Gillespie & Welch: Right for the Most Part

Gillespie and Welch rightly take Congress to task for their hysterics over Major League Baseball's steroid use here. A couple things stood out as misleading, though (emphasis mine):

The uncomfortable truth is that illegally obtained muscle-rebuilding treatments exist on a continuum that includes laser eye surgery, Vitamin B-12 shots and Tommy John surgery (a procedure that grafts ligaments from knees or elsewhere onto a wrecked elbow, frequently giving pitchers more velocity than they had before). Sorting out the morality and legality of self-improvement has more to do with aesthetic revulsion and moral panic than with considered science or logic.

This makes it sound as if Tommy John surgery, named for the pitcher that first underwent the procedure invented by Dr. James Andrews, increases a pitcher's velocity? Kind of, in the sense that someone with a torn ligament in their elbow can't throw very hard at all. But pitchers don't throw harder than they did prior to injuring their elbow, rehab time after the surgery is 12 to 18 months, and players usually don't regain their pre-injury velocity until their second year of pitching after the injury, if ever. Dr. Andrews should be inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame, or at least given some award by Cooperstown and a plaque in some part of the museum, because the procedure has saved numerous careers and is responsible for tens-of-thousands of innings at the major league level. It has changed baseball, but Gillespie and Welch almost make it sound as if pitchers are moving ligaments around to give some more jump to their fastballs.

Another paragraph that caught my eye (emphasis mine):

But Congress no more established a Major League Baseball commissioner than the Blackhawks, a professional hockey team founded in 1926, ever held a seventh-inning stretch. In fact, when baseball owners appointed the racist judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis the league's first commissioner after the Chicago Black Sox game-throwing scandal, Congress tried to forcibly remove him from the federal bench. When Shays's wild pitches were pointed out to him, his response was to shrug like Hall of Fame pitcher and self-admitted cheater Gaylord Perry caught with Vaseline on the mound: "I could care less."

Norman Macht, a baseball historian held in high regard by many (his new biography on Connie Mack is 700 pages long and 20-some years in the making), had a presentation at last year's SABR Convention that convincingly aruged that baseball's color barrier was a product of the owners and not the commissioner (Landis). That Landis, while not taking any active steps to do away with the color barrier, wasn't opposed to integration. He knew that none of the current crop of owners would have it, and if none of the teams were willing to integrate, a decree from the office of the commissioner wouldn't have righted the wrong. It can be argued that such a stance is still racist and that by taking such a stance Landis is a racist himself, but it isn't as clear-cut as Gillespie and Welch make it seem.

Everything Gillespie and Welch say about congress is spot on. They just make a few errors on the ballfield. Particularly interesting is the way the anti-trust exemption Major League Baseball received has actually fowled things up. The exemption was incorrectly granted on the grounds that baseball doesn't transact business across state lines. It obviously does, especially now with online merchandise shops, national network broadcast contracts, satellite radio, cable and internet broadcast packages, etc. The problem with the anti-trust case against baseball is that the individual teams aren't seperate firms colluding, but a joint venture. The teams together sell the product of on-field competition. Two competing Subway franchises would like nothing more than to drive each other out of business and being the last franchise standing, reap all the sandwich sales, but this does not apply to baseball franchises just because they compete on the field. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox don't want to drive each other out of business, as their rivalry is worth millions of dollars. They just want to win on the field, which esentially means they're both working together to give their customers the best possible product.

David Boaz' take at Cato here.

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