Monday, July 26, 2010

Beating Bad Teams and Steroids Revisit

Aside from a slight misstep on Friday night, the Twins took 3 out of 4 from the Orioles over the weekend, capped off by an impressive all-around effort yesterday. That combined with a little help from the As over the weekend and the Twins find themselves merely a game out of 1st place in the AL central staring at a three-game series with the mediocre Kansas City Royals. Tonight you have a marquee matchup between Francisco Liriano and Zack Greinke, which is quite fortunate for the Twins because it means they have a legit shot at winning this, the hardest game of the series (on paper anyway). Tuesday night is Pavano v. Chen and Wednesday is Duensing v. Bannister. A winnable series to be sure, the Royals come in having lost 10 of their last 13 games and the Twins have fared well in the meeting this year, owning a 6-3 record. Go Twins.

I wanted to take a little time to re-address PEDs and steroids as it has come up again with the recent Hall of Fame ceremonies over this past weekend, and in light of A-Rod approaching 600 career homeruns. Our good friend (sic) who is now writing for TheYankeeU, recently penned an excellent piece on A-Rod's pursuit of 600HRs, specifically criticizing those who would use the milestone to speak hatefully of A-Rod and make him the scapegoat for the "Steroid Era." The comments section was particularly amusing, especially after (sic) quoted something from a website I'd alerted him to, a website that can be found here. The website it pretty lengthy, but does a good job detailing the various scientific studies that have been done over the years regarding the "Steroid Era," and comes to the following conclusion:

Examinations of the actual records of major-league baseball for over a century, with an especial focus on the last 25 or so years, those now being attributed to a "steroids era", show clearly and conclusively--by a number of independent analyses by a number of independent analysts each using a different methodology--that there simply is not any power boost needing explaining: PEDs are an "answer" lacking a pertinent question. This fact has been disguised by the analytically faulty method of counting power events instead of determining their rate of occurrence in hitting, and further confounded by changes in the baseball, notably the juicing whose effects were felt in 1994 and possibly back in 1993, when the change occurred.

To be clear, this conclusion is not suggesting that certain players who were already HR hitters (McGwire, Bonds, Sosa, Brady Anderson (lolwut?)) didn't see a spike in their numbers as a result of PED use. The author of this website claims that changes in the baseball itself, starting in 1993, have been ignored completely and might bear some, if not as much, responsibility for the numbers of the specific players I mentioned before. What this website does conclude, however, is that the overall power numbers in baseball did not surge during what is now called "The Steroid Era" and that this has been the conclusion of independent researchers using vastly different methods. In other words, the effect of steroids in baseball has been blown out of proportion by the media while in reality, their effect was much less than we have been lead to believe. As a caveat, I understand that you cannot believe everything you read on the internet, but this website is very well done, lays out the facts and then makes conclusions, and is as non-biased a treatment of the issue as I have seen anywhere.

Yesterday, Andre "Hawk" Dawson was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame and had something to say about steroids in his speech (though he didn't mention it specifically):

Nothing is wrong with the game of baseball. Mistakes have hurt the game and taken a toll on all of us. Individuals have chosen the wrong road, and have chosen their legacy... Do not be lured by the dark side. It's a stain on the game. A stain gradually being removed. But that's the people, not the game. Nothing is wrong with the game. There never has been.

I think his "individuals have chosen the wrong road, and have chosen their legacy" line was the most important line in his brief mention of the issue. It will never be possible to tell what the effect, whether great or small, steroids had on individual numbers. Would McGwire have broken Maris' record in 1998 without PEDs? Would Barry Bonds with all of his talent done what he did in the late '90s and early '00s without PEDs? We will never know. To paraphrase Dawson, it really doesn't matter, they chose their legacy and no matter their numbers, the legacy they chose will be the one they are remembered by.

I think we all need to move on from talk of steroids and the "Steroid Era." Major League Baseball has taken a number of steps to clean up the game and now it's time for us to move on. I think we should celebrate A-Rod's milestone and I think we should not be so quick to question a player who is having a great season. Roger Maris, whose record of 61HRs stood for 37 years (some would claim it still stands), never had another season during his career where he hit more than 39HRs. The great Mickey Mantle had two seasons during his career in which he hit 50+ HRs, the other 16 seasons, he was in the 20s, 30s and low 40s. For a more modern example, look at Joe Mauer; prior to last year his career high for home runs in a season was 13 and last year he hit 28.

In every great career there are going to be a few spectacular, outlier seasons. Those who took steroids will be remembered for that and history will be their judge. Meanwhile, I'm going to appreciate the great things I see on a daily basis within the game of baseball, and move on from the "stained" era.

1 comment:

  1. with an especial focus on the last 25 or so years

    I'm skeptical of a study that mentions "an especial focus".