Dave Rice 4:30 p.m., Sept. 19
Will Baseball's Bottom Line Suffer from Substance Revelations? No
The reports on widespread usage of performance enhancing substances in pro baseball came out today (Dec. 13). Several former Padres are mentioned, including Benito Santiago,Gary Sheffield, Ron Villone, Kevin Brown and the late Ken Caminiti. (The players' alleged offenses did not necessarily occur when with they were with the Padres, although Caminiti admitted before his death that he used steroids while with the team.) Brown is the most interesting one. He was signed in 1998, the year San Diegans were voting on the huge subsidy to the Padres for what is now Petco Park. The Padres went to the World Series, Brown was named player of the year, and after the team won the election, he was gone. The big question is whether the report (much of which is old by now) will hurt baseball economically. My prediction: no. There is a phenomenon that psychologists call "cognitive dissonance." It describes the discomfort you feel when one of your cherished beliefs comes up against new, disquieting information. People react in different ways, but one way is just to tune the new information out. Many years ago, a publication asked me to head an investigation into organized crime and gambling industry connections of pro sports owners. Public information on this goes back to the Kefauver investigations on organized crime in the 1950s. I had a talk with a federal government investigator who had long probed the same subject. (It has been written about in books: essentially, gangster money captitalized the National Football League initially, and mob-related owners are still beloved. High rollers own teams in baseball, basketball, hockey, too.) The investigator told me, "Good luck. You will find that people just do not want to hear this. No matter how persuasive the evidence, the feedback will be overwhelmingly negative. People simply do not want this information on their beloved pro sports." The same will be true of the steroids and growth hormone revelations. There is one interesting point, though: the baseball investigators came up with many checks that players had written to drug distributors. Those players should be given IQ tests, not drug tests.