The HGH Testing in the Minor Leagues Debate – An Absence of Logic

March 4, 2010

Read the debate intro and the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.

I feel like I am studying for the SATs right now.

Consider this scenario – There is a problem of people speeding while driving on the highway. There is also a device called a radar gun that allows police officers to see how fast people are going. Common sense dictates that the police should use that radar gun to identify those people who violate the speed limit. Once identified, consequences can be put in place and the police now have an effective way to help preserve the rules for driving. Problem solved.

Let us now apply that same logic to the problem of steroids in baseball.

Consider THIS scenario – There is a problem in Major League Baseball with steroid use, including Human Growth Hormone (HGH). There is also a test that is believed to successfully identify the presence of HGH in blood.

This shouldn’t be THAT hard to figure out!

Despite that painfully OBVIOUS solution to this problem, there is still no real talk of HGH testing in Major League Baseball. WHY?! Everyone claims that they WANT to get rid of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in the game, including Commissioner Bud Selig, the league owners, the players, and even the players’ union.

I will say it again – this should not be THAT hard to figure out!

Misplaced Attention

Rather than implement this HGH test for players in Major League Baseball, though, the league has instead decided to use it ONLY in the Minor Leagues – how does that make sense? That is like having kids in Driver’s Education take a breathalyzer test to help curtail drinking and driving among adults, or having the FBI raid your City Council to address reports of corruption in the US Senate. It is a token gesture designed to give the ILLUSION that something is being done, although it does not even come CLOSE to resolving the actual issue at hand. Essentially, Selig has decided that the best way to prevent Major League players from using HGH is by testing people who are not even in Major League Baseball – BRILLIANT!

Are players in the Minor Leagues are also using HGH? Sure. However, the public is not clamoring for a crackdown because the backup catcher for the Toledo Mudhens could be using HGH. Likewise, if we found out tomorrow that a middle-reliever in the bullpen of the Albuquerque Isotopes tested positive for HGH, most people wouldn’t even notice. However, the simple RUMOR of a player in the Major Leagues is enough to garner national attention in the media.

The reason for this lack of concern at the Minor League level is because these players are not making MILLIONS of dollars by cheating. Don’t get me wrong – It is absolutely a problem, and it should be addressed. However, it should be address ALONG WITH, rather than INSTEAD OF the problem in Major League Baseball.

Foolish Resistance

One of the biggest roadblocks standing in the way of implementing this common-sense procedure is the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). They have balked at the idea of this new HGH test because it requires a much more invasive process. Rather than ask the player to simply provide a urine sample, blood must be drawn directly from the person being tested. What they are failing to understand, though, is that the public doesn’t care about whether or not a millionaire athlete has to roll up their sleeve for a little needle-poke. Is that a FAIR perception? No, but it is the perception nonetheless.

Likewise, is it FAIR that these players are viewed as being guilty until proven innocent? Probably not, but in the court of public opinion (which is ultimately the court that the MLB must please if it wishes to stay in business), fairness is rarely taken into consideration. As far as the general public is concerned, a refusal to take the test is tantamount to a public admission of guilt. The longer that the MLBPA continues to fight this test, the greater the corresponding public outcry will be to get something put in place.

Just yesterday, new reports emerged of yet another HGH investigation involving Dr. Anthony Galea, along with (you guessed it) Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran, and Jose Reyes. It has become the latest in a series of embarrassments to the MLB and its once beloved players. These investigations will CONTINUE to emerge, and each will further damage the reputation of Major League Baseball, until a SATISFACTORY measure is put in place to control the use of these banned substances.

The Importance of Fan Buy-In

With the possibility of NBA and NFL players’ strikes looming in the next few years, baseball has a unique opportunity to bolster support from its fans. During a time when two of the biggest sports in America may be inactive, Major League Baseball has the potential to greatly strengthen their own fanbase, but that will only happen if the fans are satisfied with the product they are given. Now is the time for the MLB to do everything in its power to BUILD fan support, not alienate it!

Fans of the game despise cheaters and demand that REAL action be taken in the Major Leagues to address this issue. Now that there is a REAL option in place to test for HGH, there is no excuse not to use it. If Major League Baseball TRULY wants to resolve the problem of PEDs, and TRULY wants to keep its fans happy, then HGH testing for ALL players must be implemented immediately!

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The New York Mets are the Worst Debate – The Verdict Is In!

August 14, 2009

Read the debate intro, Loyal Homer’s argument that the Mets are the most poorly run franchise in baseball, and Sports Geek’s argument that they are not.

Misery loves company.

Having grown up in the Cleveland area of Northeast Ohio, I can sympathize with the frustration that New York Mets fans are feeling right now. One minute, you are angry and frustrated, the next you are consumed by a hopeless thought that things will never get better. I’ve been there… I know.

It becomes an increasingly more difficult pill to swallow when a team gets so close one year (losing the 2008 NL Wild Card to Milwaukee on the final game of the season), then to seem so far away the next year.

Being from Cleveland, I have seen both sides of the coin. I have watched teams fail because of poor management and I have watched teams fail that were simply unfortunate victims of bad luck and ill-timed injury(ies). I have also seen teams fail due to a combination of those problems, and the Mets seem to be moving into that category.

Loyal Homer and Sports Geek both discuss very real problems within the Mets organization. As Loyal Homer points out, the Mets have had their fair share of drama in the front office. Former VP of Player Development Tony Bernazard was fired for making VERY poor choices, and there was an incident which occurred between manager Omar Minaya and a reporter when announcing Bernazard’s dismissal. Meanwhile, Sports Geek points out that on the field the Mets have also had a multitude of problems around injuries, most notably to Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, and Francisco Rodriguez.

The challenge, though, is to determine which of those problems are the CAUSE for the Mets woes, and which are an EFFECT.

Whenever a team is losing, every action is placed under a microscope. Each decision is scrutinized, and problems that may have been overlooked during a relatively successful season suddenly become overblown crises that fans and the media fixate on.

Those problems are all a part of the EFFECT that comes from losing. I am awarding this debate to Sports Geek because the CAUSE of the problem has to do more with injuries than with those front office issues.

As Sports Geek points out, the Mets have still managed to put together 53 wins, something that many other teams in the league have not been able to accomplish yet. While you cannot blame all of their 61 losses so far this season on injury, it is fair to assume that injuries have been the cause for some of them. For the sake of argument, consider the possibility that a ‘healthy’ Mets team would have won only five additional games to this point in the season. Under that scenario, the Mets would be two games ABOVE .500, and only six games behind the Phillies, instead of sitting at eight games BELOW .500.

Obviously, that is all speculation. My point is simply to illustrate the enormous impact felt by the difference of only a few games. When a team is forced to take the field with less talent than what they had originally planned, those extra losses are bound to happen and they can inflate many of the other problems within the organization.

I do not intend to diminish or excuse the problems going on within the upper levels of the Mets franchise. However, those problems (or at least the increased attention being paid to those problems) are part of the EFFECT of losing, rather than the CAUSE for it.

Regardless of cause or effect, though, Mets owner Fred Wilpon will have to address ALL of those problems if he wishes to see his team make a return to the postseason any time soon.

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The New York Mets are the Worst Debate – A Tough Mets Season Does Not Make Them The Worst Franchise in Baseball

August 13, 2009

Read the debate intro and Loyal Homer’s argument that the New York Mets are the worst franchise in baseball.

Image your team’s staff ace is Mark Maroth, the league leader in losses (21), earned runs allowed (123), and home runs allowed (34). Image your team’s number two starter is Jeremy Bonderman, second in the major leagues in losses (19), and second in the American League in wild pitches (12). Imagine your team’s first baseman/cleanup hitter is Carlos Pena who leads the American League in errors at his position (13), hit a robust .248 with an impressive 50 RBI. Image your team’s number three hitter – the player who gets the most at bats during a season, outfielder Dmitri Young, is fifth in the American League in strikeouts (130).

If your team was the 2003 Detroit Tigers, you do not have to use your imagination. They lost an epically bad 119 games that season. They managed to break their old record of losing 104 games in a season in 1952. A tough year all around and terrible top to bottom. An ideal example of the worst franchise of a particular season.

If the Detroit Tigers are the poster team for bad franchises, the 2009 New York Mets are not the worst franchise in the 2009 season.

It is nice is that I do not have to rehash the litany of injuries the New York Mets have suffered this season. Loyal Homer did that accurately. The amount of hitting the Mets have lost is extremely high. They lost their table setting speedster in shortstop Jose Reyes, their cleanup hitting slugger in center fielder Carlos Beltran, and their RBI/home run producer in first baseman Carlos Delgado. They lost their prize offseason acquisition, closer Francisco Rodriguez, for nearly a month, too.

Sure, the Mets stink this year, but injuries have the most to do with that. Losing that kind of production will cripple any team. Injuries have nothing to do with how the organization is run either on the field or in the front office. It is a reflection of bad luck… bad luck on a grand scale for these hapless Mets.

It is impossible to argue that general manager Omar Minaya has avoided controversy this season. The tumult within the upper echelons of the organization is obvious when Tony Bernazard, Vice President of Development, was recently fired for what amounts to conduct detrimental to the organization. If the public is hearing about an issue in the front office, it is easy to say that the front office is out of control. However, Minaya apologized for his own actions, and promptly fired the individual who also made the organization look bad (in his own unique style). Is it the best front office in baseball, in performance or organization? Clearly it is not. But, it is not the worst, either.

In fact, it is possible to make an argument for the San Diego Padres, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Washington Nationals as the worst franchise in baseball. The Mets have managed 53 wins this season – 13 better than Washington, seven better than Pittsburgh (who traded away every good player they have any may not win another game this year), and four better than San Diego who constantly invent new ways to stink (and should have more losses if their division was not so bad).

It is easy to blame the manager, the players, and the front office. But a keen look reveals the real issue – injuries. The Mets do not have the worst record in baseball (there are nine worse teams than them). They did not trade away every good player to hamstring them for the coming seasons, either. Sure, the Mets stink. But the worst? No way.

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The New York Mets are the Worst Debate – The Mets are in Shambles!

August 13, 2009

Read the debate intro and Sport’s Geek’s argument that the Mets are not the most poorly run franchise in baseball.

Ahhh, those New York Mets. Have things really been the same in Queens since the 2006 NLCS? The Cardinals knocked off the Mets in Game seven that year. While it is true that the Mets got off to good starts in 2007 and 2008, the feel good thoughts were quickly vanquished by the epic collapses. Mets fans will never forget the unforgettable collapse of 2007 when they blew a seven game lead with seventeen to go. I will give them credit, though: they did their best to top that in 2008, but they only blew a 3.5 game lead. With that choke, Shea Stadium was torn down. A new year, 2009, brought new feel good thoughts with a spacious new stadium and a rebuilt bullpen. The collapse did not happen in September, this time. It happened before the All-Star break. They have no one to blame but Omar “I’m no longer the chosen one” Minaya. Why he was considered such a golden boy after coming over from Montreal, I’ll never know!

Minaya has built the team to win now and he built it largely with either older stars or with guys who may have their best years behind. Look at the starting lineup on opening day this season. Shortstop Jose Reyes has been battling a calf injury for most of the season. Daniel Murphy, once viewed as a promising young outfielder with the Mets, has played four different positions and you have to wonder where his head is at this point. Third baseman David Wright, a proven All-Star, has had a statistically decent season, but his power has suffered in Citi Field (think he wishes he got to hit in Yankee Stadium 81 times a year?). First baseman Carlos Delgado and center fielder Carlos Beltran have both been down with injuries. Outfielder Ryan Church now plays for Atlanta, but on his way out of town, he decided to miss third base. Catcher Brian Schneider has underachieved since coming over from Washington. Second baseman Luis Castillo used to be an All-Star earlier this decade, but now he is dropping pop ups. On paper, that team is decent when they are all in their prime. But, you can make an argument that only two of those eight guys are in their prime. What you cannot argue is proven fact. Only one of those eight guys mentioned was in the starting lineup yesterday.

That is just what is happened on the field. The instability is also going on in the front office. Earlier this summer, Vice President of Development Tony Bernazard actually challenged several minor league players to a fight. This is after getting into a verbal altercation with closer Francisco Rodriguez on a team bus last month. Bernazard was later dismissed.

But wait, the madness does not end there, folks!!

In announcing the firing of Bernazard, Minaya gets into a dispute with New York Daily News reporter Adam Rubin during the press conference. This was not behind closed doors and was not in the dugout. This was in the middle of a press conference with media members getting a front row seat. Way to drum up that good publicity, Omar! This is how you run an organization! Ha! What a joke! Somewhere, former Mets general manager and current ESPN broadcaster Steve Phillips is laughing at this mess!

The Mets are in complete disarray right now. They have an aging team with many players locked into long term deals. Everyone is looking over their shoulder in the front office, even Minaya, who does not necessarily have the backing of Mets top officials. It is utter chaos in Queens, with no signs of stability approaching!

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The MLB 2009 Division Race Debate – You’re Not Cruising Yet, Philadelphia

July 13, 2009

Read Bleacher Fan’s argument that the American League Central is the best second-half divisional race, and Sports Geek’s argument that the National League Central is the best.

Well folks, MLB has reached the All-Star break. The all stars get to enjoy the festivities in St. Louis, rest, and get ready for the second half of the season.
Five of the six divisions are yet to be decided with exciting races up on the horizon (Loyal Homer has seeded the NL West to the Los Angeles Dodgers). This parity gives a lot of hope to many of the teams and keeps fans interested in these cities at a time when attendance is down six percent, as Sports Geek pointed out last week.

The Sports Debates has decided to give you a sneak peek at the second half of the season, as we’re excited about the next two and a half months. Sports Geek will argue that the NL Central is the most exciting division race in the second half of the season while Bleacher Fan will argue why the AL Central is the most exciting race.

Meanwhile, I have decided the NL East is the most exciting division race.

As it stands now, the world champion Philadelphia Phillies hold a four game lead over those pesky Florida Marlins. The Atlanta Braves are currently six games back, with the slumping/walking-wounded Mets six and a half games back.

This race was actually closer 10 days ago, before the Phillies went on a 9-1 tear that opened things up a bit. But, I don’t think those Marlins are going anywhere.

The Marlins, led by All-Star starting shortstop Hanley Ramirez, just keep hanging around. They aren’t supposed to be here, but yet, here they are. Ramirez is quietly having an MVP-type season. The youth and energy of this team is contagious. Too bad no one in Florida has caught the fever (see attendance numbers). I’m not sure this team is ready to take the next step yet, but they aren’t going away and they could steal this division. Keep in mind that the Marlins won a World Series in 1997 and in 2003. That’s six years apart. Six years after 2003 is 2009. Hmmmm????

The Braves, while maddeningly inconsistent offensively, can’t be counted out because of their starting rotation. Starting pitchers Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, Jair Jurrjens, rookie sensation Tommy Hanson, and Kenshin Kawakami form a rotation with a combined ERA under four. On offense, the Braves think they have added by subtracting the Jeff Francoeur with a recent trade. On paper, this team doesn’t have enough offense to catch the Phillies. However, there’s a lot of time left.

The Mets haven’t played with their regular team pretty much all season. First baseman Carlos Delgado hurt his hip early in the going, and he was joined on the disabled list by shortstop Jose Reyes and center fielder Carlos Beltran… among others. The Mets think they have provided a spark with the addition of Francoeur, and judging by the last two games, the spark is there. But, the Mets starting rotation is weak once you get past Johan Santana. However, once those guys come off the disabled list, they can certainly make a run.

The Phillies come into the break red hot. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins has finally broken out of his year-long slump and has been the catalyst to this recent hot streak. But, like the Mets, the Phillies rotation leaves a lot to be desired. Perhaps that’s why they are looking closely at Pedro Martinez. That offense is one of the best in the league, with Rollins, first baseman Ryan Howard, second baseman Chase Utley, outfielder Raul Ibanez, and underrated outfielder Jayson Worth. Then again, every offense would be stacked if they played in a homer friendly ballpark like the Phillies do. (Remember that 1995 Colorado Rockies team with the Blake Street bombers hitting balls out of Coors Field… in the pre-humidor days?)

The weakness of the starting rotation of the Phillies gives the other three teams a chance in this division. Also, the four teams will be beating up on each in September. Whatever team gets hot in September is the one that is going to take the division!

The Manny Ramirez All-Star Debate – He Should Play!/Sanjaya’s Back

June 1, 2009

(Site note: to read the judge’s intro to this debate, click here. Read Bleacher Fan’s argument in favor of Manny’s inclusion in the game here. To read Loyal Homer’s argument about Manny being banned from the All-Star game should he be voted in, click here.)

It doesn’t matter what else is going on in baseball, you just know that Manny Ramirez is always going to be good for a little drama. If you thought something as small as a 50-game “break from baseball” could keep Manny from mixing things up, well you are sorely mistaken!

Granted, he didn’t create this drama directly, but nevertheless, it’s just…


The Sports Geek raises an interesting question for this debate. I think that the wording of Sports Geek’s question is just as important as the debate itself, and we must always come back to that wording…

“…does he have a legitimate right to play in the game?”

The question is not ‘SHOULD he play in the game’, but ‘does he have a legitimate right’? My answer is ‘Of course he does.’

SHOULD he play in the game? Probably not. Many people (myself included) will view it as being in poor taste if he is named to, and participates in, the All-Star Game. But, let’s be honest, he wouldn’t be crashing the party uninvited, and he didn’t cheat in the voting (as far as we know) to get the invitation. If the current trends continue, then Manny Ramirez, despite the 50-game suspension, will be invited to participate in the All-Star Game, as he currently sits in 4th place in NL Outfield voting, and is definitely within striking distance of Carlos Beltran.

Let’s consider the situation for exactly what it is. He cheated, he got caught, and he is paying the penalty for the actions he took, a 50-game suspension. That 50-game period does not span across the All-Star Game, though, and nowhere in the details of his suspension does it prohibit his participation in the game. On paper, he will be eligible to play.

Let’s consider how he “earned” his invitation. That is where the real issue lies. Despite the intention behind it, the MLB All-Star Game is not an exhibition game between the best statistical performers of the AL and NL, respectively, over the first half of the season. That concept should be thrown into the garbage, since Bowie Kuhn decided to reinstate fan voting to populate the rosters in 1970. Instead, it became a popularity contest.

Rest assured that we would not be having this conversation if the Owners, Managers, or Players decided who would represent them, but that’s no longer the case. Thanks to the miracle of fan voting, the masses can see who they “want” to see, rather than the best players. That means that a guy like Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Raul Ibanez (right now at 6th in OF balloting), who is currently hitting .332 with 17 HRs and 46 RBIs, could be snubbed and not get an invite because Manny Ramirez has his name on the ballot, despite missing more than half of the games leading up to the All-Star Game because he cheated.

But, that’s the risk you run when you let the masses decide. It is a popularity vote, and the fans have seen fit (at least thus far) to keep him in serious consideration to make the team as a reserve player at minimum.

If it was good enough to keep Sanjaya Malakar on American Idol, it’s good enough for Manny. Whether you like it or not, that’s the system in place. If he gets the votes, and is not on suspension at the time the game is played, then he has a legitimate right to play in the game.

The Manny Ramirez All-Star Debate – Judge’s Intro

June 1, 2009

(Site note: to read the judge’s intro to this debate, click here. Read Bleacher Fan’s argument in favor of Manny’s inclusion in the game here. To read Loyal Homer’s argument about Manny being banned from the All-Star game should he be voted in, click here.)

Welcome to Week 2 of The Sports Debates. Thanks for checking back, or for visiting the first time. If you are a first time visitor, you lucky devil, then you may want to check out our first two debates: The Jake Peavy Debate, and The NBA Championship Debate. You can also follow us on Twitter, and check out our Overtime blog where we can all rant or rave (mostly rant) about anything sports related.

Before we move on to today’s debate, I must regretfully inform everyone that Loyal Homer has won a debate, moving his record to 1-1. Loyal Homer’s argument that the LA Lakers will win the NBA received the most votes, a whopping 61% compared to 14% for Bleacher Fan’s (0-1) Cavs argument (whoops) and 25% for Sports Geek’s (1-1) well-reasoned, likely prescient breakdown of why the Orlando Magic will win it all. Let’s pay special attention to this, so we can all make fun of Loyal Homer and Loyal Homer’s Mom (who likely made up the majority of his votes… besides the voters from SilverScreenAndRoll – best blog name ever!).

Now, onto today’s debate, The Manny Ramirez All-Star Debate.

LA Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez is currently suspended for 50-games due to a positive test for performance enhancing drugs. He’s due to return July 3 – a week before the MLB All-Star game. Usually that doesn’t matter because rational thought would seem to dictate that a steroid-using player doesn’t stand a chance of getting voted into the All-Star game by the fans. Unless that steroid-using player is Manny Ramirez. He’s currently fourth in voting for the outfielders in the game (fellow roid-user and Milwaukee Brewer center fielder Mike Cameron, is fifth. He was suspended for 25 games at the beginning of the 2008 season.). This raises a number of compelling questions to debate. The most important question however, is this:

If Manny Ramirez is voted into the All-Star game, does he have a legitimate right to play in the game?

How close is Manny to getting in? Currently, he has 442,763 votes, just 34,080 votes behind New York Mets ourfielder Carlos Beltran. There’s even a Vote For Manny website devoted to ensuring he gets into the All-Star game.

This debate can, and should, go in a number of different directions. You may discuss the viability of the fans determining who gets in to the All-Star game. You may discuss the sordid steroid past (present??) of Major League Baseball. You may discuss Manny being Manny. You may wish to make dreadlock jokes (though I’d advise against it). Nothing is off limits provided it is relevant to the core question – would Manny’s potential inclusion in the All-Star game be legitimate?

I flipped a coin, and it landed with the side that has a picture of Bleacher Fan on it facing up. Therefore, side 1 is the Bleacher Fan, who will argue that Manny’s inclusion in the game would be legitimate. Side 2 is the Loyal Homer, who will argue that Manny’s inclusion in the game would be illegitimate.

May the best debater win.

Read Bleacher Fan’s first post here.


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