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Don’t Be Roid-iculous (Coosin Larry), Part II
2004-12-05 01:24
by Mike Carminati

(OR "The Needle and the Damage Done" OR "They're BALCOing A Steroid Heaven". OK, enough.)

Part I

Mountie: I do not approve of your methods!

Eliot Ness: Yeah, well... You're not from Chicago.

--In "The Untouchables" after Sean Connery shot an already-dead captive to intimidate another, non-dead one to bear witness (and you thought Lynndie England was bad).

I have been loath to comment on the ever-exploding steroid issue since I was awaiting Armando Rios, Benito Santiago and Bobby Estalella's testimony being leaked. However, since those insightful pieces of information don't seem to be forthcoming, I shall soldier on.

First, I have to commend whoever leaked the testimony at such an apropos time: the one-year anniversary of the federal grand jury looms and as everyone knows sealed grand jury documents are, of course, made public after one year.

Depending on who you talk to either Jason Giambi is a good guy for admitting his wrongdoing or his contract should be voided and his career should be over. Of course, let's set aside the issue of the veracity of these documents and the difficulties involved in corroborating with sealed legal documents. Let's forget about what the players union may have to say in the matter as well. The Uniform Player Contract (Schedule A of the Collective Bargaining Agreement) does include some provisos for terminating a contract:


By Club

7.(b) The Club may terminate this contract upon written notice to the Player (but only after requesting and obtaining waivers of this contract from all other Major League Clubs) if the Player shall at any time: (1) fail, refuse or neglect to conform his personal conduct to the standards of good citizenship and good sportsmanship or to keep himself in first-class physical condition or to obey the Club’s training rules; or

(2) fail, in the opinion of the Club’s management, to exhibit sufficient skill or competitive ability to qualify or continue as a member of the Club’s team; or

(3) fail, refuse or neglect to render his services hereunder or in any other manner materially breach this contract.

7.(c) If this contract is terminated by the Club, the Player shall be entitled to termination pay under the circumstances and in the amounts set forth in Article IX of the Basic Agreement. In addition, the Player shall be entitled to receive an amount equal to the reasonable traveling expenses of the Player, including first-class jet air fare and meals en route, to his home city.


7.(d) If the Club proposes to terminate this contract in accordance with subparagraph (b) of this paragraph 7, the procedure shall be as follows:

(1) The Club shall request waivers from all other Major League Clubs. Such waivers shall be good for two (2) business days only. Such waiver request must state that it is for the purpose of terminating this contract and it may not be withdrawn.

(2) Upon receipt of waiver request, any other Major League Club may claim assignment of this contract at a waiver price of $1.00, the priority of claims to be determined in accordance with the Major League Rules.

(3) If this contract is so claimed, the Club shall, promptly and before any assignment, notify the Player that it had requested waivers for the purpose of terminating this contract and that the contract had been claimed.

(4) Within five (5) days after receipt of notice of such claim, the Player shall be entitled, by written notice to the Club, to terminate this contract on the date of his notice of termination. If the Player fails to so notify the Club, this contract shall be assigned to the claiming Club.

(5) If the contract is not claimed, the Club shall promptly deliver written notice of termination to the Player at the expiration of the waiver period.

7.(e) Upon any termination of this contract by the Player, all obligations of both Parties hereunder shall cease on the date of termination, except the obligation of the Club to pay the Player’s compensation to said date.

The Yankees would have a pretty tough time trying to terminate Giambi using these nebulous terms.

Besides, the press have already moved on to a bigger prize, Barry Bonds. We ran a roundtable on it at the main All-Baseball site. Bonds has generated so much publicity that I even got a quote in New York Newsday.

Everyone seems ready to strip him of his records and write off his entire career to steroids. Never mind that he won three MVP awards and consistently finished in the top ten in MVP voting for many years before his alleged steroid period. If and when Bonds breaks Hank Aaron's career home run record, it will already be tainted on many people's eyes.

Call me naïve, but I think BALCO and Greg Anderson's questionable reporting procedures may cast enough doubt so that we'll never really know for sure whether Bonds took steroids or if he did so, he did it knowingly. After all, plausible deniability was probably the reason for their cryptic system, deniability for themselves at least—Bonds' ability to deny his involvement, whatever it may have been, is just a happy byproduct.

I mean, when the evidence is as weak as this:

Bonds said he couldn't explain a calendar page with the name "Barry" on it, nor a note indicating an invoice of $450 for blood tests.

Likewise, Bonds said he couldn't translate a document that had the notation "! G !" [allegedly, human growth hormone] along with "one box off season" and "two box season, $1,500."…

Bonds also was quizzed about a document that said, "Barry 12-2-02, T, [possibly testosterone] 1 cc G – pee [allegedly, a urine test]."

Bonds does seem evasive in his answers ("I don't know what G is", "T could mean anything G could mean anything. And pee could probably mean anything", and "Insulin? I'm not a diabetic.")

He claims to have used 'the cream" and 'the clear" were just flaxseed oil:

"I never asked Greg" about what the products contained, Bonds testified. "When he said it was flaxseed oil, I just said, 'Whatever.'

"It was in the ballpark ... in front of everybody. I mean, all the reporters, my teammates. I mean, they all saw it. I didn't hide it."

That seems implausible but sprinter Tim Montgomery told the grand jury that BALCO founder Victor Conte put "the clear" in flaxseed oil containers.

So is it possible that Bonds either did not take steroids and BALCO's faulty reporting procedures just make him appear guilty? Is it possible that Bonds was duped into taking steroids? I suppose so, perhaps his adamancy in not taking steroids dissuaded his BALCO reps. Or maybe they duped him into taking steroids thinking that the results would convince him to continue retaining them?

I think it's probably unlikely, but it's possible. However, doesn't Bonds deserve the benefit of the doubt? The media is ready to chalk up Bonds' career and the offensive surge of the last five or so years to steroid use. Reality be damned.

However, there are number of problems with using steroid use as the sole reason or even a main reason for the offensive numbers today.

First, the current offensive onslaught began abruptly in 1993, at least five years before the spate of alleged steroid abuses.

Second, there are many other factors including two quick rounds of expansion (in 1993 and '98) and a slew of new offensively minded stadiums that were much more important causes than steroids could possibly be.

Here's a table for every year since 1980 broken down by league of the home runs per plate appearance and the league slugging percentage. For each year, the percent change for each stat is also listed:

YrLgHR per PA% ChangeLg SLUG% Change
1980AL2.12% .399
1980NL1.68% .374

Note first the huge increases in 1993. Note also the upswing in homers after each round of expansion. Next, I'd like to break the numbers down per team and stadium in order to determine the effect moving to a new park has had.

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