Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Another steroid post

Great post from Joe Posnanski:
Yes, players were using steroids, and that use of steroids does indeed — as Bob Costas put it the other day — make their numbers inauthentic. But let’s talk about that for a second. Did illegal amphetamines that were apparently a part of every day baseball in the 1960s, ‘70s, 80s, 90s make those numbers inauthentic? I don’t know. There is pretty good reason to suspect that Babe Ruth corked his bat — does that make those numbers inauthentic? I don’t know. There is every reason to suspect that the Los Angeles Dodgers broke baseball’s rules — in letter and in spirit — by raising the mound above the limits. Does that make those numbers inauthentic? I don’t know.

And beyond cheating: Does playing in an all-white league make every number before 1947 inauthentic? And it’s not like the league was fully integrated the day Jackie Robinson stepped on the field — it took a decade or more, so maybe all numbers before 1961 are inauthentic. And the game did not really open up to Latin players until the 1980s — just look at one country, the Dominican Republic. The only regulars from the Dominican Republic throughout the 1960s were the Alou brothers, Julian Javier, Rico Carty and Manny Jiminez (for one year). Even in 1979, there were only five regulars in the big leagues (Carty, Cesar Cedeno, Pepe Frias, Alfredo Griffin, Frank Taveras).

In 1985 alone, there were 12 regulars — including stars like George Bell, Tony Fernandez, Pedro Guerrero, Tony Pena and my guy Julio Franco. And of course the last 20 years, you have MannyBManny, Papi, Tejada, Vlad Guerrero, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Beltre, Alfonso Soriano, on and on and on. And these are just the hitters — we’re not even getting into Pedro and Bartolo Colon and so on.

So what is authentic? I am not defending those players who cheated — they knew it was wrong, they knew why they were doing it, they knew — but I don’t even know who were those players and neither does anyone else. Was it 50% of baseball, like Ken Caminiti said long ago before he was bullied into backtracking? Was it MORE than 50%? Were teams complicit? Were people behind the scenes in baseball quietly cheering? Or, worse, were they putting subtle and perhaps even not-so-subtle pressures on players to get stronger, however necessary? And how much of what we saw was steroid induced? Was it 90%? Was it 40% How much?

We don’t know.
He touches a lot of things that I've addressed before, and it's an excellent piece. There's so much noise without context - Joe has a lot of context with almost no noise...

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