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Dee Yun: (contact-deleteme[at]-deleteme-direman [dot] com) 2005-10-10 09:34:05
Chicks Dig the Long Ball!
My two cents about steroids in baseball (and stupidity):
The recent media frenzy has attributed the rise in offensive output in baseball almost exclusively to steroid use. Earlier this season, commentators continually harped on the fact that home run numbers were down, alluding to the newly instated drug testing policy. However, there were almost 5,000 home runs this regular season - well within the expected statistical range for the home run era of the past eight or nine years.
It's important to not have knee-jerk reactions but to take into account all factors. For one, weight training is a recent phenomenon. As unimaginable as it may seem to young athletes today, strength training was taboo in baseball as recently as the late '80s. The prevalent mindset was that it would reduce flexibility and thus cripple agility-related skill sets. So when pundits break out film clips of Hank Aaron and compare him to the burly mashers of today's game, feel free to ignore them when they wink knowingly and attribute the difference in bulk entirely to steroid use.
Also, the emergence of the opposite field home run has substantially increased offensive output. Until fairly recently, batting instructors would teach hitters to lay off the outside pitch (just like they used to teach hitters not to uppercut until Babe Ruth showed them otherwise). Our new brand of slugger (trained on the aluminum bat) crowds the plate, extends his arms, and drives these pitches over the opposite fences. We now have hundreds of additional home runs each year that have replaced what used to be balls or foul tips.
I've also come across many other factors (thank you Bill James) posited as the cause of the upswing in home runs: changes in hitters' mechanics, changes in pitchers' mechanics, smaller dimensions of the new ballparks, changes in bat design, juiced harder balls, "armor" and rules allowing hitters to crowd the plate, and yes of course, performance enhancing drugs. Those who wag their fingers at steroids, however, invariably neglect to mention their effects on pitchers. Steroids enable pitchers to throw harder, throw more innings, and allow them to recover more quickly and thoroughly in between outings. While empirical analysis will never be possible, reason dictates that prevalent steroid use would serve to balance the struggle between hitter and pitcher.
Having said all that, how stupid is Rafael Palmerio?!?! This is one of four players in the history of the game to smack 3,000 hits and knock 500 home runs. All he had to do was retire and sail into the Hall of Fame. Instead, he jabbers at Congress about his pharmaceutical integrity, and promptly gets nabbed for using the same primitive steroid that stripped Ben Johnson of his gold medal way the hell back in 1988. This is so brain-wrackingly stupid that I'm almost inclined to believe his claims of innocence, because I can't wrap my head around the fact that someone could be that stupid! You, Mr. Palmeiro, are the stupidest stupid-head in stupid-dom! If stupid were people, you'd be China!