Sunday, December 11, 2011

What, Ryan Braun couldn't get Santa Claus to back him up? (Baseball)(Aaron Rogers Doesn't Like...)

I suppose I have to talk about Ryan Braun, because that's what people are talking about these days? So here's my peculiar insights into Ryan's "situation," as it would delicately be termed in Charlotte Bronte's literature.

1. Baseball is kidding itself about the whole steroids thing.
2. If you want to know how evil steroids are, ask a father.
3. Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Braun, I think, are related.

Each in good time:

1. Baseball is kidding itself about the whole steroids thing.

I'm not sure why it's considered news that a baseball player tested positive for steroids. I thought it was funny that for the past year or so baseball writers referred to "the steroid era" as though it were behind us.

In 2005, Major League Baseball announced a new "get tough" policy on steroids. That was in response to "survey testing" which showed that as many as 7% of all baseball players were on steroids in 2003.

Within a month, 55 players had already been suspended, 5 major leaguers, fifty minor-leaguers, and Bud Selig wanted to toughen the policy.

In November, 2005, the first offense penalty was stiffened to 50 games. Then, in 2006, the "The Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program was implemented," a policy that was so tough it prohibited random testing during the season. Players could only be tested on reasonable suspicion after a vote of a majority of committee members.

Players don't get paid while they're on suspension, but the team can replace them on the roster, so the team suffers no financial penalty (and in fact saves a little money) if a player tests positive for steroids.

Since that policy went into effect, 15 players (in five years) on major league rosters were suspended for steroid use, compared to 12 players suspended in 2005 alone. 29 players with major league experience but currently on minor league rosters had been suspended in 2005, with just 23 in the 5 years the JDPTP has been in place being suspended under similar circumstances.

What does that say? That steroid use is ending? I hardly think so. Clearly, a significant number of players continue to use steroids; an average of 7+ players per year are testing positive.

It seems obvious that the reduced positive tests/suspensions relates more to a lack of testing during the regular season than it does a reduction in actual steroid use. Using steroids during the season helps athletes recover more quickly from hard workouts. From the Mayo Clinic:

Why are these drugs so appealing to athletes? Besides making muscles bigger, anabolic steroids may help athletes recover from a hard workout more quickly by reducing the muscle damage that occurs during the session. This enables athletes to workout harder and more frequently without overtraining. In addition, some athletes may like the aggressive feelings they get when they take the drugs.

The lack of random testing during the season means that players are less likely to get caught using steroids when they're actually using them. Steroids may be out of a person's system within days of ingesting them.

So under the guise of a "get tough" policy, Major League Baseball has actually made it easier for players to use some forms of synthetic testosterone and other performance enhancing drugs without being detected.

Why would players do that if the suspension is so long? The first time offense is 50 games, or nearly 1/3 of a player's annual salary, with the second catch being 100 games. Three strikes and you're out, of course: a third positive steroid test results in a lifetime ban.

Let's consider a hypothetical player we'll call "Bryan Raun." Say Bryan Raun is playing for a baseball team earning $455,000 in 2008, or so. (Hypothetically). Bryan Raun has batted about 0.300 with mid-30s in home runs for his 2 years in the pros.

Bryan then gets signed to a multiyear contract that gives him $2,300,000 in a signing bonus, and guarantees anywhere from $745,000 to $6,000,000 per year, but which might be worth as much as $7,500,000 in 2012.

If Bryan continues playing as a lower-tier major leaguer making $455,000 per year but plays nearly all 162 games, he makes $455,000. That's the life of a guy who doesn't hit more home runs, doesn't hit more in general, and doesn't work out as much -- a guy whose muscles take the usual amount of time to recover from the day before's game and so may have more slumps than usual.

But if Bryan Raun were to do something... something... to enhance his performance and get to the upper tier of major league-ery, well, then, consider: if Bryan Raun gets $2,300,000 in a signing bonus and will make $6,000,000 per year, but must forfeit 1/3 of that salary because he sits out 50 games, Bryan Raun makes $6,300,000 that year.

Not that that means that our hypothetical Bryan Raun would use steroids to make $6,300,000 per year. It just means that there is little incentive not to use them, and a lot of incentive to use them.

Consider the real-life, completely unhypothetical example of Manny Ramirez, who served a 50-game suspension for his first positive test for steroids in 2009.

Manny Ramirez was paid $23,854,494 in 2009. He then made $18,695,006 in 2010. 2009 was the highest-paying year of his career. Manny then retired on his second positive suspension from baseball, only to unretire and still not have to serve the full 100-game suspension; he was asked (asked!) to serve a 50 game suspension, which he did, and was paid $2,020,000 in 2011.

Did the steroid "policy" cause Manny not to take them? He can continue to take steroids and keep playing -- if he wants to; I'm not saying he is or will -- and get paid until caught, at which point he'll be suspended for life, but a lifetime suspension for a guy who's already retired once doesn't seem much punishment.

2. If you want to know how evil steroids are, ask a father.

Now about Braun: The ESPN report in question says that Braun submitted the urine test during the playoffs. Braun may not have been subject to reasonable suspicion, as the JDPTP doesn't prohibit random testing during the playoffs. Braun has denied the positive test was for performance enhancing drugs and said the reports were "B.S."

That's to be expected. Rule 1 is to deny, deny, deny. (I'm not saying he's guilty. I'm just saying that guilty or not, everyone denies it up front. Nobody ever had sex with that woman, Monica Lewinsky, and now you know why she's pictured on this post.)

What nobody is focusing on is the funniest part of the Brewers' reaction, which came from owner Mark Attanasio, who said

As a father, I take the use of prohibited substances seriously, because I know the effects they can have on the body and on a person's life. I want the Milwaukee community to know that we support drug testing not only because it is MLB policy but because it is the right thing to do.

I like the "as a father" part. I'm a father, five times over. Being a dad doesn't actually increase or decrease the seriousness with which I view prohibited substances, but I may be lacking in the fathering department. Apparently, though, Mark Attanasio's fathering has given him particular insight into the ravages of prohibited substances that my own faltering parenting abilities have not.

I'm going to start using that to begin all my sentences. As a father, I believe I will be having the cold pizza for breakfast. Adds a little gravitas, don't you think? (The cold pizza for breakfast adds a little gravity to my personal situation.)

3. Aaron Rodgers and Ryan Braun, I think, are related.

Don't you think they look a little alike?

It's not just me, right? Plus, if they weren't related, why would The Anointed One use all his carefully-amassed public love -- he's almost as popular as Santa Claus and George Washington in the Badger State, after all -- to stick his neck out for Ryan? Other than that they're good friends, I mean:

Ryan and I are good buddies; [he's] probably my best athlete friend...And we keep in touch obviously; throughout the year I spend a lot of time with him. ...

I've known Ryan for a while now and we've spent a lot of time hanging out. I've been in the locker room and I've seen him working out and stuff. It's just ridiculous, the allegations....

I don't know exactly all that's out there, but I just am trusting that my good friend has not been using anything illegal. And I'm very confident that's the case, because I know how much he cares about the integrity of the game and wouldn't do anything to jeopardize that.
That's all Brewer/Packer fans will need: The Anointed One vouches for Ryan. So long as A-Rodg doesn't ever lose a game again, ever, Ryan's safe.

In closing, you will probably have to enlarge this picture, but I found it instructive that picked a particularly wild-eyed shot of Ryan Braun to publicize this story. Not that they were hinting which side of the story they believed, of course:

As a father, I know that news organizations would never imply that a person must be guilty by posting a picture of him looking like he's suffering from 'roid rage when there were other pictures available. Also as a father, I know that Aaron Rodgers might just smite, so they'd better start asking Tebow for protection.


Grumpy Bulldog, Secret Agent said...

Crap, I'm not a father. Maybe I could say, "As the son of a father..." Like, "As the son of a father, I think A-Rodg and Braun are injecting each other in the butt with steroids."

Really after any great performance anymore we need to just have them pee into a cup. Like after Verlander threw a no-hitter he should go pee into a cup so we can know he's not juicing. Or when A-Rodg throws five touchdowns, go pee into a cup. And give some blood too so we can make sure that only sheer awesomeness is in there.

Briane P said...

I think athletes should be hooked up to a catheter and real-time monitoring of all substances in their blood. I don't want to have to invest a whole 3 hours watching A-Rodg play only to find out he was on steroids. We could have a little meter at the bottom of the screen telling us what his cholesterol levels are.

These are OUR athletes, after all.

The only argument I can make against steroids and other PEDs is that if you let one athlete use them, you pretty much force other athletes to use them. If people want to poison themselves to have a shot at millions as a pro athlete, I'm all for letting them do it, except for what it does to people who don't want to. So I come down in favor of drug-testing policies solely on the basis of fairness. Which is not a bad basis, I suppose, for a sport.

Tim Morrissey said...

As a father, I still think Monica Lewinski is hot. As a father and a baseball fan, I find this blogpost to be so bang-on and devastatingly insightful, that I must question whether you are using PED's when you're writing this stuff...

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