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Friday, June 22, 2012

LOWELL COHN: Why I won’t vote for Barry Bonds

Lowell, you know what they say about little feat…

The subject is current because Roger Clemens just beat the rap of lying to Congress, and fans and writers are consumed, yet again, with the issue of the Hall of Fame and steroids. Both Clemens and Bonds will be on the next ballot.

I limit my discussion to Bonds because I better understand his case, and if I write about both of them, I may need 1,000 pages.

...Let’s examine some arguments fans make in favor of putting Bonds in the Hall.

Apology No. 1

Athletes are merely entertainers, so who cares if they took (or take) performance-enhancing drugs?

Sure, some rock performers, to name one category, have used drugs. Their drugs of choice, as far as I know, are recreational drugs, not steroids or human growth hormone to give them a competitive advantage. (I am not condoning recreational drugs.) Baseball players work in a game where people keep score, publish daily standings, hold a postseason. Rock performers aren’t even competing in the way baseball players compete.

That means baseball is more than entertainment, or it’s a different kind of entertainment from music. A baseball game asks a question — Who will win? A rock concert does not ask that question. Steroid guys like Bonds — and I believe he knowingly was a steroid guy — violated the spirit of competition and changed the game for everyone to promote their own glory. If Jimi Hendrix took drugs, he did not change the nature of music.

Repoz Posted: June 22, 2012 at 01:31 PM | 42 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: barry bonds, clemens, jimi hendrix, steroids

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   1. Guapo Posted: June 22, 2012 at 01:40 PM (#4163755)
*strums guitar*

It's 99 degrees and I want a sno cone
But first I'm gonna read this article by Lowell Cohn
   2. Joey B. has reignited his October #Natitude Posted: June 22, 2012 at 01:41 PM (#4163759)
This is so weird... I thought that the whole steroids issue had "jumped the shark".
   3. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 22, 2012 at 01:44 PM (#4163762)
I keep standings on rock stars. Currently Nickelback is losing.
   4. Gold Star - just Gold Star Posted: June 22, 2012 at 01:54 PM (#4163773)
Nickelback's top comp is the 1899 Cleveland Spiders.
   5. zenbitz Posted: June 22, 2012 at 01:55 PM (#4163778)
violated the spirit of competition and changed the game for everyone to promote their own glory


What is the difference between this and a spitballer/scuffer? Is it "changed the game"? Didn't spitballers change the game back in the teens or twenties or whenever it was they banned it?

Is this just a proxy for "changed the record books" (which of course is an unknowable). Is it a tacic assumption that the Sillyball era was >70% due to PEDs?

From the FTA, apology 2 is "everyone was doing it" - But Cohn dodges the main issue of this argument which is "then there was little systematic advantage" i.e. they could not have "changed the game". Also, if it's TRUE that everone was doing it... then singling out certain parties for punishment seems wrong (although this is how the US legal system works too). Eh, I'll concede that this is a weak pro-ped argument. Assuming anyone actually uses the argument and it's not a straw man

apology 3 is - "they were good enough prior" - well, OK if you are going to be a hard ass about it (equates PED use with Rose's gambling)

apology 4 is - "not against the rules" - (refers to Vincent's memo) but again, spitballers aren't being banned retroactively or going forward, ditto Amp users (illegal, currently tested for, and against the rules). But re: Vincent's memo - he misses the gist of this argument that even if Vincent's memo "counts" as rules - there is no proscribed baseball punishment. Like if it was "illegal" to speed but there was no fine and cops couldn't pull you over for it. Maybe this is like pot "decriminalization"?

apology 5 is - "sportswriters shouldn't vote" - no comment.

   6.   Posted: June 22, 2012 at 01:57 PM (#4163780)
Let examine some arguments that nobody ever makes but I like to shoot down in the interest of demonstrating the strawman fallacy.
   7. The District Attorney Posted: June 22, 2012 at 02:01 PM (#4163786)
Yeah, one great argument for Bonds (that most other guys do not have) is that he had already established a HOF career before the alleged cheating. That argument, of course, is not mentioned here.

(EDIT: The argument that zenbitz characterizes as "good enough prior" is that Bonds or another player was so good that he would have been a HOFer anyway had he never taken. That's a different argument. It'd be hypothetical to say that a player who was 100% better than league with PED would have still been 50% better without them and thus still worthy. It's not hypothetical to say Bonds would have been a HOF slam dunk had he retired in 1999.)
   8. Ray (RDP) Posted: June 22, 2012 at 02:19 PM (#4163803)
I'm still amazed that people assume the conclusion that steroids use significantly impacts baseball performance.
   9. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: June 22, 2012 at 02:23 PM (#4163805)
The wrath of Cohn.
   10. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: June 22, 2012 at 02:27 PM (#4163807)
People who wouldn't vote for Bonds or Clemens for the baseball HOF should have their children taken away, and then be forcibly neutered so as to keep them from having more. Their biological children should be monitored going forward and eliminated at the first sign that the stain has carried through the blood.
   11. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: June 22, 2012 at 02:29 PM (#4163808)
I'm still amazed that people assume the conclusion that steroids use significantly impacts baseball performance.

Yes, we know you are.
   12. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: June 22, 2012 at 02:55 PM (#4163835)
The best part of all these columns and outbursts is, it's June. The vote is still half a year out.

These guys are maaaaaad. And the continuum that is the Hall's #1 attribute is going to blow up real good. Orville Reddenbacher couldn't provide enough popcorn for us to watch this maxiseries.
   13. The District Attorney Posted: June 22, 2012 at 02:55 PM (#4163836)
Okay, reading that back I realize that "it's not hypothetical to say Bonds would have been a HOF slam dunk had he retired in 1999" is an incorrect English statement, but hopefully my point came across. Bonds 1986-1999 without any PED concerns is a HOF career, is my point.

This dude can't even win a winning argument, BTW. I certainly agree that it's utterly irrelevant to compare baseball players to musicians, but:
If Jimi Hendrix took drugs, he did not change the nature of music.
You sure?

"Sportswriters shouldn't vote" is also a bad argument, but he fumbles that too:
I never asked to vote for the Hall of Fame. I am a card-carrying member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, an esteemed group mostly consisting of beat writers who cover teams every day and columnists who cover teams a lot.
I find it hard to believe that anyone went into baseball writing without becoming a HOF voter as one of their goals. In any event, "I'm a sportswriter and they asked me to vote" is non-responsive to the argument that "sportswriters shouldn't be asked to vote."
This argument — sportswriters shouldn't vote — smacks of the usual bias against the media. Bonds took steroids, but somehow the uncomfortable fallout from that is the media's fault. Why? I never took steroids to write better and I don't know one sportswriter who did.
I don't think I have to point out the problem here. And again, this is an attempt to rebut an unconvincing argument!

Oy.
   14. GEB4000 Posted: June 22, 2012 at 03:10 PM (#4163857)
Where were all these "holier than thou" reporters and columnists when all these players were juicing? These kiss-ups were too busy writing articles in the 90s about players reinventing their swing and pitchers new exercise program that added 5MPH to their fastballs.
A reasonable person might come to the conclusion that there is a systemic problem in baseball when the best position player and pitcher of a generation feel the need to use PEDs. Bonds and Clemens were relative late comers to PEDs and they Hall of Famers before they started using. Discounting their performance doesn't keep them out of the Hall.
Reporters and management were as big a part of the problem as players were. If you're going to be against Bonds and Clemens, make sure LaRussa and Selig don't get in and absolutely no reporters of that era should be admitted.
   15. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: June 22, 2012 at 03:22 PM (#4163869)
I find it hard to believe that anyone went into baseball writing without becoming a HOF voter as one of their goals.


I imagine it becomes a goal once you get in the profession and work there a bit, but as a former sportswriter I can honestly say I never gave a moment's thought to the voting privileges before I started. Don't get me wrong, it was pretty cool when I got to vote on the Heisman for a couple of years, but the voting stuff was just not a consideration either when I was considering it as a profession or during the early stages of my career.
   16. Moeball Posted: June 22, 2012 at 03:40 PM (#4163893)
I never took steroids to write better and I don't know one sportswriter who did.


Maybe you guys should start.
   17. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: June 22, 2012 at 03:47 PM (#4163903)
I never took steroids to write better and I don't know one sportswriter who did.


Sounds like the BBWAA is covering up just as much as the MLBPA did. Someone get these guys to pee in a cup.
   18. bachslunch Posted: June 22, 2012 at 03:53 PM (#4163910)
Sure, some rock performers, to name one category, have used drugs. Their drugs of choice, as far as I know, are recreational drugs, not steroids or human growth hormone to give them a competitive advantage.

You'd be wrong to assume this is true all the time. Pop musicians have been known to take drugs, especially amphetamines, in hopes it will give them the energy to keep giving fully energetic on-stage performance night after night. Like baseball players used greenies for decades.

If Jimi Hendrix took drugs, he did not change the nature of music.

One assumes this writer has never heard of "psychedelic" pop music. Later music by the Beatles and Rolling Stones and Byrds, as well as work of the Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother and Grateful Dead, were heavily influenced by drug use and indeed changed the nature of pop music in the '60s.

   19. John DiFool2 Posted: June 22, 2012 at 03:58 PM (#4163917)
*strums guitar*


**plays the world's smallest violin**
   20. bachslunch Posted: June 22, 2012 at 03:59 PM (#4163919)
And more from this dumb article.

Using steroids without a doctor's prescription also was a violation of federal law starting in 1990. Bonds not only was a rule breaker, he was a law breaker.

And so was every baseball player who used greenies. Yet you and your pals gladly voted greenie users into the HoF without a squawk.
   21. Repoz Posted: June 22, 2012 at 04:12 PM (#4163950)
Someone get these guys to pee in a cup.

I once told a member to go #### in a hat.

Not sure if that qualifies.
   22. Biscuit_pants Posted: June 22, 2012 at 04:17 PM (#4163957)
One assumes this writer has never heard of "psychedelic" pop music. Later music by the Beatles and Rolling Stones and Byrds, as well as work of the Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother and Grateful Dead, were heavily influenced by drug use and indeed changed the nature of pop music in the '60s.
Im sorry I couldn't let this go. I am tired of people making these accusations. I want hard proof in the form of verified drug test that any member of the Grateful Dead or their fans ever took drugs.
   23. pthomas Posted: June 22, 2012 at 04:19 PM (#4163961)
I hope the next article in this endless series is titled:

WHY I DON'T CARE ABOUT THE HALL OF FAME ANYMORE, AND HAVE CANCELLED MY PLAN TO VISIT.
   24. The District Attorney Posted: June 22, 2012 at 04:20 PM (#4163966)
Let me reiterate that "musicians use drugs too!" is in fact an utterly awful pro-Bonds argument, but just continuing with this.

One assumes this writer has never heard of "psychedelic" pop music. Later music by the Beatles and Rolling Stones and Byrds, as well as work of the Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother and Grateful Dead, were heavily influenced by drug use and indeed changed the nature of pop music in the '60s.
Right.

I assume the writer meant something along the lines that the "nature of music" is people making sounds for other peoples' amusement, which can be done both with or without drugs, whereas the "nature of baseball" is athletes competing without benefit of PED. But to say that PED use is bad because the "nature of baseball" is defined as "a sport without PED" is 1) inaccurate, given past history, and 2) literally begging the question. And I believe I used both "literally" and "begging the question" correctly there. *drops mic, exits*
   25. pthomas Posted: June 22, 2012 at 04:27 PM (#4163973)
That last post was at 4:20.....
   26. Biscuit_pants Posted: June 22, 2012 at 04:29 PM (#4163977)
I hope the next article in this endless series is titled:

WHY I DON'T CARE ABOUT THE HALL OF FAME ANYMORE, AND HAVE CANCELLED MY PLAN TO VISIT.
Actually I am waiting for a mock one like "why I won't vote for Koyie Hill for the hall of fame"
   27. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: June 22, 2012 at 04:33 PM (#4163978)
Im sorry I couldn't let this go. I am tired of people making these accusations. I want hard proof in the form of verified drug test that any member of the Grateful Dead or their fans ever took drugs.


I had a Deadhead roommate who failed to land a job because she failed a drug test. It's been 19 years, but maybe the Wake Forest HR department still has a record on file.

I almost feel bad for Cohn. There are several ways that a Hall of Fame voter can deal with steroids and all of them are ultimately unsatisfying in one way or another. I wouldn't want the job. A voter trying to work his way through the tangle needs to stay open-eyed and pragmatic and avoid saying anything stupid. This, sadly, is where Cohn falls flat.

EDIT: The key to drug use and making music is that you need to play onstage in the same state in which you rehearse. If you rehearse drunk and play high, you'll sound like crap. If you rehearse high and play straight, you'll sound like crap. If you rehearse drunk you need to play drunk. You'll be awesome.
   28. Fanshawe Posted: June 22, 2012 at 04:48 PM (#4163993)
Why? I never took steroids to write better and I don't know one sportswriter who did.


As long as we're addressing terrible arguments in the dumbest ways possible, I wonder if Cohn knows any sportwriters who took caffeine pills, or amps, or adderol to improve their writing, or to allow themselves to write for longer periods of time then they otherwise would.
   29. Ron J Posted: June 22, 2012 at 05:21 PM (#4164007)
#28 I'm thinking better equivalences would be something on the order of using somebody else's work without attribution. Or flat out making #### up.
   30. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: June 22, 2012 at 05:35 PM (#4164019)
Yeah, I've known too many journalists and J-school people who were popping adderall and ritalin like jelly beans to buy into the idea that sportswriters never take drugs to enhance or enable performance.
   31. Greg K Posted: June 22, 2012 at 06:23 PM (#4164042)
Sure, some rock performers, to name one category, have used drugs. Their drugs of choice, as far as I know, are recreational drugs, not steroids or human growth hormone to give them a competitive advantage.

I would argue that whatever Amy Winehouse was on during this episode of Nevermind the Buzzcocks gave her a competitive advantage. She's much funnier than the other contestants (and Bill Bailey is no slouch).
   32. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: June 22, 2012 at 07:38 PM (#4164066)
I would argue that whatever Amy Winehouse was on during this episode of Nevermind the Buzzcocks gave her a competitive advantage. She's much funnier than the other contestants (and Bill Bailey is no slouch).

That's a great video, and whatever the hell caused her final demise, that woman was also the best singer we've had since Eva, Sarah, Dinah and Billie.
   33. X-Roid User Posted: June 22, 2012 at 09:10 PM (#4164089)
Sure, some rock performers, to name one category, have used drugs. Their drugs of choice, as far as I know, are recreational drugs, not steroids or human growth hormone to give them a competitive advantage.


Implying steroids didn't help Glen Danzig write Mother.
   34. Walt Davis Posted: June 22, 2012 at 10:30 PM (#4164112)
1. I recall a few articles the last few years about substantial HGH and steroid use among musicians and actors to rock the physique.

2. Some producer (Joe Boyd I think) said something along the lines of "Lots of great music has been made on LSD and pot but once the coke comes out, you might as well pack up and go home."

3. I'd be stunned if no sportswriter has used speed.
   35. Ron J Posted: June 22, 2012 at 11:29 PM (#4164160)
Good memory Walt:

"When the white lines came out, it was time to call it a night: the music could only get worse."
   36. The District Attorney Posted: June 23, 2012 at 12:37 AM (#4164181)
I recall a few articles the last few years about substantial HGH and steroid use among musicians and actors to rock the physique.
I dunno what became of this, but in 2008, it was reported that "the names of Mary J. Blige, 50 Cent, Timbaland and Wyclef Jean have turned up" in a steroid/HGH probe.

As for actors, I'm too tired to find cites but I believe Ahnold has admitted, Mickey Rourke gave a non-denial denial, and, well, I dunno what Sylvester Stallone may or may not have said but it's pretty obvious.

I suspect that there may even be some professional wrestlers using.

(AGAIN, I DON'T ACTUALLY THINK ANY OF THIS IS EXCULPATORY EVIDENCE IN FAVOR OF BARRY BONDS.)

   37. cardsfanboy Posted: June 23, 2012 at 01:38 AM (#4164195)
This argument — sportswriters shouldn't vote — smacks of the usual bias against the media. Bonds took steroids, but somehow the uncomfortable fallout from that is the media's fault. Why? I never took steroids to write better and I don't know one sportswriter who did.


I would hazard a bet that at least a strong minority of writers took some type of performance enhancer for their writing, whether it's coffee to meet a deadline or booze/pot or other to get the brain flowing, I find it seriously unlikely that good writers are clean.

Edit: I see post 28 said the same thing...maybe I should read the whole thread before posting... but where is the fun in that.

#28 I'm thinking better equivalences would be something on the order of using somebody else's work without attribution. Or flat out making #### up.


I don't think that is comparable at all. A ball players job is to be a better ball player, drugs helped do that(supposedly) a writers job is to be a better writer drugs clearly helped do that. Plagiarism, is closer to relaying signals from the scoreboard or grabbing the guys belt as he rounds third. Those are situations in which you aren't bettering yourself, but instead circumventing the rules to make your job easier.
   38. Swedish Chef Posted: June 23, 2012 at 04:31 AM (#4164213)
I dunno what Sylvester Stallone may or may not have said but it's pretty obvious.

Caught in customs with lots of HGH a couple of years ago.
   39. Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond Posted: June 23, 2012 at 08:55 AM (#4164231)
Sure, some rock performers, to name one category, have used drugs. Their drugs of choice, as far as I know, are recreational drugs, not steroids or human growth hormone to give them a competitive advantage.


"I think that pot definitely did something for the old ears, like suddenly I could hear more subtle things in the sound" - George Harrison

   40. Petunia inquires about ponies Posted: June 23, 2012 at 01:41 PM (#4164322)
I don't know why I even clicked on this as I don't care about steroids and Cohn is a known idiot, but the entertainment value over replacement mediot steroid screed on this article was pretty high.

EDIT: The key to drug use and making music is that you need to play onstage in the same state in which you rehearse. If you rehearse drunk and play high, you'll sound like crap. If you rehearse high and play straight, you'll sound like crap. If you rehearse drunk you need to play drunk. You'll be awesome.

Another way music is not at all like baseball (well, okay, softball). I practice sober and play drunk; I'm much better both ways.
   41. Moeball Posted: June 23, 2012 at 04:02 PM (#4164407)
I want hard proof in the form of verified drug test that any member of the Grateful Dead or their fans ever took drugs.


One day I was playing Trivial Pursuit with some friends and I received the question "Who flew for over 50 years without a pilot's license?"

The correct answer was supposed to be Orville or Wilbur Wright - I don't recall which one - the idea being that he had been flying for years before the FAA even came into existence and therefore he got grandfathered in.

My answer, of course, was Jerry Garcia.
   42. The District Attorney Posted: June 23, 2012 at 04:22 PM (#4164421)
Dave Barry:
The nation had surged ahead in the space race through a series of courageous accomplishments by astronauts such as Donald 'Deke' Slayton, Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin, Scott 'Scotty' Carpenter, and Nicholas 'Nicky the Squid' Calamari, climaxing with the historic moment on October 8 when Neil 'Satchmo' Armstrong became the first human, with the possible exception of guitarist Jimi Hendrix, to set foot on the Moon.

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