Bill James: PED Takers Were "Pioneers"
Bill James has never been confused as a conventionalist. The pioneering baseball statistician cut his cloth by openly bucking traditional opinions, basing his baseball philosophies on the numbers he saw, not the opinions of more accepted talking heads. In the process, he changed the way coaches, team executives and fans viewed statistics, eventually landing as a special assistant to Boston General Manager Theo Epstein.
Well, now James is trying to change the conventional ways that people view steroids in baseball, and just like his statistical views, which James crafted while working a night shift in a Kansas City factory, his feelings about steroids are nothing short of radical.
Essentially, James's belief is that steroids will eventually be considered negligible when considering whether players should be elected to the Hall of Fame. James bases the claim on one major claim: That players used steroids not to get better, but to elongate their prime. Taking that into account, James contends that you can't fault a player for trying to stretch out their strongest years, since they were only doing what the rest of us do on a more conventional scale with preventative medicine.
"It means that steroids keep you young. You may not like to hear it stated that way, because steroids are evil, wicked, mean and nasty and youth is a good thing, but ... that's what it means. Steroids help the athlete resist the effects of aging. Well, if steroids help keep you young, what's wrong with that?"
To his credit, James does address precisely what's wrong with that: the trickle down that leads to steroid use among kids and "non-athletes". Of course, James goes on to minimize the impact of that use, saying that eventually everyone will use steroids for exactly the same reason that baseball players used it: to stay young. That's why James sees baseball's steroid cheats as "pioneers."
Obviously, I'm not in agreement with James, and I doubt many are. To say that steroid use will eventually become commonplace overlooks the significant health risks they cause, issues that should be highlighted, not mitigated, by the deaths of Ken Caminiti and Taylor Hooton.
Could steroids improve, making those side effects less pronounced? Hey, anything's possible. But even then, it's hard to see steroids becoming legal, let alone commonplace. Society has deemed that enhancing one's performance through illegal methods is wrong in all cases. It's hard to see a universal shift in course on that issue, isn't it?
As is often the case, opinions of James's piece are already deeply split, with some like the New York Daily News' Bill Madden calling James "off-base" and the L.A. Times' Jon Weisman citing James's arguments as "quite persuasive."
What do you think? Has James crafted a reasonable defense of the use of steroids in baseball? Or did the ultimate stat geek go way too far in defending a tarnished era in baseball history?
Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | July 27, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ramgut | July 27, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: PhilliesPhan | July 27, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: anubis_lab | July 28, 2009 5:52 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: noahthek | July 28, 2009 1:14 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.