January 13, 2005
Fan – I re-read the Bagwell article. Do you really think John Olerud took steroids? I mean, Bret Boone, no brainer. But Olerud didn't seem like he had the physical attributes like the rest who obviously take steroids. I just find it strange to think about. He always seemed relatively consistent up until the last year before his release from the Mariners.
Also, I know, obviously, what a big fan you are of Barry Bonds. You understand, I assume, that he takes steroids, or at least the shadow of the possibility has always been around (if we don't want to be accusatory). Does a players' steroid use affect your ability to idolize him and be a fan?
As we've discussed, I don't really appreciate (read: I hate) rock stars who don't write their own songs or play their own instruments. It seems fraudulent and no-talent. While steroid users obviously aren't no-talent hacks, it seems fraudulent. I don't know.
a) I don't actually think most of the people in the Bagwell article did steroids. Its kind of a joke. The bit about how Mark McGwire was the only untainted player in the whole scandal, when clearly he was the biggest steroid junkie of them all, is also a joke. Get it? I definitely do not think Olerud did them. Though you never know.
b) Bonds was frickin' fantastic even before he became a one dimensional ball clobberer. Remember, only player ever to hit 400 HRs and steal 400 bases, also the only player to hit 500 and steal 500. Bonds isn't ranked 4th all time merely because of his recent exploits, like people who think he is better than Babe Ruth because he broke his single season slugging and on-base records. If he had merely continued his career trajectory, he would be incredibly high. Consider, there are 5 tools which people refer to when they talk about complete players ("he's a five tool player"). Bonds has/had them all. He won many gold gloves, he hit for a solid average, he was always fantastic at getting on base (present ridiculous OBP numbers notwithstanding), he has been an elite power hitter since 1990 (present over inflated home run totals notwithstanding), and he was a base stealing threat. Greatest power speed combo of all time by a mile. Even pre-ridiculous era he had already won as many MVPs as anyone else ever had, and now he has demolished that number. Bonds was the real deal well before he started juicing.
Fan - I understand the article was funny because it extended the steroid speculation to ridiculous ends. However, quite a few players mentioned actually did take (or is that present tense) steroids...I was curious about John O. I think on some level people wouldn't care if ballplayers took steroids if the players that took them were "likeable". (Like most women don't believe Kobe could be/is a rapist because they like him and want to believe only what will allow them to still like him.) It so happens that most of the ballplayers so far that have been implicated in the steroid speculation are players who aren't likeable, and some are downright hostile. I was surprised at even my reaction at the thought/joke of Olerud taking steroids, and was defensive for him because I really like him.
Yeah, but with all of the conversation about steroids and whether it should keep someone out of the HOF, or whether players should be punished....I know that you take the "defense attorney"/"legal" approach (which is how I feel the situation should be handled), but I don't think I've asked you how you feel as a fan when you find out one of your guys is taking performance enhancing drugs. Do you just drop him, or are you just the consummate statistician and feel nothing, or are you even more bent on emphasizing his prior-steroid talent because you like him and don't want his ranking to suffer?
Asher - As a baseball historian (ha!), and I think Keith and Scott would agree, I appreciate the various factors which have had effects on the game throughout its history. For example, the end of the dead ball era, the raise of the mound and expanding of the strike-zone in 1968, and quick change-back in 1969, the effects of expansion in 1961, 1977, 1993, 1998; the bizarre "hot summer" of 1987, in which everyone and his brother his 30 home runs, which seemed more like ball tampering but was explained by the drought which hit most of America; the effect that the 1930 Philadelphia Phillies pitching staff single handedly had on the National League, pushing the league average over .300. And we are aware of these factors and consider them when we look at baseball. For example, in 2000, the only player with 50 or more home runs was Sammy Sosa, who hit exactly 50. In the off-season, MLB instructed the umpires to get the strike zone under control (no more Maddux-Glavine-six-inch-off-the plate strikes and abdomen high balls). The next year, after MLB basically forced pitchers to put the ball waist high over the plate, Bonds hit seventy three, Sosa went over sixty, and Luis Gonzalez and Alex Rodriguez both broke 50. Studying the various factors makes it fun.
Frankly, these guys have kinda screwed themselves. Hey, Mark, Sammy, and Barry, wanna claim you're better than Babe Ruth? You guys are pumping 'roids into your body, and that guy did nothing but abuse his body for his whole career. In the absence of steroids, they may have had a legitimate claim.
And sure, the fact that my favorite team's star player was Sammy Sosa, and he looks like a bat corking steroid junkie, bothers me. For the record, my favorite current basketball player was Kobe Bryant, and look how well that turned out. But talking baseball is what I love, and in the next few years, as slime-balls like Jason Giambi disappear into oblivion, but other legit players stick around and continue to produce, it will be fun to argue about who did what, and when, and who's numbers can be ignored, and who's are legit.
Bill Terry hit .401 in 1930. But that was a fantastically inflated season, hitting wise (greatest offensive season of all time, probably), and we take it with a grain of salt. In fact, Scott and I rate Carl Yastrzemski's .301 batting title in 1968 higher than Bill Terry's season (though Keith thinks Yaz is only slightly better than Rondell White). That's what makes it so much fun. And that's what losers like Joe Morgan don't get. They look at two numbers and which ever is higher, that's who was better. There's so much more to it than that. SO much more.
As far as the Hall of Fame, I've pretty much decided that my Aunt Molly should be eligible for the Hall, and if she gets 75% of the vote, she should be in. Why would we EVER "protect the voters from themselves" by barring someone from even being eligible. If the offense they committed is so bad, it will be reflected in the vote. It is EXACTLY, to me, like Congress passing laws saying the Supreme Court can't hear cases on certain specific issues. What are you afraid of, the wrong outcome? Guess what, we've had a lot of wrong outcomes. Look at Plessy. Look at Dred Scott. Look at Lloyd Waner, for pete's sake. Let the system work, and it will all come out okay in the end.
Fan - I love all music, as you know, and it would absolutely break my heart if I found out that Joe Strummer came from an affluent family, didn't suffer through England's majorly depressed economy in the eighties, didn't actually play his guitar, write his songs, study and incorporate other culture's music, and lip-sync'ed the best voice in punk rock to date. I don't know if I'd recover or ever listen to The Clash again. (Or if Beethoven heard every word? Yeah, that wouldn't affect me so much. But still.)
I was going to say that baseball must be different from music (which is why you can remain objective in your enjoyment and analysis of baseball and not completely go off the deep end with stories like Bonds or McGuire or Sosa), different from music in that it's not about your pulse racing when you watch someone do what they do better than anyone, or feel in your soul what you see and hear on the stage....however, that comparison fell through in a heartbeat. Obviously, baseball is just that.