Monday Blogging – 2/9/09

Manic Monday

Look at me… I didn’t write a post for you guys last night. Sorry! (Above is a picture I found – it’s not me, I promise – while searching for Monday on Creative Commons)

9:40am
In 2003, A-Rod tested positive for steroid use. Since it seems like most Yankees fans already hate Alex Rodriguez, I’m going to guess that they wont rally around their embattled star like Giants fans rallied around Barry Bonds. Boo! Boooo!

10:00am
Yeah, right.

10:30am
Tomorrow, Israelis will likely elect some very odious hardliners to govern their country.

… the statement Israel is making to the world about what it wants to be and how it perceives itself will be unmistakably clear. This is a country that has waged two brutal wars against largely defenseless neighbors in the past three years, that just banned certain Arab political parties from existing (a ban reversed by its Supreme Court), and that continues expansions on land that does not belong to it despite those expansions being universally condemned and declared illegal in numerous international tribunals.  And now, it is turning to political leaders who believe that these measures have been insufficiently aggressive and who vow far more aggression and, in the case of Lieberman, even more internal repression of its own ethnic and religious minorities.

11:10am
Larison on the ‘Surge’

I have also never understood why war opponents are supposed to feel chastened for refusing to support the prolonging and escalation of an unnecessary war.

That’s right. Things are less violent in Iraq, for the time being, but the war is no closer to being over, and Iraq is no closer to being truly stable.

11:30am
The process of relegating printed books to a novelty/luxury item continues with the Kindle 2.

12:00pm
Sullivan on what’s needed for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians:

Iran remains the central interlocking piece for any attempt to move past deadlock. Since no Israeli will accept any actual rapprochement with Iran that leaves the Tehran regime in place, and since Avigdor Lieberman looks likely, in Berkowitz’s view, to gain a staggering 17 – 19 seats, the future looks grim for any serious deal-making.

Larison disagrees:

In the Israeli case, invoking Iran is a way of distracting attention from its own policies and claiming that nothing can be done in the territories until Iranian intervention stops and the Iranian threat is neutralized. This is mostly a delaying maneuver, but it is also a way to channel international attention away from the territories and towards Iran, which is something else hard-liners would like to see. Suddenly, it is not perpetuation of settlements that makes negotiations extremely difficult, but Iranian intervention, which loads up the agenda for any negotiations with so many extraneous issues related to Iran’s position in the region that any progress on relevant issues is sure to be thwarted.

I think Larison is exactly right. The fundamental problems between Israel and Palestinians (settlements, the walls, suicide attacks) don’t go away if Iran disappears.

2:20pm
Clearly there has been a big shift in public opinion about recreational marijuana use. When will the media and our government follow suit?

11 Comments

  1. Ian

    Regarding the A-Rod thing: Its pretty much killed off the last remaining interest I had in major league baseball. I don’t really get all caught up in the idea of records and all that. Its more that a team like the Yankees, they can spend all the money they want and they can cheat, and nothing happens with it. No one will be punished. There is no balance in the sport. The Yankees can stack the deck every season in their favor and then act like their championships mean something and are a great accomplishment. I know the Yankees aren’t the only team with cheaters and I know they aren’t the only team who tries to buy championships (i.e. Boston). Something like 1 in 7 MLB players tested positive in that test. Baseball is dead to me until they clean up the steroids and even the playing field money-wise (salary cap please!). It sucks when what I hope each year is that someone keeps the Yankees from winning, just so they can’t win on spending alone.

  2. Ted

    Ian but the Yankees haven’t won in almost a decade. while their ‘stacking the deck’ strategy may have worked in the 90s and led to their dominance, teams now actually are learning how to win by spending intelligently — the Marlins, with one of the lowest payrolls in MLB, have won two recent World Series. meanwhile you have the Red Sox who have the 2nd highest payroll in MLB, but they have also won 2 recent championships, because they spend their money wisely by looking at player values in new, different ways (google Sabermetrics).

    I think the steroid issue is an annoyance, but not necessarily as awful as people make it. the majority of baseball offensive performance skill comes through hand-eye coordination and swing practice/repetition, not how much you can bench press. the guys that have the best natural swings and for pitchers, the most effective natural arm motion) will hit home runs anyway (or throw harder) which is why I don’t get why they felt the need to juice. guess they’re just trying to maximize their natural ability to epic proportions. anyway, when such a high % of players do it, it really does level the playing field and become the standard. instead of taking away all of these awards from players in the steroid era, we should be be giving special praise and attention to the players that we know have always been clean… a number which is probably far, far lower than anyone can imagine.

  3. Ian

    Ted,

    I know about Sabermetrics and how computers have drastically changed how the game is played now. Smart can only get you so far. Just because the Yankees haven’t won in 10 years doesn’t mean there isn’t something wrong there. They’ve made the playoffs a disproportionate amount of years. On pure probability, you would expect each team to make the playoffs 1 out of every 4 years (For AL East, including Wild Card). Certainly you expect there to be up and down times. Teams generally stay good for a few years, then go down and rebuild. Teams that spend can dramatically reduce those down times. The Yankees recent philosophy has been to win now and not develop their farm system (though this has changed slightly in the past few years for them). This means they take players from other teams who can’t compete with them financially. The Yankees got Sabathia from Cleveland, Burnett from Toronto, and Texiera from Anaheim. The top 3 free agents on the market all will be in pinstripes. How is that fun for fans outside of the fact that it makes everyone cheer for the team playing the Yankees out of liking the underdog?

    I understand that it takes pure talent to be able to put the bat on the ball, but steroids add on to that talent. During his record setting season. McGwire would not have crushed those HRs without roids, same for Bonds. Those guys were immensely talented, but they were getting old and their numbers weren’t declining the way they should. Same goes for Clemens. Maybe these guys would’ve put up similar numbers without the steroids, but we will never know. That’s not really my issue with it though. You can argue that those 108 players are evenly distributed throughout the league, but I am willing to bet they aren’t. If a guy like A-Rod, who is arguably the best player in baseball right now and one of the best ever, juices it makes you start to wonder about every player who is playing great. If the Yankees get a disproportionate number of good players, I know its pure speculation, but I bet they have a disproportionate number of steroid users. We already know about Giambi, A-Rod, Pettite, and Clemens. Four really good players who used and who wore pinstripes at the time. Divide 108 by 28 teams, and the Yankees made their quota already.

    My point is this, steroids are against the rules. Period. It doesn’t matter if each team had identical numbers of people who used. Its still cheating, and it does give an obvious advantage over not using them. Don’t forget about how HGH helps people recover from injury. If players gain an unfair advantage and their play improves, they will likely gain the attention of some big market teams come contract time. One reason the NFL is insanely popular is the parity. Every team gets a chance, even the arguably worst football franchise historically got into the Superbowl this year. MLB has no real parity. Its only a matter of time before a team like the Rays are dismantled by free agency. Look at the stars of those Marlins teams. Where are they now? Not with Florida. What A-Rod means to me is that here’s the best player in baseball and his contract is so large that no other team in baseball can afford him outside of maybe the Red Sox (but even they have limits). The Yankees can easily drive the price up on any player to the point that no other team can reasonably afford to match it. Now add to that the fact that A-Rod is a class-A cheater and that he won’t be disciplined. So the Yankees get to benefit from their unfair financial advantage (which I admit isn’t against the rules) and A-Rod’s cheating (which is) and that completely destroys the competitive balance of the sport in my mind. The Yankees are managed horribly! They make so many boneheaded contract decisions and rarely end up suffering from it. They still are always right there. The game is already ridiculous to watch. I can’t sit 4 hours watching a game which is essentially meaningless considering they play 162 of them a year. If they can’t even keep the game fair, what is the point?

  4. Ian

    Hate to harsh your buzz on the pot topic:

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/02/09/health.pot.cancer/

    Kellogs better listen to those pot heads. I bet a lot of them eat cereal when they get the munchies. Really though, how much impact would a boycott by those people have?

  5. Chris

    Ian,
    Even if that link were established, I don’t think that really should have much effect on public policy. Except to say that marijuana should be treated and or taxed just like cigarettes.

  6. Ted

    Ian, you’re right about the steroids possibly helping players (like bonds and mcgwire) stay powerful and healthy when the usual trend is for performance and health to decline in the years that they were great. I still maintain that they would have been good, but we will never know the full effects that the steroids had on their psyche/confidence, if for example their confidence was just so huge based on their successes that year (just having a great year) or if the steroids gave them that confidence as well as ability.

    What’s interesting is everyone’s feelings on this issue only AFTER we are all made aware of it. Nobody cared when these guys were achieving these great feats when we didn’t know that they were cheating. But now that we know, all of a sudden everyone cares.

    The reason I bring this up is because you mention football. Based on common sense and a little bit of athletic performance experience/knowledge, I am going to offer that steroid use is just as prevalent if not moreso in professional (and college) football.

    But the effect on the game is different, because of the difference in the nature of the sports. Baseball is an individual sport, with precious individual records, where one player at a time is taking action. Throw, hit, run, catch. Football is a team sport, with many players acting as one to complete a play or to stop it. For this reason, everyone in football can be on steroids, but the parity can still exist as you said.

    I predict that some time within the next 5 years, there will be a huge football steroid scandal. But what will the reaction be? will you care if Larry Fitzgerald is found to have juiced over the past 5 years? will you be surprised?

  7. Ian

    I think I would be surprised with a guy like Fitzgerald, but not a guy like Ray Lewis. Some of those defensive guys are just enormous and move so quick it seems unreal. Lighter players like receivers wouldn’t benefit from steroids like a baseball player would. They need to stay small and agile. They would benefit from HGH though, just as anyone else.

    I agree that this has been going on for a while now and we all enjoyed it. I recall being mad about McGwire using andro at the time even though it was permitted by MLB (I think). I wanted Sosa to win that race, but it looks like he was a juicer too. I’ve always had a particular distaste for the way the Yankees do business and I was able to look the other way with a team like the Red Sox because they hadn’t won it all in a long long time. It still made it hard to get enthusiastic about it all knowing that it wasn’t a special thing if the Yankees or Red Sox made the playoffs. I figured that baseball had in general moved on from the steroids era, and I was one of those people who wanted A-Rod to break Bonds’ records because even though I didn’t like the guy, I felt he played the game within the rules. I felt he didn’t have to “sell his soul” to be great, and that made him somewhat of a hero. I was wrong though. Its not like my childhood love of baseball got crushed or anything so dramatic. It was more a feeling of the whole sport is just in a bad place right now. For me, even competition makes things more interesting. I can care less about college football and who wins, but when there is an evenly matched game on, I tune in because it can be exciting entertainment. Texas/Texas Tech this year was a phenomenal game. When one team can stack the deck every year and have cheaters, even if they don’t win the World Series it just doesn’t feel right. Its a sport, its a game, its entertainment. Mercenary all-star teams diminish that for me, cheating without any real discipline just makes it worse. I don’t want A-Rod’s records removed from the books, and I don’t want him removed from the game. Something should happen though. I don’t know. Selig needs to go. He’s clearly looked the other way this whole time.

  8. Ted

    regarding wide receivers, safeties, and other prototypical “lean & quick” guys, I think you get into the same conversation as basketball players. I think some basketball players juice, although not like in football or baseball and certainly not as much at the college level like in those sports. there are steroids that don’t necessarily make you huge, but make you really lean and increase your fast-twitch muscle response, while at the same time increasing your overall power… ideal for a basketball player or wide receiver who relies on athletic agility first and strength second. some need the boost in strength more than others. but I just can’t look at a guy like Dwight Howard and think that his body is naturally built like that. I don’t really care though, as watching him play or do a dunk contest is one of the coolest things ever.

    I just think that decisive action needs to be taken and rules standardized. if that means making strict rules and absolutely enforcing them maximally… then do it and do it better than we’re doing now. test everyone, all the time, no matter the cost. eliminate all this speculation and controversy.

    although I think a more effective alternative would be legalizing anything players want to put into their bodies… in which case, would anything really change? would we really all of a sudden start seeing superhuman beasts that defy physics and shatter records from previous eras. we’re probably already there, it’s just today guys have the added obstacle of avoiding detection.

  9. Ted

    also, it looks like a-rod is admitting and apologizing up front:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3894847

    this is a great move, it won’t win over everybody… but the american public is generally forgiving, if you admit your mistakes. think jason giambi (now cheered at stadiums), and andy pettite.

    while people still might have a tough time getting over a cheater with the largest contract in american sports history, he still looks infinitely better than roger clemens, barry bonds, and mark mcgwire, who now may never recover their public image and legacy even if they admit to it.

  10. Ian

    If steroids are prevalent in the NFL, I think it will come out soon. There has to be some kind of guy like Canseco out there in the NFL who would sell everyone out as a last gasp for attention. I know the NFL does testing but I am unsure about how extensive it is.

    As for A-Rod, it is good he admits it, rather than drag it out like Clemens. It doesn’t change that we knew he did it though. Like I said, I don’t think his records should be removed or anything. I agree though, something needs to be done to ensure this isn’t happening anymore. MLB and the MLBPA both have gained from the use of steroids, with the McGwire/Sosa battle resuscitating the sport and the players getting to gain performance from their use. Selig knew about this and looked the other way. Thus there is a conflict of interest and testing should be thorough and done by a 3rd party. Penalties should be strict. I would argue a year suspension for the first offense and permanent ban after the second failed test.

    I don’t think we should just legalize everything. Something feels inherently wrong about that and it seems dangerous. Steroids do have serious negative impacts on your body. As much as I hate the “won’t someone think of the children” reasoning, I do believe it applies here. I mean, I remember wanting as a kid to chew Big League Chew gum which is modeled after chewing tobacco. I think it would basically undermine a lot of what we try and teach our kids about drugs if we took a subsection of people and said “its OK for these people to do it, but not you,” especially if those people are the kids heroes. Sports is supposed to be about entertainment above all else. I don’t think I would feel comfortable with athletes messing up their health by doing steroids (think of the guys who don’t even make it to the pros and don’t even get the financial compensation for it). I know NFL players give up a lot by playing the sport. Those injuries come from the sport and are inherent to it and that is bad enough. We shouldn’t willfully add another set of health problems. If its allowed to happen, and some guys use it, the other guys are going to have to use it to keep up and it becomes some kind of messed up arms race.

  11. Ted

    I think the whole education on drugs, whether it’s recreational drugs or steroids, is ineffective and we shouldn’t be considering that in making these decisions.

    I grew up getting DARE presentations at school all the time, as well as addicts-turned-speakers telling us all to stay away. I don’t know the statistics how drug education has effected use, but it seems like they’re more prevalent than ever, at younger and younger ages. The kids that do drugs are going to do them anyway. But the worthy kids will realize through experience if they’re a bad thing for their lives, and they need that experience to know why, not just take someone’s word for it.

    Applying this to steroids, I think it’s lying and unfair to kids to tell them they shouldn’t do drugs, when in reality most of them probably would in order to have the slightest chance of competing at the collegiate, much less professional level. However, hopefully the largest percentile aren’t even close to talented enough, so they won’t ever try. I guess it applies most to the group of kids that are pretty good, but need something external/extra to get them to the next level. In which case it’s a risk-vs-reward decision they need to make… is this worth all the horrors I’ve heard about, for all the popularity, admiration, scholarship I may get in return?