Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Follow Up on the Mitchell Report

For those of you who can stomach reading more on the Mitchell Report, there is one more angle that I wanted to cover which was highlighted perfectly by Andy Pettite's admission today that he was injected with HGH two times in 2002. I don't blame you if you're sick of hearing about this issue, but I would advise you to get used to it -- the story isn't going to go away anytime soon, and the collective work product of real journalists and bloggers alike will serve the purpose of helping fans of baseball look at the issue from a multitude of perspectives.

One of the reasons that I don't like the idea of immediately black-listing any player connected with the use of performance enhancing drugs is that we have very little information on the extent of use for any player. Pettite's situation highlights that perfectly -- he admits to two injections in 2002 while recovering from an elbow injury. What's the effect of two doses of HGH? How "potent" were the injections? Did they help Pettite recover more quickly? Perform better when back on the field? How long did the effects, such as they were, linger? We have no idea what the answers to these questions are. All we know is that Pettite made the decision to illegally use HGH -- that's worthy of condemnation, yes, even though it wasn't specifically against baseball rules at the time.

Just as an aside, the defense that HGH use wasn't against baseball rules at the time is a very, very poor one. From my very quick research, HGH is not listed under the Controlled Substances Act -- however, it is covered under the 1990 Anabolic Steroids Control Act, which makes it a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison to distribute or possess HGH "for any use . . . other than the treatment of a disease or other recognized medical condition, where such use has been authorized by the Secretary of Health and Human Services . . . and pursuant to the order of a physician . . .". That means that, whether baseball has singled HGH out as "against baseball rules" seems relatively irrelevant -- it seems to me that the knowing use of an illegal drug is, shall we say, and implicit breach of baseball rules. In other words, Pettite was wrong to use HGH regardless of whether baseball had specifically said "no."

That's enough legal stuff -- let me get back to the situation now facing fans and HOF voters. Are we really willing to take a player like Pettite, who seems to have used HGH in a very limited fashion and for the purpose of recovery, and lump him into the same category as we put Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, whose use at least seems to be much more consistent, and much clearly against the spirit of competition? It seems to me that there's an awfully big difference between those players who make a habit out of the illicit use of PED's in order to play at a high enough level to stay in the big leagues, and those who stupidly decided to try the stuff to recover and then stopped using it.

I've stated before that I think, even if the allegations against Clemens are true (and I'm inclined to believe that they are), he still should go into the Hall of Fame. Even if I were to change my mind on a player like Clemens (who seems to have been engaged in sustained use), however, I don't think one positive test, or being implicated for use over a very short period, should be enough to keep a player out of Cooperstown. Give me proof of sustained use, and I would think about changing my stance on a player's Hall-worthiness. Short of that, it doesn't seem to me that there's nearly enough to keep a great player out of the Hall. I don't know whether Andy Pettite will be seriously considered for the Hall of Fame 5 years after he retires or not -- I'd vote no if I were lucky enough to have a ballot -- but that decision should not be impacted by what appears to be an isolated incident from a few days of a lengthy career. Rather than giving in to the hysteria, the baseball writers who are talking about frauds and cheats need to step back and consider all of the details. Heck, this even makes me happy for the somewhat overlong 15-year ballot eligibility requirement, because by the time players like McGwire and Bonds and Clemens would be removed, there will have been a lot of time for sober consideration of the issue.



  • At Sun Dec 16, 07:11:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    he admits to two injections in 2002 while recovering from an elbow injury.

    And we have little or no reason to believe him. Players don't have to go on the black market to get legitimate medical care.

    Give me proof of sustained use, and I would think about changing my stance on a player's Hall-worthiness.

    Isn't the standard of proof for HOF members that they belong there, not that it can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that they shouldn't?

    I don't think steroid use alone should keep a player out of the HOF. I think Bonds belongs there since he proved himself a HOF long before it is apparent he started taking steroids. The same may be true of Clemens. But Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco don't belong in the HOF. And its possible Arod and Tejada don't either.

    I think for any player from now on sports writers ought to ask the question, was this guy a great player or just on juice. That may get some players unfairly excluded, but I doubt it will effect many truly great players.

    What I think this report ought to do is make it fair game to openly speculate a player might be using. Trained athletes who suddenly add 20 pounds of muscle didn't do it by "lifting weights". And there is no reason to give them the benefit of the doubt if they claim they did.

    Did anyone who looked at Marty Cordova have any doubts that his "weight lifting" program involved more than a lot of gym time? Same with Scott Leius, to name a couple players in the Twins past who looked like advertisements from the back of matchbook covers.

  • At Sun Dec 16, 07:16:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    One other thing. When do we get the NFL steroids report? And the NCAA football report? If you are looking at professional sports, baseball is the least of the problems.

  • At Sun Dec 16, 08:17:00 AM , Blogger JST said...

    Anon -- I generally agree with what you have to say, especially on Bonds and Clemens. Even excluding steroids, I've said before that McGwire is only marginally on my radar for the Hall.

    Where we part ways is with the idea of openly speculating on a players steroid use. Absent proof, we open the door to allegations based on simple dislike. If excluding a player from the Hall is as simple as associating that player with steroids, then a clubhouse attendant who felt that a player was a jerk could simply start making up allegations about that player, and in the current witch-hunt atmosphere all it takes a few reactionary sportswriters to blackball that player from the Hall. That's not a system that I can support.

    As for Pettite seeking medical care, I agree with you that he had legal alternatives. However, HGH was often billed as a "miracle" solution to injuries, and there's no question that it often helps people heal faster. However, where there are alternatives treatments available, HGH is usually not authorized for use. I can understand why an injured player would try to access HGH for healing purposes. I'm not a chemist, biologist, or personal trainer so I don't know the actual effects of HGH -- but I do know that Tim Kurkjian of ESPN stated yesterday that used alone HGH doesn't act like a steroid -- it doesn't make you bigger, stronger, and faster. It certainly DOES help you heal, however. It also supposedly adds definition, and probably helps eyesight.

    Finally, I absolutely agree that football is getting a free pass. Maybe it's because sportswriters don't want to bite the very lucrative hand that feeds them. Football is, after all (and as we keep being reminded) America's new national pastime.

  • At Sun Dec 16, 10:10:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Tim Kurkjian of ESPN stated yesterday that used alone HGH doesn't act like a steroid

    He is repeating the same false arguments made about steroids a few years ago. Since there is no test for HGH, it doesn't fit very well into the "we have to do something about this, lets test everyone all the time" media hysteria. There is not much reason to take ESPN seriously. As you point out, its not in the news business, its in the sports business.


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