Next spring, the San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies will take up residence in new stadiums, Petco Park and Citizens Bank Park respectively. It promises to be a momentous occasion, not just for Phils and Pads fans who’ll be inaugurated into the era of club seats and cupholders, but for baseball itself. Because it’s looking likely that once the Dog Bowl and the Big ATM Machine That’s Not The Vet throw open their doors, it will mark the first time since ground was broken for Toronto’s SkyDome in October 1985 that not a single new big-league ballpark will be under construction on planet Earth. It’s been quite an 18-year run: 19 new stadiums, 18 new corporate monikers (including such double-dippers as Enron Field/Minute Maid Park and Pac Bell/SBC Park) and around $5 billion in taxpayer money sunk into the cause. But is this the end of the new-stadium era, one we’ll one day look back on like the 1910-1915 era that produced the first wave of steel ballparks (if perhaps not as fondly)? Or is it just a statistical blip, a pause in the action before the next round of construction?
Steroids seem like a meatball for me to rant about one way or another. I’m chilling, though. For all of the hype about what a big deal this is, how tainted the game is, how Canseco and Caminiti were right…they weren’t. Not even close. The predictions of baseball’s critics have failed to come true: the number of positive tests includes some minor leaguers (who have long been tested for drugs), and it’s not 50% or 75%–it’s one-tenth that. It’s a guy per team. Well, probably not–it’s likely that like the drug-haven clubhouses of the past, there are going to be organizations who are much deeper in this, and others that will turn out almost entirely clean. One player a team. As people talk about what a rampant scandal this is, how terribly damaged baseball is, remember that a 5% rate means about one player a team. If everyone could try and be reasonable about this, the debate would be a lot more productive (though of course the column inches wouldn’t fill up as fast). Speculation, of course, is that if the positive results were x, then the real numbers are x times y, producing result z that someone wants to highlight to show how bad the problem is. For instance, I believe that given the random sampling and small number of tests per athlete, for every positive result, there are 25 more players that use steroids at some point in a year but go uncaught. So let me do the math: Over 100% of baseball players are on the juice! Players who are retired…dead players! Dead players are using steroids!