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USA Today's panel: the game needs to stay ahead of the drug curve

Mar 12, 2010, 9:00 AM EDT

USA Today runs their fifth and final part of their panel-of-experts series this morning.  Today they cover a few of my favorite subjects:

World Baseball Classic: The experts think they should change the scheduling of the WBC or pull the major leaguers out of the tournament altogether. Injuries are a big factor here, but I found Dusty Baker’s comments on this most compelling. He had several guys out last year, and his starting catcher — Ramon Hernandez — didn’t get to work with all of the team’s pitchers until just before the regular season started.  It seems to me that getting your catcher on the same page as the staff is one of the more important things that has to happen in camp, and the WBC makes that really hard.  Personally I’m not fan of the WBC — I think the major league season features the best international talent already — but there are some serious drawbacks to it even if you like it.

The World Series: Scott Boras talks about partial neutral-site scheduling and the creation of a Super Bowl destination experience/weekend extravaganza. I hate this idea with the intensity of a thousand burning suns. When something acquires the name “Classic,” as in “Fall Classic,” it seems to me that the last thing you want to do is to mess with it. Ask the people at Coke.  But even if you’re going to change it, Boras’ idea of modeling it on the Super Bowl is particularly horrifying, what with the Super Bowl being a turgid, overly-commercialized soul-sucking experience and everything.  My rule still stands: if baseball wants to be successful it should watch whatever it is the NFL is doing and then do the exact opposite.

Fan safety: The panel thinks that they should extend the safety netting to the edge of dugouts at every ballpark, or even use Plexiglas. I’m all for this (the nets, not the glass).  I’ve stated my reasons about this in the past.

PEDs:  The panel thinks that baseball needs to look beyond steroids and HGH and ahead to medical advances such as stem cell breakthroughs and figure out ahead of time how the game will handle this.  Scott Boras is particularly on-point here, noting that at some point they’re going to figure out a way to grow back someone’s rotator cuff using stem cells. What if a healthy player uses such therapies and it allows him to throw the ball 120 mph?  The example itself may be silly, but the idea that the game needs a framework in place to deal with whatever advances come down the pike before players start exploiting them in the sly is a good one.

Oh, and Boras also offered the closest thing you’ll ever see to a mea culpa:

“The steroid thing fell on the players. It should have fallen on people who are responsible for the
administration of the game — myself included, to be honest with you. It was one of the worst things that ever happened to the game.”

Not the strongest acceptance of responsibility you’ll ever hear, but it’s more than the owners and administration have ever offered.

Sadly, however, Boras’ admission of complicity in the steroids scandal will put his Hall of Fame case at risk . . .

  1. Matt M - Mar 12, 2010 at 9:19 AM

    How do you stay ahead of something you’re hopelessly behind?

  2. madhatters - Mar 12, 2010 at 9:36 AM

    The only part about the neutral site world series is that it will eliminate games played in frigid weather or a repeat of game 6 in the ’08 world series. However, I think there are better ways to avoid the weather problem.

  3. Eric J - Mar 12, 2010 at 9:45 AM

    To be fair to Coke, I don’t think it was called “Coke Classic” until they reintroduced it post-New Coke. So even New Coke isn’t as dumb as the neutral site World Series.

  4. SimonDelMonte - Mar 12, 2010 at 9:51 AM

    The bigger question is, what happens when all these advances in medical science are commonplace and everyone is doing them? Because it’s going to happen eventually.

  5. Old Gator - Mar 12, 2010 at 9:58 AM

    What if a healthy player uses such therapies and it allows him to throw the ball 120 mph?
    Simple. Have the batter wear a spliff helmet.

  6. Jonny5 - Mar 12, 2010 at 10:08 AM

    I must admit. It’s quite refreshing to hear Boras say what I’ve thought from the get go, when it comes to steroids. I felt after the strike MLB not only turned their heads about the the use of it, But I felt that in a way, they knew about it, and encouraged it. Now if only Selig would say just that. Imo MLB is the one who needs to come out and apologize to all the fans, more than the workhorses do.

  7. Charles Gates - Mar 12, 2010 at 10:11 AM

    Moving the WS to a neutral site really puts it to the hometown fans. This is about as transparent ‘We don’t care about the fans, we just want to squeeze a few more bucks out of it as possible’ moves you can make. In the short run, sure, you might make some more money. But I think the long term impact will greatly outweigh that.

  8. Snuffy - Mar 12, 2010 at 10:29 AM

    Will PED’s still be an issue when my grand nephew someday amasses 500 strikeouts with the aid of a bionic elbow?

  9. Charles Gates - Mar 12, 2010 at 11:01 AM

    500? Not against my son, who will have Terminator type vision, with the help of a computer implant, will recognize the trajectory and spin of the pitch, query a database located somewhere in a Google server to analyze every pitch your grand nephew ever threw in order to direct his bat, controlled by elastic carbon fiber muscle and sinew, to the most potent spot in the hitting zone in order to send the ball to the most optimal spot in the field, incorporating wind, barometric pressure and turf length/thickness, as well as the effects of that butterfly that flapped its wings on the plains in Africa, to provide the highest probability of evading the fielders, tracked by GPS, to a spot that their UZR_v45 rating says that they won’t be able to make put out. And I’ll hire Scott Boras as his agent.

  10. archilochusColubris - Mar 12, 2010 at 11:05 AM

    No one else appreciate the irony of that ‘classic’ comment?

  11. Snuffy - Mar 12, 2010 at 1:14 PM

    Kinda like a smart bomb, huh?

  12. dprat - Mar 12, 2010 at 1:52 PM

    Agree with Craig on everything here but the WBC. Having somewhat sceptically been dragged along to a WBC game, I’m now a big fan. Baseball is more than the MLB. The WBC is a different flavor of baseball – a little spicier, but what fine savory goodness.

  13. Michael - Mar 12, 2010 at 5:42 PM

    Hell, we don’t have the best US major leaguers on the WBC squads now, and the Japan team that won both of them didn’t have many MLB players on the squad, so excluding them altogether isn’t such a stretch.
    And my opinion is similar, but for a different reason: Top US players don’t have enough pride in their country to override their need to protect their salaries.
    If they were working for subsistence wages, it would be acceptable, but when you make enough money to be set for life after your first 5-6 seasons, it’s not. The best players in soccer, the most watched sport in the world, with salaries even higher than MLB and much more money at stake in its biggest professional championships, drop just about everything to play for their countries.
    If baseball players can’t do that, they don’t deserve to, either.

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