Friday, December 14, 2007

Butting Out of Baseball

Should the federal government decide how many strikes make an out, or how many innings constitute a game? Should federal law finally put an end to the designated hitter controversy? Do we need a federal ruling on the wisdom of the in-field fly rule?

Should we establish a federal commission to certify umpires? To set standards for the weight and length of baseball bats? To establish uniform locker sizes for home and visiting teams? To standardize – or prevent standardization of – the signals exchanged by pitchers and catchers? To decide the number of umpires and their optimal placement on the field?

No? Then why on earth should the federal government get involved in the steroid issue? As far as I know, the steroids in question are legal. (And if they’re not, then the relevant laws can be enforced upon baseball players the same way they’re enforced upon anyone else.) All the questions about the use of steroids – which if any should be allowed, how strictly prohibitions should be enforced, and by what means – fall squarely in the category, “What are the rules of baseball?” I just can’t see any good reason for the federal government to try to answer that question.

Major league baseball already has its own government; it’s called Major League Baseball.


Anonymous said...

All monopolies need to be regulated. Professional baseball is a monopoly. Therefore, it needs to be regulated. Self-policing is seldom adequate to resolve persistent bad behavior like cheating by these jocks. Now you can try to refute me if you like.

Glen Whitman said...

The fact that something is a monopoly justifies some forms of regulation, but not anything and everything. ("It's a monopoly! They should have to wear rubber jumpsuits!") You need to adduce some particular reason to believe the monopoly status will result in inefficient results on the specific question at hand. And pointing to the evidence of steroid use is not sufficient, because that's begging the question; a steroid policy that permits some positive amount of steroid use (either explicitly or through imperfect enforcement) might be perfectly sensible. And what constitutes "cheating" is defined entirely in terms of the rules of the game.

Anonymous said...

You're completely right. I get a strange sense of 1984avu (kind of like "dejavu", only it's relevant to dystopian fiction) seeing congress reviewing baseball players and their health habits.

Don't they have, like, an economy to destroy? It seems they could find something a bit more important to restrict.


Anonymous said...

While the post-report reaction has included "requests" by congressmen for hearings on the report, I'm under the impression that it was commissioned by MLB, not the government. Of course, it's a separate question whether the report would have been commissioned at all were it not for government grandstanding about steroid use in baseball, probably beginning with President Bush's comment in one of his state of the union speeches.

Nigel Kearney said...

There is a precedent for this because the Supreme Court has already ruled on what constitutes playing golf.

Anonymous said...

What about lawsuits? For better or worse they can act as curb on the activities of business. Suppose someone lost a wager they placed on a baseball game then found out that players on the winning team had used illegal steroids. Wouldn't they rightfully feel they've been cheated?

I can imagine federal regulations prohibiting the use of performance enhancing drugs, including steroids in sports, professional and amateur. The Olympics already does this. Perhaps "America's national pastime" needs to be keep beyond reproach for the sake of all the little leaguers who mistakenly look up to these overpaid, pampered, & adulated ballplayers.

Anonymous said...

"It's a monopoly! They should have to wear rubber jumpsuits!"

Why do you oppose rubber jumpsuits for baseball players? They might make sense in the event of rain or sleet or snow.