Friday, July 31, 2009

Another Reason to Stop With the "PED" Leaks

I don't really want to belabor this point, but I saw something interesting about the 2003 baseball study that has resulted in a serious breach of contract and trust by baseball players on the use of alleged performance enhancing drugs. I had been under the impression that the study was focused on traditional anabolic steroids, as used by bodybuilders and weight lifters, and perhaps some of the "designer" steroids like THG (better known as "The Clear") from now infamous BALCO Labs.

Turns out baseball's survey testing was also looking for the stinky, evil Performance "Enhancing" substance 4-Androstenedione, infamously known as "ANDRO". Remember the bottle of pills some reporter found in Mark McGwire's locker during 1998? Yeah, that. Well, it turns out that a lot of baseball players were using Androstenedione back then because they thought it would help give them an edge and it was completely legal and not banned by Major League Baseball. In fact, middle-to-back of the rotation junk baller Bronson Arroyo, who is most famous for having Alex Rodriguez slap his arm at first base, stated that he took both Androstenedione as well as some unnamed "amphetamines" back before they were banned and that he likely came up positive in survey testing.

So why does this matter? Well, if androstenedione is the reason some or most of these guys tested positive (A-Rod admits to using Primabolan, which is an actual anabolic steroid and was a favorite of the worst governor in California history during his days as the greatest bodybuilder ever), what is the big deal? First, all these "pro-hormone" supplements were legal until 2004. They weren't banned by baseball either. Further, the only reason they ended up getting banned was because 1) the media hyped the hell out of it, and 2) supplement companies started making "pro-hormones" that were really just steroids masquerading as something else. The reality is, however, that baseball players were not getting any benefits from androstenedione because, while it is a dangerous androgen that gives you all the bad side effects of steroids, it has little if any anabolic activity. If anything, a guy like McGwire who was 34 when he hit 70 home runs in 1998 (saving baseball in the process) was getting more benefit from the DHEA that was often "stacked" with the androstenedione back then. DHEA is something the body produces in abundance until around age 30 and then production falls off a cliff. In fact, this is probably something that not only lengthened McGwire's career, but his life.

The reality is that healthy, young baseball players were likely getting zero or close to zero benefit from the dreaded ANDRO. They were more likely getting help from completely legal, good for you, food supplement creatine monohydrate, which acts by helping the body "recycle" ADP into ATP more efficiently.

The conclusion to all of this? Knock this shit off and just enjoy your baseball game.

Stop With the PED Leaks!

So, this is the first post that really combines the two big subjects of this blog. While it hasn't been all that big in the news, at least here in L.A., it came out today that both David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez are allegedly among the 104 players who tested positive for some sort of performance enhancer back in 2003.

This is the same group that includes Alex Rodriguez, as released by New York Times "journalist" and lover of the unnamed "source" Selena Roberts in an attempt to sell her book.

Here is my take: I don't care where one falls on the issue of steroids in baseball (I personally take the stance that steroids have little, if anything to do with hitting a home run) this is really a legal matter.

Remember, the 2003 testing was done pursuant to a contract with the MLBPA (baseball's player's union) that all positive tests and the players who tested positive would be kept completely confidential. The whole point of the 2003 testing was to see just how bad the problem was (it wasn't as bad as the late, troubled slugger Ken Caminiti or all-time rat Jose Canseco said). That is the reason the contract was to keep testing confidential, to prevent the players who were voluntarily coming forward to be tested from facing sanction in the public eye.

Now, apparently "unidentified" lawyers have come forward saying that David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez appeared on the list. By and large, the general public has no idea what lawyers do or how the law actually works, but I think people get what contracts are and understand that if you don't live up to the contract, that is a breach. Since this contractually confidential list is being leaked, albeit slowly like air from my car's left rear tire during the summer, that means Major League Baseball has breached their contract to keep these test results confidential and the players are being damaged. One can argue that Manny really won't suffer more damage given his suspension for the use of hCG (which is not only used as a "female fertility drug" or a post-steroid cycle kick start as made up by the media), but Ortiz and Rodriguez have taken huge hits.

Now, I don't really care much about Alex Rodriguez. I have personally thought the guy is an asshole since I met him at the 2003 Mr. Olympia contest. Still, a contract is a contract. Ortiz, however, is the kind of guy I do feel sorry for. He has done nothing but work hard at his craft, do great things for the Boston community and help bring those long suffering fans two World Series' titles (though Manny probably deserves more credit). Not only has his reputation been destroyed, but he may not have tested positive for anything in particular.

See, Ortiz came forward and issued a statement that shows that he both didn't know till now that he tested positive, and he has no idea what for. That is quite interesting, given that "steroid tests" really aren't tests for specific steroids. They are either tests for a lopsided testosterone/epitestosterone ratio (generally accepted outlier is 4:1, though some will naturally produce levels at or higher than this, especially very athletic people) or for metabolites of a specific anabolic steroid. The former generally are used to detect the use of some direct testosterone use, the latter for things like Nandrolone Decanoate (famously marketed as Deca Durobolin) which isn't actually testosterone and isn't often used by tested athletes because metabolites remain up to 18 months after cessation. False positives for Nandrolone are also alarmingly common, as noted here and can be caused by both the consumption of legal and healthy creatine monohydrate (or whatever form one may take) and the amino acid lysine, which is both a vital branched chain amino acid and indicated for fighting cold sores. It is entirely possible that Ortiz may have give a false positive, given that no athlete in their right mind would use nandrolone under the threat of testing.

In any case, I don't care if any of these guys tested positive. This is particularly true because if a fat drunk like Babe Ruth or a pipsqueak like Mel Ott could hit home runs with a higher mound and fewer teams, it is reasonable to think there is far more to clobbering a baseball than being a 'roid head. My issue is that this testing was intended to both protect players and allows baseball to tackle an issue it needed to in the public eye. The players did this under the impression, legally and morally, that they would be protected from garbage like this. If people are allowed to willy nilly breach contracts simply because the public has some unhealthy need to break down baseball players because they are rich and more athletically gifted, imagine what other rationale could be given? Airlines telling you to piss off at the gate because they overbooked and not giving you any compensation? Landlords breaking leases because they feel like it? The government ignoring the Constitution because it is inconvenient (oh wait, they already did that)?

Shame on the people who leaked this. I hope Ortiz, Ramirez, and even A-Rod sue the pants off these "lawyers" and Major League Baseball. Shame on the public for feasting on it.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

WOW. I Finally Met Huell Howser

Those of you (all two of you who read the blog at this point) who aren't from Southern California or at least aren't in your 40s and from Nashville probably don't know who I am talking about, but I met California's coolest celebrity today at the Hollywood Farmer's Market.

It was really rather cool, because I do a pretty good impersonation of the guy and because he is really a champion for the little wonderful things about this state that often get overlooked.

True to form, Huell was making a big deal about something. Today it was some free range eggs from one of the stalls. Since he was filming, I got to see Howser's famous unseen cameraman and also caught Huell peaking into the camera looking at the dailies.

So Huell, from me to you, WOW that was Huell Howser.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Why Kendry Morales is Worth More than Mark Teixiera

Given that I have written a bunch of Dodger posts for
my buddy kensai, it is funny that I am writing one about an Angel to kick things off. Stream of consciousness I guess.

Anyway, I have been thinking about the comparative value of baseball players a lot lately, especially when thinking about the various trade rumors surrounding Roy Halladay and some of the Dodgers' elite young core of players and the thought of Morales, who has absolutely broken out this year in his first full year in the majors, popped into my head.

So Why am I Writing About This Guy?

As of the top of the 9th inning of the first game of a double header in Kansas City, Morales is the owner of a .894 OPS (On base percentage + Slugging percentage), a .293 batting average and some very nice power numbers. Additionally, the former third baseman who defected from Cuba has put up a very respectable 4.1 UZR/150, using the advanced defensive metric from the people at Fangraphs. All that has added up to a player who is rated at approximately 2 wins above replacement, just over halfway through the season. That makes a guy who is getting paid just $600,000 (less than 1/5th the league average and just $200,000 more than the minimum) worth $9 million dollars so far, and there are no signs that Morales will slow down. In fact, the natural right-handed hitter is batting so poorly from the right-side that he may well have room for improvement. Given that there is no evidence to doubt his age, Morales looks to have at least 10 years of production in him.

How is Morales Worth More than Teixiera?

I'm nuts, right? You say Teixiera was the prize of the off-season and got $180 million over 8 years from the Yankees? You say that the Angels pushed hard to resign him, so how can Morales be more valuable? Well, I'll show you.

A big reason the Angels didn't bid against the Yankees is that they had confidence Morales, who has been lauded as a future hitting machine since he defected from Cuba at the end of 2004. Further, they trusted that the fact that he was a converted third baseman, just like Teixiera and the game's greatest player Albert Pujols, would mean he could play good defense at first. All of that has been true, and Morales makes THIRTY-THREE AND ONE THIRD times less money than Teixiera.

Teixiera is a better player, so far, but he is also more than three years older and paid significantly more. Indeed, Tex hasn't been as good a defensive player this year as last, sustaining a trend of up and down defense according to both UZR and the James/Dewan plus/minus system. Further, his offensive numbers have been down, thanks largely to a decline in batting average and on base percentage. Not to say he isn't still an elite player, but I think Teixiera is likely to maintain a steady 5 wins over replacement per year.

All that means that Teixiera is worth approximately 1 win more this year than Morales. How does this compare to their value? Well, if each win is worth $4.5 million, then Teixiera is going to be worth (if you include half his signing bonus) exactly the $22.5 million he is getting this year. Meanwhile, Morales is worth, at 4 wins, 30 times more than he is being paid. Even if Morales hits a "mere" 3.5 wins, that means he is worth more than $15 million above what his salary is. Talk about profitable.

What Does All This Mean?

At the end of the day (as my British friends love to say), what does this all mean? Well, it essentially means that the Angels are getting almost as much production out of Morales for significantly less money, meaning that they are making a huge profit on his services. Meanwhile, the Yankees are breaking even on Teixiera, as great as he is. Further, the Angels have Morales for a similarly paltry $700,000 next year, while the Yankees are committed to Big Tex for 7 more years at an average of $22.5 million a year. Not only that, but Morales' service time means the Angels will have him under control for another 3 years beyond 2010 under baseball's arbitration system, which means further control over his salary. That makes him a lot more valuable than Teixiera, even if he never approaches that level of production.

Belated Welcome

So of course it took months for me to start posting to this thing. Besides being insanely busy with work, wedding planning, family and travel, I have also become a regular contributor to Memories of Kevin Malone, a great Dodger site run by a cool cat named Kensai.

Anyway, I plan on making regular contributions to this site and including lots of analysis and commentary on a variety of topics, including the national pass time.

So sit back and enjoy.