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And here come the misleading BALCO/Canseco/Bonds connections

Aug 23, 2012, 11:00 AM EDT

San Francisco Giants v Atlanta Braves Getty Images

Yesterday I anticipated that, in the interests of narrative over information, some writers would probably try to turn the Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon PED suspensions into some larger story about Bay Area drug corruption with callbacks to the days of BALCO, Canseco and Bonds.

And I was not disappointed. John Shea:

The steroid cloud that once hovered over Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Jason Giambi and Co. in Oakland, and Barry Bonds and his BALCO brethren in San Francisco, is back by the bay.

Bruce Jenkins:

First we had the steroid-enhanced A’s of the late ’80s and early ’90s, led by Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. Then came the BALCO scandal, with Barry Bonds and several lesser Giants as the central figures. The 2007 Mitchell Report implicated players associated with both Bay Area teams, and recent years have brought more drug-related suspensions, most recently the bombshells that sidelined Cabrera and Colon in the middle of highly influential seasons.

Tim Kawakami:

It keeps happening, and most specifically, it keeps happening in the Bay Area, home of two baseball teams and a seemingly endless amount of PED use … The Bay Area is the Hometown of Steroids …
Of course, it starts with the whole sordid history of BALCO (the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative) and Barry Bonds and the early steroid adventures of Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. The Mitchell Report was littered with the names of Bay Area players; now, years later, the Bay Area is home to three players testing positive for PED use.

I don’t begrudge a writer using a framing device. But this particular framing device — BALCO, Bonds, Canseco, etc. — is highly misleading.  It creates the impression that the problem is bigger than it truly is and implies connections where there are none.

The subject of PEDs in sports is rife with overheated and misleading rhetoric. What it lacks is actual factual reporting and constructive commentary and ideas. This kind of thing isn’t helping.

  1. Jason @ IIATMS - Aug 23, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    But wait! Colon and Melky are ex-Yankees! Sen. Mitchell is a director on the Sawx. Rabble rabble rabble.

    Old themes die hard, CC.

  2. wallio - Aug 23, 2012 at 11:31 AM

    I don’t think the media is stretching this that much (for once!). The bay area as a whole, has a rampant PED culture. That’s a fact. These two new suspensions, while unrelated, only add to that culture and that perception. Remember, if it walks like a duck……

    • proudlycanadian - Aug 23, 2012 at 11:40 AM

      I am not sure about the PED culture, but there was certainly a history of a drug culture around Haight-Ashbury during the 1960’s.

      • heyblueyoustink - Aug 23, 2012 at 12:27 PM

        You didn’t try the brown acid, did you?

      • proudlycanadian - Aug 23, 2012 at 12:58 PM

        I went to university in the 1960’s but never tried any
        illegal drugs. Saw no reason to do so. I did have some beer and wine while underage.

    • kevinbnyc - Aug 23, 2012 at 1:41 PM

      My friend’s cousin lives in Mountainview and does steroids. Clearly, its a societal issue.


  3. alang3131982 - Aug 23, 2012 at 11:40 AM

    I’m kind of with Wallio. It might be a better (more consistent narrative) to say that the Bay Area is home to the stupidest and best cheaters in the game.

    Most presume every team has cheaters. So Oak/SF isnt the epicenter of cheating, it’s the epicenter of stupid cheating.

    There are a ton of known cheaters and the most vocal and correct of all (Jose Canseco) came from the area. Think about McGwire and Bonds and you have two of the best at allegedly using performance enhancers. They took down two huge records. Sure, the Phillies have had their cheaters, but is Freddy Galvis or JC Romero interesting? Naww….

    For better or worse, Oak/SF is home to the best and stupidest cheaters in baseball. When you think of PEDs, you think of Bonds, McGwire and BALCO.

    It’s an easy framing device, but one almost everyone’s mind leaps to immediately.

    • jkcalhoun - Aug 23, 2012 at 12:32 PM

      When I think of PEDs and baseball, I think of Verducci, Fainaru-Wada, and T.J. Quinn.

  4. joshftw - Aug 23, 2012 at 12:01 PM

    Also, Curt Schilling mentioned the Bay Area link in a cut-in during the Yankees/White Sox game last night.
    Because he’s Curt Schilling.

  5. andyreidisarrogantandfat - Aug 23, 2012 at 12:32 PM

    Carlos Ruiz, come on down. You’re the next contestant on name that PED user.

  6. phillyphan83 - Aug 23, 2012 at 12:32 PM

    So let me get this right CC, anytime anything happens, we are not supposed to talk about history right? 2 out of the 3 examples you gave did not make the connection that you accuse them of making, they simply stated the history of p.e.d. use. Just stick to your Phillies fans trolling, its the only thing youre good at.

  7. blabidibla - Aug 23, 2012 at 1:03 PM Seems to be spread throughout the league. The Bay Area is not a central hub.

  8. paperlions - Aug 23, 2012 at 1:13 PM

    So….just to align my narratives.

    Steroids = crazy offense and HRs and such, lots of scoring by cheaters

    Bay Area = lots of cheaters

    Rank in runs scored each of the last 10 yrs by:

    Oakland: 14, 15, 9, 16, 19, 27, 14, 23, 20, 24

    SF: 15, 7, 29, 24, 29, 29, 26, 17, 29, 16

    At least one of the following must be true:

    Steroids don’t help offense a measurable amount.
    Steroids aren’t more prevalent in the Bay Area.

    • jkcalhoun - Aug 23, 2012 at 1:31 PM

      You have failed to consider the fact that Mota hit a double just last year, which resulted in a telltale spike in his power numbers in his late 30s. Q.E.D.

  9. psunick - Aug 23, 2012 at 2:32 PM

    I say you’re off base on this one, Craig.

    Especially Bruce Jenkins’ article. It’s pretty honest and certainly not hyperbole.

    And by no means are his characterizations unreasonable.

    • jkcalhoun - Aug 23, 2012 at 3:05 PM

      It can’t be hyperbole, because Jenkins clearly intends his column to be taken literally:

      the Bay Area is now viewed as the epicenter for performance-enhancing drugs. Why would anyone doubt that at this point?

      Two of the three players suspended this year weren’t playing in the Bay Area as recently as last year. Jenkins must be suggesting that something evil lurking in the Bay Area fog compelled Melky and Colon go over to the dark side. And made short work of it too.

      Somehow Aaron Rowand was immune, however, even after years of exposure.

    • paperlions - Aug 23, 2012 at 5:34 PM

      It isn’t hyperbole, it is just ignorant, mis-informed lazy journalism.

      The vast majority of ball players caught have no affiliation with the bay area, and most of those with associations to the bay area do not reside there during the offseason and likely use “hometown” contacts to obtain their steroids of choice….especially if your hometown is in a country where steroids can be distributed OTC legally.

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