Over the past couple of days, the interesting commentary has all been on the side that sees piling on Arod as over-the-top and tiresome. Yes, we know he did something wrong. Yes, he’s going to pay a price for it. Yes, he tends to make people cringe when he opens his mouth.
More broadly, those who’ve tried to put PED use in some social or historical context have had the better of the arguments, compared with those who’ve engaged in breathless moralizing and sanctimony, at least in my own hopelessly biased opinion.
A few examples of the good stuff:
1) Bill Simmons had his buddy Jacko on the BS report Monday, focusing on Arod, PEDs and so forth. The two of them were on fire.
Early in the podcast, Simmons opined – “I don’t understand why we have to moralize about this…” and that sort of set the tone for much of the conversation that followed.
Simmons and Jacko were less interested in talking about Arod’s deficiencies than they were in probing skeptically baseball’s and its defenders handling of the drug issue over time, the nature of its investigations and even raising doubts about whether steroids have visited a black mark on the game as much as the Chicken Littles of the world assert is the case.
Jacko, an attorney, argued that baseball has now conducted two major investigations into performance enhancing drug use. The first, the Mitchell report released in 2007, was based almost entirely on the word of a personal trainer, Brian McNamee connected to several Yankees and a Mets’ clubhouse employee. The second, the Biogenesis case that has resulted in this current round of suspensions, including Arod’s, is based mainly on the word of the clinic’s former owner, Tony Bosch. Bosch has a federal probe looming over him and is cooperating with MLB in exchange for a vague promise from baseball that they will put in a good word for him. This doesn’t exactly make him the most unimpeachable source.
Jacko noted that, despite baseball’s insistence that it’s going to the ends of the earth to clean up the game, it has really only investigated “people who were dropped in their laps.” In other words, there is a lot of arbitrariness and selectiveness in all this.
Simmons chimed in that Selig is trying to justify “this new stance he has” – the new tough guy stance that, as I wrote yesterday, is designed in part to mask his earlier negligence in the issue. Simmons added about Selig’s behavior – “It does seem very self-serving.”
Simmons also brought up the oft-noted fact that while sports media are obsessed with PEDs in baseball, there is almost no interest in such usage in the other sports. Almost no one believes that football is notably cleaner than baseball in this regard. But even when high profile NFLers flunk drug tests, media coverage is minimal. Simmons turned his attention to the NBA, pointing out that its testing policies are a joke. Simmons also recalled that while the NBA went to great lengths in the 1980s to deal with a perceived a cocaine problem, that campaign was motivated by a belief that such drug use was hurting the league’s image. If players today are using growth hormone and other means of recovering more quickly from injury, Simmons suggested that the NBA most definitely did not care to probe that seriously, since such drug use would only improve the product on the court.
On the larger matter of perspective, Jacko pointed to a Hartford Courant article lamenting that neither Arod nor Aaron Hernandez is a role model. As Jacko and Simmons both pointed out, Hernandez has been implicated in up to three murders and here is the Hartford Courant comparing that to a guy who used some drugs to get a performance advantage. Simmons said several times that whatever you think of him, “Arod didn’t hurt anybody.”
There’s more good stuff in their podcast.
2) On Mike and Mike in the Morning, Mike Greenberg took a few moments out of the standard day-after coverage to ask whether we aren’t going overboard condemning players caught using banned substances. Greenie noted that most of us break rules every day (like driving over the speed limit) and more pointedly said that we seem to condemn much more harshly PED transgressions than we do DUIs or even domestic violence, a serious problem among professional athletes.
3) Finally, and in perhaps the biggest surprise of all, Colin Cowherd spent much of his show this morning connecting the PED issue to the endemic poverty in the Dominican Republic. Dominicans, of course, have come increasingly to dominate the sport. They also, Colin said repeatedly, live in extreme poverty and account for a large percentage of the failed drug tests. Cowherd said, “I don’t blame them one bit. I am for kids having a better life” and “It’s hard to be a moralist for a kid trying to have a better life.” Facing a life of extreme privation at home on the one hand, and the opportunity for a vastly better life on the other, the incentive are pretty clear. In response to listeners accusing Cowherd of condoning use of PEDs, he responded – “I am not condoning the use, but let’s contextualize the argument.” Most amazing of all, Cowherd played recent remarks from Dave Zirin about how much baseball takes advantage of and benefits from improved player performance, including from Dominican ballplayers. (Zirin wrote a column primarily about the Dominican/PED connection). And he spent part of his show actually reading World Bank data about poverty in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
Seriously, who knew?!