Bill James Says Your Grandkids Will Use Roids

Sports topics that it's hard to write something new about: Michael Vick, Brett Favre, Peephole videos, steroid use and the Hall of Fame. One solution is to give up. Another is to read Bill James. ↵

↵The ever-innovative baseball guru came through on the latter topic with an essay that will be published in The Bill James Goldmine 2010, an essay that's available (PDF) on the site of the book's publisher, Acta Publications. It's provocative, new (to me) and mildly controversial, in that one of its central arguments is that your grandchildren will be juicing, the filthy little cheaters. ↵

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↵Essentially, James argues that steroids serve the function of prolonging youth, that fighting aging and death has been one of civilization's greatest goals, and that therefore, steroids will be like bread and water within 50 years. ↵

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↵⇥If we look into the future, then, we can reliably foresee a time in which everybody is going to be using steroids or their pharmaceutical descendants. We will learn to control the health risks of these drugs, or we will develop alternatives to them. Once that happens, people will start living to age 200 or 300 or 1,000, and doctors will begin routinely prescribing drugs to help you live to be 200 or 300 or 1,000 ... ↵⇥
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↵⇥You can like it or you can dislike it, but your grandchildren are going to be steroid users. Therefore, they are very likely to be people who do not regard the use of steroids as a moral failing. They are more likely to regard the banning of steroids as a bizarre artifice of the past. ↵
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↵James goes on to argue that a steroid user will inevitably land in the Hall, whether by accident (through a post-admission admission that he used), or intentionally (because his body of work was so strong that steroid use isn't enough to disqualify). And further, that once one confirmed steroid user is in, the argument about keeping steroid users out will fall part like so many tendon sheaths. The passage of time will help, as it did with other objectionable characters in baseball's past, and the prevalence of steroids will make it impossible to maintain a wall of separation. ↵

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↵Estimating that between 40 percent and 80 percent of ballplayers were using at the height of the Juiced Balls Era, James argues that any "rules" against their use were not really rules, since they were so broadly circumvented, and because of the style they were imposed. Sure, the relatively few non-users will be punished by such a historical movement, and we can feel bad about that, but the gradual acceptance is inevitable, like a tersely worded Steinbrenner family statement to the press. ↵

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↵Which is why, at the end of the day, "Mark McGwire is going to be in the Hall of Fame, and Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa, and Rafael Palmeiro, and probably even Barry Bonds," James concludes. "I am not especially advocating this; I simply think that is the way it is." ↵

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↵Having read and digested all of that, which is truly one of the most interesting arguments on the topic I've ever encountered, this is what I'm left with: we're all going to live to be 300! Hot damn! After retiring at 65, I'm spending the next 193 summers playing golf on the coast of Florida, and that still leaves 42 years to yell at roided-up neighborhood kids for hitting wiffle balls 400 feet into my roided-up tomato plants! My two-year old soon-to-be-juicing daughter better start saving for my greens fees fund right now, and also for my stash of Deca-Durabolin! Oh, and buy Denny's stock now, while you still can; imagine their bottom line with a country full of 200-year olds! If Barry Bonds is acting like such a grouch in his mid-40s, what will be like in his mid-240s? I don't know, and I don't care, because there's an early-bird special with my name on it! ↵

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↵Also, can you imagine what a 300-year old man would look like? (Correct answer: Greg Oden.) ↵

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↵(Story via Baseball Think Factory, Juiced Balls Era nickname via Dave McKenna from Washington City Paper) ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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