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Fans care about PEDs … sometimes

Jun 6, 2013, 9:13 AM EDT

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NPR has a story about the polling relating to fans attitudes about PEDs in Major League Baseball. Their look at the polls shows that, among other results, 60 percent of those surveyed said it matters to them “a lot” if baseball players use steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs. Twenty nine percent said it matters to them “a little.” Only 9 percent said it matters “not at all.” There are some other results in there too which suggest thinking in keeping with that.

I’m kinda dubious. I obviously write a lot about PEDs because I find it interesting and important, but based on my interaction with readers and baseball fans in general — not just the vocal ones who comment — I’m not sure there is anything approaching a consensus of this among fans.

I think fans care a great deal and have very strong opinions about PEDs when the matter is placed before them. Like, when the story like the one we’ve been tracking the past couple of days first breaks and/or when they are asked specifically about PEDs.  I do not, however, think that PEDs are an issue that fans care about all that much in the day-to-day of their baseball fandom. I don’t think that it consumes anyone or changes their opinion about baseball in general. Yes, people say it does. They say it has soured them. But those anecdotal responses are simply not borne out in any tangible way when you look at attendance, revenue, TV ratings or people’s overall attitude about the game.

I also think there is a heavy dose of provincialism among fans when it comes to PEDs. If an already loathed player like Barry Bonds or Alex Rodriguez is implicated, yes, they hate PEDs. If a player on their team’s rival is implicated, oh man, that guy is a disgrace. If their own player is implicated, however, it’s amazing how fast they’ll tell you that PEDs don’t matter, that the guy is the subject of a conspiracy, that he’d still be an All-Star, that “everybody does it” or any other number of other things which seek to diminish the problem. I’ve noticed this in a major, major way in Brewers fans who, in my experience anyway, will go to some pretty extreme lengths to defend Ryan Braun or to otherwise diminish the allegations against him.  They’re even bigger Braun apologists than I am.

Not that this is surprising or even bad. It’s just like any other issue in baseball. Fans hate beanballs until their pitcher starts throwing them. They think stealing a base when you’re up by ten runs is low rent unless their team does it. The opposition’s showboating player is a classless hot dog, their showboating player is just filled with joy and enthusiasm and all the good stuff of life. Go back and look at Tony La Russa’s record of taking offense at violations of unwritten rules by opposing teams and not really noticing them when the Cardinals did it.

Which isn’t to say that people don’t have actual moral and ethical beliefs about players taking PEDs. It’s just that they’re not nearly as deep as people may say when asked a point blank question about it by a person taking a survey. Their convictions on it will ebb and flow depending on the news cycle. Or their fandom. Or if the guy was already thought of as an S.O.B. And no matter the case, there is nothing to suggest that PED stories have any large overall negative impact with respect to how people view the game.

  1. chip56 - Jun 6, 2013 at 9:21 AM

    Then I guess I’m in the minority. As a lifelong Yankee fan it was disgusting to me the double standard that was applied to Alex and Andy Pettitte due to their popularity among the Yankee fan base because one was loathed while the other loved.

    On the other hand I respect the hell out of the players who are coming out now and ripping the guys who use steroids. I think there’s been a huge shift in terms of players breaking ranks on this issue and more and more going over to the side of: If you get caught screw you because your stupidity is tainting me by association.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 6, 2013 at 11:15 AM

      As a lifelong Yankee fan it was disgusting to me the double standard that was applied to Alex and Andy Pettitte due to their popularity among the Yankee fan base because one was loathed while the other loved.

      It’s even worse among the team. For example, look at the double standard between Giambi and Arod. When Giambi made his “apology”, Jeter was right there with him. When Arod held his press conference, the captain was mysteriously absent.

      • yanksfan27 - Jun 6, 2013 at 12:45 PM

        Jeter was there, what are you talking about?

  2. chill1184 - Jun 6, 2013 at 9:25 AM

    One of things that has always bothered me in regards to pro-PED people is that some of them argue that PEDs saved baseball after the 1994 strike. Never been able to get an actual coherent answer in this argument.

    • chip56 - Jun 6, 2013 at 9:48 AM

      They’re talking about the interest that was generated by the home run race between Sosa and McGwire.

    • paperlions - Jun 6, 2013 at 9:51 AM

      I am unaware of these “pro-PED” people of which you speak. I’ve also never heard a serious reference to PEDs “saving baseball”. With the new ball introduced in 1993 (which didn’t see a first full season until 1995), the incredible shrinking strike zone of the 1990s, and the heavy trend toward smaller, more hitter friendly ballparks that were built during that decade. HRs and offensive production were going to increase dramatically even if PED use was the same as it was in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

      Remember, there were cover stories in SI in the 1960s about prevalent steroid use in baseball. Steroids didn’t just show up in the late 80’s.

      • American of African Descent - Jun 6, 2013 at 12:15 PM

        Don’t forget expansion in 1993 and 1998, which greatly diluted the pitching talent.

      • American of African Descent - Jun 6, 2013 at 12:17 PM

        (That being said, for anyone thinks that MLB didn’t look the other way when McGuire was juicing, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. And for anyone who doesn’t think that race affected how the media went after Bonds when he was suspected of juicing, I’ve got some lovely ocean front property here in Chicago.)

    • stlouis1baseball - Jun 6, 2013 at 3:31 PM

      I would call myself anything but a “pro-PED” person. But I absolutely believe PED’s are what led to fans filing back into the stadiums. If you recall…the strike that wiped out the World Series caused huge declines with regards interest in the game (both the casual and die-hard fan).
      MLB turned their heads to this obvious PED culture. All in the name of the perpetually moving turnstiles. And it worked!

      • gmsingh - Jun 6, 2013 at 5:54 PM

        I can see why you would say that: LaRussa was the worst enabler of them all.

  3. jm91rs - Jun 6, 2013 at 9:33 AM

    I guess I’m about like you said. It bothers me when someone gets caught and might possibly get away with it, but day-to-day I don’t watch games and think about who’s doing roids. Bust the cheaters as much as possible, but steroids don’t come into my mind unless we’re force-fed stories like we have been over the past few days.

  4. dan1111 - Jun 6, 2013 at 9:33 AM

    I get annoyed with all of the over-the-top anti-steroids moralizing from the press. And those are the people who tend to set the conversation, so often when I express opinions on the subject, it is in opposition to the extreme anti-steroid people.

    Nevertheless, I still don’t like steroid use in the game, and I would say it matters “a lot” if asked that poll. I suspect that many others feel the same way. Perhaps that is the reason for the disconnect.

    • bitlrc - Jun 6, 2013 at 9:44 AM

      agree completely about the press. members of the media (especially the successful ones) do some pretty scummy things to get leaks, breaks stories, etc. i find it hard to believe a single one of them would pass up PEDs in the locker room, if it meant also passing up on the fame and fortune that can come along with them. in fact, they’d likely be the ones hoarding the entire stash away from anyone else, so that they were the only ones who had that advantage.

  5. ncm42 - Jun 6, 2013 at 9:34 AM

    People don’t care about PEDs unless the issue is placed before them? I think that’s true of basically any issue.

    And as an O’s fan, I was more disgusted at Rafael Palmeiro (and Brady Anderson) than at all the rest of them, for whatever that’s worth.

    • chacochicken - Jun 6, 2013 at 9:53 AM

      Hey, why does a 50 home run year mean Brady was using? Why did he stop after that year when he was going into free agency at the end of the next season? Did Roger Maris roid up for one good season?

  6. jxegh - Jun 6, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    Yeah, I don’t dwell on drugs (cocaine, marijuana, etc) until it affects someone close to me or is sold close to where I live………..Come on Craig

    • Craig Calcaterra - Jun 6, 2013 at 9:58 AM

      That’s my point. The issue is one of circumstances and proximity. Not some overarching problem that is different in kind from any other problem.

      • chip56 - Jun 6, 2013 at 11:38 AM

        Except that the number of high school kids who look at Ryan Braun and say “I want to play professional baseball and make millions maybe I should do steroids too” is a lot higher than the number of high school kids who look at a crackhead and say “that’s the lifestyle for me!”

      • jxegh - Jun 6, 2013 at 12:29 PM

        Everything is circumstance and proximity. But you’re implying that fans aren’t too deep to form an opinion unless they love or hate the player. If I read about a murder across the country, you’re right, I probably don’t give it much thought. But if it’s in my city, I may be more of an activist, Doesn’t mean we’re fickle

        And I’m not trying to say using steroids is the same as a serious crime……………but I am a big fan of baseball and I can express an strong opinion of the subject.

    • kalinedrive - Jun 6, 2013 at 10:10 AM

      I assume this is supposed to be sarcastic. The question is, why do you dwell on drugs (cocaine, marijuana, etc.) at all? What difference does it make to you? I live every day without being affected by drugs, yet I know they are around. How does some rich guy snorting coke with his rich friends in his fancy house, or a junkie smoking crack with hookers affect me? It doesn’t. Before you respond with some crap about how these people are criminals, and junkies steal or kill for their fix, let’s stipulate that crimes like robbery and murder are bad, mm-kay? But snorting cocaine or smoking a joint should not be a crime. If you commit a real crime while under the influence or as an ancillary activity, that’s a problem. Getting high isn’t.

      • albertmn - Jun 6, 2013 at 11:11 AM

        First off, you can’t just totally drop the argument that they are illegal from the opposing side. That is like dropping the fact that drugs make you high, now explain why do you want to take them if they didn’t make you high? You can just ignore one of the main arguments against something and then think it is okay to argue the issue without that.

        Secondly, whether you like it or not, there is a lot of other crime that goes along with drugs, and not just those committed when someone is high. There are people being killed over drug trade. It is more prevalent in other countries, but I am guessing you don’t consider people dying in other countries to be relevant to “your” situation. To use your example, what is that rich guy snorting coke now has to embezzle funds to support his habit and his rich lifestyle, and now the fund managing my retirement dries up? That sure affected me and others. What if that junkie crack user needed to be revived by the police that found him passed out and/or needed hospital treatment that he/she couldn’t afford and now those costs are passed on to the rest of us in higher costs? Drug use does not happen in a vacuum. It has widespread tendrils that affect everyone in society to varying degrees. I wish all of you stoners and junkies would figure that out and at least attempt to change your ways, but I am sure it won’t happen because you only care about your own gratification or you wouldn’t be doing illegal drugs in the first place.

      • American of African Descent - Jun 6, 2013 at 12:25 PM

        People commit crimes over drugs because prices are artificially high because of their illegality. Want to know why people are killed over the drug trade? It’s because Joe-Drug-Dealer can’t call the police or use the courts when someone commits what would otherwise be a tort against him. Want to know why your rich-guy-embezzler would have to embezzle funds? Because Archer Daniels Midland and Phillip Morris cannot get into the game and keep prices down.

        Consider doing some research on the history of why drugs were made illegal. I bet you’ll discover that drug control has its history in keeping certain groups disenfranchised and NOT in making society a more stable place.

    • chacochicken - Jun 6, 2013 at 10:15 AM

      Has someone broken into your house and stripped all the copper wiring and plumbing to buy HGH?

  7. bluepike - Jun 6, 2013 at 10:00 AM

    If there is someone out there who can answer this question for me – I would appreciate it. It’s obvious that the Yanks don’t really want to pay A-Rod anymore – and I can understand that since he is just about useless anymore. My question is – If he came back to the team and they demoted him to the minor leagues (agreeing to still pay him of course) would they still have to pay him if he refused to report to the team that they demoted him to? Thanks for any light shed on this matter.

    • nategearhart - Jun 6, 2013 at 10:11 AM

      Due to service time, they can’t send him to the minors if he doesn’t agree to it.

      • gloccamorra - Jun 6, 2013 at 10:10 PM

        There’s more than one way they can let him go, it’s just that they still have to pay him.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 6, 2013 at 11:25 AM

      It’s obvious that the Yanks don’t really want to pay A-Rod anymore – and I can understand that since he is just about useless anymore

      Is he really useless? Have you looked at what he actually does? Let’s go back to 2010 (2009 he put up a 138 OPS+ and got some MVP votes, we’ll say he started to become “useless”, as you put it, following ’09).

      Since 2010, he’s put up an average line of .272/.351/.468, 118 OPS+. In that time frame, know how many Yankees have done the same? Here’s the regulars since then:

      Teix – 121
      Cano – 141
      Jeter – 105
      Gardner – 99
      Granderson – 123
      Swisher – 125 (holy crap why did the Yanks let him go)
      Martin – 93

      So that 118 puts him right in the second tier of hitters behind Cano. It’s not like he put up a slightly above league average like saint Jeter did.

  8. stex52 - Jun 6, 2013 at 10:00 AM

    I don’t like PED use. But I’m guessing most fans don’t want controversy in the game. Not of that sort, anyway. I want to watch hits, steals, great pitchers, great catches, etc. I have enough grubby in my life that I don’t want it from my baseball. I think that is close to the norm.

    • historiophiliac - Jun 6, 2013 at 10:49 AM

      Also, I don’t want to see players messing their bodies up taking bad stuff. It makes me sad.

  9. kalinedrive - Jun 6, 2013 at 10:02 AM

    I don’t care. I guess I’m in the 9 percent, it matters “not at all.” The only problem I have with it is the noise and gnashing of teeth that goes with it. I really don’t care about the players who use it, the “societal message” or whatever other reason people care and want it stopped. It has no impact on me. I watch baseball to see what happens. It doesn’t matter to me if they snort cocaine or shoot heroin or shoot their neighbors. That’s a legal matter unrelated to the game. I watch the game.

  10. largebill - Jun 6, 2013 at 10:02 AM

    I’m bothered if a player on my favorite team shows up hungover and unable to play at his best. I’m bothered if a player is distracted because his girlfriend said _______ . I can’t get all worked up about players taking supplements to improve their strength or ability to recover from either injuries or workouts. Yes, there are health risks associated with some supplements and the players should understand those risks and obviously taking illegal substances leaves them open to criminal prosecution. As to players getting caught, my only real concern is are they on my favorite team (or fantasy team).

  11. sdelmonte - Jun 6, 2013 at 10:05 AM

    I try to be consistent. I don’t like the ban on PEDs. I find it hard to oppose drugs that make you heal faster and keep you young longer. The Luddite attitudes about using science to improve our bodies bother me to no end. In my ideal world, we legalize PEDs, research them, and develop drugs without side effects that can benefit everyone. And if the record books are outdated, so be it.

    But…right now PEDs are illegal and banned. So if a player is caught, he should be punished under the law and under the CBA. But I don’t see this as such a horrid offense. Sad but true: pros cheat. All the time. They use drugs. And pine tar. And vaseline. And tricks and traps of all sorts. I don’t like it. And I want to see such things subject to discipline. But I don’t single out PEDs. And I think using a drug to get healthy faster is a lot more interesting than using spit on a fastball to get a strike.

    Let’s see how many thumbs down I get for finally saying this out loud ten years after I decided that PEDs aren’t immoral.

    • dan1111 - Jun 6, 2013 at 10:23 AM

      Steroids have many harmful health effects, especially with long-term use. They aren’t necessary for a healthy individual. They are legal for treating various illnesses, and research is already ongoing in this area.

      There is nothing “luddite” about them being illegal without a prescription and banned in organized sports.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 6, 2013 at 11:26 AM

        Steroids have many harmful health effects, especially with long-term use. They aren’t necessary for a healthy individual. They are legal for treating various illnesses, and research is already ongoing in this area.

        So is alcohol and tobacco.

    • chip56 - Jun 6, 2013 at 11:50 AM

      I don’t have a problem with your opinion, however I think you have the process backwards. PEDs should be researched, and developed in a way that don’t create side effects prior to being legalized…once that’s done though, you know someone will come up with another drug with harmful side effects that have a bigger impact in your body than the legal version…so that drug will have to be banned until rendered safe…and so on and so forth…it’s cyclical.

      PEDs aren’t immoral – they’re not the worst thing a baseball player can do. They are however illegal and the players agreed to that stipulation. If MLB can punish Braun and Alex and all the others I say go for it.

      • sdelmonte - Jun 6, 2013 at 11:56 AM

        I would prefer to see them punished under the law, quite frankly. But I also don’t mind the government going after bigger fish.

  12. jeffbbf - Jun 6, 2013 at 10:20 AM

    The poll was taken 5 years ago….from the web page…
    “This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1,067 adults nationwide interviewed by telephone March 15-18, 2008.”

    Random sample: doesn’t even mean these were baseball fans…just people probably annoyed by another freakin’ phone call.

    So, yeah…come to some all-encompassing conclusion on the “baseball fan’s feelings on PED use” based on a poll taken 5 years ago, over the phone, from random adults. Sheesh. Moving on…..

    • apmn - Jun 6, 2013 at 11:39 AM

      Craig don’t need no “facts” or “stats” or “metadata”. He’s got a gut feeling about it and the Will to Win this argument, by golly!

  13. mississippimusicman - Jun 6, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    I’m actually pretty internally consistent in my views about cheating. If a player has been caught in the past, I don’t want him on my team. When Jordan Schafer was suspended in the minors, I was pretty angry at him for being so stupid, and when he fell on his face, I figured it was no more than he deserved. Now, after all of the twists and turns his career has taken, I figure he’s paid his penance and I’ll watch him play and be happy when he gets a good result, because he already suffered the consequences of his actions, but if a Braves player was caught but somehow got away with it on a technicality, I would be pretty upset and would more than likely stop watching games until that player was gone, or at least punished. I watch baseball to see the players pit their skills against the other team, not their medicine cabinets. I can’t find it in myself to root for a cheater.
    I feel the same way when an umpire blows a call and the result favors my team – in my head, any runs that come from it don’t count, and if it’s the difference in the game, I still feel like they deserved to lose; it will be on my mind for weeks every time I watch a game, and if the standings are close, even longer until the team that got jobbed has either made up the difference or fallen far enough back that it wouldn’t have made a difference. I even think about it around draft time, about how whether cheating or a blown call has had an effect on the draft order.
    I just want the game to be fair – don’t make a rule you’re not going to enforce.

  14. misterj167 - Jun 6, 2013 at 10:57 AM

    It doesn’t matter to me “not at all”, but my feeling is that if you’re looking for a good solution to the problem, the MLB owners and their fellow owner/Commissioner are not the ones to find it. It also bothers me to see the absolute hatred some people have towards players, as it reminds me of the hatred we have towards our fellow workers as we continually get screwed over by people who only care about the acquisition and retention of wealth and power.

    The owners have done more to damage the game than any steroid-using player could ever do. The Yankees dominated baseball for thirty years because they had the money to buy the best players from poorer teams, and the reserve clause allowed them to keep them until they usefulness was over. The owners conspired to keep black people out of MLB for decades: imagine how much better baseball would have been from 1930 to 1960 if we could have seen players like Satchel Paige or Josh Gibson?

    And yet we heap scorn on the players. They booed Joe Dimaggio when he held out for a few more dollars. We hurl invectives at Ryan Braun, who has remained consistent throughout his career and not once has shown signs that he has either used steroids or that they did anything to improve his already impressive performance. We blame people for problems in other situations who don’t have any power to make policy or enforce laws, and are only reacting to policies and laws created by other people.

    But it’s the owners who are at fault for not caring, and for being either unable or unwilling to address the issue seriously, knowing all too well how quickly the rest of us will turn on each other. And that’s OUR fault, and I’m talking about more than just baseball here.

    There are some good owners in baseball and some bad players, I don’t deny this. But both are in the minority, and it’s the former that has hurt baseball far worse. Maybe when we begin to understand that things will change.

  15. @Cereal_22 - Jun 6, 2013 at 11:00 AM

    Has anyone considered that MLB WANT’S to lose this case so they can continue to profit on their stars ? Bosch’s next step was to turn to the press, if it was revealed that this guy supplied Major Leaguers with PED’s & MLB failed to act it would be a huge black eye for the league. So the best course of action financially is to put together a weak case against the suspects, lose the case then continue to profit off of the league’s stars & move on. Selig & MLB has proven time & time again they only care about dollars & cents, keeping the league clean & putting a balanced product on the field has never been a priority.

  16. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 6, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    . If their own player is implicated, however, it’s amazing how fast they’ll tell you that PEDs don’t matter, that the guy is the subject of a conspiracy, that he’d still be an All-Star, that “everybody does it” or any other number of other things which seek to diminish the problem

    the best example of this was last night’s PTI on ESPN (sorry, was bored and i hate myself). They lead off with the Arod/Bosch story (because of course Arod is the only one who is implicated). Michael Wilpon goes into his rant about how they should suspend all these guys. They later bring on Tim Kurkjian who mentions how the Yanks may try to void his contract as well (which can’t be done, but ESPN is never about promoting the truth. see the “legal analyst” Lester Munson for more). Which is fine, whatever. People are entitled to their opinions.

    However, then a few segments later they discuss a cheap shot hit in the NHL playoffs by a Blackhawks player. Kornheiser asks Wilpon if Keith (player) should be suspended? And Wilpon responds that he hopes he isn’t. Why? Because Wilpon is a Blackhawk’s fan!

    • jwbiii - Jun 6, 2013 at 3:10 PM

      I’m a Blackhawks fan. That was a cheap shot. Keith should sit for a few games.

  17. jcarne9014 - Jun 6, 2013 at 2:07 PM

    This issue will NEVER be solved. Frankly, I could not care less if these guys do steroids or not. Let them do anything that is legal in the United States and Canada and leave it at that. If they use something that is not legal, prosecute them just as any of us would be prosecuted. Who cares about the “purity” of the game? What purity? Oh, you mean the sport that until 1947 was for whites only…that has at least one murderer and several known, on-field cheaters in the hall of fame…along with countless drunks and philanderers. Please…baseball has never been pure. I am SO TIRED of hearing these same arguments year after year after year. Unless we can prove that someone did not use steroids, ALL players are under suspicion. How do we know that Cal Ripken wasn’t juiced? Hell, he played with Brady Anderson. How about Nolan Ryan? He played with Canseco. Like I said, this conversation will NEVER end.

  18. shanabartels - Jun 6, 2013 at 2:26 PM

    If this poll is supposed to be in light of recent events, then it’s kind of cherrypicking and not asking the right question. Of course I think performance-enhancing drugs are a bad thing, but if the extrapolation from that answer is that MLB should move forward with discipline even though their evidence is shoddy at best, I don’t agree with that at all. I’m concerned that this could get very ugly with the union and I really don’t want the league to set a precedent based on this.

  19. madhatternalice - Jun 6, 2013 at 2:40 PM

    For me, it’s real simple. If you want to stick a needle in your body, go nuts.

    That being said, I want steroids completely removed from sports. Otherwise (as many other, more intelligent people than me have said above), we build a culture of “Sure, you can play in the MLB. Better start juicing now!”

    I think more people care about the issue in principle than whether or not A-Rod or Braun specifically juiced.

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