Sunday, December 30, 2007

Baseball Porn: Major League Baseball from 1988-2007, Steroids, and the Mitchell Report

Steroid Use and the Mitchell Report

So, think back with me. It’s 1996 and a guy named Brady Anderson hits 50 homers for the Orioles. I was astounded. Even though George Foster had hit 50 homeruns when I was an toddler, no one had done it in my childhood or adolescence, save the naturally-thick Cecil Fielder. One look at his son Prince, and you’ll notice that the family has no need for injections of drugs to make them strong. Natural selection has provided the muscle to them through their ancestors’ DNA and their own work to develop the latent physique encoded in their bodies.

But then this Brady Anderson fellow hits 50 homeruns after hitting 16 the year before. And so does Albert Belle, and Greg Vaughn, and then the skinny Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Barry Bonds of their Topps rookie cards gave way to the ham hock behemoths of the mid-1990’s. We all knew something was up:

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A06E6DE1038F930A3575AC0A960958260

Anderson said he took creatine and had a lean physique. McGwire claimed he got his bulk from Andro. But was else was coursing through the veins of MLB in those days?

With the expansion to the five-man rotation and added teams in Florida, Tampa, Colorado, and Arizona, 46 guys who would’ve never been pitching suddenly were. There has never been an over abundance of excellent pitching in the free-agent era (save the 1990’s Braves), and it should be assumed that the dilution of the pitching talent pool would lead to an increase in offensive production. However, the numbers don’t really add up. Even with the weakened pitching efficacy, the homerun numbers have skyrocketed too quickly. Only Dale Murphy and Cal Ripken hit 20 or more homers per year every year from 1982-1990. Since 1990, I couldn’t even begin to compile a list of guys with TEN year 20-or-more streaks.

Hobbled by a string of injuries, Roger Clemens suddenly found new life and dominance as his body began to coordinate again with his immense talent. He won Cy Young after Cy Young. He claimed it was all the result of distance throwing and strength training and throwing on his off days. Amazing! He could recuperate faster from pitching by pushing himself even harder! It is perfectly rational to assume that a man in his mid-30’s can suddenly add 40 lbs of muscle through an intensive conditioning program. Things that sound too good to be true usually are.

I remember going to Braves games in the 1980’s. I was always thrilled when Dale Murphy drilled one into the seats. He struck out a lot, but he was a clutch player, the anti-Jeff Blauser (I like you as a person, Mr. Blauser). It was amazing to watch him. The best ball players I ever saw hit in the 1980’s were Will Clark, Bob Horner, Keith Hernandez, John Kruk, Tommy Gregg, and this tall lanky kid named Daryl Strawberry. It seemed like Strawberry didn’t really need to try. He was a natural batter. Though he ruined his career with a different class of drugs, had he stayed clean he might’ve made the Hall of Fame.

I remember one game in 1988, this scrawny little kid who played for the Pirates hit a homerun to the right power alley at Fulton County Stadium. It seemed like it was still rising when it hit the bleachers, like a Ruben Sierra homerun. His name was Barry Bonds, and he had the look of a great one. Another guy that my dad and I loved the moment we saw him was this short little catcher for the Houston Astros named Craig Biggio. I liked him so much that I bought hundreds of his Upper Deck rookie cards for pennies a piece. Biggio played his career, obviously, without using Performance Enhanching Substances (PES). He amassed 3,000 hits the old-fashioned way, by hustling on every play, by keeping himself fit and healthy, and by using his God-given talent to the utmost. He is a true Hall of Famer. He wasn’t the best at his position; he occasionally led the league, but his HOF-worthy feat was to be above-average for a very long time. You could count on Biggio in the clutch; fans loved him; he was a nice guy; he was respected by his teammates; he was not using.

But, part of me remembers the thrill of all that power, that awe-inspiring sheer power. Hitting a baseball is the hardest feat in the sports world; nothing is harder. If you fail two out of three times, you’ll be a multi-millionaire. And the 1998 season was amazing! Sosa hit 20 homeruns in June! Fantasy baseball was never better! Records fell. New heroes were made. The game seemed infused with new vigor, sparking talk of a new Golden Age, making us forget the vile greed of the '94 strike.

And then I think about how much of a lie it was. The guys weren’t doing it and earning our respect and admiration because of what they could do with what they were given; they did it because some chemist figured out a way to cook the books. Baseball on steroids is Baseball Porn.....a total lie, an overabundance and accumulation of signs.

So, I believe the Mitchell Report. The highly-overrated Andy Pettite admitted to using HGH for “two days” to recover from an injury, because he was outed. I believe that Clemens used something to fix his body, and then amp it up to superhuman proportions; he’s no David Dunn (think Unbreakable).

I suspect McGwire, Vaughn, Sheffield, Anderson, Sosa, Juan Gonzalez, Belle, Luis Gonzalez, David Ortiz, Thome, Bagwell, Hidalgo, Castilla, Glaus, Walker, Shawn Freaking Green, Sexson, Matt Stairs, Nevin, Sheffield, Jay Buhner, the ’96 Orioles, the ’96 A’s, and the Texas Rangers since 1993.

I believe Chipper, Andruw, Pujols, Junior, Howard, Vladimir Guerrero, Helton, Galarraga, McGriff, Manny Ramirez, Piazza, and Carlos Delgado all did it without steroids’ help.

We all know that Canseco, Palmeiro, Giambi, and Bonds are tainted. I would recommend blotting out their records. Without steroids, Canseco was marginal; Palmeiro would’ve never gotten to his Aaron, Ruth, Musial level stats; Giambi would have his brother’s career; and Bonds, well Bonds is just vain and plain stupid. He would’ve made the Hall no matter what. He was a game-breaker. He didn’t need the steroids, but his quest to break Aaron’s record took over, and he let it. Take these four people, along with Sosa and McGwire, and make examples of them. I’m not sure, but I’d think that all baseball records should go back to their 1987 levels, and we should allow new records to be made. Forget asterisks, just don’t even mention any record (including Fernando Tatis’s astounding two grand-slams in one inning that will never happen again) that happened between 1988-2007. It would make baseball fun again, and allow for lots more excitement like 1998 all over again.

Roger Clemens might be innocent. If so, he’s now been libeled. But, just like in school when someone else did something, the entire class was made to suffer. Clemens is guilty by association. It’s un-American to convict him without due process, I know, but I can’t change my belief that he’s guilty-as-hell without some evidence to the contrary. I’d make a terrible juror.

All of this steroid-infused Baseball Porn leads me back to the greatest player the Braves had in the 1980’s, Dale Murphy. I am completely biased because I consider Dale Murphy to be my all-time hero. His arm was one of the best in either league. Were it not for Mike Schmidt he could have been THE star of the National League at the time. As I said before, only he and Cal Ripken hit 20 or more homers every year from 1982-1990. He hit 40 homers once and 30 several times. He did make the 30-30 club back when it had few members (1983). He wound up with 398 homers. I'm not sure, but I think he is the all-time leader in home runs lost to rain-outs. That might be wrong, but I think I remember him passing Bobby Bonds for first place. He won back to back MVP's. He played in 740 consecutive games, the 12th longest streak ever. He was an All-Star in 1980, 82-87 and the top vote getter in 1985; he started five times. Murph hit .302 in 1983 when that was good enough for 6th place in the league. We cannot judge him by today's offense benchmarks. Imagine if someone hit .302 now and was 6th in the league! He led the National League in HR 1984-85, in RBI 82-83, runs in 1985, and OPS in 1983. He won five straight gold gloves from 1982-86 and four straight silver slugger awards from 1982-86. His number (#3) has been retired by the Atlanta Braves.

But he shouldn't be measured solely for his on-field accomplishments. Let's not forget the class and honor that he brought to the game. He was a tireless supporter of the Huntington Disease Foundation, the 65 Roses Club, MDA, Make-A-Wish, The March of Dimes and many many others. He won the Lou Gehrig Award in 1985 and the Roberto Clemente Award in 1988. He was never ejected from a baseball game (I think). He thanked reporters for interviewing him. In Philadelphia once, a stadium security guard didn't recognize him and wouldn't let him into the stadium. He just laughed it off. I can only imagine what Barry Bonds might have done in that situation.

Murphy didn't have an "All suites" clause in his contract, nor did he have his team guarantee him charter jet flights home to his ranch during the season like Kevin Brown. I mean, he even had kind words to say about people like John Kruk, Lenny Dykstra, and even Ozzie Virgil.I think we should point out that when Murphy finished 4th in homers in 1986 that he only had 29 homers. In 1987 he hit 44, but Andre Dawson had 49, so Murphy's awesome power that year was overshadowed in the NL, and by McGwire’s 49 and Jorge Bell’s 47. Homers were much harder to come by in that day and age. No one hit 50 from 1977 (George Foster) until 1990 (Cecil Fielder). If Murphy had connected twice more in his career, I think that he might've gotten into the Hall.

Murphy was universally respected by all players (to be redundant). Imagine this scene: It's 1991, Braves vs. Phillies. Otis Nixon gets beaned by the Phillies pitcher next time up after hitting a homer. The bottom half of the inning, Tom Glavine has to respond and hit the first Phillies batter. Only it's Dale Murphy. He can't do it; no way. So he does the meanest thing he can bring himself to do; he throws Murph four high and inside fastballs to brush him back and put him on. Murphy got the base, and Glavine got the boot by the ump. Glavine said the ump later told him, "I only let you throw four, because that was Murphy and because I knew you wouldn't." It was not merely because they had been teammates, but because Murphy was so respected that he was off limits (by the umpires) for stunts like that. Glavine is a class act too, he's in the Hall for sure, and Murphy will make it somehow, someday, someway.

If anyone deserves to get in, without the numbers we're used to seeing, he does, for being the nicest, most polite gentleman to ever grace the field.

Murph's stats: http://www.baseball-reference.com/m/murphda05.shtml

Weird site: www.fmtc.com/~trinity/

An article by a higher news source than me: http://espn.go.com/talent/danpatrick/s/2002/0724/1409552.html


What a physically fit athlete should look like!

30 comments:

chattypatra said...

Unlike J-Lo I am 100% Puerto Rican.
That means that I LOVE baseball. I used to watch Reggie Jackson and all those players you mentioned (Dale Murphy, what a hottie!), but my favorite was Pete Rose - he was an explosion of energy on the field!

I agree wholeheartedly that these jerks should be stripped of their records and, furthermore, kicked out of the game for life. This, of course, has been a source of contention at my home because my father thinks they should play. Everytime he mentions that Bonds broke the record, I get angry...

Anyway, I long for the days when athletes were people you could look up to as positive role models because they set a good example.

Hearing about Clemens has been the last blow. I can't stand it. It breaks my heart.

Brady said...

From what I have gathered the 2003 season was the last season before Selig and the owners were forced to get more strict on the steroids problem. The result of this "crackdown" was a major disappearance of certain players all together (the Mitchell report cites a lot of players who quit after 2003) and more interestingly a decrease in some players production, i.e. the opposite of the Brady Anderson example that you wrote about.

Given this perspective, I think you should add Todd Helton to your user list. His average has been pretty consistent, but his home run numbers have dropped dramatically. Blame it on the "humidor"or age if you want to, but I wouldn't be surprised if he did use. This makes me sad because he is a class act in my book.

Also, in my opinion, David Ortiz is the real deal. His statistics have gotten better since 2003 and he had horrible stats during the height of the steroid era.

Again, this is just my opinion. The sad conclusion is that the "National Pastime" has been completely tainted by greed and selfishness, both by the owners and the players.

Norman said...

Hey Mac,
Excellent post. I am as disappointed in the Steroid Era as anyone I know, almost to the point of saying that no one who played in the last ten to fifteen years should have their stats count toward the Hall; almost to the point of excluding my all-time favorite pitcher, Greg Maddux, who probably never did steroids, just so that everyone who may have will not taint the honor. I don't think we will ever be able to compare the stats of the players in this Era to those of their peers because everyone who used PEDs was able to pad their stats off the backs of those who didn't. I'd bet that at least 15 of Bonds 73 HRs were off pitchers who weren't using anything and thus he wouldn't have ever touched Maris.
I'm glad that you point to Murphy as a reminder of what baseball could be like, and I suspect that this will eventually help get him into the Hall. I could see people voting for him just to deflect attention away from all those who won't be getting in for a while, if ever.

thewmes said...

I personall suspect them all. Even the ones on your clean list. Some may in fact be clean but they have all lost the benifit of the doubt. And I have heard rumors about some of the people on your list of clean players. It's baseballs fualt not the players. They turned their back on the problem because it was helping make money. I am glad Clemens is getting burned right now. I am sick of just one guy getting all the blame and probably hundreds of other players cashed in and fly under the radar.

Ara 13 said...

Reading your post just reminds me of how sad I am about baseball. I was a huge fan. I loved the Cardinals, and followed the National League like it was a religion. After awhile, after all the stupid antics by pros of various sports, I deliberately threw the baby out with the bath water and swore off supporting professionals of Baseball, Football, and Basketball. I am especially disheartened about the loss of baseball in my life. I saw Gibsons homerun. I watched McGraw slap his thigh with his mitt. I cringed when Barry Lyon ran into the dugout and broke Tudor's leg. Sigh. And I felt content with seeing the greatest baseball moment in my lifetime, Cal Ripken's double stadium lap to an audience that wouldn't stop cheering. Utter integrity. No more.
Ara (I will mail you a book for review, Drawers & Booths, I just noticed your response. Thanks.)

H. Guide said...

I'm glad that you point to Murphy as a reminder of what baseball could be like, and I suspect that this will eventually help get him into the Hall. I could see people voting for him just to deflect attention away from all those who won't be getting in for a while, if ever.

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