Brent Musburger: with proper supervision steroids "could be used at the professional level"


Usually, when a venerable member of our nation’s sporting media says something in public about steroids, the message is pretty clear: steroids are awful, only evil cheaters use them and unless we test people to within a hair’s breadth of their life, they will be a scourge upon the land.

Or words to that effect.

ESPN/ABC’s Brent Musburger spoke to students at the University of Montana recently, and he didn’t take that route:

“Here’s the truth about steroids: They work . . .I’ve had somebody say that, you know, steroids should be banned
because they’re not healthy for you. Let’s go find out. What do the doctors actually think about anabolic
steroids and the use by athletes? Don’t have a preconceived notion that
this is right or this is wrong.”

He went on to say that while anabolic steroids have no place in high school athletics, “I think
under the proper care and doctor’s advice, they could be used at the
professional level,”

This will likely have a lot of you fuming, but after reading the whole story I think he makes a lot of sense.  It is undisputed that steroids do, in certain situations, bring with them medical benefits. The biggest problem with steroids — aside from the fact that using them violates the rules — is that they can be dangerous if abused or overused.

But what if we had good evidence that, if taken in X dosage by someone in good health, they weren’t harmful at all?  What if, under proper medical supervision, they proved to be no different than cortisone shots and vitamin regimens and things like that? Or, if you want to get right down to it, what if they posed risks, but risks that were reasonable enough to where weighing them against the potential to make millions playing sports made taking them worth it?

We don’t have good enough information on this because there haven’t — at least as far as I know — been comprehensive studies in which the effects were tested on healthy, athletic adults. A lot of the reason there hasn’t been such tests, I bet, is because there’s such a stigma and hysteria attached to them.

I tend to think that the stigma is irrational, but I’d really like to know how irrational it is, if at all. And if it’s not irrational — i.e. if there was a safe dosage or use pattern of PEDs that athletes and trainers and/or doctors could adhere to and which could be monitored — what then is the problem?

So no matter how much controversy Musburger has caused — and I sense that he’s caused a fair bit — I think he’s simply making sense here. 

Even more sense are his comments about being wary of journalists who seem so darn certain about steroids, one way or the other. How there can be such certainty that the stuff is the devil’s doing without there being much evidence about it never ceases to amaze me. 

Anyway, just more food for thought on a topic that I find rather nourishing on an intellectual and ethical level.

2018 Preview: Detroit Tigers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2018 season. Next up: The Tigers.

We can’t blame you if you chose to erase the Tigers’ 2017 season from memory. They plummeted to the bottom of the AL Central division for the second time in three years, hobbled by Michael Fulmer’s chronic shoulder and elbow issues, an untimely implosion from Francisco Rodriguez and the worst version of Miguel Cabrera anyone’s seen to date. Their rotation ranked 13th-best among major league teams; their bullpen, dead last. By mid-July, it was clear the team wasn’t going to touch the division-leading Indians or the surprisingly hot Twins or the streaky Royals. Rather than make a pointless push for the playoffs during the second half, they seized the opportunity to get a head start on a lengthy rebuilding process instead.

Prior to the July 31 trade deadline, the Tigers had already jettisoned some of their biggest contributors—and biggest contracts. J.D. Martinez packed his bags for Arizona as the club gained a trifecta of Diamondbacks shortstop prospects: Dawel Lugo, Sergio Alcantara and Jose King. Justin Wilson and Alex Avila were swapped for Cubs infielders Jeimer Candelario and Isaac Paredes. In one of the most nerve-wracking deadline deals, Justin Verlander and the outstanding $56 million left on his contract (not including the $22 million vesting option for 2020) were shipped to the Astros for prospect right-hander Franklin Perez, catcher Jake Rogers and outfielder Daz Cameron—with just seconds to spare before the cutoff time.

Of course, the writing was on the wall well before Al Avila decided to host a fire sale. Francisco Rodriguez logged six blown saves in his first 25 appearances with the club and was released after he proved incapable of handling any high-leverage situation. His struggles might have been more easily overlooked had Bruce Rondon not tanked as well, depleting the Tigers of much of their bullpen depth as they dropped yet another closer candidate—Justin Wilson—off with the Cubs.

A dilapidated bullpen wasn’t the team’s only weakness. Perennial All-Star and future first-ballot Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera labored through the worst year of his career, slashing .249/.329/.399 with 16 home runs and a .728 OPS in 529 PA. His power and productivity was zapped by lingering back issues, and he finished the year with two herniated discs in his lower back and a career-worst -0.2 fWAR. Not helping matters was a series of explosive, bench-clearing brawls against the Yankees in August, during which Cabrera got slapped with a seven-game suspension after he incited the first fight against New York catcher Austin Romine.

The offseason yielded few returns. The Tigers declined a $16 million option for Anibal Sanchez and found a taker for Ian Kinsler in the Angels, who helped restock Detroit’s farm system with minor league outfielder Troy Montgomery and right-handed pitching prospect Wikel Hernandez. The team committed another $12 million to rotation and outfield depth with right-hander Mike Fiers, lefties Francisco Liriano and Ryan Carpenter, and outfielder Leonys Martin. Perhaps most notable was a change in management: Brad Ausmus capped a four-year run with the team as Ron Gardenhire stepped into the dugout.

Looking ahead, the Tigers still have a few items to check off their to-do list before they can stage a full-scale rebuild. That includes offloading the remaining $184 million on Cabrera’s contract, something that will be impossible to do unless and until the 35-year-old has a monster bounce-back year in 2018. It also means exploring trade options for Fulmer, who profiles as one of the biggest assets on the Tigers’ 2018 roster and, with four years of control remaining on his current contract, could net some serious talent as they continue to build for the future. Likewise, closer Shane Greene, shortstop Jose Iglesias and outfielder Nicholas Castellanos are all expected to be made available at some point this year.

Come Opening Day, the club will likely roll out a rotation featuring Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmerman, Francisco Liriano, Mike Fiers and Matt Boyd. Daniel Norris is also competing for a starting role, though he will likely get edged out by Liriano to start the season. Despite the serious health concerns that were raised last year, Fulmer remains the undisputed ace of the pack after putting up All-Star numbers in 2017, including a 3.83 ERA, 2.2 BB/9 and 6.2 SO/9 in 164 2/3 innings. No one else (save Verlander) managed an ERA under 5.00 last year; Zimmerman kept a 6.08 ERA, 2.5 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 in 160 innings and led all major-league starters with a league-worst 108 earned runs.

Mikie Mahtook, Leonys Martin and Nick Castellanos project as the Opening Day outfield trio, though JaCoby Jones has looked versatile enough to back up all three spots this spring. Both Mahtook and Castellanos had decent runs last year, while Martin will try to stage a comeback after slashing just .172/.232/.281 with three home runs in back-to-back gigs with the Mariners and Cubs.

Cabrera, naturally, is expected to resume his post at first base and fellow veteran Victor Martinez will continue to slot in at DH. Both Cabrera and Martinez have looked exceptional at the plate this spring, but take that with a grain (or several hundred) of salt. Dixon Machado is set for a full-time role at second base, with Jose Iglesias at shortstop and Jeimer Candelario at third. James McCann and John Hicks are scheduled to share time behind the dish again. Barring a lot of surprises and bounce-back efforts, that doesn’t make for a very intimidating lineup, and probably not one that can supersede the collective .258/.324/.424 batting line the offense managed last year.

In a nutshell: Rebuilds are no fun to watch. The Tigers were very bad last season, and they’re going to be very bad this season. Cross your fingers that Miguel Cabrera looks as sharp in the regular season as he has in camp, keep an eye on that no. 1 draft pick this June, enjoy the September call-ups, maybe attend a few minor league games, and keep reminding yourself that contention is only a few years away (probably).

Prediction: 5th place, AL Central