I suspected. The Colts speed on defense kept Brady from getting into a rhythm, but the absence of Marvin Harrison (I relied on NFL injury expert Will Carroll* who wrote he would play:) kept the Colts from putting more TD's on the board. No matter, the Colts covered.
All year in the colleges, I've done best when giving out dogs and not trying to handicap the Pac-10. Well, I'm following one of those 2 trends this week, with all dogs on the board.
Notre Dame (+3.5) Air Force
Arizona (PK) Detroit
* Had lunch with the raconteur of baseball writers, Will Carroll, and as usual, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The guy has more contacts than Bausch and Lomb.
The Complete History of Candy (Juice Blog Style)
During my time at this blog, I've written on some pretty insubstantial topics. The following piece might be the biggest waste of space on the internet, well besides this. The idea started as a follow-up to my orignal post on candy bars, as I would cover the non-candy bars which are worthy of space on convenience shelf stores. So I began to rack my brain of all the candy I've consumed in my life and after an hour, I made an appointment with my physician for a complete check-up. Jesus H. Wonka I've shoved a lot of junk down my gullet. Unlike candy bars, which can only feature a few different combinations and flavors, candy has endless possibilities. Also, at the end of this piece I discuss the candies that should be put in some type of junkfood graveyard. So here we go with a walk down Candyland Lane.
Charms Blow Pop
Brach's Milkmaid Caramels
Old fashioned candy sticks
Fruit Stripe gum
Freshen Up Gum
Zotz fizz candies
Switzers Licorice and Red Ropes
Big League Chew
Root Beer Barrels
Waxed bottles and Wax lips
Candy Cigarettes and Cigar Gum
Bit O Honey
Boston Baked Beans
Chuckles and Regular Jelly Beans
Old Fashioned Horehound Candy Drops
Teaberry, Beemans or Black Jack gum
Caramel Creams and Cow Tales
Starlite peppermint disks
Snaps (black licorice center)
Gobstoppers or Jawbreakers
So there is the list. This piece should create conservation here until at least spring training begins. Fire away.
Jerry Seinfeld on Alex Rodriguez and the Mets
Hey, have you heard? Jerry Seinfeld has a new movie out. I actually heard an interesting interview on his promotional tour on Friday. Comedian Jim Breuer has a really fun show every weekday afternoon on Sirius Satellite Radio and he did a great interview with Seinfeld. There can't be 2 comics who are much more different in their styles, be it on or off-stage. Seinfeld is meticulous and sharply sarcastic. Breuer is bombastic, bigger than life, bringing a rock and roll feel to his comedy, following the example of his metal band heroes. The one common bond the 2 share is that they are both huge Mets fans, something that Breuer talks about on a regular basis.
During their sitdown, Seinfeld brought up how he wouldn't want ARod to join the Mets. I'm paraphrasing here, but it is Seinfeld's basic contention that he doesn't like all the deep breathing he does before each at-bat. He said that ARod seems to almost be tantric while preparing for each pitch. Seinfeld then discussed how he felt that Willie Randolph needs to go back to his Yankee look and lose the Harry Reems mustache he has sported more recently. Jerry is conservative when it comes to baseball and believes the Mets manager should lose the porn stache, as it sets a bad tone. Just like most comedy, this retelling loses a lot in the blog translation, but the whole segment was hilarious and made me wish that Seinfeld would do an hour a month on some talk radio show, breaking down sports in his observational comedic way.
Discussing the future of the Mets, Breuer did your typical rabid fan take, believing that the Mets should trade their whole bullpen to the Twins for Santana. He obviously doesn't realize that the bullpen is the area the Twins need the least help in, but I enjoyed his passion about the game. There are questions about how much MLB pitchman Dane Cook knows baseball, but there is no doubt how strongly these 2 comics feel about the game. My experience has been that very few comics I have run into have any interest in baseball, so it was really cool hearing a couple top-rate comics like Breuer and Seinfeld discuss the game from a different perspective than you get from a pure baseball analyst.
I read this Q/A in Sporting News with Rush's Geddy Lee, a couple of months ago, and have been looking for a place to put it in. The piece outlines how Lee is a huge Fantasy baseball fan. Geddy sang my favorite version of O Canada at an All-Star game, so I knew he was familiar with baseball. Below are a few of my favorite excerpts. The intererview was conducted by Matt Crossman.
Another .500 week overall. Since it is the biggest regular season game to happen in any sport since UCLA played Houston (Lew Alcindor vs Elvin Hayes), I make a pick on the Colts. The key to them winning is that their speed on turf is the best I've ever seen in the history of the game. The Colts defense is better that it has ever been and the Pats has played a really soft schedule. I suspect the game will be tight.
Societal Critic at Large: Scott Long
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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