Since the BALCO scandal has spread to baseball, there have been lots of people claiming that steroids do not make you see the ball better, thus are not responsible for Barry Bonds superhuman ability to see the balls and strikes and hit balls right on the nose.
I think there are a few things that have been overlooked in the latest debates. This is because there is a very 1980's steriods hysteria in the media that has not gone away. As with track and field and cycling, I believe athletes are very far removed from hitting the "juice" (steriods) and hitting the weight room. The present and future of doping (cheating, whatever you want to call it) is in scientific manipulation of the bodies for specific gains. I think a player can say with a straight face that he never has taken steroids as he probably has been using some sort of engineered HGH, which isn't really a steroid in the old sense.
The BIGGEST thing that is being over looked is the effect of the drugs on eyesight (and eyesight engineering, aka LASIK). For a perspective, look at:
HGH can improve eyesight. This goes beyond being stronger. This allows players to see the ball better and hit the ball better. Ted Williams was legendary for his abnormally good eyesight. But now between hgh and Laser eye surgery players can improve their vision as well.
Bobby Valentine (and Nick Shultz and others) argued that drugs don't make the players have better plate discipline or be able to hit the ball in the first place. This is BS. Drugs and surgery can do just that by improving vision.
"Marty Cordova was supposed to be a long shot even to make the team in Cleveland. But he lost 20 pounds of bulk, had LASIK eye surgery, jumped through every hoop that was placed in front of him. And now he's hitting .377, with more RBI than Jason Giambi or Mike Sweeney."
I have seen this mentioned in passing in a few articles in ESPN's site. (search LASIK on espn's site and you get sponsored links touting Drs. as the "athletes choice" for LASIK).
Anyhow, as a glasses wearer I understand why pro athletes want LASIK, but I think it can go beyond correcting the vision to 20/20. You can beyond normal vision and then you are at the Ted Williams tool level.
I am a big baseball fan, but a bigger cycling fan. Drug use, scandals and controversy have hit cyclin so much harder than baseball. Baseball media will be at the level of the cycling press and fans in a few years, but right now there is an elementary understanding of doping in baseball. I am not a doping crusader or in danger of losing my love of baseball due to the possibility that Barry Bonds is doped. But I do think baseball should make an honest effort to catch dopers. I believe pro cycling is making an effort to clean up its act. Baseball is not. The first step to this is understanding what you are up against. Everytime the comissioners office or the labor union speaks of "steroids" they are either ignorant or being deliberately misleading. The press needs to ask the right questions and avoid glossing over this issue.
Other baseball stuff:
Words and photos copyright Tarik Saleh 2004 - firstname.lastname@example.org