SPORT AND SOCIETY FOR ARETE

by Richard C. Crepeau

OCTOBER 26, 2013       archive

As the baseball season reaches its final few games in this rendition of the World Series, I find myself revisiting some tired but nagging issues including the dreaded Designated Hitter (DH) debate and the hypocrisy-laced PED controversy. This is not to detract from the excitement of watching two of the most enduring franchises in the game and two of the most successful teams of this new century.

Throughout this season the Boston Red Sox have relied on David Ortiz as their DH and Mike Napoli at first-base. Both have made major contributions to the Red Sox offense and both made game-changing contributions during the playoffs. Only one of these two players will be in the starting lineup in St. Louis where the DH is not allowed to participate in the game of baseball.

Viewed in another way the essential elements of the Red Sox team, the team that won the American League pennant, will not all be available in St. Louis. Removing a bat of this significance from a lineup has ramifications up and down the batting order, and it affects the way in which the lineup rolls over. It also has a significant impact on the opposing pitcher and his approach to that lineup. The comparison of the 8th and 9th hitter in the lineup in Boston with those in St. Louis makes the point.

As for the St. Louis Cardinals, when the games are played in Boston, they are allowed to add a bat to their lineup, replacing the bat of the pitcher. In most cases this is an offensive advantage and an upgrade on the lineup that won the National League pennant. In this year it has meant that Allen Craig, who cannot play in the field because of injury, is able to contribute in the games in Boston because in Boston the DH is allowed. The Cardinals could of course uphold the philosophical point of the National League and refuse to use the DH in their lineup.

If you look closely at this odd set of circumstances, you will notice that in none of the games of the World Series has the teams that won the league championships faced each other. In Boston the Cardinal team has seen its lineup enhanced with the addition of Allen Craig, while in St. Louis the Red Sox have found themselves diminished by the absence of either Napoli or Ortiz. In fact there has not been a legitimate matchup of pennant winners for several decades.

There was a feeling that the National League's pose of protecting the purity of the game might be ended this season as the realignment of the leagues took place. It did not happen and in fact was seldom even discussed publicly. The man who is now being touted as one of the great Commissioners in the history of sport did not act to correct this foolishness. He could have dumped the DH or insisted that the National League play the same game as the remainder of the baseball world. He did neither.

Two developments in the last week raise the Performance Enhancement Drug issue. Both point to the ambivalence and/or hypocrisy that surround the hand-wringing done over PEDs. In Game One of the World Series, Carlos Beltran, the marvelous Cardinal outfielder, bruised his ribs making a very good play up against the right-field fence in Fenway Park. The immediate concern was how badly he was injured and whether he would play in Game Two and beyond.

He did play in Game Two, and among the treatments given to him was an injection of Toradol, described by Yahoo Sports as "a legal pain killer that numbed his bruised ribs." One can assume that without the injection of Toradol Beltran would not have played. Toradol is not considered a performance enhancement drug. It is of course still a PED or in this case a Performance Enabling Drug. If Beltran could not perform without Toradol, why is it not classified as an enhancer? Is this a semantic difference or a real difference? His performance is clearly enhanced from non-participant to participant. On a scale of ten he moves from a zero to at least a six with enablers, whereas with enhancers he might go from a six to an eight.

Those who "take the needle" in our sports culture and play with injury, and thereby risk further injury in many cases, are hailed as dedicated athletes, macho men of the playing field, and are admired and praised for their action. Drugs that enable participation are allowed and that is not called "enhancement." This makes no sense.

Also in the PED universe another story of the last few days raises other issues. There were reports on Wednesday that former San Francisco Giant third baseman and Arizona Diamondback third baseman and coach Matt Williams would soon be hired as the new manager of the Washington Nationals. If you Google "Matt Williams Mitchell Report" you will find that Williams was listed in the report, and that The San Francisco Chronicle reported that in 2002 Williams purchased $11,600 worth of HgH, steroids, and other drugs from a Florida clinic. Williams told the newspaper that he had used HgH in 2002 to treat an ankle injury suffered in spring training and that he had done so on the advice of a doctor.

There should be no problem with this kind of use but in fact it was and continues to be banned in Major League Baseball, and those cited in the Mitchell Report have been condemned by many as being part of baseball's "Steroid generation." Williams will be the first of that generation to reach the level of manager. Mark McGwire has been hitting coach of both the Cardinals and Dodgers, while others remain pariahs. At the same time many members of the Baseball Writers Association who vote on the Hall of Fame vow that they will never vote for known PED users.

If all of this confuses you, it should. It is time for the baseball officials, sportswriters, congressman, and self-appointed guardians of truth, justice, and the American way, including baseball, to end the hypocrisy on PEDs and develop a rational approach to the legitimate use of drugs in sports.

On Sport and Society this is Dick Crepeau reminding you that you don't have to be a good sport to be a bad loser.

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