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Saturday, August 06, 2011

Are Baseball Players Like Flood Water?

Flood water will go everywhere you don't want it to go unless you put up barriers. Before Robert E. Lee commanded the Army of Northern Virginia, he was a colonel in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and spent a significant amount of time helping design and build the flood wall that protects St. Louis from the potential ravages of the Mississippi River. At one point, there was a statue in St. Louis honoring Lee for his accomplishments as an engineer. (I do not know whether that statue still stands today).

Try as it can through testing, MLB simply cannot find enough ways to ban performance-enhancing substances. As Jim Bouton wrote in Ball Four, if you told a pitcher that a pill existed that would guarantee him 20 wins in a season, he'd take it, even if it would take five years off his life. The French, you recall, wanted to prevent a second world war, so what did they do? They built the Maginot Line near the border with Germany. So what did the Germans do? They took a page out of a football playbook, made an end run around the Maginot Line and went into France via Belgium.

So what are MLB players doing since they get tested for steroids? Apparently, there's a spray made from deer antlers that has properties to induce the building/regeneration/replenishment/healing of muscles. And, of course, MLB doesn't test its players for deer antler spray. I mean, they don't test players for ingesting hippotamus urine or lyophilized hyena toenails, so why think of testing for deer antler spray?

But that's how tenuous a hold many Major Leaguers have a hold on their jobs, or at least think they do. For every Chase Utley there are handfuls of the Michael Martinezes, Wilson Valdezes and Ben Franciscos, each of which doesn't get that much of an opportunity to distinguish himself before the brass when he gets a shot. The player with sporadic playing time -- and those who get more playing time but who are perpetually fearful (as they should be) of losing their jobs -- need to find an edge. The reason that I say that they should be fearful for losing their jobs is rooted in my reading of the 2009 Baseball Prospectus and counting in my head the number of players still with a team or its organization today from that list. My count is roughly 30-35%. In digging deeper on the team I'm most familiar with, the Phillies, I noted that the core from back then remains intact, but the periphery has changed dramatically. Most of the jobs in the bullpen have turned over, as have a few spots in the rotation and many spots on the bench. That's how tenuous a hold most players have on a roster spot.

Enter Jim Bouton's premise and the advent of deer antler spray. I don't know what the answer is or how to solve the problem, but to point out that it's pretty sad that players will resort to snake oil if they believe that they can make more money and spend more time playing baseball. After all, there are only so many boundaries that MLB can put up to catch bad behavior.

So, if you hear that many more players are going deer hunting in late November and early December, now you'll know why. And if players' stats increase, venison will be on the post-game spread menu in each clubhouse.


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Anonymous xlpharmacy said...

Maybe your Metaphor is a little bit unbelievable but I think that we can understand it if we analyze the salaries and the Contracts of baseball players !

8:50 AM  
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