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Le tour de Baseball

Over the course of five (yes, five - ugh) holiday parties this weekend, the subject of the Mitchell report came up quite often. interestingly enough, the most common reaction I heard was that given George Mitchell is a director of he Boston Red Sox, it's pretty coincidental that there were no Red Sox (but plenty of Yankees) named by in it. I guess at the end of the day, all aspects of baseball are a fans game and fans love to root, point out controversy, bias, etc.

In any event, here's my take on the whole steroids mess. No one likes the idea of people using performance enhancing drugs, but what's the alternative? At some point the process of weeding out offenders becomes so unwieldy, that it actually eclipses the results produced. So you need to ask, is it worth it?

The thing about technology is that it always evolves at a rate much faster than efforts designed to stop it. Don't believe me, ask the recording industry. In the case of performance enhancing drugs, the drugs will always outpace the tests designed to detect their presence/ use. To try to combat this, testing has to become more frequent, more intrusive. Like anything the more frequent and more intrusive you make it, the more likely their will be false results. Which means there need to be procedures around appealing tests, results, etc. All of a sudden, testing requires an infrastructure, and then you're in trouble.

Does this sound familiar? It should. It's basically how the Tour de France and track and field operate. Bet you have no clue who won last year' tour de france, but know Floyd Landis cheated. Likewise, bet you have absolutely no clue who holds what records for any track and field events, but are very familiar with the Marion Jones scandal.

This is what happen when you try to use policing measures to keep up with technology. The drug tests, their results, the appeals, etc. actually become the only interesting/ memorable thing about the sport. The become the brand of the sport. And, since this isn't nearly as fun/interesting as remember the actual games or plays themselves, the fans eventually abandon.

In my mind this is the road baseball is going down. A place where more fans know about the latest HGH testing procedures and false positives around medicinal steroids than how many home runs A-Rod has hit. And that's a shame.

So what's the answer? Let them cheat? Unfortunately, yes. Well, kind of. Steroids, HGH, etc., when obtained illegally, are illegal. And that should be policed. By the police - not the director of player personnel of a baseball team. Baseball should stick to the business of balls, strikes, beer and caps and leave police work to the pros.

Obviously the one problem this brings up is the validity of the record books. Perhaps. There are lots of people who took juice in the past 15 years, but only three or four of them hit more than 61 homers (and only one hit 73). At the end of the day, juice or no juice, talent and skill are still the ultimate arbiter of performance. Besides, how many of those 73 homers did Barry hit off of Clemens, Gagne, etc.? Isn't that the very definition of a fair fight? And wouldn't the record book only be tainted by the appearance of an unfair match-up?

Anyway, I know it sucks to say essentially "let them cheat" - I guess my point is that its pretty much the only alternative.


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