Did steroids help Alex Rodriguez?by Mike Gimbel
February 12, 2009
Did the confession to the use of steroids, made by Alex Rodriguez, invalidate his purported outstanding performances from 2001 to 2003? The myth of "performance enhancement" by the use of steroids needs to be exploded.
(1) There is no scientific definition for "performance enhancement" and
(2) There is no scientific proof that anabolic steroids improve the performance of baseball players.
Anabolic steroids will add testosterone into the bloodstream and, thereby, increase male aggression and, as a male hormone, it improves upper body muscle mass. There is also some indication that it has a positive effect on repairing injuries and returning players to the field quickly, as a result. Weight rooms, when used by athletes, also increase muscle mass. Should we ban the use of weight rooms? Coaches are hired to improve an athlete’s abilities and, thereby, the athlete’s performance. Should these coaches be banned? Long distance runners are famous for eating huge amounts of "carbs" on the day before the big run. Isn’t that activity meant to be "performance enhancing?"
I could go on and on and take this logic to even more ridiculous lengths. The real question is: can we look at real data so as to confirm or reject the notion that steroids improved the performance of Alex Rodriguez, and for that matter, Barry Bonds.
I’ll start with Barry Bonds:
Barry is alleged to have had his "greatest season" at the advanced age of 37. That very age was used in numerous arguments against the possibility of Barry Bonds having such a fabulous season at such an advanced age. There is only one problem with this portion of the argument against Barry’s fabulous year where he hit 73 homers. The peak season for baseball players is not 27 to 29 as all the "bean counting" "statistical analysts" allege.
The "bean counters" mistake quantity for quality of performance. Yes, on the whole, 27 to 29 year olds usually will have a higher volume of stats because their bodies are younger, with a smaller build-up of injuries over time. These younger players play in more games and have more at-bats or innings pitched per season, on average, as compared to older players.
The actual peak season for baseball players is 34 to 37 years old. Those players who stay relatively healthy up to those ages will perform better than their younger selves. The older player has had years of training and performance, which gives that player a significant advantage over the more inexperienced player or pitcher. The fact that Barry Bonds had his best season at 37, therefore, is "normal," and not "bewildering!"
In addition, in 2007—long after he was alleged to have been "cheating" with use of steroids, well into his 40s and not alleged to be using steroids and while his urine was being regularly tested—Barry Bonds was the best hitter in the National League in 2007 at the advanced age of 43! By the way, Barry Bonds’ 2007, at age 43, was so outstanding that his 2007 performance (with an RPA of .204) has been exceeded by Alex Rodriguez only twice in Alex’s Rodriguez’s remarkable Hall of Fame career.
Now to Alex Rodriguez:
It is alleged that Rodriguez had three unreasonably fabulous seasons in Texas from 2001 to 2003 while using steroids. Unfortunately for the Neanderthal sports reporters on ESPN and on 24/7 sports radio stations and the news readers on CNN or CBS or MSNBC, my statistical analysis of A-Rod's performance during those three seasons show quite the opposite.
Here are the individual year Run Production Average (RPA) ratings for Alex Rodriguez, with the best season’s listed first:
Rank RPA Year 1 .206 2000 2 .205 2007 3 .190 2005 4 .189 1996 (Rodriguez's 1st full season) 5 .187 2001 (Rodriguez's 1st season on steroids) 6 .173 2008 7 .165 2002 (Rodriguez's 2nd season on steroids 8 .161 2006 9 .160 2003 (Rodriguez's 3rd season on steroids 10 .159 1998 11 .156 1999 12 .152 2004 (Rodriguez's 1st season after taking steroids) 13 .140 1997Alex Rodriguez’s best individual performance in the 2001 to 2003 seasons was only his fifth best season overall, and most importantly, as he continued to use steroids his performance essentially "tanked." If anything, the only thing that you could claim from the above comparative performance list, is that steroids impaired his performance. Three of the four seasons with a poorer RPA rating were from 1997 to 1999 when Rodriguez was just beginning his career and when it should be expected that his performance would be poorer.
Those performances were in line with expectations for a player with so little experience, but the three seasons that came immediately after Rodriguez's overall best season in 2000 are not in line with expectations. They were a straight-line decline, year-after-year from his year 2000 season performance. The only other year below 2001 to 2003, was 2004 and that could logically be considered another indication of the negative effect of steroids since the effects of taking such a powerful drug should not be expected to "wear off" immediately.
The phony "steroids" issue in professional sports is just one more example of a "Salem Witch Hunt" looking for unfortunate victims to feed the maw of a vicious big-business media who, in this case are doing the "dirty work" for the team bosses in their fight to weaken the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). The owners were never able to defeat the union until they saw their opportunity to use their leverage in this matter to put the MLBPA on the defensive, as I pointed out in previous articles that I wrote during the earlier congressional hearings. Now that the owners are hinting that the union violated the contract by allegedly "tipping off" players to upcoming tests, I can just see where this could now be headed.
Let’s get back to celebrating the most beautiful game that there is and we should celebrate those players who have distinguished themselves by their outstanding play. Please don’t join the modern version of the villagers who danced around the funeral pyre as the Salem "witches" were incinerated.
Mike Gimbel was employed for several years as a "consultant on player evaluation" for both the Montreal Expos and the Boston Red Sox in the 1990's" and he continues to annually evaluate player and team performance. He is currently a Local 375, AFSCME delegate to the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO.