With Will Carroll's of latest book release, The Juice: The Real Story Of Baseball's Drug Problems I have decided to post an interview from Baseball Rants incase anyone missed it during its original posting. Enjoy!
Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus fame, and author of "Saving the Pitcher" and the upcoming "The Juice: The Real Story of Baseball's Drug Problems" agreed to an interview on this website, and I am quite pleased with the results and what I learned from it. Here is the interview for your viewing pleasure, and may I recommend Carroll's work to anyone with an interest in baseball, and especially with injuries and health. His Under the Knife columns and Team Health Reports at Baseball Prospectus are great reads. On to the interview...
Marc Normandin: What are the effects of steroids, as far as performance is concerned, on pitchers, and could that have a counterproductive effect towards hitters who are also users?
Will Carroll: The fairest answer is, we don't know. What we do know is extrapolated from studies on things like female-to-male transexuals, on associated drugs like birth control (yes, they're alkylated steroids) and hair restoration treatments, and on the unlucky East Germans of the 60s. Pitchers aren't assisted by strength so what most people think of about steroids doesn't help. It's the anti-catabolic effect - keeping muscles from breaking down - that is where pitchers could see gains.
I guess if an enhanced pitcher took on an enhanced hitter, it woulddepend on factors like genetics and uptake rather than the assumedlevel playing field. Steroids don't have one steady effect on alltakers.
MN: What is with the lack of public (and government) outcry towards amphetamines? I only seem to hear about amphetamines from baseball minds like yourself and others at Baseball Prospectus. For those who do not really know what they can help a player with, would you care to elaborate on them?
WC: Amphetamines have been a part of the game so long and are so accepted due to the lack of percieved effects. This isn't the case. We don't know long term effects, we don't know if the up-down cycle is harming performance, and we don't know how it might "unbalance" the game between users and non-users. The pervasiveness of amphetamines and the absolute ignorance of the problem is appalling.
MN: From the chapter you gave me I was able to see that there are many health problems that steroids can be associated with, such as the> weakening of the heart or the slow destruction of the liver. If the steroid use is/was as rampant as it has been said to be, can we expect to see a number of players getting sick or dying from health problems in their 50's, like the drugged up rock stars of the 70's? Or is that something that may slip under the radar long enough for the public to never know for sure how bad it was?
WC: Certainly. We've already seen that in East German athletes from the 70s (Note: That did say East Germans of the 60s before, sorry for the typo) and football players from the 70s. It's always a tradeoff - get the effect you want, you'll get an effect you don't. I doubt there will be some public outcry that someone was a millionaire and died young. The Quad-A players that used won't even be noticed, even if it reaches epidemiological proportions.
MN: Baseball's new steroid testing policy is stricter than last time, and MLB's commissioner's office agreed to take the "or fines" language out of the agreement, in order to make suspensions the only punishment for steroid usage. Even with this, how far ahead of the testing are the masking agents that you hear about? Do you think baseball's testing policy truly stacks up against the NFL's and other sports?
WC: "Good chemists are always one step behind bad chemists," according to Elliott Perlman, baseball's science advisior. I think the baseball policy is working and that's what we should care about, not whether it's Olympic (and the Olympic policy, let's face it, isn't working if it can't catch Marion Jones and others that Conte has pointed his finger at) or NFL. It's about results - or should be - not PR.
MN: How did you go about putting this book together research wise?
WC: I tried to find the best people I could on as many sides of the issue as possible. Players, coaches, testers, advocates, kids, officials, chemists, you name it - all the way to a man that I think is one of the creators of THG. I had a lawyer do the legal section, a geneticist do the genetics section, one of the top stats guys I know look at stats, and my father, a sports medicine educator helped with the technical portions. It's because I couldn't find these people in the mainstream press that I ended up writing this book. I thought if I couldn't find it, no one else could either.
MN: What kind of injury warning signs might we see out of steroid users, besides the extreme case of Jason Giambi last season?
WC: Remember, we don't know that Giambi's problems were steroid related. Isn't it odd that his career went downhill after his admitted use? I'd look for tendon and ligament problems, extreme body changes - and I don't mean weight loss or gain, but things like sloping forehead or bodybuilder type lean muscle, and injuries of strength like muscle tears.
MN: How is Major League Baseball going to be able to test for Human Growth Hormone (HGH) if they cannot take blood tests of the players? Is this something that will be solved in the future, or do you think that baseball will try to turn a blind eye to it?
WC: There's no valid, scientifically accepted hGH test, period. WADAbluffed at the Olympics in '04. The NFL, the NBA, even the NCAA don'ttake blood. I think there will be a test, but by that point, we mayhave genetic issues to deal with. That's a lot closer than many think.
MN: What sub-topics are covered in The Juice? Just a few teasing thoughts> for those waiting to get their hands on a copy.
WC: Everything. Seriously, its as holistic a look at the problem as I could do in the time allotted. If you're looking for names, this isn't your book. I'm not pointing fingers, I'm not writing "Juiced." This is a book for the people that really want to understand the problem, not be a part of the problem.
MN: This is a non-steroid question, but one I want to ask because of your Cubs fandom. I wrote an article a week or so ago regarding the Cubs' closer spot, and wondered if maybe sliding Kerry Wood into that role as a 2-3 inning 70's style closer would be a great idea for the team, rather than settling for Chad Fox or moving Hawkins into another> role. How would that go for Wood health-wise, and do you think it is worth consideration by the Cubs, especially with the abuse of Wood's arm in the rotation?
WC: Maybe someday. I don't think Kerry or the Cubs are ready to say he won't be a great starter. Power pitchers often bloom late.
MN: Thanks for your time Will, I appreciate it greatly.
"The Juice" comes out in stores around April 15th, so make sure to go out and buy a copy and learn from the research Will Carroll has done on steroids and their effects. As Will said, this information is not readily available without some digging, so he has presented it for you in the book. I know I'll be reading it soon.
Will Carroll's writings can be found at baseballprospectus.com and The Juice on Baseball Toaster