‘Roids 2

So, if “steroids” are not the primary cause of the offensive boom of the nineties (which continues in a reduced form today) what is? Well, first, I don’t believe in single causes, and there are a number of things that have created the current situation.

Second, I’ve written a piece that got away from me, tracing the rise in offense; I moved that behind the fold. Anyway, the reasons I think that offense has risen…

Technique: Batting technique today is rather different from what it was a couple of decades ago. Players stand almost on top of the plate — the batter’s box essentially does not exist — and umpires don’t enforce the rules about getting out of the way of the pitch. There is no inside of the plate anymore. Meanwhile, they’ve learned to hit the ball, hard, to the opposite field. Stats, Inc. did a study a few years ago, based on some comments by Greg Maddux that the biggest difference in the game from when he was a young pitcher was that when he came up you rarely saw home runs to straightaway opposite field, while now they happened all the time. The study showed that this was so, and that a huge amount of additional home runs were being generated this way.

“Steroid” caveat… It may be that PHD allow hitters to hit these opposite-field homers that would otherwise be outs. I don’t know, but I think that would be, at most, a contributing factor.

Also, hitters are increasingly taking an all-or-nothing approach at the plate. Walks and strikeouts are also both up, trends seen throughout baseball history. Which brings me to…

Trends: As I mention in the out-of-hand history segment below, home run totals have tended to rise throughout baseball history, since 1919 anyway. There were two major but short-term dips — World War II and its balata ball, and the 1960s strike zone redefinition — but one major long-term dip. Home runs per game plunged in about 1974 for reasons I’m not sure of. They recovered in the AL, probably due to DH effects, but not in the NL, where they rose again but only slowly. 1993-97 NL baseball was essentially a return to historical norms, but homers kept going up for a few years after that. Every year since 1998 has averaged at least one homer per team per game. Only once in NL history before that, in 1955, had teams averaged a home run a game.

Equipment: Notably the long, thin-handled bats. They break a lot, but if you don’t care — and these guys get their bats free — they’re a lot more effective at knocking the snot out of the ball than the old table legs were.

Parks: Notably, Coors Field, but the new park in Arlington and the addition of Phoenix have brought lots of runs into the majors, especially homers. The replacement of the Astrodome with Your Name Here Field marked the end of a long series of moves to increase run scoring in Houston. Dodger Stadium and Kauffman Stadium have been remodeled to be more hitter-friendly.

Turf: A subset of the above. The widespread demise of artificial turf has done a lot to make teams focus on power-hitting. The chop hits fast players used to get on turf, gone. It also decreases the incentive to hit a line drive, increasing that to hit it in the air. At the same time, it’s taken the pressure off of outfield defense, allowing 1950s-style sluggers to move back into the outfield corners. In the 1980s, there were lots of little fast guys playing left field, particularly on teams managed or influenced by Whitey Herzog. Those guys are gone now or have to make it in center. Vince Coleman would never have a job today.

Little Fast Guys: (The following is a paraphrase of Bill James.) Pitchers used to wind up, I mean really wind up. These days, only Paul Byrd has a traditional windup, plus a few Latin pitchers with unusual deliveries, and there’s Dontrelle Willis. That’s it. It seems likely that shortened deliveries, intended to control the running game, mean that pitchers don’t throw as hard, or aren’t as deceptive. (Alternatively, the “steroids era” has only allowed them to throw as hard as they used to, while batters have improved.)

Cal Ripken: Wait a minute, he’s retired! But Ripken is one of the most influential players in the game still, because he (at the direction of Earl Weaver) broke the stereotype that shortstops have to be little fast guys, that a 6-4, 225-pound guy couldn’t play shortstop. He had help, notably Ryne Sandberg, a 6-2, 185-pound second baseman. Once, players like the late AL shortstop trinity would have been moved to the outfield, just as Aaron, Mays, and Mantle were. Even Miguel Tejada, who’s listed a 5-10, might well have been — he’s just about Aaron’s height. Jeff Kent would have had to make it as a third baseman if he were born fifteen years earlier. Simply put, a lot of bad-hitting infielders were replaced by good-hitting outfielders because some of the great hitters were now being allowed to play infield.

Weight training: Just remember, weight training is new in baseball, as in “practically unknown before 1980”. So you’d expect bigger and more muscular players even if they didn’t take anything more than aspirin.

Summary: I’m pretty sure all these things have had an effect. I’m not sure that “steroids” has. Probably. If it has, I’m pretty sure it’s not as big as the changes in batting technique and the bats themselves. There may be interaction, though — stronger players can take better advantage of the technique, for example. Certainly it’s hard to see some of these big, muscular guys waddling around left field in a turf park in 1985. (Though Greg Lusinski did.)

One last point… Before 1998, two men had hit 60 home runs in a season. Now five have. Maris still holds the AL record. Home run numbers today are higher than in the past because there are more home run hitters, not because the home run hitters generally are more impressive. In a lot of ways, it’s the ridiculous homer numbers of just three men that’s driving this.

National League runs scored numbers have historically been pretty consistent, wobbling around about four runs per team per game from 1931 (when they deadened the baseball) to 1992 (the run explosion really began about 1993). 1968, the year of the pitcher, was basically the only year of the liveball era where RPTPG dipped significantly below four, at 3.43; the next lowest year was 3.81. The American League has been a little more volatile; it was the pitcher’s league before the DH was introduced, but at other times, such at the late forties/early fifties had been more hitter-friendly. League home run totals, however, have generally risen over time; in recent years, home runs per game have been more than one, something that only happened once in the years before 1986.

There was a big fluke year in 1987, one nobody’s ever explained. Wade Boggs hit 24 homers, which to you younger folks would be like, I don’t know, Ichiro hitting 40. Mark McGwire, as a rookie, hit 49, as did Andre Dawson over in the NL. It’s a pedestrian total now, but marked the highest in the game since George Foster’s 52 in 1977, the most in the AL (which was still a tougher place to hit, just had more hitters) since 1969. Then things went back to normal for a little while, when all hell broke loose in 1993.

Now, 1993 was an expansion year, and people always blame expansion for everything that changes. In that case, there was probably a little merit in it for the NL, at least, because the Rockies entered the league. Mile High Stadium wasn’t quite the hitter’s haven that Coors Field has proved, but it did bring a whole lot of runs into the league. That doesn’t explain why RPTPG went from 4.32 to 4.71 in the AL, or why they went even higher to 5.23 the next year. The NL went from 3.88 in 1992 to 4.49, but the former was on the low side so the jump looks more dramatic than it really was. But then it went up again, to 4.63, and stayed in that range for the next few years. AL numbers have continued to be volatile in recent years. The NL jumped to 5.00 in 1999-2000, then settled back into the 4.60 range of 1993-98. In 2005, it fell to 4.45, the lowest of the era (tying 2002). Maybe that’s the “steroid effect”, .15 to .2 RPTPG. Not insignificant. But it might just be one of those things. .2 RPTPG isn’t outside normal variance. Home runs per game dipped to 1.01, also the same as in 2002, but higher than pre-1999 rates.

104 thoughts on “‘Roids 2”

  1. What Braves do you think are on the roids:
    1. giles- he is the shorgents 5,6′ person i have ever seen and does not look natural.
    2. some say Andruw Jones but i don’t see it he is just chubby. even though he hit 51 homers out of nowhere.
    3. julio probably he is 64 and still built like a freak of nature.
    4. furcal possibly but i don’t think so, not a power hit.
    5. i would say big Dan Kolb was in milwaukee but definitley not in Atlanta.

  2. I agree with most every point you made, Mac, except pitcher windups. I know of no evidence that shows the older style windups allow pitchers to throw harder. In fact, I think the removal of the extraneous motions has helped pitchers overall both in control and speed.

  3. Drew, this is my problem with this whole steroids things. Baseless accusations and conjecture like this serve no useful purpose whatsoever, not to mention some of what you suggested is just absurd.

    Julio is not on steroids. At his age, his body would have deteriated way too much for him to still be playing if he were on steroids. THis is what bothers me about all these accusations. No one can be discplined and take care of themselves anymore without being accused of taking steroids. It’s gotten ridiculous. The only fair attitude is: if they haven’t tested positive, they aren’t taking them.

  4. You may be right. But there’s “real” speed and apparent speed. I don’t know if they threw harder, but what do hitters say about the guys like Willis, El Duque, and Nomo who have extreme motions? Usually, that it’s hard to pick up the ball and to tell a breaking pitch from a straight one. An 88 MPH pitch from a guy like that might look like it’s going 94.

    I don’t know. That one was more speculative than some of the others.

  5. Don’t want to get into all over again, but listing weight training as a factor to increasing offense and then saying you are not sure if steroids are a factor just makes no logical sense. Either you believe getting stronger and more fit helps or you don’t. You seem to be somehow implying that the strength you gain from “natural” weight training is different/better than what you get from steroids+weight training. Not sure why someone would think that.

    The only fair attitude is: if they haven’t tested positive, they aren’t taking them.

    That would be fine if the testing worked but it doesn’t. Until we get a test that picks up everything, everyone plays under the same cloud of suspicion. It’s certainly not fair but there is no way out now.

  6. Diminishing returns, for one thing. Just because you have muscles doesn’t mean more muscles will necessarily help, or that big, showy bodybuilder muscles are the way to go.

    That said, I wish you two hadn’t picked up on those two elements, because they’re the weakest parts. I think others are more important. I’d rank them:

    Technique
    Equipment
    Ripken
    Parks
    Turf

    In that I’m sure that those have increased offense, though to what degree I don’t know, while I’m not sure of the others.

  7. Mac, you wrote a terrific piece there. The only thing I would like to point out is that no one is complaining about the natural changes that take place in the game, i.e., the players being bigger and stronger, because it’s happening in all of today’s sports. Theere are ofesnsive lines in the NFL where EVERY lineman weighs over 300 pounds. In addition, I used to marvel at the incredible play of Bill Bradley when he was with the Knicks. Today? His brains would be the only asset because physically he isn’t any challenge to today’s players.

    That said, the way players juiced up in the last decade was illegal and just another form of cheating. Those Braves fans who are old enought to have witnessed the career of Hank Aaron find it to be an affront that Bonds could surpass him as he obviously juiced up and then went berserk against all odds and laws of nature.

    In fact, Skip Bayliss said the dumbest thing I ever heard last week on Cold Pizza. He said that Bonds was “not only the greatest offensive player of his generation but also the greatest offensive player in history before he juiced up.” The earth trembled as the Babe turned over in his grave.

  8. I think you make a lot of good points, but I think there is a point that you continue to miss and that is the point of enhanced muscle recovery for steroid users.

    Baseball is a grueling game. Not so much on the field, but at the big-league level the travel and odd hours has to raise hell with the human body regardless of how well tuned. If I can take a substance that will ensure that my muscles are more fully rested, I am going to be more ready than someone who is not taking the same substance.

    Of course, it doesn’t ensure hits or homeruns or stolen bases. But it does put someone in a better prepared position to do those things.

    I believe the primary misunderstanding is that people believe that steroids can make a bad player good. They can’t. And big muscles don’t equate home runs. There is still a level of skill that has to be in place and bulking up unreasonably probably makes that skill more difficult to apply.

    But steroids, if used properly with a correctly designed weightlifting routine, can make a good player better. And I think that is what happened in the case of McGwire.

    I like your caveat about the nature of opposite field HRs. I have always thought about that. I think of Piazza and Belle as two guys who can hit one off the end of the bat that somehow lands on the other side of the right field fence without changing their footwork to drive the ball that way. They are both strong guys, but both have been rumored to be users (Belle far more than Piazza).

  9. If steroids don’t really enhance performance, Mac, since you seem to doubt that, can you please explain to me how Barry Bonds suddenly ballooned over one off-season and started hitting 60-70 home runs a year, many of which were absolute moon shots, after doing NOTHING like that previously in his career? Seems like juicing enhanced his performance to an extreme, and therefore it can be inferred that steroids can have a beneficial effect on many players. And can someone please explain what happened to Sammy Sosa this year if it wasn’t steroid withdrawal? He obviously deflated. The visual evidence is indisputable. And he sucked offensively and had no power. You (a general you, nobody here specifically) could tell me that neither one of these men were juicing and I would tell you that you were smoking something. Bonds’s head physically expanded in size over the past few years. No amount of weight training causes that to happen. And there was no way for Sosa to naturally lose that much muscle mass unless he had cancer or lay around all off-season watching TV and didn’t touch a barbell.

  10. Hey GRTS im not saying these players are on roids. i don’t think they are. i am a huge braves fan. this some arguments i have heard from braves haters. i don’t think giles, furcal, aj, or julio are on steroids. i was just putting the argument out there to get some feed back and i got that.

  11. Skip Bayliss said the dumbest thing I ever heard last week

    I read what followed, but it was just a formality.

  12. I think another point that should be discussed are juiced balls – not in the sense of a conspiracy by MLB, but simply as a change in the way baseballs are manufactured today. Wasn’t it just before the advent of the ‘home run era’ that Rawlings became the official contractor of MLB? Now, if they employ different manufacturing techniques, balls today would be different from those used 20 years ago. Slight changes to the fabric or the width of the seams, for example, would influence the resiliency and the drag coefficient of the ball, altering its aerodynamic characteristics. AFAIK, MLB does not have standard values for these coefficients, but rather allows them to fluctuate within certain boundaries. If Rawlings’ balls are simply at the high end of the legal range, I suspect it could make a difference of 10-15 feet for a ball hit 380 feet.

    Of course, this is just speculation, and I’m not aware of any research done in this direction. But I could very well see this being a factor.

  13. I just heard a rumor that Mike Cameron was traded to Boston for David Wells. But I don’t see anything anywhere, so it’s probably crap. If it were true, however, it would be very telling about either the Damon or Ramirez situation.

  14. Excellent stuff, Mac. I have no doubt that the factors you cited contributed to the offensive explosion, and in fact I’ve spent a lot of breath saying many of the same things. It’s the most scientific approach to the issue — What do we know? What can we prove?

    The problem, in my opinion, of the scientific approach is that you have to limit yourself to explaining phenomena based solely on what is known — skepticism of explanations for which we don’t have access to data is a natural by-product of this approach.

    So the true effect of steroids is unknowable. But that’s not because the data doesn’t exist (in which case, claiming a steroid effect would be nothing more than an article of faith). It’s because we haven’t been allowed to have access to the data. We don’t know the names of everyone who was juicing in the Steroid Era, and we never will know.

    Many of us who have been tempted to explain away the offensive explosion as attributable to other factors cobbled together such a list as you’ve provided, with the notion that five percent can be explained here, 20 percent there, and so on. But the increased access to data confirming that certain players were juicing also has happened to dovetail with our observance of the offensive explosion. Thus, “blaming” the HR rate on steroids has moved from an article of faith to a matter of belief, where it’s likely to stay.

    Given that, the debate boils down to this: Who are you gonna believe, a group of people with a vested interest in denying the allegations, or your own lyin’ eyes?

  15. Another thing to consider regarding steroids is the long term adverse affect on the athlete’s health. I know this practically firsthand as Lyle Alzado was my neighbor and told me face to face that he blamed his steroid use for all his physical problems, including the cancer that eventually killed him.

  16. I don’t know. That one was more speculative than some of the others.

    That an interesting point, about it being deceptive. But that might be more a function of it being out of norm for today. As in, it wasn’t deceptive when everyone was doing. But as you say, that’s mostly speculative. I’d say stick with your other reasons, they’re good ones.

  17. Hey GRTS im not saying these players are on roids. i don’t think they are. i am a huge braves fan. this some arguments i have heard from braves haters. i don’t think giles, furcal, aj, or julio are on steroids. i was just putting the argument out there to get some feed back and i got that.

    That’s cool, sorry if I was a bit confrontational, I’m just a bit tired of all the negative speculation whenever someone does something well.

  18. Mac, This is an interesting discussion. I like three elements that are intertwined: parks, turf & ripken.

    In the 70’s a number of new stadiums were built (Philly, Pirates, Cards, reds, etc.) they were monotonous copies with same dimensions and turf fields. These parks had an impact on the game, with a pronounced emphasis on defense and speed.

    I lived in Philly area at the time and I remember watching Larry Bowa play shortstop there. It was completely different than the way it was played previously. Teams needed a SS with range and a strong arm. Also outfielders that could get to the ball in the gaps.

    That said, I have to say that when I watch games today on TV I see balls come off the bat that are not well hit and I say to myself; “fly ball right, no problem”. The ball lands six rows back in the seats. In “the old days” a player had to hit the ball well to get it out. That doesn’t seem to be the case today.

    One other change is “bat speed”. When I followed the game 25 years ago, I never heard of bat speed. The emphasis on bat speed may also be a contributor to hitting technique that has improved the power numbers.

    Once again this is good enjoyable stuff.

  19. Mac, this is one of the best articles I have seen on the subject. You should be getting paid for this. There is one big correction to be made, though. The homerun boost of ’87 was attributed to the switch to Rawlings baseballs (that was the year, Rawlings web site confirms).

    I know this discussion was about the effect of steroids on hitting, but I’ve often wondered and seen little to no discussion on their effect on pitching. If steroids can help batters hit harder, or at least be more physically prepared for a grueling season, why wouldn’t they also enhance a pitcher’s game? Everyone seems to pay attention to the boost in homeruns and so forth as evidence of steroids, but let’s be realistic here… don’t you guys think that there are pitchers out there just as juiced up as Bonds? Clemens? Kenny Rogers? JOHN ROCKER? Anyone else? Surely the Rocket was suffering from roid rage when he threw the piece of the bat at Mike Piazza. I can’t blame a guy for hating on Piazza, but I think you understand what I mean.

  20. If there are no benefits from taking steroids, then why take them and why go to such lengths to hide them? My guess is that when a player (such as Bonds) takes (allegedly) steroids, he isn’t thinking, ‘Golly, I’ve got a stretch of 12 straight games coming up…..these steroids will help my body recover from the greuling schedule!’
    I don’t know,’cos I ain’t there, but my guess is he wants to crush the ball farther and more often….steroids can help. Otherwise, just eat right, get a good night’s sleep, and take care of your body. If performing at a high level is so important, do things the right way to help you achieve that end. To take steroids, for whatever reason, is cheating.

  21. Added to the 40 man roster:
    Brad Baker, Jose Ascanio, James Jurries, Martin Prado, and outfielder Josh Burrus (Bill McCarthy was sent to Richmond)
    I like Burrus. I still think one day the outfield will be Burrus, A. Jones, and Francoeur….

  22. I agree w/the points in your analysis, but I think that there is a bigger issue. Steroids may or may not have attributed to the offensive explosion of the 90s – I tend to think that their effects are overstated. That being said, what bothers me is the INTENT of the players to cheat and gain an unfair advantage over other (i.e. clean) players. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t sucessful at cheating, it’s that you are willing to try it that makes you a cheater and a fake.

  23. I also wonder if the diminishing strike zone is not a factor as well. It seems as though the strike zone has shrunk over the last 10-15 years. This could be a factor that also has contributed to the rise in walks. This combined with standing on top of the plate can lead a player to look for his pitch or take a walk if it’s not there.

  24. second base, the Braves minor league free agents are listed on Baseball America as a non-subscriber feature. I’d put the link on here if I knew how.

  25. Secondbase, here are the Braves’ six-year minor league free agents:

    Jason Childers (rhp), Daniel Curtis (rhp), James Dehart (lhp), Steven Kent (lhp), Sam McConnell (rhp), Chad Paronto (rhp), Jorge Vasquez (rhp), Jeremy Ward (rhp), Miguel Bernard (c), Jean Boscan (c), Carlos Mendez (c-1b), Raymond Serrano (c), Scott Pratt (inf-of), Juan Velazquez (inf), John Barnes (of), Michael Rosamond (of-1b), and Esix Snead (of).

  26. I dunno… I think that the strike zone now, while far smaller than it was 30 years ago, is probably larger than it was 10 years ago. After MLB broke the umpires’ union they managed to get most of the umpires to call the same zone.

  27. You’ve seen the media talk about a live ball for years, but never much about bats. I bet the bats these days are 200-300% better than years past. Someone should do a test.

  28. Hey Grts you said if they haven’t tested positive then they aren’t on roids…i guess you are right Bonds, Sosa, McGwire, and Giambi didn’t test positive so they are steroid free.

  29. Actually, Giambi did test positive. And Bonds testified under oath that he used steroids, so that counts too. You = fail.

  30. I’d like you to consider one more factor: Money
    Incredible amouts of money, paid to both good and not so good players, but paid, nevertheless.

    Baseball is still a meritocracy. For the great majority of players, the career is short and exciting. It’s always been that way.

    But if you can string together a few good years during your prime, your payday at arbitration time is more than an average person will earn in a lifetime. If you’re gifted enough to reach free agency and collect, the money goes up even further. If you love playing the game (and it’s all you know), can you imagine the temptation?

    I’d take a cortisone shot to get me to work tomorrow. We gotta eat. I won’t take speed, but I’ll have two cups of coffee to wake up. Half my co-workers are addicted to Diet Mountain Dew.

    Of course, I hate cheaters. But I sure love NASCAR races and who’s more famous for “innovations”?

    I think Mac’s point about this being less than a footnote in 50 years is still the best one. People who give a damn about records will already adjust in their heads. I mean, how many of you are still pissed about the Comissioner jobbing Roger Maris with the asterisk?

    I thought so.

  31. Kevin, I know that this is sort of tangential to your point, but there is no asterisk next to Roger Maris’ 61 in 1961 in the record books. There never was. It was suggested, but then dropped.

    Roger Maris is the all-time single-season home run leader for the American League, without qualification, in the baseball record book.

  32. Report is that Beckett and Lowell are going to Texas for Blalock and John Danks. I don’t know if Blalock would stay at third and Cabrera move back to the outfield or Blalock go to first after a Delgado trade.

  33. I don’t have the means to do a statistical analysis on it, but in logistics alone, I suspect that Lowell contract has to be considered one of the worst in MLB history.

  34. Perhaps Lowell will never be the player he once was, it is still a good trade for the Rangers because there aren’t too many chances one team can grab a pitcher like Beckett, especially before he reaches his free agent years.

    I don’t consider Blalock to be that good, but he is still young and may be able to improve further down the road. Don’t know much about Danks, but I don’t think many pitching prospect will be as good as Beckett. However, this is probably the maximum the Marlins will get in return as this is a salary dump.

    Now, we can really forget about the Marlins for the next few years. To be honest, I really don’t understand this trade from the Marlins side. As long as they still have Beckett and Willis, they still have a decent chance. If I am the Marlins GM, I would consider those two and Cabrera to be untouchable.

  35. Can Beckett ever stay healthy, though? I know that blisters aren’t the same as arm problems, and in the long run this is probably just setting him up to have a nice long career without too much early mileage on his arm, but still–will he ever figure out how to pitch a full season?

    I know Texas isn’t as humid as South Florida, but still… it’s hot as hell.

  36. Considering what the Rangers and the Dodgers threw at Chan Ho Park and Darren Deifort, Lowell’s contract is no where near the worst. To be honest, all contracts signed in the year of ARod, Ramirez, Hampton, and Neagle free agent year are all bad.

  37. Seems like a pretty good trade for Texas, who could have done something this year if they had any pitching at all, and a not-so-good trade for the Marlins. I hear they are also dangling Delgado and possibly Cabrera? Are they trying to crash the whole team and rebuild? Those are their three best players besides Willis. They really don’t have anybody else.

    Off-topic: Who were the idiot broadcasters of the Notre Dame game on NBC this afternoon? I want to be sure to avoid them in the future. Also, I think that if Theo Epstein doesn’t have a job by the beginning of the season, he should be on BBTN in place of the fortunately departed Larry Bowa, or maybe Steve Phillips. That would be interesting. But that will never happen, because he might actually be informative and insightful, and God forbid we learn anything from that show.

    Just a thought.

  38. It would certainly be a good idea for the Rangers if they can sign Beckett long-term and keep him healthy. Otherwise they’re saddled with Lowell’s albatross contract and without Blalock, who’s a nice, cheap, 30 homer 100 RBI third baseman.

    When Beckett was coming up, they were saying that he was one of the two best pitching prospects in baseball, along with (ahem) Jesse Foppert. I think Beckett’s still gotta prove he can make 30 starts a year before I’ll believe he’s the real deal.

  39. Hank Blalock 2005 Home OPS: .895, 2005 Away OPS: .611. The three years before that, it’s combined .942/.707.

    Put him in Florida’s ballpark, playing against the NL East, and watch him shrivel and die.

  40. the 3 new additions to the 60+ club:

    (1) Mac
    (2) Sosa
    (3) bonds

    Bonds is a confirmed user. Mac pretty much admitted use during his congressional flop. Sosa, corked bat, corked body, cetainly a prime suspect. I wasnt sure if the comment about 2-6 in the 60+ club was meant to show a trend, but it mainly counters the agument that steroids arent making a difference, when the 3 knew guys on the block are the top 3 suspected juicers.

  41. This thread reminds me of the trouble pitchers have in Texas. I visted the Ballpark at Arlington for a tour right after Christmas last year. It was beautiful and they have a nice museum, too.
    But my brother(who lives nearby)decribed it as a bandbox that becomes a sandbox–unbearable in July-August. Can any pitching staff be expected to survives that atmosphere?

  42. To be honest, all contracts signed in the year of ARod, Ramirez, Hampton, and Neagle free agent year are all bad.

    Well, I’d do that A-Rod contract every day of the week. What’s the best player in the game worth? A SS who AVERAGED 48 hr’s and around .307/395/600 152OPS+ with 2 GG’s (would be more if he played SS) over that contract so far. Those are inner circle HOF stats.

    PS – where/when did Bonds “confirm” his usage?

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/r/rodrial01.shtml

  43. Spike, you wouldn’t have had to do that contract. Hicks offered 50% more $$ than anybody else — he was bidding against himself.

  44. Must be nice for to have the payroll flexibility of the Rangers. If Lowell works out, they’ve got a solid 3B for two more years. If he doesn’t, all they have to do is slide Texieria back to 3rd (his natural position) and allow Adrian Gonzalez to play 1st full-time. The irony of it all is that Gonzalez is the Marlins’ former top hitting prospect (before Cabrera).

  45. spike, nothing official ever came out, but the same source that leaked the Giambi testimony that elicited Giambi’s apology leaked grand jury testimony where Bonds admitted using substances identical in appearance and texture to known steroids, obtained from a known steroids dealer. Most people view that as a verification of steroid use.

    (Personally, I think his calendar is more detailed and more compelling evidence.)

  46. Here is the article that started it all. Some more info came out later, more detail from the transcript and more about the calendar page, but this gets the gist.

    Also, Bonds no longer says he never took steroids. After the testimony was leaked, he started saying that he never knowingly took steroids.

  47. Call me cynical, but if I was taking medication and suddenly gained 40 pounds of muscle and my head started expanding, I think I might wonder what I was taking and possibly, I don’t know, stop taking it until I figured out exactly what it was. I’d be a little disturbed. But that’s just me.

  48. doubledawg, what makes Sosa a “prime suspect”?

    I get the others. Bonds has all that leaked testimony from him and Sheffield and calendars and everything, and that’s pretty compelling. They found andro in McGuire’s locker, and while that’s not a steroid, it’s a significant performance enhancer, so I get that connection.

    I don’t know what makes Sosa look juiced, though. I mean, every pitcher who scuffs a baseball or palms some vaseline isn’t sticking a syringe in his ass. Sosa being caught with a corked bat makes him look scummy, but I don’t see how it implies use of unethical or illegal performance enhancers. The other two you mention have significant evidence from multiple sources. I’ve never seen anything on Sosa except wild speculation.

  49. And will someone please explain why Sunday Night Football is the Chiefs-Texans game? No offense to fans of those teams, but because of my schedule, it’s the only game I can watch in its entirety on Sundays, and UGH!

  50. There’s also other evidence on Bonds, jenny. That “knowingly” line is kind of week, especially when you have Sheffield saying Bonds hooked him up with “red beans” and documents that provide evidence for him being given THG, testosterone, growth hormones, insulin, modafinil, and Clomid.

    And I feel horrible that the only football you can watch is the Sunday Night game. I hope you make good use of the mute button and a radio. Those announcers are of the devil.

  51. sosa being a suspect:

    1) muscle growth
    2) texas
    3) muscle growth
    4) proven cheat
    5) muscle loss post-testing
    6) congressional subpeona
    7) refusal to take a test countless times. Rick O’Reilley begged him to go with him to a clinic in chicago and get tested to clear his name and the game, sosa refused. O’reilley wrote a great article about it.

  52. For muscle growth, you can change your diet and excerise habits and gain a lot of muscle. And age makes it harder to maintain. I don’t see how that necessarily implies steroids.

    For Texas, he played there long before Conseco got there and the juicing allegedly started. He was long gone to Chicago by the time that all started.

    The proven cheat thing doesn’t mean anything. Again, not every ball scuffer and sign stealer is shooting up. To say that one kind of cheating implies another is kind of ridiculous. There’s a huge jump from corking a bat to injecting oneself.

    And Congress can subpoena anyone they want. They’re susceptible to the same random speculation you are.

    I’d refuse to take a test, too. There were privacy issues and union issues involved. How can you convict someone for not taking a test? No player took a test before they had to do so. Why single out Sosa?

    It seems pretty irresponsible to even suspect someone of juicing on those grounds. Those are the kind of reasons you make up when looking for excuses to point a finger. For Bonds, Giambi, McGuire, Palmeiro, etc., there’s actual evidence, not just an ill-timed weightlifting binge.

  53. Whatever one thinks about steroids, the Reilly thing was crap. How ’bout we show up at Reilly’s office and say, ask him to take a paternity test, because you know, everyone’s talking about how sportswriters are notorious philanderers. I’ve got a lab all ready to go, how ’bout it? C’mon Rick, it’s a chance to clear your good name! Next day we write a big headline – Reilly Refuses Test, Infidelity Possible Reason!

    What a bum.

  54. For all the rightfully deserved villification of players that goes on, the true culprit of the steroids scandal is the Players’ Association. They refused to allow any sort of testing for years upon years, screamed bloody murder whenever salaries didn’t continue to skyrocket from one offseason to another, and used both carrots and sticks to drive players to use steroids: the carrot was the ever-rising salaries and the absolute impossibility of being busted, and the stick was the undeniable reality that people around them were juicing and threatening to squeeze them out of baseball.

    The thing I hate most is to read sanctimonious editorials blasting players for using steroids as if it were some sort of clear-cut moral issue. Fact is, American professional sports have always encouraged bending the rules as long as you don’t get caught. “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying,” the proverb goes. This is why you see people like Vlade Divac making a career out of flops in basketball (most soccer prima donnas do the same thing, obviously). This is why sign-stealing, hidden-ball tricks, creative groundskeeping, and misdirection of every sort have not only been present in baseball from the beginning but actively encouraged ever since then.

    And, as Mac likes to point out, Philadelphia’s outfield wall markings (the numbers for how far it is to the wall) are actually wholly false: information like that isn’t just useful for scouting reports, it’s actually a safety issue for outfielders. Philly doesn’t care, and they’re not changing it.

    So here’s the open secret, guys: CHEATING IS TACITLY ENCOURAGED IN BASEBALL.

    That’s the real problem.

  55. AAR, what you are saying is right, but it isn’t just limited to baseball or any other US sports. This also applies to world sports, even the Olympics.

    Of course, the international sports are now having stricter rules against drug, but do you remember the problems on track and fields in late 80s and in the 90s?

    I think baseball is going through a stage like the international sports did in the last decade in recognizing the problem of drugs, and I think the new rules in baseball is a good improvement. What bothers me though, is that Selig mentioned about this set of rules being the conclusion of a long process rather than recognizing that fighting against drug will be a continuing process which will require further refinement in the future if necessary.

  56. Analogies usually make for crappy arguments, spike, but, in your case, it was illustrative and apropos. Assenting to the test, on some level, legitimizes the claim.

  57. yes, its conjecture and circumstance, with not confessions or proof. And to think, I once believed Bill Clinton cheated on his wife, before he told me otherwise.

  58. Not sure if anyone posted this, but it seems like Saltalamacchia did a pretty good job in that Olympic qualifying tournament. From mlb.com:

    Among the younger position players making strong impressions was catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Braves). The 20-year-old who played at the Class A level was 7-for-8 with two home runs and five RBI for Team USA.

  59. Well, here is how bad SNF has become: I decided that VACUUMING MY CARPET was the preferable, more enjoyable use of time than watching it. And I’m in a fabulous mood because the Steelers lost to the RAVENS, of all teams, and I am out of school for 6 weeks starting in two days. Well, a day and a half, since my flight leaves Tuesday morning.

    Did anyone else think Bill Simmons’ latest column was extremely funny but horribly stupid at the same time? Do you think he’s getting sick of eating crow?

  60. Ok, sorry Mac, not inteding to be political, just going for a cheap, easy joke
    i understand and agree w your policy though

  61. Stu, I’m a Patriots fan. The Steelers snapped our win streak last year. Of course, we beat them when it counted, but I can directly trace my dislike back to October 31, 2004. Plus my dad is a huge Steelers fan and I like being contrarian.

  62. And I didn’t realize that stupid ownership has reduced games on TBS to 45 next year. Guess I’ll be on MLB.TV again all summer. Thanks, guys, you suck.

  63. At least she doesn’t have the Yankees-Patriots-Spurs bandwagon trifecta.

    NMS has a point, though. Even people in New England aren’t Pats fans (or weren’t before a couple of years ago). You mention the Patriots to Bostonians, and you used to get, “What? Red Sox? What? What?”

  64. I think I’m depraved anyway. But I have my fill of rooting for sorry teams as an Orioles fan. Being an Orioles fan entitles you to jump on one bandwagon of your choice. I don’t know if I really qualify as a bandwagoner, though. They tend to be casual, ignorant fans, which I’d like to think I’m not. And bandwagon fans usually pick up and drop teams like hot potatoes. I tend to pick up a team, possibly as part of a bandwagon, and then hang on to it. So I’m not sure I qualify as bandwagon. I hope not. I hate that label.

    Interesting psychological phenomenon: I have always had my own room. So why is it that when my roommate leaves for break before I do, I suddenly feel very lonely and discombobulated?

  65. Hey, not all Spurs fans are bandwagon jumpers. I deserve this, I suffered through a starting backcourt of Willie Anderson and Vinny Del Negro.

  66. no intent to be political. I just wanted to point out that it doesnt take a blood test to make Sosa a suspect of roid usage.

    Why cant we package Estrada and someone off to anaheim?

  67. Agree with Mac for the most part. I remember back in the day when home runs to centerfield were rare; now there’s probably almost as many there as to left or right. And a lot of it certainly comes from pitchers not being able to pitch inside.

    But steroids probably has some marginal effect; strength, while not the primary cause of homeruns, has some more indirect effects. For example, it might increase bat speed and it might allow hitters to wait longer knowing they are strong enough to hit the ball out the other way. To the extent that steroids are a cheaper (in the sense you don’t have to work at it) and faster way to increase strength, it probably has some effect on home runs. And I agree with the notion that reducing time lost from injuries is likely to improve performance. But, as you say, there are many other factors and it’s utterly ridiculous for Congress (what a surprise!) to propose deleting “steroid-influenced” records from the books.

    But, there is a more important issue than the effect that steroids have on the game itself and that’s the effect it has on kids that want to be athletes. Even if we don’t care if baseball records are tainted by steroids, we should care if the culture essentially forces young athletes into taking substances that have long-term consequences on their health. Lyle Alzado is a prime example.

  68. The thing is, bat speed is mostly in the wrists, which is not what you bulk up on steroids. And it doesn’t help to have a bigger wrist, either. Bulking up can actually reduce flexibility–again, the Ruben Sierra syndrome.

  69. Otherwise, Marc, I completely agree with you. The effects of steroids on kids are truly despicable, and they are the true tragedy of the whole sordid issue.

  70. The Mariners ended up signing Kenji Jojima to catch for them on a three-year deal. Meaning, first: Jeff Clement may become trade bait at some point, and he’d fetch a staggering return; second, the M’s will move Torrealba to someone, and whichever team gets him will no longer be a potential trade partner for Estrada.

  71. “The Mariners ended up signing Kenji Jojima to catch for them on a three-year deal. Meaning, first: Jeff Clement may become trade bait at some point, and he’d fetch a staggering return; second, the M’s will move Torrealba to someone, and whichever team gets him will no longer be a potential trade partner for Estrada.”

    No, i really don’t think this means CLement is trade bait. This deal allows Clement 2 years in the minors (which he may not need all of but its good to give it to him) and 1 year of backup catching and DHing before hes there for good. Also why would they HAVE trade Torreabla? Wouldn’t he just become Jomjimas backup or am i forgetting some other C they have? Wilson retired right? I dont know how many teams see Torrealba as a real starting catcher anyway, i see him as more of an above-average cheap semi-young backup.

  72. Three things that often get overlooked in the reasons for offensive explosion:

    A) Global Warming
    B) Data availability(Video and pitch charting)
    C) Expansion (good pitching thinned out)

    Now individually these reasons, plus Mac’s don’t look to strong, but put them all together, and you could make a case, that along with performance enhancing drugs, that these are the reasons for the offensive explosion.

    My contention is that steroids is not the single greatest factor in the offensive explosion of the past ten years, its just the easiest one to accept.

  73. Global Warming? Data Availaability is a good point, and while it is available for pitchers too, those that use it will benefit – Tony Gwynn being a major beneficiary, but not a good example in this case. I don’t buy the expansion argument. As expansion has occurred so has global scouting, with more players coming from Latin and South America and Southeast Asia which helps fill a diluted talent pool.

    No, I think the only way to explain the increase in homeruns is robots. Somehow, some way teams have figured out how to replace human beings with cyborg-type creatures with strength and batspeed far superior to humans. There is no way of stopping them lets just hope they never make their way into college football.

  74. Dayn Perry is another example why nobody cares about Fox Sports. His next article will be suggesting the Braves to trade away Andruw.

  75. How is he an idiot? I thought the column was at least well-considered. Maybe you don’t agree with his conclusion, but I thought he supported it well. IMHO, he’s one of the only guys on FoxSports worth reading. And I thought most of his work was with BP?

  76. Jenny, trading Ichiro is completely stupid because his market value to the Mariners is the same at Jeter’s and Matsui’s market value are to the Yankees. Ichiro’s output is not barely on the field. Ichiro’s name sells a lot of Mariners’ merchandise in Japan. Why do you think the Yankees are paying Jeter $20M when his stats say he deserves $10M max? Why do you think the Yankees care so much about keeping Matsui and why do you think they would love to team up Matsui with Ichiro? The Yankees can completely dominate the Japanese market so that they can spend even more money than before. The status of Ichiro and Matsui in Japan, may not be the same level, is Michael Jordan similar.

    Besides, Perry’s comparison of Ichiro to the AL right fielders is stupid. Ichiro can play gold glove center field easy. If the Yankees ever get Ichiro from the Mariners, center field is the position where the Yankees will put him. If Perry compares Ichiro’s number to the center fielders, his argument will be completely different. This is exactly the reason why Andruw is so valuable because there are not many excellent center fielders who excels both defensively and offensively.

    One thing I forgot to mention is that the Mariners are majority owned by Japanese (I believe Nintendo or somebody else). The chance of Hargrove leaving is greater than Ichiro. Now that they have signed Johjima, Hargrove will have one more Japanese to work with. Personally, I think the Mariners are better of hiring Bobby Valentine as their manager.

    Yes, Perry’s article seems to look pretty decent in supporting his argument, but he is another writer who only puts up facts that support his argument and ignores other facts which are against it. He may not be the worst writer in the world, but he has yet to impress me with anything he wrote.

  77. Ichiro’s name sells a lot of Mariners’ merchandise in Japan

    I’m pretty sure they don’t get that money. It goes into the revenue sharing pool. Similarly, the Yankees can’t completely dominate the Japanese market so that they can spend even more money than before

    Ichiro is a much bigger deal than Matsui in Japan, btw.

  78. oh yeah –

    Boston gets
    RHP Josh Beckett
    3B Mike Lowell

    Florida gets
    SS Hanley Ramirez
    RHP Anibal Sanchez
    and PTBNL

  79. Spike, are you sure about that? I thought merchandise revenue is like gate tickets which, majority if not 100%, goes to the originating team. Nevertheless, the Mariners should get direct benefit from having Ichiro on the team as I believe there is a fair size Japanese population in the Seattle area.

    Yes, Ichiro is a much bigger deal than Matsui because Ichiro won the MVP and ROY on his first year, and Ichiro is more handsome than Matsui in the eyes of Japanese girls.

    However, Matsui is working his way up to close his gap with Ichiro in terms of popularity in Japan. I have seen more Matsui advertisements in my April visit to Japan than any other time I went to Japan.

  80. If the Marlins are on a fire sale, this deal makes more sense because Blalock is entering his arbitration years.

    This is a good deal for Boston I think. They are the kind of team who can eat up Lowell’s contract. I am a big fan of Beckett, and I am glad he is out of the NL. The kid can be the next Schilling.

  81. “Turner Broadcasting and MLB agreed on a seven-year contract that will reduce the number of Braves games televised nationally on TBS to 45 per season starting in 2008, Turner Sports president David Levy said.” (atljournconstit)

    See the rest of the article there.

  82. Yes I am sure. Here’s an article from Forbes that alludes to it:

    http://www.forbes.com/free_forbes/2005/0425/091_2.html

    Ichiro! is a bigger deal irrespective of ROY/MVP He was bigger than all but the biggest US rock stars while playing in Japan, extremely popular outside of baseball. Matsui is a very popular baseball player, but no more than that.

    As far as direct benefit goes, the M’s draw 2.7 – 3.5M correlating with their record much nore strongly than Ichiro!

    He’s expensive, 33 and wants out. If they can get good value for him, why not?

    This sounds like I am picking at you, but really, I’m not.

  83. Don’t worry spike, this is all good discussion. I don’t believe Ichiro wants out now, I think he just wants to win. He is correct that the Mariners are losing direction. Joel Pineiro and Gil Meche never fulfill their potential. Only Felix Hernandez will not able to save the team. The Mariners need to rebuild their pitching staff basically.

    Their offense is ok while they can still hope Beltre can return to his 1995 form. After all, Beltre is still only 26…

  84. It’s not a bad deal for Boston, if only because Hanley Ramirez’s stock is slipping, and he’s blocked by Renteria, who is essentially untradeable. Beckett needs to pitch in a cold weather environment where he won’t sweat so much and get blisters. If he can start to put up 30-35 starts in a season, he could easily be in the top 5 to 10 Cy Young voting any given year.

    Sanchez is a great pitching prospect, but Beckett is a great pitcher. And if anything could help Lowell return to form, it would be a nice dip into that Boston lineup of mashers.

    Overall, effective salary dump by Florida, nice pickup by the Sox. The major wild cards here as I see them are whether Lowell can provide any offense–his customary 25 hr/90 rbi, say–and whether Hanley Ramirez ever lives up to his Next Big Thing hype, or continues to regress.

    It’s too bad for Marlins fans that the front office is signaling that it’s rebuilding time again, but it makes me breathe a lot easier as a Braves fan. The opening day lineup they had last year should have made the playoffs. The rest of the division won’t be pushovers, so it’s nice that the Marlins have given up one of their major weapons.

  85. Word is that Blalock will be flipped for even more prospects.

    And yes CJ, I was serious about the Global Warming comment. Its science.

  86. OK, not trying to be politcial (and im no science major) but from what I understand of it global warmings impact on average temperature would be at most something lik 1 deg over the last 50 years. Scientifically significant in the grand scheme of the earth but 1 deg isnt enough to make the ball fly out of the park…so what are you talking about?

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