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How do you feel about HGH use in baseball?

baseballgirl note: Southern California A's/Angels April 7th game - FINAL DEADLINE this Monday!

Let's imagine for a moment that every taxpayer in America received this letter in the mail from the IRS next week:

Attention hard-working Americans,

Due to staffing shortages, the Internal Revenue Service will not be auditing any of your personal tax returns in 2009. Please continue to fill these forms out honestly, fully reporting all of your sources of income. Do not inflate or invent any deductions for yourself, either.

Hmm...would we have a few cheaters on our hands?

While the national media once again turns its spotlight on steroids, I find myself listening to Alex Rodriguez's suspicious interviews and thinking once again about baseball's puzzling stance on Human Growth Hormone.

HGH is on the list of Major League Baseball's banned substances. However, unlike steroids and amphetemines, it is not tested for in MLB, in part because an accurate HGH test would require the testing of blood rather than urine and the CBA doesn't allow for such testing. Much like the silly IRS example above, baseball's HGH policy is a rule with no reinforcement - and thus, no chance of being universally abided.

Like steroids and amphetamines, HGH is also on the list of banned substances in the NCAA and in the Olympics, but its reputed benefits in healthy adults are controversial. Some athletes claim that HGH has improved their vision, helped them build muscle mass, and recover from injuries faster. Others believe that HGH's effects are greatly overstated by pharmaceutical companies, and that their effects are placeboic.

As I've listened skeptically to Rodriguez's half-truths, I've found myself thinking again about HGH use, and the likelihood that some former steroid users have simply made growth hormone their PED of choice since the 2003 season ended.

Even if you don't believe in HGH's reputed benefits, consider for a moment its potential power as a placebo alone. Baseball is a very psychological game, and confidence is essential to success. If a player took HGH and believed that he had an edge on his competition, he would undoubtedly feel more confident than he had before, and perhaps perform better with that added confidence.

These are five questions that I find myself thinking about as I reflect on current PED use in MLB. I'd be very curious for your opinions on them if you want to leave them in the comments (I also provided a poll below).

  1. How widespread do you think HGH use is in MLB? Less than 5%? 10%?
  2. Would it bother you, as a competitive fan, if you found out that, hypothetically, the Yankees and Rangers had rampant HGH use in their clubhouse the last five years, while the A's had been "playing clean" from the top to the bottom of their 25-man roster?
  3. Follow-up to Question #2: If you were the GM of your favorite team, and you knew other teams were cheating the system rampantly with no reprecussions...would you be tempted to sign a player with a steroid past and current HGH connections - hoping that he'd help connect his new A's teammates with the same illegal edge (but leaving you plausible deniability as GM)? Would you turn a blind eye to it in part to "keep up with the Joneses"?
  4. As a fan of the A's, would you want A's players to use HGH, knowing that they couldn't be caught or punished for it, despite the fact that it is banned?

The fifth question is once again purely hypothetical, and I'm going to roll it into a poll:

Bobby Crosby is entering the most important year of his career. He desperately wants to earn his $5.25M contract, and simultaneously build a market for his services in free agency next year. He is booed at his job daily, and many loyal A's fans say and think hostile things about him, even though they've never met him. In the course of his offseason workouts, Crosby comes into contact with someone who can supply him with HGH, and that person testifies to its power. Crosby immediately thinks of the importance of the 2009 season to his future, and of how disappointed he's been in his own performance for several years.