Hi all. Jason here.
One of the nice things about our 15 Sports Myths book is that the myths are pretty much self-contained and the order we present them can follow current events. This week we jump to Chapter 13, “Owners Should Be More Vigilant in Policing Performance-Enhancing Drugs”. The following will be familiar to those following The Sports Economist blog this week.
But Mike Trout sets the stage for us as well. He clearly thinks everyone that gets caught with PEDs should be banned for life from MLB. Regardless of what you think is the right punishment, Trout illustrates one point we make in Chapter 13—PED users create a cost for non-PED users, so it is surprising that the player’s union is so quick to defend PED users. This pits one part of the union constituency against another. If anything, PED use increases owner revenues while it is some players incurring the costs. Maybe the focus should shift from the owners to the players if the goal is to “fix” the whole steroid thing.
In Chapter 13 we wonder why MLB owners are blamed for the whole PED enforcement problem. After all, they were going against their economic interest by trying to facilitate extensive testing schemes. Originally, the players union was fighting against testing despite the physical costs for users and lower relative performance for non-users. (The response was quite different in the 2011 CBA for the NFL).
We have heard a counter argument that PED users helped MLB in terms of revenues, so even non-users of PEDs were helped in terms of the share of revenues going to players in the competitive MLB pay process. A sort of rising tide lifted all boats. Apparently Mike Trout doesn’t think so and neither do we (see Chapter 13 for the full explanation!).
So, while he may or may not have picked the right punishment, at least Mike Trout reminds us that PED use hurts non-users. Maybe he had other reasons for saying what he did, but it is also true that, as a non-user of PEDs, his pocketbook would be hurt if PED use increased. The ultimate point is that he should remind his union of that.