By In Stuff

Ballot 9: Ivan Rodriguez

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Ivan Rodriguez

Played 21 years with six teams

Fourteen-time All-Star won 13 Gold Gloves and played more games at catcher than any player in baseball history. 68.4 WAR, 33.1 WAA

Pro Argument: MVP and good hitter who might have been best defensive catcher ever.

Con argument: PED rumors.

Deserves to be in Hall?: Yes.

Will get elected this year?: 75-80%.

Will ever get elected?: 98%.

* * *

“Only God knows.”

— Ivan Rodriguez on whether or not he tested positive for PEDs.

I have a friend … was a big baseball player, back in high school. He could throw that speedball by ya, make you look like a fool, boy. Saw him the other night at this roadside bar …

Oh, wait, sorry about that. Every time I start a sentence with “I have a friend,” the words from “Glory Days” just come rushing out. It’s an involuntary tick. Sorry. Let’s start again.

I have a friend (was a big baseball player, back in high school … OK, that joke got old fast). I have a friend who was not a big baseball player, who is not even American, who has an interesting theory about the rage surrounding baseball’s steroid era. I don’t exactly buy the theory, but I find it very interesting and provocative and timely …it relates directly to Ivan Rodriguez.

His theory is this: Most Americans don’t care about steroid use at all. He insists on this part: People do not care AT ALL about steroid use. He says, “Hey, how could people care about performance enhancing drugs? In America, 60% of all adults use some form of prescription medication. In America, every third commercial on television is for a drug that you cannot buy without a prescription, a drug that is illegal to use unless you get it from a doctor, a drug with potentially horrendous, horrifying, life-altering side effects from dizziness to internal bleeding to depression to hallucinations to actual death.”

You can’t get more life-altering than death.

Some of these drugs, we all know, deal with terrible diseases, diseases so awful that any drug that can lessen the pain is worth whatever side effect might come. Some drugs, though, deal with somewhat minor diseases or aches or something else entirely Most of the commercials, let’s be honest, push drugs that exist just to help people have sex. These, I’ve written before, are the very definition of “performance enhancing drugs.” Estimates I’ve seen say that 25 to 35 million Americans use Viagra or Cialis or one of those drugs, by the way.

Anyway, back to my friend’s theory: He says Americans don’t care about steroids. He points to our rampant American drug use. He points to how hard Americans worked to defend and believe Lance Armstrong (and, let’s be honest, it was only after it became clear how he grotesquely bullied his friends and critics that people did care). He points to how few people seem to care about steroid use in football.

“What people care about,” he says “are HOME RUNS. What people care about are OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALS. What people care about are WORLD RECORDS. What people care about are very specific things inside sports that they see being ruined by steroid use.”

In other words: He says the steroid fury is visceral. It’s not about the drug, not even about cheating so much. It’s about this anger we feel when our illusions are shattered. “That’s why nobody really cared when Andy Pettitte admitted using HGH,” he says. He says there is nothing about the way Andy Pettitte pitched that touched the PED nerve. Pettitte didn’t throw 100 mph. He didn’t win Cy Youngs in his late 40s. He didn’t break any strikeout records. So he used HGH to recover from injury? Nobody cares.

Now, obviously, my friend makes a lot of generalizations. “People” do not think just one thing. There are plenty of people who ARE angry at Andy Pettitte, plenty of people who do care about steroids in football and so on.

But I think there is something to what he says.

I think you can see it in the way the BBWAA votes for Ivan Rodriguez.

There is no proof that Ivan Rodriguez used steroids, but I suspect most people think he did. There is enough smoke that just about every Hall of Fame story about Pudge out there makes at least some reference to it.

Headline: Manny Ramirez, Ivan Rodriguez on HOF ballot despite steroid cloud.

Headline: Ivan Rodriguez dogged by Suspicions at Cooperstown’s Door.

Headline: Controversy Surrounds Ivan Rodriguez HOF Vote.

There are dozens and dozens more. Steroid rumors have long been part of Ivan Rodriguez’s life and legacy. The evidence is thin, but of course it is. In his literary masterpiece “Juiced,” Jose Canseco — not the most trustworthy of sources, but still — said Rodriguez used steroids. People around the game quietly and on background only nod. And Pudge’s various denials about whether or not he used steroids have been tepid at best, including his famous “Only God knows” quote listed above.

But here’s the thing: Pudge may have used steroids. But the headlines are wrong. Controversy does not surround his vote. He’s not being dogged. There appears to be no cloud at all over the Pudge Rodriguez vote. According to Ryan Thibodauz’s Hall of Fame tracker, which has more than 50% of the voters, Pudge is at 78.7% of the vote. I voted for him, so you can tick it up a tenth of a point or so. He might or might not get elected, it will be very close, but that’s the point. It will be very close.

You might say: Well, without the steroid thing he would be at 95%. Maybe. But history suggests otherwise. Catchers almost never do well on their first Hall of Fame ballot. Only one, Johnny Bench, was ever elected. Carlton Fisk needed two ballots. Gary Garter needed five, Mike Piazza four. Bill Dickey was on seven ballots, plus a couple of couple of run-off ballots, before finally getting elected. Even Yogi Berra — the ultimate baseball legend, a war hero, the most quotable star of them all, the most successful player in baseball history if you count the World Series rings — was not elected first ballot.

Even if I-Rod doesn’t make it first ballot, he will come startlingly close. And I think he WILL make it. It sure looks like in his case, for whatever reason, most people don’t really care about his probable PED use.

“I’m not a homerunner,” I-Rod once said when confronted with Jose Canseco’s charges. “What was I going to use (steroids) for? To keep hitting doubles?”

In that one quote, you probably see the exact reason WHY so few people care about his PED use. It utterly fits in my friend’s PED theory: I-Rod will not go into the Hall of Fame because he hit 311 home runs. That’s a lot of home runs for a catcher, but it’s not at the core of the Pudge Hall of Fame case. He will not go into the Hall of Fame because he played more games at catcher than anyone in baseball history. He will not even go into the Hall of Fame because he hit .316 over a decade in the prime of his life.

No, Rodriguez will go to the Hall of Fame because he was a defensive maestro, a base-stealer’s nightmare, perhaps the most brilliant catcher in the history of baseball. There is a great legend about Rodriguez; he was apparently a pitcher while growing up in Puerto Rico. His father, as coach, made him a catcher … because he was throwing the ball so hard that it frightened the other players. Anyone who saw him throw to second or whip a pickoff throw from his knees understands the story to be true. That Pudge arm was, for a time, the eighth wonder of the world.

It wasn’t just the arm either. He did not field bunts so much as strike them, like a cobra. He was a joy for pitchers. He utterly controlled the game when he was behind the plate. In 2003, after injuries seemed close to ending his career, he signed with Florida and completely changed the entire team. He was behind the plate for Game 6 when a very young Josh Beckett shut out the Yankees, and it was clear the role he had played. Later he went to Detroit and that team went to the World Series too.

The mind does not naturally connect steroids to any of these remarkable talents — leadership, baseball genius, defensive brilliance. I think this gets to the heart of why Rodriguez is doing so well in the voting. He may have USED steroids but, as the story goes, his excellence had little to do WITH steroids. That’s how most choose to see it.

With Mike Piazza, you could draw a straight line from the rumors of his steroid use to the reason why he was a Hall of Famer in the first place — hitting, power, long home runs.

With Ivan Rodriguez, it’s harder to draw that straight line.

OK, another question: How good would Ivan Rodriguez’s 2000 season been if he had not gotten hurt. You might remember, he was coming off his MVP season — in 1999, he hit .332, slugged .558, scored 116 runs and drove in 113. Pedro Martinez really deserved the MVP that year, and if you were going to pick an every day player you probably should have chosen Derek Jeter, who hit .349 or MannyBManny who drove in 165 runs. But Pudge’s year was still pretty darned good.

But I-Rod’s 2000 season was going to leave no doubts whatsoever about his greatness. In just 91 games, he hit .347, slugged .667, smashed 27 homers, drove in 83 runs. It’s a foolish thing to prorate that over 150 games … so let’s do it!

Rodriguez’s 2000 season over 150 games: .347/.375/.667, 208 hits, 45 doubles, 7 triples, 45 homers, 109 runs, 137 RBIs, 399 total bases. That would have been, by far, a catcher’s record for total bases.

Even so, it would not have been the greatest offensive season by a catcher — it might not even have been in the Top 5. And this is because, while I-Rod certainly had some good attributes as a hitter (he hit for average, hit with some home run power) he had some significant flaws. He did not walk, for starters. In 2000, he walked just 19 times, 14 times unintentionally, and even prorated over 150 games that adds almost no value at all. He hit into a lot of double plays. And he got a lot out of his time and ballpark; his career 107 OPS+ is certainly good but it’s not legendary.

My hope this year — a hope I fully admit is unlikely to be fulfilled — is that the five players who are on the Hall of Fame borderline all get in. I think it’s pretty clear that Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines will get elected, which is great. Ivan Rodriguez, as mentioned, is more likely than not to get elected. Vlad Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman are borderline.

I’d love to see them all get elected for various reasons — one being that we could thin out the ballot a little bit so that voters don’t have to leave off players they believe are fully qualified Hall of Famers. Two, I see no reason at all to make players wait when it’s obvious that they will EVENTUALLY be elected into the Hall of Fame. All five of them will get elected, it’s clear they will have the votes, so let’s stop going through this every year.

But three, I think getting I-Rod and Bagwell in is another step to moving us away from the steroid era. Once players who are suspected of using steroids — like Rodriguez and Bagwell, and you could probably throw in Piazza or anyone else you like — are in the Hall, it’s pretty likely that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will be elected.

Yes, I know some people will say that will be the end for them, they will stop caring about the Hall of Fame immediately if Bonds and Clemens get in. They might. But I can’t help but wonder if the opposite is true. Once Bonds and Clemens are in, we basically will stop talking about them. They will just be flawed Hall of Famers, like so many other flawed Hall of Famers. The conversation will shift to new things.

I suspect that’s what most of us really want.

 

 

 

 

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111 Responses to Ballot 9: Ivan Rodriguez

  1. JB says:

    Admitted Ranger homer fan here: It seems you brush over steroids on some and write tons about their career. Yet IRod gets very little write-up about his amazing talent (stole more bases than he allowed one year for example) and just another story about baseball and steroids (despite the thin evidence on him).

    • Spencer says:

      It’s not a biography, Joe writes about whatever interests him about this particular player at this particular time.

      This was a really interesting piece.

      Sorry there weren’t more anecdotes about something Rodriguez did during his playing career.

      Instead we have this interesting food for thought.

  2. Largebill says:

    I agree with your last point. Once a few with suspicions surrounding them get in the door will crack a little more. In time folks will realize lots of people used PED’s (special vitamins) but only one performed like Bonds only one pitched like Clemens, etc.

    • Dan Meyer says:

      Large….I concur!

    • SDG says:

      I agree. I also agree that people are selective in their outrage. We don’t care about steroids if they make you better at fielding bunts or taking walks or hitting singles or locating the outside corner or recovering faster after an injury. We care about then vis a vis home runs and that’s it.

      That’s our approach to baseball in general. Only with homeruns did we ever say there should be a second category because Maris did it in a longer season/Aaron did it in more ABs/Bonds and McGwire and Sosa used. When Ichiro broke Sisler’s hit record no one, absolutely no one, said it didn’t count because he did it in a longer season.

      • Jason says:

        This (as the kids say)

      • Chipmaker says:

        Wills broke Cobb’s season stolen base record the year after Maris caught Ruth — and he benefited not only from the longer season, but +3 games in the playoff against the Giants. No one made a peep. I suspect (a) no one cared that that bastard Cobb, now in the ground, lost the top rung; (b) the storyline was worn out by the Maris assault the previous season; and (c) eh, it wasn’t home runs.

        • Squawks McGrew says:

          They did make a peep, so much so that Wills was determined to steal 97 in 154 games so nobody could say he had extra games. If memory serves, he hit the mark and then exceeded it with the extra games.

    • Bpdelia says:

      I say top friends all the time that the hall of fame likely already has steroid users. They became readily available in gyms in the late 70s.

      In the mid 80s the weight training era began in earnest.

      Oh and Rickey Henderson almost certainly used.

      Look at a Rickey card from 1983. Look at a Rickey card from 1993.

      Realize who Rickey played with in between those seasons.

  3. kehnn13 says:

    Regarding: “He points to our rampant American drug use. He points to how hard Americans worked to defend and believe Lance Armstrong (and, let’s be honest, it was only after it became clear how he grotesquely bullied his friends and critics that people did care).”

    I think there has been a significantly different perspective about bicycling and baseball. I think the perspective on Lance Armstrong at the time was really that pretty much everyone in the sport was doing the same thing, so it made no sense to go after Lance when everyone else was guilty too. Right or wrong, I think most people felt that a smaller percentage of baseball players used, and that those who did were ruining traditional statistics and impacting the success of many cleaner players, while also stealing star recognition from other players who may have gotten more recognition (McGriff and Will Clark, for example).

    • Rob Smith says:

      I think cycling shows you how ignoring PEDs and rampant usage (literally everyone was using some form of PED) can completely corrupt and ruin a sport. They’ve gotten a lot tougher now & are trying to regain credibility. The sport may never be what it once was. I did some minor races and was a huge cycling fan. But it became a joke, one PED scandal after another, and I’m not even minimally interested in cycling anymore.

      Baseball had it’s own crisis and now we’re revisiting that crisis as THOSE players, from THAT era, are presenting their HOF cases. In cycling, you won’t see Lance Armstrong being honored or be considered a legitimate great by their governing body or their fans. He’s a huge stain on the whole sport. Yet, here we are looking at baseball and considering the guys that damaged the sport’s credibility for HOF enshrinement. Illegitimate careers, and all. Maybe the guy’s on to something in regards to why Americans aren’t all bothered (as a whole) by PED usage.

    • DeadCenterPerfect says:

      With cycling, PEDs & other forms of biological cheating (blood doping, etc.) total performance is more directly impacted. While I’m sure tactics, agility, & the strength of your team are important variables, most of excellence is tied to being able to pedal the fastest for the longest. This is very directly impacted by PEDs, whereas skills like fielding, calling games, framing, tagging, etc., can be chalked up to hard work or god-given ability, rightly or not.

      • Darrel says:

        The problem with that argument is the hard work part. That is how steroids work, they allow you to work harder for longer without wearing down. Those skills you mentioned can absolutely be impacted by PED’s.

    • “and that those who did were ruining traditional statistics”
      To me, this was all that mattered. If the summer of ’98 had been the end of the silliness and Bonds retired under 660 career HR’s, most of the PED hysteria would never have happened. Frankly, if Bonds had Ken Griffey Jr’s personality and likability, it would probably also be a very different story being told of PED’s today.

    • duffsovietunion says:

      That’s not how I remember it at all. Most people I spoke to really did believe Lance was clean, which was just laughable to me. I mean, yeah, the entire sport is dirty as hell, but the cancer survivor kicking everyone’s ass is clean? Yeah, right.

  4. Rob Smith says:

    So if we, for the sake of argument, move IRod to definitely used steroids instead of might have. A big “if”… and I’m not suggesting we go off rumor. I just want to make a point about how PEDs impact performance. Part of the point is that he is 6th on the all time list for HRs for a catcher. So to suggest that HRs have nothing to do with his HOF case is just flat wrong. He was one of the top HR hitting catchers of all time!! Larger point: to also suggest that PEDs couldn’t impact his batting average, the number of doubles he hit, the strength of his arm, his speed on the bases and perhaps even his longevity, is completely off base. PEDs impact reaction time, bat speed, running speed and arm strength. PEDs impact healing & can lengthen careers (used correctly). That’s why Petite used HGH to recover from an injury. So, PEDs absolutely could have impacted IRods career numbers, his defensive prowess and his HOF case.

    Now whether you believe he used/didn’t use PEDs and, if he used, how much you think it impacted his performance is completely besides the point. I personally have not come to any conclusions on either. The point is, if he used, many, if not most of his positive attributes could absolutely have been influenced by his usage. PED usage does not just impact HRs and Pitcher strikeouts. It’s more than that.

    • Ed says:

      I think you missed Joe’s point.

      I’m pretty sure Joe knows that it can affect all kinds of things. His point was that many of the people (not all, but many!) who care deeply about this issue care solely because records were being broken/counting stats were off the charts. And I think he’s completely right. It’s the reason nobody cares about rampant steroid use in football — there are no long term records being broken (which is also why people DO care about steroids in Olympic sports); no numbers that look crazy. Baseball has an obsession with numbers tying through the history of the game; that you can compare a hitter in 1995 to a hitter from 1955 just by looking at their raw counting statistics. Of course we know that’s not true; that baseball numbers vary wildly from era to era, but that’s still how many people look at it.

      To tie this back to I-Rod specifically, yes, he hit a lot of home runs for a catcher. But I don’t think any of the people voting for him are looking at his home run totals as a reason to put him in. If he’d hit 150 HR instead of 300 HR, he’d probably still be sailing in. A lot of people really only care about steroids to the extent that it affected specific numbers like home runs. I’m pretty sure that was Joe’s point regarding I-Rod’s home run totals, and I agree with him. And of course you’re right that steroids can and do affect far more than just home runs, but that just doesn’t seem to be an issue for most anti-PED guys.

      • Darrel says:

        As to the second half of your post the offensive numbers are exactly why he is getting elected. There have dozens of fantastic defensive catchers, Brad Ausmus anyone, who couldn’t hit a lick and they aren’t getting elected anytime soon. I-rod’s OPs+ was south of 100 every year after testing was instituted. Had he been a 85-95 OPS+ player his whole career we would be talking about him as a great defensive player whose offense didnt quite measure up and he would be one and done on the ballot.

    • Zach says:

      It is, in fact, the more rapid recovery from injury and the career-lengthening potential of PEDs that leads me to believe that they should be permitted. Is it really fun to watch great players unable to return to the field because of injury? How much better off would baseball have been if a pitcher like Sandy Koufax could have had Tommy John surgery instead of having his career end right in the middle of his peak?

      The persistent myth that all a player had to do was take a few pills/injections and suddenly they were vastly improved is just that, a myth. Sure, it can perhaps make a difference at the margins, and can perhaps help a player stave off decline, but personally I’m in favor of any relatively safe treatment/measure that ensures that great players stay on the field more. That’s what we all pay to see, after all.

      • invitro says:

        “I’m in favor of any relatively safe treatment/measure that ensures that great players stay on the field more.” — I don’t think steroids would’ve been banned if they were relatively safe, in the doses that players were using them. But I may be wrong… I think prescription, therapeutic amphetamine is banned. Maybe MLB knows that the prescription barrier is no barrier at all for these super-rich guys. I know that I wouldn’t oppose steroid use if were, say, “very” safe. (“Relatively” seems a bit of a… relative term. Relative to Tylenol, or to heroin?)

        • Zach says:

          The banning of steroids and other PEDs came about in an era when steroid use was crude and did in fact have possibly serious side effects, especially when used without oversight. Yet even after many advances in the science, because of the stigma attached, basically no substantive studies have been done that assess HGH/other PED use, and whatever risks may come with it (though HGH is often proscribed to average people for various conditions).

          My general assumption is that substances produced naturally by the human body (HGH and others) are probably safer to use than many medications (opiods in particular) that we do allow players to use to manage pain/promote recovery, and while that assumption sadly doesn’t have a ton of medical science behind it, that again is largely due to the stigma attached to PED use. It’s the stigma of PED use that has kept them as a banned substance in MLB and other sports, much more than their potential harm to individuals, as we certainly allow/encourage athletes to do all sorts of things that could dramatically diminish their health in their later years in order to play more/better.

    • SDG says:

      You are agreeing with Joe. That was his point. We care about records, specifically HR records. We also don’t like the feeling people are getting away with something, which is why Bonds and Arod get shit and Pudge and Pettitte and Colon get nothing. People love Colon’s durability, that he’s still a great pitcher in his 40s, we all know he went to that shady doctor in the DR, but no one gets mad at steroids in regards to Colon. He’s a goofy fat guy whose helmet falls off when he tries to hit! Adorable!

  5. Grover Jones says:

    A bit odd to talk about how we don’t see steroids as affecting his on-field play, and then immediately start talking about those incredible 1999 and 2000 stats. Aren’t those directly attributable, in part, to steroids, if he used?

    • Rob Smith says:

      Exactly.

    • Crazy Diamond says:

      Grover: yep!

    • Spencer says:

      You are misinterpreting Joe’s point.

      Rodriguez didn’t shatter any big records.

    • JH says:

      You completely misread the article if you think the point was that Pudge wasn’t aided by steroids (assuming he took them).

    • DjangoZ says:

      Of course, but Joe never makes much sense when steroids come up. It’s his one big blind spot.

      • Darrel says:

        Blinder than blind. On the Poscast he basically says he’s voting for Manny and he failed drug tests after punishment was instituted. One thing to say OK it wasn’t being tested for so *wink wink* go ahead. But to vote for a guy who was using after the JDA? Absurd to me.

        • Rob Smith says:

          Yep. All the “we don’t know if, what, etc.” arguments go away when you have TWO positive tests that force you out of the game after the league finally took a more forceful approach with PED testings and mandatory suspensions.

          I understand the “wink, wink” part of the argument too. Players probably felt that there was no downside. They felt like maybe nobody cared, or at least didn’t want to know. So, I get it. I don’t want anyone jailed or tarred and feathered or tortured. They just don’t get full credit for their illegitimate career.

          As for Manny…. we were well past “wink, wink”. No excuse.

          • Crazy Diamond says:

            With everyone else – from Bonds to Sosa to Bagwell to Piazza and Pudge – there was at least SOME doubt as to whether they used PEDs. With Manny, there is ZERO doubt. That’s why I’m shocked and a bit saddened that he’s gained so many votes.

    • SDG says:

      IRod’s reputation is defensive, not offensive. We don’t mentally associate (or care about) defensive catching with regards to steroids. IRod’s HoF case is that he’s catcher Ozzie Smith. Best glove of all time, and his OPS needs to be juuust high enough that we can justify keeping him in the everyday lineup. So if you agree steriods only help him with offensive/power numbers, then they helped him get into the hall only indirectly.

      The point is we don’t care about that. We don’t care about the ones who used so they were good enough to stay in the lineup. We care about the broken records. According to Joe, anyway.

  6. Dan Meyer says:

    A ‘Speedball’ is a mixture of heroine and cocaine. What on Earth was Bruce thinking? He obviously has is totally clueless when it comes to baseball. That song is also pretty cruel. [Don’t get me wrong. I AM A HUGE SPRINSTEEN FAN. I just think ‘Glory Days’ is an outlier.]

    I hate roger Clemons like poison. I just hate Barry Bonds regular. What they achieved on the field is so far above their peer’s achievements [even the ones who also took PEDs] that they should have been elected on the first ballad. Lets cut the crap and put them in.

    • invitro says:

      I almost never comment on spelling/grammar mistakes. But there are NINE of them in your comment. COLOR ME IMPRESSED.

    • Mrh says:

      “they should have been elected on the first ballad.”

      Is Springsteen a first ballad HoFer?

    • Marc Schneider says:

      I didn’t know what a “speedball” was until your comment. But I always wondered why Springsteen used the term instead of just saying “fastball,” which any real baseball fan would likely use. It didn’t seem like it would affect the rhythm of the song. (Which is why Paul Simon used DiMaggio instead of Mantle, which would have made more sense, in “Mrs. Robinson.)

      • SDG says:

        The point was about DiMaggio’s reputation. At the time, he was for some reason the epitome of class and grace and dignity and everything noble about America, with his unselfish, heads-up play, his consistency, his playing through injury, etc. (I don’t get it either, sportswriters are weird). Mantle’s image was as a wholesome, innocent, boy who got injured too much to get everything out of his otherworldly talent. (In both cases we didn’t know about/chose to ignore the unsavoury stuff). So in that context, it makes sense for the song to reference DiMag. Mantle was negatively compared to him his whole career, even though looking back on them both, Mantle was better.

        • Marc Schneider says:

          SDG,

          I always felt that Mantle would have made more sense because his career was declining and, to people who grew up in the fifties, he represented the hero and the certainties that were being lost in Vietnam and the domestic turmoil of the time. That’s sort of the gist of “The Graduate”-things going crazy and nothing being what it appears. I’m a little too young to have really grown up with Mantle and obviously with DiMaggio but I do remember the late sixties and Mantle seems like the perfect representative of the times; a guy who was the ultimate symbol of American power in his youth who was now a broken down player at the end of his career as things were breaking down. That’s part of the reason, I think, that Jim Bouton was so roundly condemned for exposing Mantle’s feet of clay in “Ball Four.” I guess Paul Simon felt differently and it was his song. 🙂

          • Moviegoer74 says:

            I think it would’ve been exceedingly weird (and more than a little rude) to sing “where have you gone, Mickey Mantle” before Mantle had even retired.

          • BillM says:

            Guys, Simon used “Joe DiMaggio” because of how well it flows with the rest of the lyric. Try singing it with “Mickey Mantle” instead.

            Actually, he should’ve used “Harmon Killebrew” instead!

          • BillM says:

            As for “speedball” IIRC Joe wrote an article about it or linked to one. Consensus is that Bruce thought it sang better than “fastball”. IMO, “curveball” sings even better plus more logically fits the “make ya look like a fool”.

            Regardless, Bruce may or may not know how guys are in a baseball lineup.

  7. Crazy Diamond says:

    “It sure looks like in his case, for whatever reason, most people don’t really care about his probable PED use.”

    So, Joe, you think Ivan Rodriguez probably used PEDs? Even after claiming that Jose Canseco was “not the most reliable of sources” ? Isn’t Canseco the only person claiming the Pudge was juicing? To my knowledge, there is little or nothing else indicating Pudge took the juice. Seems a little…strange.

    • invitro says:

      A lot of people say his stats indicate he used. And there’s the “God only knows” weird quote. So it’s not at all just Canseco’s book.

      • Crazy Diamond says:

        That’s a fair point. It’s still, as Joe himself pointed out, pretty thin evidence, though. I really don’t care if Joe thinks or doesn’t think Pudge used…but just be consistent and honest about it.

        • Rob Smith says:

          The PED case is somewhere between hard evidence (i.e. drug test, admission or clear implication in a scandal) and complete rumor. It’s not pure rumor because Canseco says he personally injected IRod. There’s no innuendo, no friend of a friend, no he was on a certain team known for PEDs, nothing like that. Canseco flat out said he injected IRod with steroids. Now Canseco could be lying. He’s not the most respectable person. However, a lot of what he said in that book about a lot of players turned out to be true. Especially notable was their Texas teammate Palmeiro who wagged his finger at Congress calling Canseco a liar & then later tested positive. The “God only knows” quote is weird too, but not exactly hard evidence. The weight loss was extremely fishy. I’m going to say it’s probable he did use. Canseco has been pretty spot on with those he specifically named first hand.

          • Crazy Diamond says:

            Rob Smith – your last two or three sentences sum things up nicely. You cite Canseco as believable (in instances regarding direct knowledge – not just coincidence or whispers, etc) and then give him credit for it. A broken clock is right twice a day and maybe that’s as much credit as Canseco deserves. But I wish Joe would’ve written exactly what you just wrote and either deny that Canseco has credibility ***in this case*** and assume that I-Rod was clean OR admit that Canseco does have credibility ***in this case*** and admit that I-Rod probably did use. You’re being genuine about it and you’re being honest about it. That was my complaint with Joe’s post: he was neither genuine nor intellectually honest.

          • Dan says:

            I’m not sure Joe writes anything much different than what Rob wrote above – so I don’t know what your beef is here. Joe says:

            “Jose Canseco — not the most trustworthy of sources, but still — said Rodriguez used steroids.”

            He’s right that Canseco isn’t the most trustworthy source, and the “but still”, as I read it, suggests he thinks Canseco might be trustworthy about this.

            Not sure what you think is intellectually dishonest about his stance here.

            For my money, I think Canseco is a fool, but he wasn’t just a broken clock about steroids and he was right more than he was wrong. IIRC his naming of other specific players has generally turned out to be correct.

          • Crazy Diamond says:

            Dan: the difference is that Rob gives Canseco credit and Joe does not. Pay attention.

          • Moviegoer74 says:

            “Pay attention” says the man who previously wondered why Mark McGwire and Mike Piazza were treated differently by the HOF voters when “both had admitted to using steroids.”

            Of course, unlike McGwire, Piazza had not admitted anything of the kind, which Crazy Diamond would’ve known if he’d followed his own advice.

          • Dan says:

            I swear I’m paying attention. I must just be dense. 🙂 I just don’t see Joe saying Canseco gets no credit. He gets minimal credit. I’m not sure how you get intellectual dishonesty from “not the most trustworthy of sources, but still”.

    • Doug says:

      The question Joe is addressing – I think – is not whether Pudge used steroids. The point, to me, is that the evidence around Pudge is well above the line where people have decided it’s an issue with other players. Certainly there’s more evidence with Pudge than with Bagwell though maybe that’s a bad example. And yet it seems to be less of an issue with Pudge because he didn’t hit mind-boggling homers.

      • Rob Smith says:

        Bagwell’s getting in. The “evidence” of PED usage in his case is his size, the team he played on being supposedly a steroid team (iffy) and his friendship with Ken Caminiti who had actually said he himself didn’t start using steroids until he was with San Diego. That’s a whisper campaign, not evidence.

        Canseco said he injected IRod. So yeah, whether you believe Canseco, or not, that is actual evidence. IRod and Bagwell’s cases are not comparable.

  8. invitro says:

    ‘He says, “Hey, how could people care about performance enhancing drugs? In America, 60% of all adults use some form of prescription medication.’ — Any person who equates illegal steroid use with legal (and theraputic) prescription medication is likely to have a very, very confused opinion about this issue, and many others, probably.

    “Once players who are suspected of using steroids — like Rodriguez and Bagwell, and you could probably throw in Piazza or anyone else you like — are in the Hall, it’s pretty likely that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will be elected.” — I don’t buy it. There still aren’t any *confirmed* users in, right? When someone with a positive test result, or who was in the Mitchell report, gets in, then maybe something has changed. (I don’t have the Mitchell Report names memorized, so maybe IRod is one of them and I don’t recall it.) Both IRod and Piazza have drug rumors, but nothing more than rumors, and IRod has a better HoF case, so he’s getting in a bit quicker. Big deal. This is to be expected based on previous results; it’s not an indication of anything new.

    • Crazy Diamond says:

      Manny Ramirez failed two drug tests while MLB was actively testing. He’s done better on the ballots so far than I anticipated, but I think his voting totals are far more telling than IRod’s. Mike Piazza, btw, admitted in his biography that he used steroids. He came clean about it and got elected. I have no idea why Mark McGwire suffered a different fate than Piazza when they basically did the same things. Both took roids, both admitted it, both probably should’ve been first (or second) ballot HOFers, and yet only Piazza is in. I don’t get that one. It’s like the people who vote for Bonds but not Clemens. It’s like…why?

      • invitro says:

        I looked up the Piazza admission and found… “, Piazza admitted taking Androstenedione in a 2002 New York Times article. Back then, of course, the prohormone was legal to purchase over-the-counter and OK to use according MLB’s lack of a PEDs policy.” If andro was all his took, I don’t see how anyone could have a problem with that. Over-the-counter is supposed to mean not (very) harmful to health, and so the usual objections to steroids don’t apply.

          • Crazy Diamond says:

            Oops, looks like the same article. Isn’t Andro the same stuff McGwire was using? Or was Mac using HGH, too?

          • invitro says:

            Two wikipedia quotes: “In a 1998 article by Associated Press writer Steve Wilstein, McGwire confessed to taking androstenedione,[29] an over-the-counter muscle enhancement product that had already been banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, the NFL, and the IOC. At the time, however, use of the substance was not prohibited by Major League Baseball and it was not federally classified as an anabolic steroid in the United States until 2004.”

            ‘On January 11, 2010, McGwire admitted to using steroids on and off for a decade and said, “I wish I had never touched steroids. It was foolish and it was a mistake. I truly apologize. Looking back, I wish I had never played during the steroid era.” He admitted using them in the 1989/90 offseason and then after he was injured in 1993. He admitted using them on occasion throughout the 1990s, including during the 1998 season. McGwire said that he used steroids to recover from injuries.’

          • Crazy Diamond says:

            invitro – based on the articles we’ve compiled now, what are your thoughts on the McGwire/Piazza comparison? Did McGwire get a raw deal? Did Piazza get preferential treatment for whatever reason? I’m curious.

          • Rob Smith says:

            The reason both McGwire and Piazza “confessed” to using Andro, is that they sold the stuff in stores. Nobody really thought it was even wrong. Now, that perception has changed over time. But you have to understand that it wasn’t illegal, wasn’t against baseball’s rules and was available from the local GNC to anyone who walks in the front door. It was reclassified as a steroid in 2005. That’s different than steroids, which were illegal without a prescription, had been against MLB rules since 1991 and had to be purchased from shady characters (making it obviously not above board).

            It’s a nuanced argument, for sure. But there is a difference between people who are using legal supplements, not against the rules & players using illegal steroids. After 2005, the law changed making Andro usage clearly out of bounds.

          • invitro says:

            “what are your thoughts on the McGwire/Piazza comparison?” — My mind is a little too tired to know right now. I’d need to do some research to see just what McGwire did. But if McGwire used only over-the-counter stuff, I’d probably say he got a raw deal. Especially since he came clean — or at least my impression is that he did :). I’d give a measure of forgiveness to any player who gave a lot of facts about their usage, since those seem to be in somewhat short supply. This is a very complicated issue, and which drugs were used, and when, seem to be quite important factors. I can understand why people would want to get all black/white and either let all the users in or keep them all out — but I don’t think I could do that myself. I’m biased too as I loved McGwire to death as a player, and still remember vividly his 1987 run, with 33 HR’s before the All-Star break. He was such an “iconic” baseball player, and now when I see him being a coach on the sidelines, looking all sad, I just want to go give him a hug… 🙁 🙂

        • Marc Schneider says:

          Are all PEDs the same? Do they all have the same effect? We read about McGwire taking this and Bonds taking that, but it’s never been clear to me what each type of steroid does. Are some steroids less powerful than others?

      • BearOn says:

        Unless Mike Piazza published a more recent memoir than “Long shot” … I am fairly certain he did NOT admit using steroids in his autobiography.

        In fact … he wrote the following sentence in “Long Shot”: “It shouldn’t be assumed that every big hitter of the generation used steroids,I didn’t.”

        I think that pretty much directly refutes your claim.

        (Taken from the New Times review found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/sports/baseball/mike-piazzas-memoir-spins-tales-and-denies-steroids.html)

        • invitro says:

          Also taken from that webpage: ‘He admits to using androstenedione as part of a supplement pack until the outcry over Mark McGwire’s use of it forced him to “phase it out.” Baseball later banned the substance.

          He also writes that he briefly experimented with amphetamines until they were banned in 2006. And he describes hearing about human growth hormone, doing some research and asking the Mets’ former trainer, Fred Hina, if teams would start distributing it, unaware that it was a banned substance. According to the book, Hina said he would look into it and a day or two later told Piazza it was not a good idea.’

          And from my comment above (it would be nice if people would at least read the other replies to a comment they’re replying to 🙂 ): “At the time, however, use of the substance was not prohibited by Major League Baseball and it was not federally classified as an anabolic steroid in the United States until 2004.”

          So… clear as mud?

    • Marc Schneider says:

      I agree about equating illegal steroid with legal prescriptions. I have been prescribed steroids (not anabolic obviously) for various conditions. It’s silly to say we like drugs just because we take them to cure conditions. And the crack about ED drugs is silly too; it’s not “just” sex. Sex is an important part of someone’s life. Taking an ED medication is not the same as taking steroids so you can hit more home runs. A better example would be students taking ADD drugs like Adderall so they can study longer and harder. Which, come to think of it, is sort of like taking PEDs. Should kids who make high grades and are proven to have used Adderall have their degrees taken away?

      • Crazy Diamond says:

        Great Q, Mark! Should kids who cheated in one form or another have their degrees taken away? I know that students found cheating at my school got kicked out of the class. If there was a way of proving what classes the students used Adderall to complete…maybe just forfeit the credits earned for those classes? Make them retake those subjects? Seems fair.

      • SDG says:

        No, because getting good grades is qualitatively different from hitting homers as a pro ballplayer. The point of getting good grades is they are an indication that you learned something. If you take Aderall, you’ve still learned. The grades still reflect your knowledge of the subject. Adderall use needs to be banned because it’s dangerous and leads to an arms race, but it’s not cheating in the same way as looking at your neighbour’s test, because unlike in that situation, you’ve still learned.

        Home runs are different (100m dash, etc). They are the end in themselves. The point of the home run IS the home run. So if it was illegitimate, via cheating, you can make the argument that it didn’t really happen. It would be like learning Bonds bribed umpires to give him a tiny strike zone or pitchers to throw him meatballs. In those cases, it would be easy to discount the HRs and say they didn’t really happen.

        • Marc Schneider says:

          SDG,

          Ok, but if one kid uses Adderall and gets an advantage because he studied more than another kid and, therefore, gets a higher grade, why is that any different than a home run? I mean, it’s not as if Barry Bonds would not have hit any home runs without the PEDs. They didn’t create his ability to hit, just like Adderall isn’t making kids smarter. They are just giving him an advantage.

          Obviously, I’m being facetious about taking away their degrees, but I don’t actually see that much difference between the two situations. And I don’t see the distinction in saying a home run is an end in itself; it’s only an end to something else, ie, winning games and, for the player, making more money. The grades are similar because they become the measure for getting into graduate/medical school and so forth, and, therefore, furthering someone’s career. If the only issue was “learning” it wouldn’t make any difference. (And, presumably, no one would bother taking the Adderall.) Unfortunately, that’s not the real world.

          But, again, this raises the issue that I have with keeping PED users out of the Hall. A kid taking Adderall presumably gets some advantage over those that don’t but how do we know how much? And how do we know how many fewer home runs Bonds would have hit without using?

        • invitro says:

          “Adderall use needs to be banned because it’s dangerous” — As an Adderall user, I hope you meant to add “when not used as directed”… 🙂 I’ve said it before, I don’t think it should be banned for MLB players, when obtained through a prescription, unless there’s some reason to believe that players wouldn’t be able to control themselves and would start to use it “recreationally” and this wouldn’t be detectable.

          • invitro says:

            After reflecting a bit, I want to take it back and just say I don’t know if Adderall use should be banned for players. It’s a powerful medication. I think a player who’d been taking it a while, who got denied a prescription due to a new health problem or changing to a different doctor, would probably find a way to get and keep taking it. And that may not be a good situation. But “normal” jobs certainly don’t ban its use, and Adderall is a mental rather than a physical drug. Anyway… I don’t know.

          • Marc Schneider says:

            Adam LaRoche started taking Adderall for his ADD when he was with the Braves. His performance improved but it seems to me that was simply a function of correcting a specific condition and returning LaRoche to the level he would have been without the condition. It’s like wearing glasses.

    • SDG says:

      IRod has a better case than Piazza based on numbers? Piazza has corner OF offensive numbers as a catcher. We elect on offensive numbers and really don’t care about defense outside a very small number of cases. No Molina is ever getting near the Hall. Meanwhile Piazza has a shot and his defense was allegedly so bad that some of the great all-time pitchers would rather pitch to Girardi, knowing how that would affect their win totals.

      And while it’s both rumors for them, the rumors are louder for IRod. Piazza strongly denied using anything stronger than andro, his body never changed, his production was pretty constant as well, even after testing. IRod was specifically named by Canseco, he got bigger and hit for more power, then testing was introduced and both his weight and power numbers went down.

      • moviegoer74 says:

        I believe that Jose Canseco wrote that he personally injected IRod with steroids. That’s not a rumor. That’s the statement of a co-conspirator. You don’t have to believe Canseco, but the PED allegations around IRod are more than rumors.

        On the issue of Canseco’s believeability, can anyone cite an example of situation in which Canseco has been proven to be lying about something that he claimed to have personal knowledge of?

        My general impression is that Canseco made lots of claims that weren’t really based on his personal knowledge. Just generic “everyone was doing it” and “I heard that this guy did it” stuff for which there is no real evidence and which largely comes across as self-serving to try to justify his own behavior. But I’m not aware that he’s been demonstrated to be wrong or lying about anything that he claimed personal knowledge of (such as him personally injecting McGwire or Rodriguez, for example).

        • invitro says:

          ‘Just generic “everyone was doing it” and “I heard that this guy did it” stuff for which there is no real evidence and which largely comes across as self-serving to try to justify his own behavior.’ — I read Juiced last year, and I didn’t get the impression that Canseco was trying to use these statements to justify his behavior. If anything, he used these to show his pride in starting the whole business, and throw a little scorn at the guys who were in his opinion doing it wrong. Canseco’s main justification is that when used smartly, as Jose says he did, steroids are not dangerous, or at least his particular regimen wasn’t. He does say that the way other players used them was highly dangerous.

      • duffsovietunion says:

        Piazza’s defense wasn’t bad at all. He was just terrible at the most obvious part of defense, e.g throwing. But he was actually a really good pitch framer which more than made up for his arm. Compare to a guy like Jorge Posada, who was a dreadful framer.

        That’s one question I have about Pudge. Is his defense overrated because of his arm? I remember hearing complaints that he called too many fastballs with runners on base as that would allow him to show off his arm the most.

  9. Scott says:

    You alluded to one trait of his that often gets overlooked because of the (deserved) emphasis on his arm, and that’s his quickness. I still remember seeing an ESPN highlight of him picking a runner off third, and he moved so fast coming out of his crouch and getting into a throwing position that it looked like they had sped the clip up–it didn’t look real. “Cat quick” wasn’t much exaggeration. I also remember him picking a runner off second in a game we were at, and it was the same thing. He just exploded into a throwing position and of course the arm did the rest. I’m pretty sure the runner was Jay Buhner, and the in-stadium camera zoomed in on his face after tag. The “are you kidding me?!?” expression was worth the price of the ticket all by itself.

  10. JimWalewander says:

    When Pudge signed with my Tigers early in ’04, I was on a family vacation in Scottsdale AZ. Smartphones hadn’t been invented, and internet service was not universal, but I remember fervently checking for news online in the “business center” at the condo where we stayed. There’d been rumors he’d sign, which made for exciting possibilities after a truly miserable ’03 Tiger season. It was the first sign of legitimate life in the organization in a long time.

    My buddy and I split a season ticket package soon after. Partly due to Detroit hosting the ’05 All Star Game, as season ticket holders committed to ’04 and ’05 would be able to get tickets.

    Opening Day 2004, Comerica was packed. It’s always a big, celebratory day in Detroit, and while there was no pennant anticipation that year there was a palpable sense that this year would be better. (Can’t get no worse, h/t to The Beatles.) The first time Pudge reached base, he jumped up and down on the bag to fire up the crowd, which was already buzzing.

    This was Pudge the showman, and it was an unanticipated part of my enjoyment of his tenure. The snap throws from his knees were thrilling enough, but he did engage the crowd more than many I’d seen. Whether it was catching a foul pop two rows into the stands and then smiling at the people he’d displaced, or mugging with a 6 year old kid who’d received his game worn jersey during the end of season giveaways, here was a guy who was somehow rich, famous, and skilled, but also accessible. I remember him volunteering to play second after Polanco got hurt in a game in August ’06…I also remember him hitting a walkoff in that game (I think), and the Saturday night crowd at Comerica went so crazy and loud that my buddy’s 4 year old, who was attending his first game with us, cried at the surprise eruption.

    So…steroids. Yes, probably he did use them. I still don’t know which side I’m on…but I guess it’s Pudge’s on this one. Gibson, Trammell, Whitaker, Morris, Pudge, Parrish…in my life, in my fandom, those are my inner circle Tigers.

  11. Matt Doc says:

    Best defensive catcher ever and a very good hitter. Put him in now. I do not think Hoffman deserves in and especially on the first ballot. To me that is meaningful…

    • invitro says:

      This is Hoffman’s 2nd ballot; he got 67% last year.

    • SDG says:

      I don’t understand making a distinction on how many ballots it takes. In is in. Lou Brock got in on the first ballot but no one thinks he’s better than Barry Bonds, not even Brock, probably.

      • Mike says:

        I cannot stand the emphasis people put on the “first ballot” thing. Either someone is or isn’t a Hall of Famer. Whether they get in on the first or last ballot who cares? I suppose there is a chance that the people who get elected on their last ballot could be undeserving. But maybe it was just more a case of circumstances, as in Tim Raines, where the old guard didn’t have a good enough understanding of the new stats that more accurately reflect a players contributions. Or maybe they came on the ballot at a time when there were too many other more qualified players.
        Regardless of when someone gets elected, from this point on, they are at least more worthy than a lot of the old VC choices. People need to stop getting hung up on first ballot and unanimous Hall of Famers in my opinion. YMMV.

  12. birtelcom says:

    In each of the 10 seasons from 1993 through 2002, one of three guys led the majors in baseball-reference WAR by a catcher. Mike Piazza led in four of those seasons (1993, 1994, 1995 and 1997), Ivan Rodriguez led in four (1996,1998, 1999 and 2001) and Jorge Posada in two (2000 and 2002). For the five seasons from 1995 through 1999, Piazza and I-Rod were #1 and #2, or #2 and #1, every year.

    • SDG says:

      Interesting, but I’d take that with a grain of salt as we can’t really measure defensive catching via stats, so we’re looking at the best hitters behind the plate. Good catching D can save a ton of runs in way we haven’t figured out how to quantify (minus throwing out runners).

      • Rob Smith says:

        While advanced Defensive metrics are far from perfect, I don’t think it’s accurate to say we can’t measure defensive catching. You might not want to take those metrics completely literally, but that doesn’t mean throw them out and disregard them either.

        • KHAZAD says:

          Advanced defensive metrics for catching are light years behind other positions, and for rWAR they are largely based on steals and caught stealing. Fangraphs doesn’t even do advanced metrics for catchers.

  13. Mark says:

    I think it’s big hypocrisy when a writer THINKS a player used PED (say Pudge or Piazza) and votes for him AND the same writer THINKS a player like Clemens or Bonds or Sosa used PED and doesn’t vote for him.
    It should finish and fast. I agree with Joe about voting for all of them and forget about them.

    • kehnn13 says:

      I would say that the evidence against Bonds/Clemens/Sosa is pretty strong, and less so in regards to Pudge and Piazza. I can understand why a writer would not vote for a user they fully believe used, if they think that PED users should definitively not be in the HoF.

      • Mark says:

        The problem is the evidence against Sosa using PED is as week as that of I-Rod

        • kehnn13 says:

          His testimony in congress (lack thereof due to sudden “language” issues) was pretty damning…I didn’t know there was anyone who wasn’t pretty certain he used.

        • Crazy Diamond says:

          Yeah but Sosa had zero problem cheating, which says an awful lot about him. I think Sosa’s corked bat + his Hulk-like physical appearance after looking like a scrawny little fella early in his career + his numbers spike that coincide with his physical changes + his refusal to testify under oath = reasonable doubt as to the authenticity of his numbers. I personally think both Sosa and Pudge did PEDs and I wouldn’t vote for either of them. However, because Sosa had such a big ego and was such a jerk, I’d have more problem with him getting into the HOF than Pudge.

          • kehnn13 says:

            I think it’s likely they used as well. However, I understand if a writer wants more conclusive evidence before he won’t vote for Rodriguez.

          • Crazy Diamond says:

            kehnn13. I agree 100% and I don’t really blame writers for wanting more evidence, either. With Manny Ramirez, Raffy Palmeiro, A-Rod, Ryan Braun, and others who intentionally cheated while there was testing, well, I don’t think those guys deserve to be in the HOF.

          • invitro says:

            Ryan Braun is particularly reprehensible for using his power to try to get that poor technician fired and smeared. I hope the voters won’t have forgotten that incident when his HoF case rolls around.

        • Rob Smith says:

          Sosa tested positive in 2003 (the leaked tests). He also corked his bat and was suspended for it. Somewhat oddly, he didn’t show up on the Mitchell report. So, I guess it depends on how much value you assign to the leaked test. In IRod’s case, it’s how much value you give to Canseco and his claim to have personally injected him with steroids.

          • moviegoer74 says:

            It’s not odd at all. The Mitchell Report was based almost entirely on the cooperation of two guys: Radomski and McNamee. Anyone who didn’t happen to get their PEDs from either of those guys didn’t get named.

  14. DjangoZ says:

    I think your closing lines are pretty self-serving. Suspecting that most people agree with you isn’t the most intellectually honest way to deal with a topic like this.

  15. Craig says:

    Joe, you make a point here about the HOF conversation that I’ve thought about for a while in regards to Pete Rose. I feel like he’s probably Top 3 among retired players in terms of general awareness. And that’s mostly due to the fact that he’s not in the Hall. That we talk about him every year in one lazy column after another. (Not you, obviously)

    I don’t know him like you, but I have to think that there’s something about his personality that likes the attention that not being in the Hall grants him, and that he might miss it if he weren’t the constant subject of conversation.

  16. Peter Unger says:

    This Ballot Series is, on the whole, a very enjoyable reading experience. I MOST enjoy the material about the players themselves, including how they compare with other players, of course. But, I don’t mind the “sociological stuff”, not at all, like what determines people’s Attitudes, in the case of certain sorts of players, on whether they took PED’s and so on, especially including those hundreds of people who vote on the HOF. I am More interested in the players than in those sportswriters, but it can be interesting to hear bout the writers, too. This is a GREATLY enjoyable series. Kudos to Joe for creating and providing it – and free to all of us, to boot!

  17. DSteinberg says:

    Great distinction regarding “breaking records.” I have always wondered how voters could reject Clemens and Bonds while supporting Pudge. I would lump them all into the “obvious pre-testing user, just never proven” category (along with Sosa, whose HOF case is not as clear anyway). The Canseco accusation, the Texas clubhouse environment, the arrival in 2005 on the “Jason Giambi diet” (accompanied by a sudden loss of power) and the divorce all point in the PED direction. If I were a voter, I would probably withold my vote for Pudge until Bonds and Clemens were inducted.

    The Detroit media (with the notable exception of Lynn Henning) has tended to deify Pudge. I guess that it’s because Pudge embraced the Tigers at their lowest point when other free agents were running away. But with the exception of 2006, Pudge was as much a part of the problem in Detroit as the solution. In August 2005, he threw Trammell under the bus. When someone suggested that Pudge’s maniacal aversion to Ball 4 may have been contributing to the Tigers’ offensive woes, he arrogantly responded “I don’t like walks.” Tiger pitching staffs typically faded in the second half (especially in 2005). Radio color commentator Jim Price pointed out that year that Nate Robinson’s pitch selection patterns were becoming predictable — doesn’t that reflect on the catcher’s effort level?

    In general, Pudge’s record regarding working with pitchers has been spotty. On one hand, he is rightfully credited with the success of the young staffs of the 2003 Marlins and the 2006 Tigers. On the other hand, his Texas staffs and his other Tiger staffs typically under-performed. This could be due to (a) below-average pitch-framing ability, (b) inconsistent effort level in preparation, (c) calling for fastballs to boost his caught-stealing numbers (as he was accused of doing in Texas). And when he was with the Yankees, both Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina essentially refused to throw to him (i.e. he was no Jose Molina).

    With all of these foibles, Pudge is still of Hall of Famer. But compared to Bonds and Clemens, he has more on-field imperfections with similar PED guilt. He should have to wait his turn.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Clemens was on the Mitchell report and was indicted for lying to Congress about his steroid usage. This was based on Brian McNamee’s testimony, whatever you think of it, that he injected Clemens with steroids. Clemens friend Andy Pettite confirmed that Clemens used, but seemed to back off a bit when Clemens got in legal trouble. So you can’t say they weren’t proven. There is evidence. Very strong evidence.

      Bonds didn’t even deny using steroids. He admitted to using the Clear (which was a steroid), he just claimed he didn’t know it was steroids. In his case, his argument concedes that he took steroids. He skated on the lying to Congress charge by saying he testified truthfully that he didn’t take steroids, because he believed he had not. If he would have stuck to the story that he never took steroids, period, he probably would have been convicted. The Balco records were pretty damning that he used.

      Of the players we discussed that have weak evidence of PED usage against them, Bonds & Clemens are not on that list. Bonds is proven and Clemens has very strong evidence of his usage.

      • DSteinberg says:

        The Mitchell report focused on a handful of suppliers in a handful of clubhouses, so absence from the Mitchell Report is not an exoneration. McNamee is no more credible than Canseco, probably a bit less since he had a strong motive. An indictment is not a conviction. As for Bonds, if he truly did not know that he was taking steroids, we cannot hold him accountable (only after testing was instituted did the union begin to stress players’ responsibility for anything going into their bodies).

        Neither Clemens nor Bonds is a proven, intentional steroids user, yet I would feel perfectly comfortable labeling both as such. Ditto for Pudge and Sosa (and McGwire — more than what he admitted to). The cases against Bagwell and Piazza are much flimsier.

        • invitro says:

          Well, Piazza did admit to (intentionally) using androstenedione, which may not have been considered a steroid then, but is now, if I’m understanding correctly. As we discuss up above… 🙂

          • BillM says:

            Andro was legal OTC supplement back then & still is. It is not considered a steroid, but it is a banned supplement.

          • invitro says:

            Wikipedia considers it a steroid, as do other sources I’ve looked at. Maybe this is a scientific/legal definition disagreement?

  18. MartyR says:

    I-Rod appeared smaller when he came to Detroit. He was a great addition for the Tigers, too.

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