Bonds and Steroids – A Victory for Four-Function Math

The longer I observe the world of politics, sports, and other “very public” types of human pursuit, I am struck by how many problems or solutions come down to four-function math.  Like Edward Tufte demonstrating that the simplest form of x-y plot predicted the Challenger disaster… Sometimes the simple approach yields the best data.

Barry Bonds is in court for lying about steroid use.  My opinion is unequivocal: he knows what he used, when, and why.  The media, on the other hand, is stuck in a 1950’s muscle-mag fantasy about performance enhancing drugs.  They think it is about muscled up freaks.  While it is often about muscled-up freaks, they are either amateurs, or they are “hogs” who are too narcissistic to stay on a normal “program”.  Barry Bonds, and this is conjecture, was both a “hog” and he knew a few things:

  • He was good at baseball
  • He consistently hit X number of homers for Y at-bats
  • He had a projected career of Z years
  • He had to have A number of at-bats to break Aaron’s record, R
  • and He could see B number of at-bats per season if healthy

The keywords in that scheme are “years” and “healthy”.  For an NL player, health is everything, because they can’t hide you at DL if you are too slow or too stiff to be an effective fielder.  You have to accumulate your numbers as an every day position player.  So he could easily have formulated:

R = (X/Y)*(B*Z)

which is the his projected home run percentage time his total career at-bats.  If you watched him stumbling around like a dancing bear in his one World Series appearance, then you know that there was good reason for desperation.  Even with his questionably natural physique he was booting balls and failing to catch up with routine flys.  And he was still a few years short of reaching that record.  Next Stop: Better Living Through Chemistry!  Anyone who goes to a juice-shop like BALCO,  and gets the one-on-one services of  “ultimate wingman” Greg Anderson is probably not guessing about his regimen (I mean zero chance).

Whether the feds can make it stick is another question entirely.  But my point here is that people in the highest reaches of their profession are not known as having a blah-blah-blah attitude about the source of their livelyhood.

All of this is to say: even if Barry’s ego liked to see a muscled-up freak of nature in the mirror, the calculator on his cellphone was all he needed to know about catching Hank Aaron.


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