Saturday, June 23, 2007

One Last Steroid Rant, and This Time I Really Mean It

I'm pretty sure I have Google adwords figured out to my satisfaction. This one won't be too much of a rant. I wasn't lying when I said Bud Selig is a liar, and here is just one example (it's #4 on the list), you could find several variations of the same thing. Bud Selig is a liar, but he's fairly consistent about it.

Here's my true personal feelings on performance enhancers in professional sports. It doesn't really bother me too much. I know there are issues with kids, and I don't dispute that's a real issue. But I'm far more worried about parents encouraging their 12 year olds to have "Tommy John" surgery. People lie and cheat in this world, and famous rich people with talent have special exceptions made for them. It's not a myth, it's a fact.

If you eliminate steroids in professional sports, you won't save the kids. The kids will still have alcohol, drugs and a host of other temptations to deal with. All you can do is prepare them and hope for the best. "Yes, there are cheaters and liars out there, but don't let it make you angry. And yes, there are people like Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds, but they were very talented gentleman involved in a highly competitive profession where effectively they were all in the top tiniest percentile and no matter what they do or how they act, not just some, but many people will pay them a great deal of attention, because at least in one dimension they outcompeted almost everyone else.

Inside of sports is sometimes very sleazy. Between 2002-2004 I read almost every major book on baseball written in the 20th century. There was always cheating, always lying, always a few very foul people. Ty Cobb was a very, very nasty man. But he sure could hit. Ty Cobb didn't have the pressure of the media like Barry and Sammy have it. Mr. Bonds has it far, far worse. Some of it he brought on himself but that suits him fine because he really doesn't care what you think (or what I think). From 2000-2003 he was the most amazing hitter I ever saw. Far and away the most amazing hitter I've ever seen.

I went to the ballpark many nights, and most of him, he did not disappoint. I was sure he was cheating but I was sure many, perhaps even most, were cheating. The guy sitting next to me thought the same thing. I thought people knew.

As far as performance enhancers go, I'd like to see one of three things happen (pick one):

  1. Legalize them
  2. Actually test for them (you need blood tests for certain things like HGH which can't be tested via urine samples)

What will likely actually happen is none of the above, at least for a while. Barring some disaster, Barry will break the record and then I know I'll be hearing about that for at least a month afterwards on ESPN. If Barry hadn't been so good once performance enhanced, if say, like Sosa, he had only around 600 homeruns right and retired 2 years ago it would be different.

But he was that good. In years to come there will be stupid discussions like "Mark McGwire's statistics are more valid because he didn't put as much performance enhancements into his system as Barry Bonds."

It's never going away.

Neither is baseball at least not anytime soon, and that's why I don't expect anything to change at all.

Last night the New York Yankees came to town for the first time ever in terms of a regular season game (they did play one exhibition game here before the regular season began in 2000). The game sold out. Robin Williams (San Franciscan) and Billy Crystal (New Yorker) sat together behind the Giants dugout rooting for opposite teams. They still love the game, and they don't care about the cheating, not really. If it really bothered them they wouldn't go to the games. I'm sure Robin Williams feels about the same as I do right now, the last place San Francisco Giants could use a little performance enhancing. Barry did go yard though. 749.

Jason Stark of ESPN/ESPN.COM has for years down a "Useless Information Dept" column filled with statistics and weird views on this (recently he listed the pitchers who've given up home runs to a batter who wasn't even alive when the pitcher made his major league debut) and I love that stuff, and steroids era wise, I could probably have some number fun like that. But I'm going to give you some useful information (assuming baseball as a business interests you in the slightest):

Ticket sales are up. 2006 total attendance outperformed 2001. In 2001 the New York Yankees had an average attendance for all games (home and road) of 37,780. In 2006 they averaged 44,943 for all of their games (again, this is home and away, the Yankees had record home attendance in 2006 averaging 51,858 per game and breaking 4.2 million in total home attendance).

Note: I got these numbers off of and as a Giants fan I can look at the Giants numbers and tell you it's not really attendance but "paid attendance". Paid attendance in MLB parlance means you paid for your ticket whether you showed up or not. They'd rather have everyone who paid show up (concession sales), but if you paid, you paid, we're counting you. I agree with the methodology.

I draw four conclusions from the stat tables at ESPN:

  1. Paid attendance has gone up in the last 5 years.
  2. Overall paid attendance was helped by more than 1.75 million annual ticket sales from 2001-2005 just by moving the Montreal Expos to Washington (where a new stadium will open soon). The 2006 Nationals overall attendance (home and away games) averaged 11,000 more tickets per game
  3. Similarly new stadiums with more seats and improvements to existing stadiums. Fenway is small in terms of seating capacity but amazingly they have been able to cram room for over 4000 more seats since 2001. Somehow they squeezed room for almost another 500 in between last year and this year.
  4. It's probably maxing out in terms of ticket sales (based on 2007 averages), but they can keep raising the prices.

National network ratings are probably not going up and I have no idea what the local ratings are. It doesn't matter. Ratings can keep going down some and baseball will still get a bigger contract from the television networks. I am a quick study and I understand how the game works now when it comes to this kind of thing and network ratings.

Budweiser needs to sell beer. Baseball sells beer. Budweiser is willing to pay even more than they already are to advertise and they will. Ratings for this year's World Series could be as bad as they were for the NBA finals. It won't matter. When it comes right down to it, MLB will charge FOX (or whoever the highest bidder is) more than they are making now, and FOX or whatever network winds up with it will turn around and charge Budweiser more money to offset the costs.

And all of that will happen whether they do anything about steroids or not. As long as Billy Crystal and Robin Williams are still coming to sold out stadiums to watch baseball games (where much beer is sold, by the way), Budweiser will pay for the ads. It's not just Budweiser of course, but you get the idea.

ESPN and its ilk will, as they should, keep playing to the controversy, and the one thing you should know about me is I'm always a little early to the dance and looking around and wondering where everyone is. There will be a day, and it will not be many years where, they're calling Bud Selig a liar on PTI and Around the Horn and when that day comes, I'm going to get some e-mail from my friend Bill G that goes: you. were. exactly. right.

The name's Robert Seidman, the date is June 23, 2007.

No more steroids ranting, and this time I really do mean it.

P.S. if you search on "Bud Selig is a Liar" as of this moment (and these results change over time) you will see the Crasnick story weighing in at #9, and some crazy guy occupying spots 3 through 6, but weighing in at #2, as if Google has some algorithm for "the truth" is this entry which didn't have the word "liar" in it anywhere (and I checked the source code to make sure there wasn't some prankster tagging going on -- there wasn't). I couldn't even leapfrog over Bud's own entry. Dang the man.

The #2 entry for bud selig is a liar:

The Official Site of Major League Baseball: Official info: MLB ...
Allan H. (Bud) Selig was elected the ninth Commissioner of Baseball on July 9, 1998 by a unanimous vote of the 30 Major League Baseball club owners. - 62k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

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