Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Research Project

        Brian Holmes   
        Journalism E
         Literature Review
In life many things evolve in both positive and negative ways. The game of baseball has undergone many changes since its creation. As the advancements of technology continue to grow, everything else, including baseball,  grows with it. Baseball has adopted new equipment standards and other ideas to promote the fans satisfaction at a baseball game and to ensure the safety of the players. Many accommodations are made to improve the satisfaction and performance of the players in the league for both the team and the community supporting them. Like all things that change there are always positive and negative effects of the changes.
    A rising issue among baseball players is the use of banned substances, specifically performance enhancing drugs that are illegal in Major League Baseball. There was once a time in baseball when the league was steroid free, but as technology evolved the big time players today have found new ways to cheat, and will never experience the game the way it was. The use of steroids was introduced to baseball in 1988 by outfielder Jose Canseco of the Oakland Athletics. In 2003, Major League Baseball orchestrated an anonymous survey of players just to see how many players were utilizing steroids . The numbers they received were alarming and led the MLB to take action by making players take drug tests and positive results were punishable by suspensions.(Levine) The use of PEDs by players has now tainted the name of Major League Baseball. Performance Enhancing Drugs make it difficult to differentiate for certain if the top players in the Hall of Fame or even record holders legitimately achieved that award or if they used steroids.   

Some wonder as to why baseball players use steroids in the first place because baseball is more of a finesse sport than a strength sport. Players that use steroids generally use it for two reasons; to improve their performance in the sport, and to recover from minor injuries faster during a season. Players use steroids such as Adderall, a drug used to focus people with ADHD, because it helps them zone in and concentrate on the baseball they need to hit coming in at 100mph. Aderall to a player without ADHD is like a cup of coffee to an everyday person before work, without it you may feel subpar, but with it you feel energized and awake. (Frager) Other players use testosterone supplements because it helps renew muscle tissues quicker and allows the player to feel as close to 100 percent as they can. Erik Turgeon, a retired pitcher from the Met’s organization, once said, “The only time you’re going to feel 100 percent is the first game and it goes downhill from there”. Baseball players have the toughest season of all sports trying to grind out 162 games in about 250 days, unlike football where teams usually play one game every sunday for 18 weeks and that is their season.

Numerous times Major League teams have needed to deal with the dilemma of having a player on their team that has abusively used steroids. The punishment the team has to deal with is tough enough not including the uproar of their fan base and the media. For example in the Alex Rodriguez scandal, the Yankees third baseman was discovered to be a part of an underground steroid distributor, Biogenesis. The drugs sold by this company were made for professional athletes because they were not discoverable on the regulated drug tests that the players were required to take. A-rod was not the only player being fueled by this illegal distributor of PEDs. Along with A-rod; Nelson Cruz, Ryan Braun, Jhonny Peralta,  Bartolo Colon and many more well respected players in the Majors used PEDs. In Braun’s case he pleaded that he was not using steroids and that his urine sample was not handled properly. With some investigation he was partially correct because the person who was to handle and ship the urine sample left it in his basement for the night until he could get to Fedex. Suggesting that he could have tampered with the sample overnight. (Collector) MLB then fired this man only to find out that Braun tested positive for testosterone again when the sample was handled correctly. He then made yet another public apology to the Brewer’s community for using Performance Enhancing Drugs.   All of these players faced suspensions based upon what commissioner Bud Selig had just passed in his amendment to the drug abuse policy.

In order to quiet the community’s media uproar action had to be taken on the players that were inevitably cheating in the MLB. The commissioner made it clear at the beginning of the season what the drug suspensions would be if a player happened to test positive for a banned substance the consequences were as follows: The first positive result would result in a fifty game suspension, a second offense positive test would result in a one hundred game suspension, and a third positive test would result in a lifetime suspension from Major League Baseball”(Steroids). A-Rod did not recently face a lifetime suspension because his first technical offense on the Mitchell Report did not count because there was not enough evidence. Most players in the Biogenesis scandal were punished with their first offense in the last quarter of their season. This meant players missed the rest of the season including their teams playoff run.

Equipment in baseball has undergone many changes to improve the players overall experience. For example, many people argue that every baseball is exactly the same, but what they do not know is every baseball is different. Back when baseball first got going a baseball’s  “dimensions were described as round not to be more than two and a half inches in diameter”(Miklich). Now as technology has expanded manufacturers such as Rawlings, Diamond, and Wilson to name just a few, make balls of different densities and different seam heights.  In Pony Baseball Leagues (ages 11-14) the recommended baseball is a DLL because it is a softer baseball which helps with players safety, the younger players have slower reactions than that of players we see in the MLB.  As the players grow older the ball becomes more dense and the seams become larger allowing for long distance hits and more effective curveballs and breaking pitches. The ball used in the Majors nowadays is perfectly constructed and is the hardest baseball used and can be hit at incredibly speeds off a Major League swing. Back in the Babe Ruth Era baseballs were deformed and were about as dense as a balled up sock. This leaves a large argument up for discussion, "what if the players of the past played with the improvements we have today?". Any way you look at it you still need to get the bat on the ball otherwise none of the other variables matter.

An advantage many players of the past would have no doubt had benefitted from is the use of a helmet when batting. Many players suffered severe blows to the head from pitchers, whether unintentional or intentional, an injury was usual sustained. Medical intelligence of concussions was slim in the early eras of baseball so many players suffered while playing. Others were not as lucky and suffered blindness from such injuries. “Mindful of the growing focus on safety in sports, manufacturers have tried to design helmets that offer players a better chance of preventing head trauma”(Belson). “Though collisions at home plate have long been part of the game, the rule change aims to ensure player safety. Giants catcher Buster Posey missed most of the 2011 after breaking his leg in a collision, and though injuries are part of the game, teams cannot afford to lose players of Posey’s ilk if they can avoid it”(Berg).  Nowadays even the use of a helmet has only lowers the severity of injuries but many players still suffer concussions and other head related traumas.  For example, Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton suffered a severe face injury this past season because he got hit in the face by a ninety three mile per hour fastball. His face required many plastic surgeries to restore the look of his face and the many broken bones. He also required dental surgery to repair his gums that were damaged from this hit by pitch. This goes to show you even when the game tries to protect the players, injuries can still happen and will happen.
In conclusion,  baseball has seen many of changes over the years and their impact has been both positive and negative for the game. Issues in players safety are worked on everyday to protect the players we love to watch. The advancements in technology allowed Major League Baseball to have instant replay as a part of the game today which could very well save a team’s season. On the contrary,  most people probably wish certain changes never happened to keep the game’s authenticity such as the use of steroids because it casts a shadow of burden over the game of baseball. Whether it’s a game of Battleship or a game of baseball, the competitiveness sometimes gets the best of us and causes us to do something we normally would not do, like cheating.  Someone's opinion on this is really as dependable as an “is the glass half full, or half empty” argument. Baseball has undergone many changes, good and bad, and these changes make up the game that we watch and play everyday.
I was able to find certain opinions on the changes in baseball, from baseball writers, and experts through literature but, like all research there is always a gap that either is not addressed in the literature, or was said but barely scraped the surface of the whole idea. Through all the research in literature there was still no clear cut, definitive answer to the question: Have the changes made to baseball had an overall positive or negative impact on the games authenticity?
Research Question:
Have the changes made to baseball had an overall positive or negative impact on the games authenticity?
The best approach to researching a question is to utilize quantitative data to support your findings. The saying “the numbers don’t lie” exemplifies the reasoning for this. Using quantitative data over qualitative data eliminates most biases because multiple opinions are transformed into real facts. This means there is less room for argument because there representable facts with numbers to back it up. Quantitative is also more persuasive than qualitative data because it is based upon factual information rather than opinionated observations.
Research Methods:
The approach I took to research my question is to create a short 5 question survey utilizing the Likert Scale, with the options Strongly Disagree, for someone who completely disagrees with the statement, up through Disagree, Neutral for those who are impartial on the topic, Agree, and Strongly Agree for those who would confidently stand by the statement given. The survey group consisted of 15 students that attend Norton High School, both in my E period Journalism Class and my D period English class. Both genders were tested to get a more overall set of statistics. Once I have the statistics i will be able to conclude whether or not certain changes made to baseball have had an overall negative or positive effect.
After collecting the surveys and recording the data I am very surprised by some of the results. The first question asked on the survey was, “Are you an athlete/have you played sports in the past?”. 100% of survey takers answered yes to this question. This was a good sign because this means all who took the survey are somewhat familiar with sports in some way. The following statements were supposed to be rated on the likert scale. The second statement given was, “The use of steroids is cheating and dishonest”. According to the results 87% of survey takers agree with this statement. Next statement was,”the advancements in sports equipment makes sports much safer than before”. Of those surveyed 13% of students were either neutral or disagreed with this statement. The fourth statement was,”The addition of better equipment in sports ruined the authentic feel of sports”, and 60% of people either were neutral on the topic or disagreed with this statement. The final statement made was,”The first offence of testing positive for PEDS should lead to an immediate suspension rather than a warning.” 80% of those surveyed disagreed with this statement and commonly reasoned,”everyone deserves a second chance”-anonymous. The information gathered by the survey will help answer my research question.
In conclusion, based upon what the literature and research methods I used to collect data suggest that the advances in equipment do in fact improve player safety while not taking away from the authenticity of baseball. Also, I can conclude from the statistics collected from the likert scale study that the majority of survey takers agree that steroids are dishonest and are also a form of cheating. The same survey takers are very forgiving however and disagree that the player should be immediately suspended, but rather be given a primary warning. In a nutshell, the results show that steroids are frowned upon in baseball, but are not crucial enough to lead to immediate suspension, and the advancements in equipment are only benefiting the sport as well as the players.
Works Cited Page
Belson, Ken. "Now Batting: A Stronger, Mandatory Helmet." The New York Times. The New York Times, 19 Feb. 2013. Web. 07 Jan. 2015.
Berg, Ted. "Say Goodbye to Home-plate Collisions in MLB." USA Today.com. USA Today, 11 Dec. 2013. Web. 07 Jan. 2015.
"Collector Denies Mishandling Braun Test." FOX Sports. Fox Sports, 28 May 2014. Web. 07 Jan. 2015.
Frager, Ray. "Why Would a Player Take Adderall?" Comcast SportsNet Baltimore. Comcast SportsNet, 5 Dec. 2014. Web. 07 Jan. 2015.
Levine, Joshua Z. "Juicin' In The Majors." NYU Local. NYU Local, 18 Feb. 2013. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.
Miklich, E. "Evolution of Baseball Equipment." Baseball History: 19th Century Baseball: The Equipment. 19c BaseBall, 1 Jan. 2003. Web. 14 Nov. 2014.
Rhymer, Zachary D. "Jackie Robinson's Lasting Legacy." Bleacher Report. N.p., 15 Apr. 2013. Web. 20 Nov.        2014.
Silverman, Steve. "The History of Baseball Equipment." LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 27 Feb. 2011. Web. 13 Nov. 2014.
Steroids Suspensions." Baseball Almanac .com. N.p., 17 Aug. 2013. Web. 7 Jan. 2015.