Archive for February, 2008

How Players View Drug Testing

Yesterday, AJC Braves beat writer David O’Brien featured an interview with Chipper Jones and Tom Glavine about blood testing for human growth hormone in baseball. I don’t want to get sidetracked by the fact that it would be a total waste of resources to test for HGH, or that it would make more sense to allow it than to police it; instead, I want to focus on the player’s decision to submit to testing.

I believe that Chipper Jones echoes the sentiments of many major-league baseball players.

“I don’t care,” the third baseman said Tuesday. “I’m not on anything, so it doesn’t bother me. The only people I would say who would object would be people afraid of needles, or who are on something.”

A player who is clean has every reason to want testing, but users may favor testing as well. A substance that is performance-enhancing gives users an edge over non-users, which translates into higher salaries. Players face the choice of using to keep their edge or abstaining and settling for compensation less than equally-talented players who use. Thus, there is a strong incentive to use. In a world where all players use, the end result is that players are no better than one another, yet they incur the expense and health consequences of using. Therefore, it makes sense for players to want stringent testing to stamp out this behavior.

However, there is another side to this, and Chipper is well aware of it.

He added, “I’m sure the players association would have something to say about it.”

Jones was asked about the issue three days after Yankees star Derek Jeter said in a radio interview that he wouldn’t object to a blood test, since players already are required to have blood drawn for physicals during spring training.

“You’re talking about individual guys coming out and saying they wouldn’t mind,” Jones said. “I’m sure if [players union head] Don Fehr sat us down and listed the pros and cons, and what the majority of players thought, it might be different.”

Former union representative Tom Glavine elucidates the cons.

“I’m not going to say it’s never going to change, but I see it as a very thorny issue right now,” Glavine said. “There’s too many potential problems, too many question marks.

“It’s potentially opening up a big can of worms. There’s the potential for so many problems with the way that it’s handled, the way it’s stored.”

Glavine said he could envision a player’s career being ruined by blood sample being tampered with by someone with a vendetta.

“On a personal level, it scares me to think of somebody having my blood and the potential to tamper with it down the road,” Glavine said. “Your career could be ruined, and you wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.”

Urine is urine and blood is blood. These substances yield more information than just the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Players are right to be suspicious about the motives of owners, players, and other associates. This is why I suggest handing over all testing and enforcement to the players. Here is my Op-Ed in the NY Times, and here is post with further explanation. I also discuss this in Chapter 9 of my book.

Comments Policy

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in comments that has forced me to disallow several submitted comments over the past few weeks. There is no need to be insulting or rude if you do not like what someone else says. This is not a chat room or a message board where posters engage in insult wars. I don’t mind criticism or disagreement, but I ask that you be polite. Before you post something, ask yourself if any statements that you make are irrelevant to the discussion. Phrases like, “I normally like what you have to say, but X is ridiculous”, “you make me laugh”, or “you’re an idiot” add nothing to the discussion except to insult me or other commenters. They should be excluded. I could respond, but I don’t really care to get involved in discussions with such people. I just remove such comments in order to keep things civil. If you don’t like this, feel free to start your own blog and rant about me all day long. I don’t care.

Comments are allowed to encourage productive and polite discussion. Comments deemed to be inappropriate will be removed. If you follow these rules, you should be fine.

— Be polite. Would you say what you wrote if you were sitting in a room with the person you are writing to? If not, don’t write it.

— Read what others have written carefully before posting critiques.

— Anonymous posting is allowed, but each person is allowed only one persona. Using an alias to bolster your own point is inappropriate.

If you recognize this post, it is because I have to post it every so often.

Good Old-Fashioned Fingerprints

In the age of DNA analysis, fingerprint evidence seems a bit antiquated as a forensic tool. But, in the Roger Clemens–Brian McNamee saga, it could prove crucial. The main physical evidence in the case includes syringes and vials of unused steroids submitted by McNamee. The syringes, McNamee claims, ought to contain DNA and steroids or human growth hormone (for the evidence relating to Chuck Knoblauch). While this might seem like a silver bullet, the value of this evidence has been dismissed by experts. There is no way to prove when the substances were put in the in the syringes, and we know that McNamee had access to Clemens’s DNA.

However, fingerprints on some of these items would indicate that Clemens handled the materials in question. I do not think that fingerprints on the syringes are all that relevant, because Clemens admits to receiving B-12 injections from McNamee. However, fingerprints on the vials of steroids, which McNamee claims that Clemens gave him in 2002 could be damaging to Clemens, as they would represent the first physical connection to the drugs.

If a Clemens fingerprint is found on a vial of steroids, it would not prove that Clemens had used the substance, but it would show that he had come in contact with the vials and raise new questions about his denials.

Richard Emery, one of McNamee’s lawyers, said McNamee gave Clemens an undisclosed number of unused steroid vials in 2001; it was from that batch, Emery said, that Clemens returned the eight unused vials to McNamee at the end of the 2002 season.

The issue of fingerprints comes up in McNamee’s deposition, and I remember thinking this might be important. But the reason I remember it is that McNamee appears to have thrown away a key piece of evidence: the Ziploc bag that held the vials that Clemens allegedly gave to McNamee.

A [Sentence blacked out] Cleaning up, putting stuff away in boxes. He was cleaning out his bedroom. I was filling up a bag — a duffel bag that I still have that he gave me with stuff he didn’t want, some kids games, some clothing, some sneaker, some shirt, some athletic wear. And he just walked out of his bedroom and he says, listen, I’m not going to travel on the plane with these, can you either hold on to them or get rid of them.

Q So what did he physically hand you?

A A Ziploc bag full of that stuff.

Q So this was all in the bag?

A Absolutely.

Q So he would have touched the bag as he handed it to you?

Mr. Emery. Because the Ziploc bag was part of —

The Witness. He touched the bag, yeah.

Mr. Emery. The Ziploc bag was in there. We gave him the Ziploc bag. Sorry. It must be in one of the other pictures.

Mr. Schiliro. Isn’t it that one?

Mr. Emery. That is the bag that we just used so we wouldn’t touch it.

The Witness. The Ziploc bag is in there.

Mr. Emery. Yeah, there must be a Ziploc bag picture.

Mr. Schiliro. I’m confused because we have pictures from two different years; isn’t that correct?

Mr. Emery. Right. But we gave the Federal Government —

The Witness. Wait. No. No.

Mr. Ward. Let’s —

The Witness. No, no, I’ve got it. No. I emptied that — I emptied that stuff in another — in the box.

Mr. Emery. Right. The Ziploc bag was with the other stuff.

The Witness. Yeah. I physically removed the unused — I took the pills out and the testosterone bottles, the seven or eight bottles, put them in the can bag and threw all of those single wrapper needle heads in the bottom of the box. I didn’t keep that bag.

Mr. Emery. Right. You’re right.

BY MR. SCHILIRO:
Q You didn’t keep the Ziploc bag?

A That Roger gave me. No, I — because we were looking at that. We knew there wouldn’t be fingerprints on the bag.

Mr. Emery. Right. The bag that was in there was a different bag.

The Witness. That was my bag. It might have been his bag, but I only kept one bag. And it was the bag that the can was in, the can I had. The other stuff I emptied in.

BY MR. SCHILIRO:
Q So you have no expectation his fingerprints would be on any of these substances?

A Possibly, but, no, I ain’t counting on that. I’m counting on the blood and the needles and the stuff in the needles. (pp. 202–204)

And at this point, I expect Philiip Schirilo (Henry Waxman’s Chief of Staff) hung his head like an appraiser on Antiques Roadshow who just learned that the rare piece of furniture in front him of was refinished by a well-meaning great-uncle. Was this a mistake of honesty or convenience?

It will be interesting to learn what the fingerprint analysis reveals. Clemens’s attorney Rusty Hardin is not expressing concerns.

“We would expect if the Department of Justice conducts an investigation, it would be a thorough and fair one,” he added. “Does that mean that they would test items they were given for fingerprints? Of course, they would.”

The Baseball Economist in Paperback, TODAY!

Today is the official release date of the paperback edition of The Baseball Economist. This edition has the new low list price of $15—most online stores sell it for around $10—and is updated to include 2007 player values for every player.


The Baseball Economist

Here is a list of some of the topics discussed.

  • Why are there more hit batters in the AL?
  • What happened to the left-handed catcher?
  • Steroids
  • What are the best/worst managed organizations in baseball?
  • Putting a dollar value on every player in MLB (updated to include the 2007 season)
  • How good is Leo Mazzone?
  • Big cities vs. small cities
  • Scouts vs. stat-heads
  • Is MLB a Monopoly?

The book is available at your local bookstore. Here is a list of links to online booksellers.

Clearing the Air on Clemens

I almost put up a post similar to this one last week, but I didn’t think it was necessary. I thought it was clear how I felt about the Clemens-McNamee situation. However, since that time the blog comments indicate that I need to clarify my position on Roger Clemens’s guilt/innocence regarding the steroid charges made by Brain McNamee.

I do not know if Clemens is innocent or guilty of the charges. I remain agnostic on the issue, and this upsets people who have already made up their minds that he is guilty. I am not in the tank for Clemens: I have no connection to Roger Clemens that ought to make me care one way or the other. I ask that you please view me as a skeptic who has higher standards (I do not intend “higher” to mean “better”) for reaching conclusions. There are several conflicting accounts of past events, and I think it is proper to wait until I have more information before reaching a conclusion. And until the accuser demonstrates guilt, I assume that the accused is innocent, but under suspicion. As I see it now, I don’t think that Clemens will be indicted for perjury; and even if he is, given the current evidence I think it is unlikely that he will be convicted. These beliefs are subject to change as more information comes out.

While my posts have generally been supportive of the Clemens side, that is because the general presumption in the media is that Clemens is lying. It is easier to find evidence against this presumption when many people who comment publicly on the topic support McNamee. For example, Pettitte gives Clemens “misremembering” theory more credit than Rep. Elijah Cummings suggests, Pettitte’s own statements do not fully support McNamee’s accounts of events, and the statistical record is not as damning as some believe. Other people are saying or writing things with which I disagree, and I am merely pointing out why I disagree. Without the prior statements to the contrary, I would have no need to make my comments.

So please, let’s tone it down with the comments. I am willing to hear contradictory evidence and engage in debate; but, simply labeling me a Clemens apologist isn’t going to accomplish much. State what is wrong with what I have posted or move on. Also, for those of you submitting multiple comments under different aliases—I see your IP address when you submit comments— please stop doing so. This behavior is inappropriate.

Media Bias

Headline from The New York Daily News:

Roger Clemens’ attorney: Maybe Rocket was at Jose Canseco’s party

Article opening:

Roger Clemens may be backpedaling on his long-time stance that he never attended a 1998 party at Jose Canseco’s house.

In the wake of the Daily News’ report Friday that a photograph exists of Clemens posing with a young man at Canseco’s Florida home – a photo said to have been taken on June 9, 1998 – the Rocket’s attorney issued a statement that seems to suggest Clemens may have attended the party after all.

Clemens’s congressional testimony:

In his testimony before Congress, Clemens told ranking member Tom Davis (R-Va.), “So could I have gone by (Canseco’s) house later that afternoon and dropped my wife or her brother-in-law, the people that golfed with me? Sure, I could have. But at the time of the day that I would have expressed it to be, I was on my way to the ballpark. I know one thing. I wasn’t there having huddled up with somebody trying to do a drug deal. I know that for sure.”

And the “backpedaling”:

Clemens attorney Rusty Hardin issued a statement Friday that in part reverses course. “We know that baseball announcers broadcasting the games at the time said Roger was not at the party. Jose Canseco has said Roger was not at the party, as has Canseco’s former wife. Roger was playing golf at the time of the party, and has stated that he may have stopped by the Canseco house after playing golf before heading to the ballpark for the game,” read Hardin’s statement.

Hardin’s statement merely reiterates the Clemens’s testimony. I see no backpedaling or change in the story. And people accuse me of being biased? Sheesh!

What is Mark Teixeira Going to Get?

With spring training underway, the big story for the Atlanta Braves is whether or not the team can sign its star slugger Mark Teixeira to a long-term deal. Teixeira will be a free agent after the 2008 season, and he will play this season for $12.5 million. The word is that the Braves would like to sign Teixeira to an extension soon. Neither Teixeira nor is agent Scott Boras are stupid, and they will only agree to a contract that will approximate his price on the free agent market. Tex might be willing to take a little less now to insure against and injury or simply because he likes playing for the Braves, but his estimated open-market value is a good place to start.

So, what will it take to keep him? Texeira isn’t going to be cheap. According to David O’Brien:

Some believe agent Scott Boras could land Teixeira a six- or seven-year deal worth $25 million or more annually, considering the other contracts that have been handed out in recent years and Teixeira’s age and all-around skills.

Using his past three years of performance, aging, and the growth of MLB salaries (based on the method in my book—paperback out on Tuesday!), I estimate that he will garner a contract of approximately $26.82 million for a six-year deal following the 2008 season. This estimate appears to be in line with the rumors.

I think that the Braves may be able to get him in the low-twenties if they can reach a deal before the season starts. I’m not sure if the Braves are going to be willing to go that high.

Pettitte versus McNamee

For a moment, let’s put aside the the discussion about how we should judge Andy Pettitte. I want to view him as a witness. Given the common perception of Pettitte as an honest man, I think it is interesting that people generally assume that Pettitte’s story backs up McNamee’s account of events. This then boosts McNamee’s credibility in regard to Roger Clemens’s alleged drug use. While Pettitte concurs with McNamee’s accounts of his own use, Pettitte does not back McNamee on all accounts, especially on this particular event, which ought to be memorable.

Here is McNamee’s story from his deposition.

And it was in, it was in Roger’s gym when he — I was cleaning up after one session. Then we do like an agility program, then we toss and then we go. They throw off the mound and then we do weight work. Roger was changing his shoes, tying his shoes on the side in his gym, Andy is long tossing in the corners of the gym diagonally to be the first — I think C.J. Nitkowski was throwing first and then I’d catch. So it was cleaning up the area, then we did the cardiovascular and agility work. Andy Pettitte was having a conversation with Roger 5 feet away. I walked in between the middle. Andy started to back up, back up, back up. He was getting further away from Roger. And all he did was bark at me and say why didn’t you tell me about that stuff.

Q That was Andy Pettitte speaking?

A Yes. And I said what stuff are you talking about? And I said — he goes, growth hormone. And I said why. He goes, well, Roger is telling me that he’s taking it and you know you get me all this protein and this recovery stuff and why don’t I take it. And I said well, Andy, it’s illegal and I know how you are. And he just looked at me and he says well, if it’s illegal then never mind, never mind. That was pretty much the last time we spoke about it. (pp.29–30)

He continues later in the deposition.

Q In that incident in the gym did you overhear what Clemens and Pettitte said to one another?

A Not really.

Q Did you hear anything?

A I was annoyed. I was annoyed. And I think Roger just shut up because he knew I was annoyed. But no, I didn’t really hear what they were talking about.

Q And why were you annoyed?

A Because it makes me look stupid when a guy, you know, does that, undermines me where you know I don’t feel comfortable about doing something and then he tells somebody that. I have a confidentiality thing where why would I go talking about this. And I’m telling you that C.J. Nitkowski, I just got done telling him he doesn’t need to take Winstrol. And then he’s telling Andy that he’s taking growth hormone and I don’t even know what else. And I was like why would you do that to me because then Andy thinks — you know, I didn’t want to break a trust. And that’s how Andy was going about it. He’s like, what are you talking about, you don’t tell me about this. And you know it just put me in an awkward situation. So I looked at Roger, and I mean that was the end of the conversation. So no, I didn’t hear what they said or what they were talking about other than what Andy said.

I find it strange that Pettitte has no recollection of this conversation in his deposition when he is specifically asked about the event.

Q I want to ask some questions about other conversations that you might have had with others, other players about this topic of steroid use or HGH use. And we’ve received some information that there was a training session at Clemens’ house in the 2001-2002 off-season that you attended and other players attended in which the subject of steroids or HGH was discussed. And I want to see if you recall anything about that. Do you recall anytime when you were training at Clemens’ house with McNamee and the topic of steroids or HGH ever came up?

A I don’t.

Q I’ll give you a few more details of what we’ve heard and see if it jogs your memory. And if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. The other players who were there at the time were C.J. Nitkowski and Justin Thompson in addition to you and Clemens, and Brian McNamee was there training you guys. And what we’ve heard is you were long tossing with C.J. Nitkowski in the gym in Clemens’ house and Clemens apparently mentioned his use of performance-enhancing substances to you and it prompted you to go to McNamee and ask him questions about it. You said — apparently or that what we reportedly heard is that you said McNamee, you never told me about this before, about what Clemens is doing and it’s making him feel great. Does that jog your memory at all as to that episode?

A I definitely remember being over there with C.J. and Justin. But I just — I don’t remember us having that conversation. I don’t believe that — I don’t believe that we’d have been talking about that in front of those — you know, the young kids you know. (pp.41–42)

Pettitte, who has been praised for his honesty, does not recall what sounds to be a rather animated discussion according to McNamee. And C.J. Nitkowski also does not remember this conversation, but says that if such a conversation had happened, he would not have been able to hear it (p. 26–27).

If you are interested in this case but have not read through these depositions (available here), I would encourage you to do so. It is clear that the Congressional hearings did a poor job of sorting through all of this information.

Does Gwinnett’s Development Policy Work?

One of the few arguments I hear in favor of the subsidization of the Gwinnett Braves stadium is that Gwinnett’s active economic development policy has allowed Gwinnett to prosper. There is no doubt that Gwinnett County is much wealthier today than it was many years ago, and it is one of the wealthier counties in the area. Is this the product of county’s development policy, or does the growth reflect the success of Atlanta?

This is simple to test by comparing Gwinnett County’s median household income to the average median household income of all other Atlanta MSA counties. If Gwinnett’s development policies are superior to other counties’ policies, then it’s changes in income should deviate from the others in a positive direction. The graph below shows the growth over time.

MHHI

It is hard to imagine the relationship being much tighter than this. However, because these numbers are so big, it is difficult to spot deviations. The following graph maps the percent-change in median household income from year to year.

% change

From 1980–present, the average non-Gwinnett Atlanta MSA growth in median household income has averaged 4.58%, compared to Gwinnett’s average growth rate of 3.87%. Thus, it appears that Gwinnett’s growth is similar to other metro-Atlanta counties, and it certainly has not been superior to its neighbors in producing wealth for Gwinnett residents.

If you would like further information about the Gwinnett Braves stadium deal, the information is now available on the Gwinnett County website. It’s good to see government fully disclosing the information a month after the decision has been made.

Leveling the Playing Field?

By the time the Gwinnett Braves open for business next year, county officials hope to remove legal hurdles that prevent the stadium from serving alcohol on Sunday. I found this quote from the Gwinnett Daily Post Pushover to be amusing.

“We’re already allowed to let the LongHorns of the world to allow sales on Sundays,” he said. “We’re just trying to level the playing field out.”

If the county is so concerned about a level playing field, it should build the LongHorns with taxpayer money and allow the owners to keep the revenue.