What About the Fans?

Hardcore baseball fans seem to be pretty well split on this issue.

Roman Modrowski, blogging at the Chicago Sun-Times, contends most fans don't care whether a player used performance-enhancing drugs. Debater Alex Ham, however, most definitely does care. He says Major League Baseball used to be his favorite sport, but that feeling has faded over the past few years of steroid scandals: "It's disgusting and an insult to greats like Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth, and Roger Maris."

Dave Adelman makes the good point that there are plenty of factors besides steroids that have contributed to better performance by players over the years, including smaller ballparks, the "juiced" ball and year-round athletic conditioning. These factors have made for more spectacular hits, and arguably, happier fans. (Most of us have been to games that are still 0-0 in the eighth -- and not because of impressive defensive plays. As a lifelong Orioles fan, I may have been to more such games than most. They're not terribly exciting.)

But it isn't necessarily spectacular hits that account for Major League Baseball's broad appeal. Dave Studeman in The Hardball Times probably speaks for a lot of fans in explaining that baseball players' skills seem more achievable, more accessible to the average Joe. Artificially-enhanced players, with their "superhuman" feats, break that mold -- such players, he says, just don't belong.

So do PEDs strengthen the game of baseball, making it more interesting for fans? Or do they turn fans off by overshadowing the natural appeal and integrity of the game?

By Emily Messner |  March 15, 2006; 2:25 PM ET  | Category:  Misc.
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This rabid football fan does not approve of PEDs.

More importantly Roman Modrowski's article doesn't really "contend" that most fans don't care, it contends that Barry Bonds advocates (note: not reprsentative of the MLB or sports fanbase) will apologize for anything he does. The reader responses indicate, overwhelmingly, that fans do care.

Posted by: Will | March 15, 2006 03:11 PM

Who cares about steroids in baseball when inequality and global warming are our main existential threats? Personally, their heads could explode and their balls shrink to non existent infertility with how greedy they are for all we care.

Posted by: Khoreia | March 15, 2006 03:13 PM

Don't care. Athletes have always used whatever such as "greenies" in the 60's & 70's. Since Bonds was popping homers before the drugs maybe we could just exclude those extra onesthat are due to the drugs.

Posted by: Stick | March 15, 2006 03:20 PM

I'd love to see the data behind Modrowski's claim that most fans don't care about whether a player used performance-enhancing drugs. But I'm sure it doesn't exist. All one has to do is look at the anecdotal evidence. Such as Barry Bonds being booed at Spring training following the news of an impending book that details his drug abuse. The fans at Spring training are the most loyal and diehard fans. If they're booing, a lot more people probably care.

But whether or not fans mind athletes using performance-enhancing drugs isn't the issue. Do I care that Bonds took steroids? Yes, but not because of the drugs, but because it's cheating unless everyone uses those drugs.

It's akin to letting Bonds move the outfield walls in every time it's his turn at the plate, and then moving them back when he's done. If they want to move in the walls for everyone, that's fine.

Posted by: Julius Orange | March 15, 2006 03:22 PM

Of course baseball fans are not ok with steroid use. The whole mystique with baseball, at least for me, was that you had these "ordinary" men who could do extraordinary things with their bodies. It made little boys believe that it could be them someday. Why do think superheroes like batman, spiderman, etc had alter egos who were normal people? Because it made them seem human and accessible. It gave boys room to dream.

That said, I still don't think Congress had any business holding investigations into this. They have way more important things on their plate than worrying about baseball. MLB will have to resolve this on their own, and I think once enough good, humble players come forward and say "This isn't fair to the people who turn up great stats without the help of drugs, and its destroying the image of the sport", they will become serious about really punishing the steroid users.

Posted by: JK | March 15, 2006 03:49 PM

My objection to steroids has nothing to do with mystique, aura, or history. I am not interested in watching a science experiment; I want to watch a ball game. I don't want to watch pharmacologists figure out which pill can make a guy whack a ball 700 feet. If I wanted to watch a bunch of pumped-up freaks doing tricks, I'd watch World's Strongest Man competitions. I want to watch BASEBALL, and what these steroid users are playing is simply not baseball. It's just that simple.

Posted by: bamagirlinVA | March 15, 2006 04:32 PM

I take issue when people who claim to speak for others, especially with gloss-over statements such as "Of course baseball fans are not ok with steroid use." I'm a baseball fan, and steriods should be regularly available for players that choose to use them. Granted steriods give you more power, but taking steriods won't make you a better hitter or increase your chances of getting on base. You still have to hit the ball. Canseco struck out 75 times in 76 games in his last year of play. Not much of a threat there. As far as medical/health risks go, steriods can be extremely dangerous in some doses, but isn't it better to foster an atmopshere of openness that regulates steriod use and monitors the physical wellness of players? Doesn't prohibiting steriods force users to take unnecessary risk and mask problems they might have as a result of juicing? Keeping steroids out in the open keeps players safe. If people are worried about maintaining the sanctity of the record books, Maris broke Ruth's record in a longer regular season. Baseball continually changes, or innovates, if you will.

Posted by: George | March 15, 2006 04:35 PM

George, of course your right. We need to speak out about drug use that is illegal for certain things. For instance, Coke should be made legal as well, for domestic use. Sure its harmful and has bad sideeffects, but people use it all the same right? And if they were using it, of course that means it should be legal because then people could get help if they need it and the problems it causes wouldn't be masked by people afraid to admit theya re doing something wrong.

Of course. Pure Genius.

Posted by: Freedom | March 15, 2006 04:45 PM

I'm going to have to agree with Freedom's sarcasm.


Your assumption is that drug users will moderate themselves if only the "laws" eliminated the barriers that prevent them from using drugs? So the way to decrease irresponsible drug use is to allow drug use? And up is down?

Posted by: Will | March 15, 2006 05:15 PM

Baseball is, more than any other sport, about statistics. As others have mentioned, the allure of the game is that seemingly "average joes" manage to accomplish some incredible feats of athleticism. Not everyone can grow up to be a 7' NBA foreward or a 320 lbs linebacker but a truly talented kid of average size and strength can become a professional baseball player. At least that's the dream. Steroids completely alters the playing field in my opinion. It takes that allure away and in a field built on individual athleticism and ruled by statistics, it renders those statistics meaningless. Which is pretty damn sad IMO.

That said, there is some truth to what some sports commentator remarked about the controversy sometime back:

"Let's see how outraged fans are when we go back to 1-0 games".

Sadly, entertainment often trumps true sportsmanship.

Posted by: D. | March 15, 2006 05:28 PM

The congressional hearings on steroids in baseball took place almost one year ago to the day. I remember because it was St. Patrick's Day and I "called in sick" in order to celebrate my Irish heritage. Unfortunately, after watching the steroid hearings all morning, I had a good reason to get hammered at 12 noon. Call me old fashioned (even though I'm only 24), but I was pleased that Congress got involved in cracking down on steroids in baseball.

Despite what marketing firms may say about Super Bowl Sunday, baseball is still the national pastime. Baseball, unlike football (or any other sport IMO), is a game that cherishes its past. Players today not only compete against their opponents; they strive to emerge from the shadows cast by the great players of eras goneby. Records in baseball are sacrosanct, and they are built to last. There is a reason why there was so much anger at Roger Maris for hitting 61 homers (he shattered the mark set by Babe Ruth). No one has hit .400 since Ted Williams. You will be lucky to see a pitcher throw a perfect game once every decade or so.

Thus, when baseball records become tainted because of PEDs, baseball suffers more damage than PEDs would cause in other sports. That is reason enough for Congress to get involved, because if they didn't, nothing would have changed.

Congress has the power to revoke baseball's coveted anti-trust exemption, which allows it to do all sorts of dirty things like demand public financing for baseball stadiums. Nothing made me happier than to see Commissioner Bud Selig sweating in fear of Congress taking retribution for baseball's stunning negligence on this issue.

I realize this analysis will not hold much sway with people who aren't baseball fans, but baseball will never win over new fans unless it cleans up its act.

Posted by: William | March 15, 2006 10:09 PM

"Who cares about steroids in baseball when inequality and global warming are our main existential threats? Personally, their heads could explode and their balls shrink to non existent infertility with how greedy they are for all we care.

Posted by: Khoreia"

By the same Lefty priority thinking", who cares about your post when we have a medicare and SS entitlement crisis? Shouldn't Mankind be working those problems rather than read YOUR thoughts?

Why are we funding the arts when the money could be spent on The Homeless?

Why are we even bothering with space exploration, when we could rebuild a subsea ghetto with the nations 3rd worst schools and the nations 4th highest crime rate for the same price as 17 years of having NASA?

Then again, why should we be happy, and thus distracted from the REAL BIG 2 problems, namely that the sun will expand and engulf the Earth in 2 billion years and the relentlessly expanding universe's last star may wink out in 19 billion years?

God, I love Lefty Logic! Whenever attempted, it reminds me that such people are only suited to "feel" about issues rather than think about them.


On topic, pro sports is big business, to the scale of almost 78-85 billion in cash flow, and is as much subject to Congress's interstate commerce clause as any other businesses that conduct a majority of their biz across state lines. Even "amateur" athletics like the NCAA are businesses worth 10's of billions conducting interstate commerce. In addition, MLB is unique in a special monopoly granted and regulated by Congress.

Congress does have every right to authority to step in and regulate matters like PEDs, gambling, Title IX civil rights issues, obscenity clauses, performer and fan safety - and if the present cognizant authority fails to properly regulate, Congress can and has intervened.

And we do indeed have signed international treaties that cover international sports that say records must be chucked and responsible individuals punished if cheating is detected, and must have testing regimes in place. We would not accept a world record of a doped up Jamaican transplant to Canada, and despite "Stat-Happy" rabid fans like Modrowski who thinks sports are just in existence to create stats and records, we don't want baseball or football recordss obtained with an ass full of steroids any more than Ben Johnson's 100M sprint record.

Posters note that there is far more dysfunctional than just a few athletes cheating for glory. I noted the business and financial incentives - cheating is worth job retention, career prolongation, and multi-millions if you get away with it. And "Plantation" noted in a later post how important this is because it is only a manifestation of the loss of any moral compass in schools and companies - and while "Plantation" didn't finish, I gathered from what he wrote that he thinks we need to make an example of the cheaters to restore a moral compass in areas where sports are only one part of a larger societal problem that sweeps in Enron & Fastow, Milliken, Boesky, Ambramoff, Grubman, Martha, etc.

So all "Big Mack" and "Slammin' Sammy Sosa" Hall of Fame exhibits ought to go, Bobby Bonds chemically enhanced records too...And the only place they belong is if Cooperstown builds the "Pete Rose Memorial Wing" that houses tainted athletes and their records.

Posted by: Chris Ford | March 15, 2006 10:38 PM

Chris Ford wrote:
"...And the only place they belong is if Cooperstown builds the "Pete Rose Memorial Wing" that houses tainted athletes and their records."

A truly original idea. I like it actually. Better called the "Pete Rose Felonial Wing" though. :o)

Quite a well written post Chris.

I trust you'll be around when Emily puts up the new National Security Strategy up for review and debate...(hint, hint, Emily!). This could become a very good, disciplined, and clarifying debate.

Posted by: Cayambe | March 16, 2006 12:55 AM

Chris Ford wrote:

" . . . a manifestation of the loss of any moral compass in schools and companies . . ."


I hate to be dismal, but it looks to me like the culture hasn't hit bottom when it comes to perversely rewarding liars and cheats. Observing wicked winners just reinforces and escalates the level and frequency of lying and cheating overall, powered by some sort of dysfunctional competition.

Exposing and making examples doesn't seem to work as a strong deterrent, and moreover, causes offenders to develop new manipulative tactics and alienated rationalizations.

Perhaps nothing more can be done against pervasive dishonesty than honest people accepting reality, attempting to segregate their relations and dealings to a trusted community, and refusing the leadership of amoral persons in positions of authority. In other words, passive resistance for the time being. The structure will eventually cave in on itself.

Posted by: On the plantation | March 16, 2006 07:03 AM

If folks are claiming baseball (or any sport) is more interesting once "juiced", I guess they're the types that say child pornography is fine because it's more "exciting", too (and if porn is free, all forms must be too). :rolleyes:

The point is it's wrong to be non-human in a game for humans and for human appeal. Drugging oneself with drugs to hit 10 homers in a game, defies the human body's limits (even with year-round training; blood doping [which steroid use is an extension of -- read enough into non-regenetive anemia, and you'll learn the ties of doping]; and other little tricks).

Steroids ruin the body, literally. This isn't a pot-is-evil analogy, it's medically dangerous. Take huge doses of it, and watch the adrenal glands shrink from non-usage. Quit taking it abruptly, and an adrenal crisis (and death) can occur. It also packs RBCs, which can aggrevate heart conditions even in healthy althetes (not just heart values, arterial walls). It also can cause nerve damage (especially to the legs) -- a problem with those who take steroids for chronic immune deficiency disorders. It can cause a bio-chemical disaster, one with lifelong consequences -- IF -- the althete lives long.

Too many althetes don't know squat about the drugs they're taking. All they want is fame and money, and trading their bodies off like modern slavery they'd careless. Fans advocating better hits and more packed stands should be ashamed of themselves, for reliving gladiator style combat with an equal death ratio.

Keep sports clean. And maybe, just maybe the kids will live long enough to actually play in their sport, and enjoy it in retirement, as well. Not be dead at 44, or at 50.


Posted by: SandyK | March 16, 2006 10:25 PM

Chris Ford wrote:
"So all "Big Mack" and "Slammin' Sammy Sosa" Hall of Fame exhibits ought to go, Bobby Bonds chemically enhanced records too...And the only place they belong is if Cooperstown builds the "Pete Rose Memorial Wing" that houses tainted athletes and their records."
Yep. No point rewarding cheaters, thieves, gamblers and non sportsmanship behavior.

Too bad there isn't a wing for Presidents that do the same too, huh? ;)


Posted by: SandyK | March 16, 2006 10:29 PM

While I in no way support the idea of allowing the use of PED's, I'm also a bit skeptical about the idea of putting asterisks by the records of those who are supposed to have been using them. Apart from the difficulty, which as already been discussed, of identifying exactly which records should be affected, there is the additional problem of which records aren't tainted in some way or another. The asterisk would presumably signify that the record was achieved through some unfair advantage. Wouldn't the same apply to all the records that were made before baseball was integrated? Those players did not always have to compete against the best players of the game. For example, there was no chance that Joe Dimaggio would face Satchel Paige in 1941, when Dimaggion set his hitting-streak record. By the time Dimaggio did face him, Paige was over 40 years old, and Dimaggion still said that Paige was the best pitcher he ever faced. My point is simply, no one ever suggests that we should put an asterisk by Dimaggio's record, nor am I suggesting that here. My point is that the logic behind the asterisk, if applied in full fairness, would make a mess of things. Baseball reflects American society -- good and bad. The records will inevitably reflect the era in which they were set. Unfortunately, our is plagued by PED's, but it's not the first time the game has been "tainted."

Posted by: Babe Ruth and Jim Crow | March 18, 2006 12:32 PM

Gambling is one thing. Throwing games on kickbacks another. But achieving record breaking statistics as phonies is entirely different. Takes nothing to gamble. Takes nothing to throw a game. It does take more to ingest drugs to cheat the legends, then claim it comes from talent and skill.

It's a disgrace.

When money and entertainment is more important than sportsmanship and doing it for the love of the game, MLB has lost it's soul (look what Shoeless Joe did even after being thrown out of the big leagues. He continued to play in local minor leagues, as he loved the game -- despite he was a business man and could support himself out of baseball).

That's what seperates the legends from the superstars today. The ones booted did wrong, took their lumps, but still played the game they loved even for pennies and into middle age (a feat back then).

To compare the legends with these dopers is a disservice. The legends did the hitting, the base stealing, the triple plays without PEDs (and cigs and alcohol and eating raw eggs and steak isn't close). It's why they're legends, even if they didn't get a chance to play against each other (which has zero to do with lifetime stats. It took dopers to break their records, after many years, which says enough as it is).


Posted by: SandyK | March 18, 2006 10:09 PM

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