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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Eric Knott: Surviving Professional Baseball in the Steroid Era

At Hardball Talk, Calcaterra said of this B-Pro guest piece by former journeyman pitcher Eric Knott:

We should spill way less ink about who we think “the real Home Run King” is — as if that matters — and think way harder about those frequent minor league suspensions and what they mean to the people who are faced with the choice to take dangerous drugs or wind up out of baseball.

Against that backdrop is this excellent column from Eric Knott. Knott pitched 11 years in the minors and 24 games in the majors. He is the quintessential borderline guy who, if he had an extra couple of miles per hour on his heater, may have stuck.  But he didn’t get those miles per hour, and he didn’t try PEDs in an effort to do so.

Knott gives a fascinating, clear-eyed and detailed rundown of the environment in baseball during the height of the Steroid Era, as well as what factored into his decisions about whether to use.

It’s an absolute must-read. There’s more useful information in this piece than anything that can be found in the Mitchell Report or the latest bombastic anti-PEDs screen from Johnny Sportswriter.

I concur - read it.

Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: February 26, 2013 at 11:07 PM | 114 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: diamondbacks, expos, minor leagues, peds, writing worth reading

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   101. valuearbitrageur Posted: February 28, 2013 at 03:10 PM (#4377768)
He never played with Burroughs (AFAICT).

So my research quality is on par with Murray Chass!!!!

Not sure what the kerfuffle here is. The player wrote honestly about PEDs, and the rationalizations he used when deciding to take, or not take, various types of PEDs. It's an interesting read, and he is a human being, as imperfect as all of us (except Sugar Bear Blanks, obviously). He owes no one here a justification, apology, or even a response. We should just be grateful he gave us this insight into playing during that era.
   102. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: February 28, 2013 at 03:24 PM (#4377777)
There's nothing "fundamental" about that distinction. It's merely a distinction made by the rules...

There's nothing fundamental about the distinction between things that are permitted and things that are prohibited?

Go pull the other one - it's got bells on it.

And, as noted, amps aren't really "prohibited" since almost 100 players are allowed to use them. They're merely provisionally, or conditionally, prohibited.

And, as noted, players are also permitted to take anything and everything up to pure testosterone if they can demonstrate a medical need for it. For instance, Mike Lowell consulted with doctors about the possibility of taking a testosterone supplement after his bout with testicular cancer, and would have been permitted to do so, although they determined that it wasn't necessary in his case. So all you've demonstrated is that there are more people who have ADD (or are willing/able to pretend that they do) than there are with conditions treated with other banned substances. Big whoop.
   103. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: February 28, 2013 at 03:25 PM (#4377778)
No offense to Lisa (who I mostly agree with about steroids), but I don't see what's so different about her perspective on PEDs.

Fewer capital letters?
   104. Ray (RDP) Posted: February 28, 2013 at 03:50 PM (#4377789)
The one thing that elevates this otherwise routine thread from Repoz's usual pinata posts is the viewpoint of Knott, which I hope people will read in its entirety.

When McGwire said that he didn't believe the steroids helped him hit more home runs (except to the extent that they allowed him to take the field), did you give any weight to his viewpoint?
   105. Ray (RDP) Posted: February 28, 2013 at 03:58 PM (#4377795)
Andy, what personal insight would Knott have into the question of whether steroids increase baseball performance? He claims not to have taken any.
   106. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: February 28, 2013 at 04:19 PM (#4377819)
Knott did not say that greenies made him "play better" than he would have with normal rest... The effect he describes is restorative, not enhancing

Amen. That's why any strikeout by a relief pitcher should properly be credited to the tired starter he replaced.
   107. base ball chick Posted: February 28, 2013 at 06:59 PM (#4377981)
i have had discussions with professional ballplayers/college ballplayers - all of who do NOT want me saying their names or teams

they only agree on one thing - the DH should disappear today. (in fact, they ALL have said that every ballplayer they know wants the DH gone for good.)

several guys have told me that they believed that greenies ARE performance enhancing and they told me it improved the quality of their hitting/pitching/fielding because of the significantly improved focus. and not because of having been whoring around/using legal/illegal NON performance enhancing substances the night before. all of them have told me
1 - they would never admit it in public
2 - they do NOT think it was "cheating" because the team provided it and or strongly encouraged it

i have ALSO talked to a number of ballplayers who played before 04 who did not make it to the majors who were ALL told that they needed to "get stronger" or "get larger" and that this was code for "use steroids" even though they were not specifically instructed to shoot up or to use anything in particular (unlike the greenies) and that failure to use was seen as them not being really willing to go all out to win.

none of them will agree to talk about it on the record. a couple of them DID use roids, and they did "get stronger" but it did not improve their pitching control or being able to throw a ML quality breaking ball of any sort, so none of them got anywhere because of using. i asked them if they considered it "cheating" and a few said they guessed so but one said no because the team told him to "get stronger" and yes i know, small sample size...

i guess if you throw hard but not over the plate it won't get you anywhere unless you are a #1 pick like matt anderson or colt griffin
   108. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: February 28, 2013 at 07:03 PM (#4377983)
Interesting stuff - thanks for sharing.
   109. Ebessan Posted: February 28, 2013 at 08:08 PM (#4378015)
If this is a "performance-enabling" vs. "performance-enhancing" issue, then it's based on the definition of baseline performance, isn't it? But how the hell do you define baseline performance? What was Fred Lynn's baseline performance, or Kevin Mitchell's, or Pedro Guerrero's? What is anyone's baseline performance level?
   110. base ball chick Posted: February 28, 2013 at 09:31 PM (#4378056)

i personally would define "baseline" as whatever a ballplayer can do every day of the season without using medication and or drugs to perform. and yes, things like modern operations definitely have changed what "baseline" is all about. all KINDS of guys have insufficient stats to judge their "real" ability because they blew out some joint or even, say, got spinal meningitis because there was no vaccines BITGOD.

which is one of the main reasons why i don't compare modern players to guy who played even 50 years ago.
   111. Manny Coon Posted: February 28, 2013 at 11:05 PM (#4378096)
Amps do not alter the performance ceiling; roids do.

I don't really believe this. The results may be more subtle, but things like focus and reaction time are really important in baseball, possibly even more so than strength, particularly for hitters.

Also when it comes to things like the sacred home runs records, let's remember that the records that people are upset about are homeruns over a long, grueling season and homeruns over the course of an even longer career, not the longest homerun or most homeruns in a single game. For those types of records the stamina bonus for amphetamines are likely even more helpful, especially for guys who have plenty of power to start with.

If a player was using steroids for primarily restorative use, would that change whether they were cheating? McGwire always had power to spare and claims steroids were for restorative use, does make his use less bad? I have no idea what benefits all the assorted players using HGH where hoping to get, but if it was primarily for healing and stamina would that make it ok?
   112. Bob Tufts Posted: March 01, 2013 at 01:33 AM (#4378144)
Amps do not alter the performance ceiling

Consider a player who needs to repeatedly focus, tense and react with .4 seconds to hit a fastball or get a quick jump on a ground ball or flyball up to 200 times per game.

Now we know why there are concerns with therapeutic exemptions for ADD drugs which are deemed to enhance mental acuity....

(and part of the diet coke to MC...)
   113. alilisd Posted: March 01, 2013 at 10:54 AM (#4378247)
@ 75: thanks Ron. I was serious. I was somewhat familiar with testing for nandrolone, but I honestly had not heard andro broke down into the same metabolite.
   114. Ron J2 Posted: March 01, 2013 at 11:48 AM (#4378294)
@113 Nobody really understood this for quite some time. Well Patrick Arnold seems to have been aware of it from day one, but for some reason chose to keep this info to himself.

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