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The Ballpark Penalty

Fun idea from Brian Kenny – though I’m pretty sure he was joking. Of course, Brian knows me well enough now to know that I take even jokey ideas and do way too much with them.

He suggested if you want to penalize the players you suspect of using steroids but don’t want to disqualify them — a reasonable position, I think — what you should do is go to Baseball Reference and plug their careers into the worst possible ballpark context.  That would significantly penalize the player’s career numbers but if they were TRULY great then that should (or at least might) shine through.

So, yeah, I did that.

For hitters, I used 1968 Dodger Stadium. I could have gone back and used an old Deadball Park, but that didn’t seem right – that was a different game. How would the players who have in any way been connected with steroids do in that awful hitting environment?

Let me add just one more caveat: I used players whose names have been CONNECTED with steroids. I am not saying that any of these players did or did not use; I don’t know except for those who admitted using. We don’t know for sure. But the connection has been made, and those connections, unquestionably, have played into the Hall of Fame voters minds.

Here we go:

— Barry Bonds: .258/.394/.525 with 634 homers, 441 stolen bases, 1,486 RBIs, 1,658 runs.

Well, the batting average took a HUGE hit, but Bonds walked so much and hit with so much power that his Hall of Fame case is still exquisite, especially when you consider how many bases he stole and how good a defensive outfielder he was.

— Sammy Sosa: .233/.297/.454 with 499 home runs, 203 stolen bases, 1,182 RBIs, 1,051 runs.

I’ve taken a surprising bit of heat for voting Bonds and not voting Sosa – the line is that it is an inconsistent vote because I’m voting for one likely steroid user but not voting for another. That’s not my thinking. Sammy Sosa hit home runs. That’s basically his entire case — home runs and the joy he infused into the game. I think that’s clear when you show his numbers this way. The batting average, the on-base percentage, even the slugging percentage are not Hall of Fame worthy for a slugger. don’t think hitting home runs in the steroid era is enough to make someone a Hall of Famer.

Many disagree. My favorite descent came from someone who said, “What about Babe Ruth? What else did he do besides hit home runs? Steal bases?” He actually brought up BABE RUTH, who was a superstar pitcher in addition to  his .342 average, his .474 on-base percentage and his all-time record .690 slugging percentage.

— Manny Ramirez: .260/.350/.487 with 436 home runs, 432 doubles, 1,234 RBIs, 1,041 runs.

His case does become shaky now – but he still had a near .500 slugging percentage in a place where players had slugged .290.

— Jeff Bagwell: .256/.356/.464 with 372 home runs, 406 doubles, 1,148 RBIs, 1,097 runs.

I don’t think it’s right to charge players with anything without proof. Jeff Bagwell has denied using steroids, and it’s right to take him at his word. That said, it is a point worth making: If Bagwell had been caught using steroids, the way Palmeiro or Manny was, or if he’d had some intriguing arrows pointing at him like Bonds and Clemens and Sosa and others, he would not be in the Hall of Fame.

— Pudge Rodriguez: .251/.285/.393 with 251 homers, 463 doubles, 923 RBIs, 932 runs.

It was uncomfortable watching Rodriguez talk his way around the steroid issue when asked directly about it during the press conference. It’s clear – and it has been consistent – that he doesn’t want to flat out DENY that he used them, but he doesn’t want to flat out ADMIT that he used them. He spoke in a roundabout way about how hard he worked as a player, and how baseball has changed, and how he’s happy that baseball has changed. Eventually, he was asked in a yes/no way, and he said he did not use steroids, but it wasn’t exactly with conviction. Pudge’s offensive numbers are not what got him into the Hall of Fame – he’s in for his extraordinary defense, absurd longevity and general leadership. I suspect the MVP Award, the 311 homers and 572 doubles did help.

— Rafael Palmeiro: .246/.321/.436 with 458 homers, 2,484 hits, 1,284 RBIs, 1,176 runs.

Palmeiro still strongly denies that he used steroids … his Hall of Fame case really built around his career numbers. He was a good player for a very, very long time. He got to 500 homers and 3,000 hits. With the PED Penalty, he falls well short of both.

— Gary Sheffield: .250/.344/.442 with 419 homers, 2,218 hits, 1,210 RBIs, 1,179 runs.

A bit better offensively than Palmeiro but by the numbers his defense crushes his case.

— Mark McGwire: .227/.348/.504 with 481 homers, 1,042 RBIs, 859 runs.

After the penalty, McGwire is left with 1,360 hits. He still hit with a lot of power – that .500 slugging percentage in Dodger Stadium really is impressive when you compare him to the rest of the candidates.

And for fun, we’ll do one pitcher, Roger Clemens, only we put his career in Coors Field in 2000.

— Roger Clemens: 347-208, 4.09 ERA, 4,759 Ks, 1,908 walks, 1.388 WHIP.

You could argue that the ERA would disqualify Clemens – but all those strikeouts. By the way, in 1997, even with the penalty, even at Coors Field, he is estimated to go 22-7 with a 2.62 ERA and 292 strikeouts.

There you go. Have some fun with it.

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91 Responses to The Ballpark Penalty

  1. Mike says:

    Interesting idea! I’d love to see Edgar’s stats as well.

  2. Terence says:

    How exactly is this ballpark stat conversion process working? Bagwell spent the majority of his career peak hitting in the Astrodome. I have a hard time imagining that any other context would suppres his numbers that significantly.

    wRC+ is one of the many stats we have today to help us decipher ball park factors. Bagwell shows up at 150 for his career. Palmeiro is at 130. Sosa 124. Even if Bagwell was taking the same stuff as those guys, lets not act like they were similarly talented hitters.

    • SDG says:

      I might be missing something, because this exercise is assuming steroids only affect hitting and hitting with power. Wouldn’t they affect walks as well? If they improve your bat speed, you get more time to see the ball and wait to swing.

      It also ignores that a big reason people take PEDs is durability. Park factors wouldn’t control for that either. A big reason this era is so wonky is players didn’t break down like they used to. They could up their counting totals by playing long past what most people could. Although, since Rodriguez is in the Hall for his defensive abilities (especially his arm) why do his offensive stats matter? And wouldn’t he benefit from 1968 Dodger Stadium, since he has to call games in that environment (and he has more PAs behind the plate than at it)?

      Don’t get me wrong, this is a really cool idea and I want to know where on bbref you can do this with players. I want to put Ted Williams in Coors and watch him fly.

      • birtelcom says:

        In baseball-reference, when you go a player page, go to his Standard Batting table. Click on the More Stats tab. Scroll all the way down to the table called Neutralized Batting.

        • SDG says:

          Thanks for this. (Apologies for not doing that earlier).

          In case you’re wondering, if he played for the 2000 Rockies he’d have a .527 OBP and 655 homers. Babe Ruth would have 901 HR. Barry Bonds would have 987. Imagine how many more he’d have if he could play DH until he broke down.

      • kehnn13 says:

        I agree about walks being affected by steroids. How much are walk totals impacted by a pitcher throwing cautiously due to a htter’s proclivity for hitting for power? Steroids would affect that.

  3. Travis says:

    An interesting concept, if only for a bit of fun. One exception I would take though is the notion that Pudge Rodriguez is there because of his defense, longevity and leadership. Bob Boone and Ted Simmons and A.J. Pierwxyzy and probably a couple other guys were good defenders who caught a lot of games and who may have been good clubhouse leaders. Simmons probably SHOULD be in the hall, but none of those guys are because they didn’t hit like Pudge, and Pudge probably hit like he did because he was juicing. My hope is that he (and perhaps other recent electees) uses the platform to help dispel the notion that juicers shouldn’t be elected, though I doubt he will.

    • Darrel says:

      Could not agree more. IMO there has never been a stronger case that steroid use got a player elected to the HoF. Right after testing started, and I mean literally the next season, Pudge’s numbers dropped from OPS+’s averaging in the 125-130 range to something in the 90’s or below. I don’t care how good a defensive player he was nobody is electing a 90 OPS+ guy into the Hall. This over course says nothing of the impact steroids had on his defensive abilities. If steroids make a pitcher throw harder you don’t think the same would be true of a Catcher. Just awful that he was elected at all let alone on the first ballot.

      • SDG says:

        You’re right. We only care about steroids vis-a-vis offensive power. No one care that steroids (allegedly) helped Pudge throw and run and stay healthy for a really long time at a position that turns your body into bone chips and goo. (Also, why are we assuming Posada never used? He was amazingly durable as catcher and was teammates with Pettitte and Clemens).

        This attitude just means steroids will continue to be a part of the game. Baseball is now saying steroids are bad if you break HR records or are an ass to the media. Otherwise, who cares!

        • Ed says:

          I don’t know why you’re surprised by this — it’s the exact point Joe made in his blog the other day.

          Most people only care about steroid use to the extent it results in broken records. Home runs and Olympic records, basically. It’s the reason nobody cares about steroid use in any other sport, and only care about with regards to power in baseball. They need something that easily jumps out at them and can say “STEROIDS DID THAT AND RUINED IT!”

          Those of you feel strongly about the steroid issue because of things like integrity are in the minority.

          • Rob Smith says:

            They DO care about steroids in other sports. Every Olympic sport is required to care. Now if you meant major American team sports, you’re point is partially valid. But I think there is more of an obviousness factor when players put up big numbers. It’s not so much the records as it is how obvious it becomes when an obvious user hits 73 HRs. For the record, I wouldn’t have voted for IRod. I believe there is good evidence that he used and that it effected his numbers.

  4. DJ Mc says:

    I originally read “decent” as a mistake (“dissent”). Then I realized that it may just be a Freudian slip for the decent into madness one must be undergoing to bring BABE EFFING RUTH into the debate like that.

  5. Rob Smith says:

    How about Frank Howard, who did play in the early 60s Dodger Stadium. People may not realize this, but in the 60s the fences at Dodger Stadium were all the way back to the Pavilions and were two feet higher. On top of that, the heavy ocean air that rolled in at night cause fly balls to die an early death. It was really an impossible homerun environment. When they moved in the fences about 10 feet and lowered them by two feet, that STILL didn’t make it a hitters park. 1968 Dodger Stadium was a rough hitting environment. I’m guessing Frank Howard’s 13 Dodger Stadium HRs in 1962 , out of 31 homeruns overall is a record for that stadium configuration.

    • Rob Smith says:

      One correction. They moved the plate out 10 feet & didn’t move the fence in. This made HRs more possible, but added foul territory which created more foul outs. But the old dimensions were about 385-390 in the alleys and 410 to CF. Add the ocean air, and it was rough.

    • invitro says:

      “heavy ocean air” — Don’t know if you know, but water vapor actually makes air lighter, not heavier. It’s b’cuz the atomic weight of water (H2O: 18) is less than that of oxygen (O2: 32) and nitrogen (N2: 28). 🙂

      • Rob Smith says:

        So are you just being funny or are you really arguing that dry air provides less resistance than water? Atomic weight is irrelevant to the discussion.

        • invitro says:

          We’re not talking about water, we’re talking about wet air, and it’s a fact that dry air provides less resistance than wet air. But don’t just take my word for it: Googling “baseball in dry air or humid air” gives many detailed analyses. Atomic weight is not only relevant, it’s the ONLY relevant factor when comparing the viscosity of two gases at the same temperature and pressure (that are near “standard conditions”).

          • Rob Smith says:

            When you look at the physics of it, temperature is a bigger factor than density & resistance. The issue really is that the night ocean air drops the temperature significantly. I agree that 90 degree humid air is going to be great for carry. But 55 degree humid air is not.

          • invitro says:

            “temperature is a bigger factor than density & resistance.” — That really doesn’t make any sense :). The ball travels farther in warm air *because* the resistance (viscosity) is lower, and this happens *because* the density is lower, and this happens *because* the temperature is higher (or the humidity is lower, or the pressure is lower). They are equally important; it’s like you’re saying that mass is a bigger factor than weight in determining how high a man can jump. What you *can* say is that the coolness of the night ocean air outweighs its greater humidity. …But my main point in all this is to get you to understand the physical fact that balls travel farther in humid air, as opposed to dry air, given that the temperature and pressure are constant.

  6. Tomg says:

    For the players who are well documented, it would better to only adjust the years they were on steroids and add that to the years they were drug-free. For Clemens I think it he started in Toronto and Bonds first started after 1998

  7. EnzoHernandez11 says:

    The “Coors Penalty” strikes me as a bit more complicated than the “Dodger Stadium Penalty.” Clemens still looks pretty good in this analysis because 1) every game has a winning pitcher regardless of where it’s played; and 2) strikeouts are, to my knowledge (and please correct me if I’m wrong) no more rare at Coors than they are anywhere else. So the only penalty than Clemens pays is in his ERA. I’m guessing that a guy with 340 wins, 200 losses, and 4,000+ strikeouts would make the Hall of Fame even with an ERA of 4 or 5. But of course such a scenario would likely never happen. A starter with a 4.09 ERA is probably going to be pulled from a lot of games well before the 5th or 6th inning, so he’d never get anywhere near 300 wins. I know you manage pitchers differently at Coors (or at least did back then), but I imagine there would be a lot of games where Clemens the Rockie gives up 5 runs in the first four inning and doesn’t last long enough to earn the 12-8 victory.

    • invitro says:

      “strikeouts are, to my knowledge (and please correct me if I’m wrong) no more rare at Coors than they are anywhere else.” — In 2000, the NL strikeout rate was .171 SO/PA. Some splits:
      – the NL batters as a group had .169 SO/PA home and .174 away.
      – Rockies pitchers had .156 SO/PA in Coors and .160 away.
      – Rockies hitters had .123 SO/PA in Coors and .159 away.
      That’s just one year, but at least in 2000, Coors diminished SO/PA “somewhat”.

      “But of course such a scenario would likely never happen.” — Yes, this correction doesn’t seem to me to be remotely like what would actually have happened if the druggers would’ve not used. I don’t think it should be taken seriously for anything. (And I don’t find it amusing or interesting, either. 🙂 )

      • invitro says:

        Also… there’s been some comments on Bill James’ website about the effect of Coors on curve balls. IIRC, James says that the baseball consensus is that balls don’t break as much in the Denver air. I’m pretty sure that agrees with physics. And it could explain a decrease in strikeout rate.

        • EnzoHernandez11 says:

          Hmm…interesting, then, that Rockies Clemens ends up with more strikeouts than the real thing. Well, interesting to me, at least. 🙂

          • invitro says:

            Well, his SO rate (per PA) would be a bit less in Coors, maybe 2%, not greater. So he’d have less SO unless he pitched to more batters… since innings in Coors have more PA, there’s another factor to find… 🙂 I’d go with 2-3% less though.

        • Rob Smith says:

          But I thought you were arguing above that dry air was more resistant than humid air.

          • invitro says:

            “But I thought you were arguing above that dry air was more resistant than humid air.” — Yes. Denver air is far less viscous than any other MLB city’s air, due to the lower pressure.

        • Doug says:

          IIRC this is what the implementation of the humidor at Coors addresses.

          • invitro says:

            “IIRC this is what the implementation of the humidor at Coors addresses.” — Well, it just tries to make the ball go farther. Here’s a detailed physical analysis of the humidor’s effects: Tl;dr: “When baseballs are stored at an elevated humidity, two effects occur that decrease the BBS [batted-ball speed]: the weight increases and the coefficient of restitution (COR) decreases.” The COR effect turns out to be by far the dominant factor. When hit, a soft baseball goes less far than a hard baseball.

            Now, don’t get the humidity in the humidor and the humidity in the air confused. The two effects are completely unrelated. The humidity in the air is adsorbed by the ball; this is not at all related to water vapor mixing with air. The first is solid state, the second is gaseous state. (This article is great at least for prompting both a chemistry comment AND a physics comment!)

          • invitro says:

            “Well, it just tries to make the ball go farther.” — ACK! I mean LESS FAR, not farther, of course!

          • Rob Smith says:

            I believe it also is intended to help the pitcher grip the ball better too. The dried out balls, pre-humidor, were supposedly slippery and difficult to grip. It made throwing breaking pitches very difficult.

  8. Bryan says:

    If you slap a big penalty on then Barry, A-Rod and Clemens will still clear any Hall of Fame standards. Pujols, Rickey, Trout and a few others can also overcome a penalty. Mays or Aaron would swallow an amphetamine penalty and still be amply qualified. Unit, Maddux, Seaver and Pedro would also get in by being so far about HoF standards.
    It just sets a new bar at somewhere around Kevin Brown and Smoltz that you wouldn’t get into the HoF with a PED penalty and some people even consider that to be a major factor in Kevin Brown’s one-and-done.
    I can see no value in “you see kids, Cal wanted to preserve his game played streak so he used drugs to shorten his recovery time, but since he was so good that’s ok, if you’re ever really good at baseball it’s ok if you cheat because it lets you play more games at a higher level and it’s a treat for the fans to watch you play but if you were only as good as Barry Larkin then we would have to make an example out of you and no kid would ever take drugs if it only meant making millions of dollars and being famous but didn’t include a plaque on a wall in some building in upstate New York”.

    • Karyn says:

      I’m not sure what you’re getting at when you include Pujols, Maddux, Henderson, Trout,Seaver, R. Johnson, Kevin Brown, and Smoltz (and others) in a discussion about how we might handicap those known to have or suspected of using steroids.

    • SDG says:

      The sentence “you see kids, Cal wanted to preserve his game played streak so he used drugs to shorten his recovery time, but since he was so good that’s ok, if you’re ever really good at baseball it’s ok if you cheat because it lets you play more games at a higher level and it’s a treat for the fans to watch you play but if you were only as good as Barry Larkin then we would have to make an example out of you and no kid would ever take drugs if it only meant making millions of dollars and being famous but didn’t include a plaque on a wall in some building in upstate New York”. is funny and I wish I wrote it.

      That’s what I’ve been saying! Bonds, Clemens and ARod have legitimate GOAT stats. They are the sports idols of thousands of kids (and adults). They earned insane amounts of money doing what they loved. They had sex with the hottest, sexiest, baseball groupies. They get to commit crimes and not go to jail. And whether they’re in Cooperstown or not, everyone will know exactly how great they are. Everyone still knows what 762 means.

      • invitro says:

        “Bonds, Clemens and ARod have legitimate GOAT stats.” — No, their stats *aren’t* legitimate. Isn’t that kind of the point?

        • jalabar says:

          To be more accurate, Clemens Bonds and ARod probably have legitimate GOAT stats, but they are hidden inside their illegitimate steroid stats so that we can’t tell which ones are which.

          • invitro says:

            You may be using “GOAT” in a weird way. No one but Ruth has any kind of argument for GOAT, so none of those players have either legitimate or illegitimate GOAT stats. Maybe you mean Hall of Fame stats?

          • jalabar says:

            I suppose with A-Rod and Clemens it could be GOAT SS and GOAT SP, and the OP would hardly be the first person since his retirement who said that Bonds has ‘a case as the best position player in history’.

          • invitro says:

            “I suppose with A-Rod and Clemens it could be GOAT SS and GOAT SP, and the OP would hardly be the first person since his retirement who said that Bonds has ‘a case as the best position player in history’.” — I don’t think any baseball historian analyst would put ARod over Honus (obviously the undrugged ARod would be far below at least several other SS’s). And anyone who says Bonds has any kind of GOAT case over Ruth is just wrong, unless Bonds had several years of near-HoF-quality pitching that I’ve managed to not hear about…

          • Daniel Prenat says:

            Invitro he has 2 years of elite pitching stats and 3 years of decent pitching stats. I’m not sure where you can make a case that those 5 years are Hall of Fame level pitching stats but then again I’ve notice in your posts through the years that you tend to romanticize the past. I don’t know your age but I am willing to bet you’re well over 50 and most likely in your 60’s which would make sense as those in your age bracket never seem to be able to let go of Ruth as the GOAT.

      • Bpdelia says:

        Crimes like deciding what they will put into their bodies? That shouldn’t be a crime period. I maintain complete sovereignty over my body. Any government that tells me it’s a crime to dl put something in MY body morally bankrupt.

        • invitro says:

          Do you also think it’s morally bankrupt for a gov’t to take money from people who are smart enough not to use drugs, and use it to bring you back to life in the emergency room after you’ve overdosed?

  9. Go Indians says:

    Several things struck me from the article:

    1. You really didn’t answer the question by using 69 Dodger stadium. This applies a double penalty because there is both a stadium penalty and a rule change penalty. None of these people you are assessing played when the mound was higher. There run environment should be based on the rules at the time they were playing, so it should be the worst hitting stadium after 1969.

    2. Congratulations on your MLB network job. You had an interesting show today, but I can’t help wondering that if you had asked Smoltz and Nitkowski if they ever took amphetamines, you would have got the same run-around answer you decried from Pudge. Every time I hear moralizing players moan about the use of steroids, I want someone to ask them about their drug use.

    3. You take Bagwell’s denial of steroid use at face value according to the article, but not Clemens who also denied use and was acquitted in his trial. What is the criteria for when to take a denial at face value?

    4. I found it interesting that Brian Kenney denied that amphetamines were PEDs when you brought it up on todays show. Talk about cognitive dissonance in order to maintain his hatred of steroid use. What would be a similar exercise to identify an appropriate amphetamine penalty.

    • moviegoer74 says:

      “3. You take Bagwell’s denial of steroid use at face value according to the article, but not Clemens who also denied use and was acquitted in his trial. What is the criteria for when to take a denial at face value?”

      There’s nobody claiming to have personally administered steroids to Bagwell, as McNamee did regarding Clemens. No teammate claiming to know Bagwell took steroids, as Pettitte did regarding Clemens. To put it another way, Clemens’s denial is contrary other evidence. Bagwell’s denial is contrary to nothing because there is no evidence against him. Only rumors.

      • Go Indians says:

        McNamee’s claim to administer steroids to Clemens was effectively tried in a court of law. The US government spent millions of dollars trying to find proof to support McNamee’s claim. If you remember the trial, they government had no supporting information despite the money and time spent looking for it.

        McNamee made his claim in order to get out of a criminal charge. So the claim, even without the lack of evidence produced at the trial, should be looked at with some suspicion because of the potential coercive nature of the situation where he made the claim.

        None of this says the Clemens didn’t use steroids, but the certainty that many people take on the subject seems overblown.

        • Rob Smith says:

          His buddy Pettite also outed Clemens for HGH usage. Are you thinking Pettite lied?

          • KHAZAD says:

            I am not saying that Clemens did not use, but I will say that Andy Pettitte is a known liar, and in my mind the biggest (but at least he is good at it) of the entire PED era.

            This is Andy Pettitte in his denial of PED use when his only accuser was Jason Grimsley: “I absolutely killed myself over my career to work as hard as I possibly can to be as good as I possibly can and have it done natural.”

            Then when he was listed in the Mitchell report, he held a press conference where he admitted to using HGH “For two days out my entire life, when I was injured and on the disabled list” in 2002 after the news came out and was somehow praised for his honesty.

            At the trial itself, Pettitte claimed that Roger had told him that he used HGH in 99 or 2000, then i the retrial he admitted he may have misunderstood the conversation and said there was a 50/50 chance Clemens didn’t even say that.

            With investigators already having information at Clemen’s congressional hearing that Pettitte’s father had been illegally acquiring HGH, Pettitte admitted to injecting himself (again only twice, It sounds like his go to story) in 2004 with two syringes of HGH his Dad got from “Some Trainer at his gym”. That trainer turned out to be a guy that Pettitte had been friends with since childhood. When that came out, Pettitte admitted that he was a childhood friend but said that they had lost touch and he had never been to his gym. Then pictures surfaced of the two together as adults, including at his gym.

            You know how you can tell Andy Pettitte is lying? His lips are moving.

          • invitro says:

            Khazad, that’s a good set of info on Pettitte, most of which I didn’t know or forgot. Thanks for posting it. (It’s hard to keep all this drug stuff straight!)

          • Rob Smith says:

            I’m not saying Pettite is a saint, and clearly his “I may have misunderstood” line was yet another lie. A lie, btw, told such that it would be hard to hit him with a perjury charge because he was claiming confusion not really changing his story altogether. So, I agree that he’s a liar. But what are you saying his motivation was for lying about Clemens, supposedly his friend? That’s the part you didn’t address. I don’t see any logic behind him throwing Clemens under the bus with a lie. If he was Clemens worst enemy, it would make more sense.

          • KHAZAD says:

            I am not saying that Clemens didn’t use. But I do think that Pettitte took the spotlight off of himself and that he told a story about a conversation that had happened 7 or 8 years before, and in return Mcnamee, who had already named him, agreed that it only happened a couple of times with Pettitte. Remember that Pettitte only claimed a vague memory of one conversation with Clemens, not actual real evidence of him using, and then pretty much took it back four years later. So yeah, he was lying one of those times.

            We all seem to want to believe Clemens used because he was so good, but in the end he has denied his use more vehemently and longer than any other accused person, and the only real testimony is from a man who once lied to police about the rape of a woman plied with GHB. I also believe Clemens is a hall of famer thether he used or not.

            I KNOW Pettitte used. I KNOW Pettitte is a liar who will say whatever puts him in the best light. I believe Pettitte is a at best a player on the border (the wrong side of it, in my opinion) of the hall of fame as a player, without even taking that into account. The fact that he gets a pass,is talked about as being honest, and even has a chance (because people seem to think he is a good guy) of getting into the hall before Clemens pisses me off.

  10. Go Indians says:

    A follow-up to my previous comment that is not related directly to your article.

    I reject the simplistic narrative framing of the anti-steroid people. While others may disagree, the timeline that I use when thinking about these PED questions is the following:

    PED era: 1945-20011 (HGH testing started)

    Amphetamine: 1945-2006 (just after WWII to amphetamine testing)

    Steroid + amphetamine era: 198?-2004 (note that steroids were added to amphetamines which were still being taken)

    Nobody seemed to have much problem with just amphetamines. Even today you will get people who dismiss the use of amphetamines as not an issue even though they are clearly PEDs. However, the amphetamine era established a 40 year precedent that illegal drugs banned by other sport organizations (e.g., Olympics) as PEDs didn’t constitute cheating in baseball. Once steroids were added to amphetamines, there was minimal pushback until the early 2000s after Bonds broke the HR records. At that point, opinion solidified that the combination of steroids and amphetamines were too much and retroactively determined that those players who had used were now cheaters even though there was the 40 year precedence that drugs were not an issue. In order to not have to wrestle with the amphetamine era, they conveniently forgot that the steroid era was really a combination era with multiple drugs being used.

    I believe that the name itself (steroid era) obscures the reality.

    As I said, others may disagree with this characterization.

    • invitro says:

      “the use of amphetamines as not an issue even though they are clearly PEDs.” — You know some other PED’s? Tylenol. Caffeine. In other words: YAWN…

      • jalabar says:

        Want some more? Touradol (or however that is spelled). If you have an upset stomach the day of the game, Pepto Bismol is a performance enhancer. If you have a headache, Tylenol is a performance enhancer. Understanding that steroids are also illegal to take without prescription, it is kind of ludicrous where sports draw a line on what is considered a performance enhancer. You can’t take HGH to help recover from an injury, but you can take Vicodin or a number of other things to help you play through it.

        • invitro says:

          Well… I made my comment to show that “drug X enhances performance, therefore it must be banned” is a silly argument. I don’t know much about Vicodin, it’s an opioid, I think? It does seem like that would be a PED. I think all drugs are PEDs. But I think when considering which drugs should be banned, this might be the process:

          1. Does this drug enhance performance enough such that the majority of players will be required to use it to play at close to their maximum level?
          2. If so, are we ethically OK with the majority of players using this drug?

          Vicodin probably doesn’t pass 1. I don’t know about amphetamine, but maybe. Would we be OK with the majority of players using amphetamine? I don’t know. Steroids pass 1, but we’re obviously not OK with the majority of players using steroids, at least at hulk-making levels. (Notice I don’t include “would this drug allow breaking of HR records?” as an argument for banning a drug. I do sympathize with people who want to keep HR levels at a relatively even keel, though.)

          • jalabar says:

            Oh, Vicodin would certainly NOT be a performance enhancer for a healthy person. But give that person a cracked rib and it definitely becomes one.

          • jalabar says:

            I think it is very hard for me not to let sentimentality get in the way when judging and deciding on punitive measures for the steroid users. I admit that it makes me angry that Roger Maris no longer holds the HR record, something I attribute to chemical enhancement (not that someone couldn’t get there without it, but I don’t think the people that did it were clean) and even more so that Hank isn’t the HR king any more (even if he still is in many people’s minds).

      • Go Indians says:

        Amphetamines were banned by the Olympics as a PED in 1968. They have been illegal in the US without a prescription since 1971.

        If you are going to try to excuse amphetamine use, you will need to do better than the lame examples in your “response”.

        • invitro says:

          I personally don’t think the legality of a drug is relevant to whether it’s ethical to condone its use by baseball players. I understand that other people have differing opinions.

      • Doug says:

        This strikes me as a ridiculous argument. They’re a controlled substance regarded as a PED and they had a real effect (albeit one that would be difficult to quantify) on players’ longevity and performance. I don’t really see how you can care about steroids and not about greenies.

        • invitro says:

          “they had a real effect (albeit one that would be difficult to quantify) on players’ longevity and performance.” — It’s not only difficult to quantify, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to quantify. Steroid use is difficult to quantify. No one has shown that amphetamine increases either longevity or performance. As an amphetamine user, I can believe it increases performance slightly, but I can’t see how it would have any effect on longevity. In any case, I think you’re just bullshitting here… am I right, or are you basing your claim on evidence?

          “I don’t really see how you can care about steroids and not about greenies.” — The use of amphetamines at prescription levels is completely safe. (As I’ve said before, it better be, as I and millions of other people are taking it!) That’s certain. The actual use of steroids in the steroid era was not safe. I don’t know if that’s certain, but it seems to be the consensus. That’s the difference: the safety level. Now, obviously there’s a dose of steroids that is safe, and a dose of amphetamine that is unsafe. But I feel certain that the former is irrelevant, as players weren’t using safe doses of steroids, and feel confident that the latter is also irrelevant, as the maximum prescription dose of amphetamine should be enough for players to get at least some mental benefit.

          I agree that I should (and would) care about amphetamines if they were being taken in a “recreational” use, i.e., something like 10 to 100x the maximum prescription dose. As with every drug, saying it’s good or bad is pretty meaningless without saying what dose you’re talking about (I suppose that no dose of smoking crack is good).

          • Doug says:

            With regards to the effects of amphetamines, the main effect that ballplayers seemed to talk about is focus and energy, allowing older players to maintain higher levels of play and helping ballplayers to mitigate the effects of the long season, road trips, etc. It seems to me that an effect of that kind is somewhat comparable to the way that steroids increased career longevity – in kind, at least. Definitely not in quantity. I would agree that on the balance of evidence, steroids were a more effective way to cheat than amphetamines were. I haven’t done a substantial amount of research, of course, so this is mostly intuition based on what older ballplayers said about greenies.

            With regards to your moral case here, I’m not sure that I can agree. First of all, both steroids and greenies have the effect where, if some players are using them for an advantage, there’s a strong incentive for other players to consider using them. Second, even if it’s true that greenies carry less medical risk than steroids, it’s not clear to me (a) that this was reasonably known to players at the time and (b) that this would have been a central consideration for players at the time, in either case. I’m not sure how much players were weighing the health risks, either to themselves or other players, when they were deciding whether or not to take steroids or greenies. If they were weighting those risks, it seems unlikely that they would conclude steroids were substantially riskier than greenies: after all, whatever the truth of the risks, greenies were an addictive prescription drug, they were banned as a PED, etc, etc, etc.

            The point that this adds up to me is: your moral case against steroids seems to be that steroid use was morally faulty because it induced other players to take on the health risk of taking steroids. However, saying that, on the basis of this moral case, taking steroids was bad but taking greenies was fine relies on players knowing something that I don’t believe that they had any reasonable way of knowing (if it’s even true) – that steroids were substantially more dangerous than greenies. It seems strange to me to judge that decision differently, if there was not a reasonable way for players to know that there was such a difference in the decision. It seems like you’re relying on players making a fundamental distinction between greenies and steroids, and I don’t see any reason to think that players actually made such a distinction at the time, or had good reason to.

          • invitro says:

            “With regards to the effects of amphetamines, the main effect that ballplayers seemed to talk about is focus and energy, allowing older players to maintain higher levels of play and helping ballplayers to mitigate the effects of the long season, road trips, etc. It seems to me that an effect of that kind is somewhat comparable to the way that steroids increased career longevity – in kind, at least. Definitely not in quantity.” — The boost in focus is real. The boost in energy is an illusion. The effects of amphetamine are all mental. Steroids help old players more because they counteract the physical breaking down of the body that is more common in older players. I see no reason why amphetamine is more beneficial to old players than to young players… the tedium of MLB baseball playing is a constant, independent of the age of a player.

            “I haven’t done a substantial amount of research” — What research on amphetamine *have* you done? Just curious, in case I’ve missed something useful.

            “With regards to your moral case here” — It’s not at all a moral case. It’s a workplace health and safety issue.

            “greenies were an addictive prescription drug” — Now I’m wondering if you’ve done even the most basic research. They aren’t addictive when taken as prescribed. From Wikipedia: “The risk of developing an addiction is insignificant when Adderall is used as prescribed at fairly low daily doses, such as those used for treating ADHD; however, the routine use of Adderall in larger daily doses poses a significant risk of addiction due to the pronounced reinforcing effects that are present at higher doses. Recreational doses of Adderall are generally much larger than prescribed therapeutic doses, and carry a far greater risk of serious adverse effects.” (I’m assuming you know that greenies and Adderall are identical. I *think* that’s common knowledge, but given the various misconceptions on this page, I think it’s good to confirm.)

            “they were banned as a PED” — I don’t know if Adderall is banned right now. But MLB allowed 119 players to use it in 2013. (I give a source in another comment.)

            “they had any reasonable way of knowing (if it’s even true) – that steroids were substantially more dangerous than greenies.” — If you have evidence that steroids AREN’T substantially more dangerous than “greenies”, MLB and millions of scientists and Adderall users would like to hear it. Frankly, I don’t think you know what you’re talking about when it comes to amphetamine, at even a basic level. Would you disagree?

          • Doug says:

            How relevant do you think amphetamine as a prescribed medical treatment is to discussions about the use of greenies in baseball in the 1960s and 1970s?

          • Doug says:

            To reply in a little more detail: I don’t think that ballplayers in the 1960s or 1970s were using greenies in the way that they’re used when they’re prescribed by a doctor. That seems to me like a red herring. I don’t think they had any real way of knowing about whether or not greenies were dangerous in the way that they were using them. And I don’t know how relevant it is to compare the ballplayers who are using them today, with a prescription from a doctor, to the ballplayers who were using them in the 60s and 70s.

            And when I talk about it as a moral issue – from what you’ve said, what you view as the central moral issue with steroid use is that steroid users were morally faulty in undertaking behaviors that strongly compelled other ballplayers to take steroids despite the health risks. You seem to regard the workplace hazards as issuing into a broader moral problem with steroid use. My whole point is that I’m not sure how much difference there is between that case and the case regarding greenie users.

          • invitro says:

            “I don’t think that ballplayers in the 1960s or 1970s were using greenies in the way that they’re used when they’re prescribed by a doctor.” — Why not?

    • Rob Smith says:

      Are you suggesting that there is an equivalence between steroids and greenies? And do you know why players don’t use them anymore? Because they get the same effect from a Monster Energy drink. I guess false equivalence is a thing these days, but we shouldn’t accept them just because a few people like to bolster their pro-PED arguments. Nobody will hit 73 HRs because they pounded a couple of energy drinks during games.

      • Doug says:

        Well, but that’s the whole dang question, it seems to me. Do we care about the effects of people taking PEDs and how they affect performance and records? Or are we just angry that a player was able to hit 73 home runs?

      • invitro says:

        ‘Are you suggesting that there is an equivalence between steroids and greenies? And do you know why players don’t use them anymore?” — A huge amount of players used greenies in 2013 or 2014. (Has their prescription use been banned completely?) Source: “Following last season, MLB revealed that 119 players were allowed to use Adderall.” This is from September 2014, from

        • Rob Smith says:

          I realize that Adderall is an amphetamine. I wasn’t thinking about it that way, though. So, I concede the point. I was really thinking about the amphetamines that were used in college in the 70s and 80s. It was far less refined and I only took them a couple of times because they made me so jumpy & made it difficult to sleep. I personally don’t think they’re the greatest things for performance, but everyone’s different. Anyway, yes on Adderall. I do think it’s designed to help focus and I definitely see why players wanted to use it if they could get it approved. That said, Energy Drinks are the drugs of choice in the dugout and in most sports these days.

          • invitro says:

            It sounds like the “amphetamines that were used in college in the 70s and 80s” might have had some methamphetamine, and likely some caffeine, and maybe even some cocaine. I’m only guessing… I’m no recreational drug expert :).

            FWIW, to be pedantic, Adderall is not *an* amphetamine, it *is* amphetamine. There is a class of chemicals called opioids, which includes specific chemicals like morphine, heroin, fentanyl, etc. But amphetamine is not a class; it’s a specific chemical, and it’s the (only) active ingredient in Adderall. Now, Adderall does contain a specific mixture of the two *enantiomers* of amphetamine, rather than the racemate (equal mixture of the two). But they are both amphetamine; the left- and right-handed “versions”. On the other hand, *meth*amphetamine, “crystal meth”, is indeed a different chemical. It’s very close to amphetamine; it’s amphetamine plus a methyl (-CH3) group. Methamphetamine is to amphetamine as codeine is to morphine.

    • Richard says:

      I’m wondering. How many players who used amphetamines back in the day would have instead used things like energy drinks if they had been available?

      • invitro says:

        I think “energy drinks” are mainly just caffeine and sugar. Amphetamine is quite different from those. And the older guys probably drank a gallon of coffee or cola and got whatever these “energy drinks” are supposed to give.

  11. Mort says:

    Okay, so we don’t know who used and who didn’t. We don’t know comprehensively which skills are helped by PEDs or how much. We don’t know how to assign blame or penalties to coaching staffs who hinted strongly that a player needed more power to stay in baseball and offered broad clues as to how that power might be obtained quickly. We certainly don’t know how to assign blame and penalties to owners and commissioners who were mindful of the positive effect dingers have on attendance figures. And, gosh, we sure don’t know how to blame the fans who enjoyed the show while it was happening and didn’t bother to get indignant until years later, after Congress got involved. And we never will know those things. So why don’t we just flip it and assume that everybody used in that era? It’s no more unfair than anything else being proposed. Even if someone didn’t use, it’s probably safe to assume they condoned it in their teammates, which is wrong enough for me to feel justified in tarring them somewhat with the same brush. If 50-80% of ballplayers used, as some say, it’s impossible to believe that anyone in the clubhouse remained ignorant. You think maybe even the non-using players were happy enough to look the other way when their using teammates were winning ballgames for them? Then take the next step and judge these players only in relation to how they stacked up against each other. Raise the qualifying stats to whatever level guarantees that a proper proportion of the best players make it. The only real way to compound the wrong now would be if too many or too few players were inducted into the HOF from that era. And don’t worry so much. The delays in inducting HOF-worthy players are probably necessary to avoid rioting in Cooperstown anyway. People are emotional about it now, but not as much as a few years ago. In ten, twenty years or so people won’t care anymore, and a committee can be appointed to put in the ones who were missed due to the prejudices of the present age, hopefully while the players are still alive to enjoy it. And we can all get on to arguing about something else.

  12. jalabar says:

    Arghhh. I hate to have to do this again: Bonds is not like Sosa or Clemens or any of the other suspected but not proven guys. Bonds ADMITTED UNDER OATH he took steroids. He just said he didn’t know they were steroids, he thought it was linseed oil.

  13. Wes Tovich says:

    Boy What would Darrel Evans hit there????

  14. shagster says:

    Can’t make a credible adjustment. Just leave the ‘PED Sox’ out.

    Rodriguez comments open up a line of thinking for a ‘PED Sox’. One that seems appropriate for numeration, so appropriate for this blog. What characteristics count for membership on the PED Sox, how to weight them (fractions?, whole numbers?), and then what final score counts for membership. A start is first coming up with a list to then score. Here’s a start. Add, edit, subdivide, etc.).

    Rumor 1 (clubhouse, wife, girlfriend, family member)
    Rumor 2 (writer, 3rd party level)
    Physical proof (physical changes – head, roid rage, skin)
    Player nondenial -equivocation
    Mitchell Report
    Dealer doper reports


  15. MisterMJ says:

    As a group, baseball writers are among the most gullible, hypocritical, herd-mentality folks in sports journalism. Again, as a “group.” They fell hook, line, and sink for baseball’s rejuvenation in the late 90s and when PEDs/steroids came under scrutiny, they CYA’d in a major way and did their best to place blame and a select few players.

    There’s probably a dozen guys already in the HOF who used PEDs/steroids. Such drugs have been around for decades (in pretty much every sport) before the MLB offensive spike. In a business where tens of millions could be gained or lost based on NUMBERS and longevity, the temptation would be too great and though ballplayers and popular narratives have always touted some fake integrity, moral standard, and “love of the game” … it’s mostly BS.

    I just wish some HOF member(s) would step forward and admit using PEDS/steroids – used it for training, rehab, or just to try to see what the fuss was all about. This would help collapse the holier-art-thou-we-figured-it-out mentality of some of the baseball writers and shove all the worthy, yet blacklisted players into the museum.

    • Rob Smith says:

      To me, it’s not a moral argument. I fully understand why players chose to use. I don’t want them jailed. Bonds and Clemens weren’t prosecuted for using PEDs, they were prosecuted for lying under oath to Congress, btw. Some writers might be holier than thou, but most these days are just trying to sort out the legitimacy of their career numbers. And, of course, that’s the major part of most every players HOF case. I’m sure there were a small number of PED early adopters in the 70s and 80s. But it’s a very small number because the wisdom of the time did not equate big muscles with improved performance. The thought was that slim, sleek and trim was better. Getting too big would make you muscle bound, so players avoided getting big. Early adopters are likely players like Brian Downing. Players with marginal careers looking for an edge and looking to stay in the game. There was no perceived benefit for top players to use at that time. Jose Canseco was the one that blew up the myth of the muscle bound athlete. He opened eyes and flaunted his use. After Canseco blew everyone’s mind, usage picked up. So, you legitimately back of the steroid era to the late 80s. But there is no legitimacy to think there was more than outlier usage before then. So though some users may be in the HOF, it would be a very small number and only very recent inductees. And, having successfully used on the down low, there is no reason to think any user in the HOF will come forward.

  16. Paul says:

    1968 Dodger Stadium Barry Bonds would have been second in the 1968 majors in OBP (behind Yaz .426), 4th in slugging (Frank Howard .552, Willie McCovey .545, Willie Horton .543) and third in OPS (McCovey .923, Yaz .922, Bonds .919, so the three of them are effectively tied). And 1968 Dodger Stadium Barry Bonds is playing in a much greater pitchers park than the others. So in a career average season Barry Bonds is the best hitter in baseball, better than two clear Hall of Famers at their peak.

    There are a million different ways of saying Barry Bonds’s stats are unbelievable. This is just another, but wow Barry Bonds’s stats were amazing.

  17. Dano says:

    Where is it taken into account that Bonds would not have played nearly so long and become Babe Ruth in his late 30s? Or that Clemens may have been just a good pitcher after he left the Red Sox where he had barely a winning percentage his last 4 years? The steroids just didn’t give Bonds the ability to hit 73 HRs instead of maybe 45-50. It effectively made him a 25 year old although his body was close to 40. Ditto Clemens. Neither one would have amassed anywhere near their final HR and win totals had they had anywhere near a normal decline for superstars. Cut 100 wins off of Clemens and he’s not the greatest pitcher in the last 50 years. Take 150 HRs away from Bonds and he’s still a great player but he didn’t have the numbers of HRs, intentional walks, etc because he was declining or retired.

    • Dano says:

      Totally agree. And that’s why Bonds and Clemens are not all time greats in my book. Inflated stats don’t cover it all. Inflated years of being a 25 year old instead of a 40 year old make a huge difference. Still very good or great players but not all time greats.

  18. Chipmaker says:

    The 1968 Dodgers had two HOFers — pitchers Drysdale and Sutton (and manager Alston).

    What non-pitcher HOFers have called Dodger Stadium home?

    Duke Snider for one season, 1962 — he built his Hall testimony in Brooklyn and the LA Coliseum.

    Frank Robinson, one season, 1972 — another Hall plaque earned elsewhere.

    Eddie Murray was there for 1989-91, but again, he didn’t win his plaque based primarily upon these seasons.

    And then Mike Piazza arrives in 1992. The first real offensive Dodger HOFer in Los Angeles. It took Mike Piazza’s talent to overcome how thoroughly Dodger Stadium crushes hitters. No wonder few of the players translated to Dodger 1968 come off looking wanting.

    Hey, how about Piazza?
    actual: .308 / .377 / .545, 427 HR, 2127 hits, 1335 RBI, 1048 runs.
    1968: .267 / .331 / .472, 358 HR, 1796 hits, 989 RBI, 772 runs.

    1968 Piazza doesn’t get a plaque, most likely.

  19. MikeN says:

    How many pitchers do well at Coors Field? Do they go as deep into games as at other parks? If not, Clemens would take a bigger hit.

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