Jeff Pearlman

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A final steroid thought*

Today I received this e-mail from a reader:

Isn’t going on your suspicions like a juror in a murder trial thinking: “well, there’s no evidence this guy is guilty, but several of his friends are proven thugs, he looks like he might be a thug, so he must be guilty, so I’m voting ‘guilty.’”?

This was my response:
Mark, I strongly disagree. I’d equate this more to a murder trial where the accused, and those working on behalf of the accused, hid the bloody knife, the gun and the severed head beforehand so nobody could find them—then argued, “No evidence.”

That’s what this is.

Tell me why I’m wrong. The players union did EVERYTHING to cover this problem up, and it worked. Now they’re allowed to say, “No evidence”? Why?

•••
Honestly, I wish I’d just written that from Day One and moved on. Because that is exactly how I feel, and I don’t see how anyone can really argue the point. Baseball hid everything, then turns around and says, “Hey, there’s no evidence!” Well, of course there’s no evidence …
By the way, I’m sitting in a Manhattan Starbucks. When I lived in the city I loved sitting in its myriad coffee shops. Now, I’ll take the suburbs any day. This place is disgusting. The floor—disgusting. The smell—disgusting. The bathrooms—d-i-s-g-u-s-t-i-n-g.
  • john

    Uhh, simple, because you’re not consistently applying that principle. You’re only applying it to HR hitters who grew in muscle mass over their career and to whoever else has some actual evidence tied to them.

    It’s not just a matter of having an argument, it’s how you apply it, and you’re picking and choosing has gone over the top.

    Moreover, you can’t isolate yourself. You and the BBWAA are accomplices. As you yourself said, you were in the clubhouses. And you didn’t do enough. If anything, this is like a juror having participated in the crime, but not saying anything and voting guilty so no one looks their way.

  • http://@greggferrara Gregg

    John says it perfectly. So by your logic, no HOF for Jeter, Griffey Jr., Maddux, Glavine, or anyone ele from the past 25 years not named Frank Thomas. Makes perfect sense to me!

  • http://www.insidethebook.com/ee/index.php/site/article/my_dozens_of_ped_threads_hundreds_of_posts_thousands_of_rambling_comments_s/ James K.

    Poor analogy.

    It’s one thing to say that you know a gun, knife and severed head were involved in a murder (because gunshot and knife wounds and a dismembered body are found at a crime scene). It’s another thing to say that a specific person committed this crime without any evidence, i.e. DNA evidence, fingerprints on a weapon.

    In your analogy, the steroid era is the murder. Fine, I can live with that. It happened, there’s evidence it happened and it stinks (murder obviously stinks, but the steroid era isn’t a problem for me; besides the point though). Further in this analogy, Jeff Bagwell is a random thug off the street who fits the profile of a murderer but there is no hard evidence against him.

    Basically, hate the game, not the player. Hate on baseball, the player’s union, players in general — but don’t take it out on specific players that have no hard evidence showing they used. Innocent until proven guilty.

    Again, poor analogy. I also look forward to your hypothetical ballots excluding anyone who played between 1990 and 2005, if you’re going to be consistent here.

    I’m done with the steroid debate for this year. Hopefully you’ll click on my name and read the hyperlink for a great take on all of this.

    Regards

  • http://imapk.gojao.com Jeff

    If Baseball itself is to blame, then weren’t the players acting within the culture that was created for them?

    With MLB’s hypocrisy about the whole thing, maybe it would be poetic justice to have the steroid users in the Hall.

  • http://@greggferrara Gregg

    Anyone who hasn’t done so, you must read Jim Caple’s piece on this subject from yesterday.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    First, how can you reasonably justify withholding a vote for steroid use but not amphetamine use? Amphetamines became illegal two decades before steroids did. That was also about when we learned amphetamine use was rampant in baseball, thanks to “Ball Four.” In other words, a whole lot more players used amphetamines and for a whole lot longer than ever took steroids. And you probably voted for them without hesitation.

    Don’t tell me amphetamines are a performance-enabler, not a performance-enhancer. That’s simply a convenient rationalization to excuse amphetamine use by your favorite players. If a substance helps a player perform in any way, it is a performance enhancer.

    Next, how can you say steroid suspects don’t belong in the Hall of Fame because they cheated, but you’re fine with Gaylord Perry, who not only threw spitballs but also bragged about it? I’ve heard writers say spitballs are “gamesmanship,” by which they really mean, “I know I cannot rationally defend this incredibly inconsistent point of view.”

    Throwing a spitter is cheating, pure and simple. Baseball rule 3.02 prohibits players from using a foreign substance on the ball, and violating the rule carries a 10-game suspension. If you really consider spitballs mere “gamesmanship,” then tell me who you would rather face — a pitcher who took steroids or a pitcher throwing spitballs. I doubt you would want to face either.

    Bottom line: Throwing a spitter has been against baseball’s rules for 90 years. Meanwhile, steroids were not specifically banned until 2005.

    Another justification I hear a lot is that just because we don’t know the names of every player who took every possible PED doesn’t mean we can’t take a stand against the ones we suspect took some. After all, we don’t stop prosecuting any criminal because we can’t convict every criminal.

    That sounds OK at first, but who do you suspect? Someone like Jeff Bagwell, because he has big muscles? If so, why not Frank Thomas, who has even bigger muscles? Is it because Bagwell started hitting lots of home runs as the steroids era kicked in after he had not hit many in the minors? Then why not Jim Thome, who had a similar career track?

    Why not Cal Ripken Jr., whose streak would have benefited with something that aided recovery? Why not Nolan Ryan, who was throwing no-hitters in his mid-40s? Why not Tony Gwynn, who hit a career-high 17 home runs at age 37 after reaching double figures only twice in his 15 previous seasons? All these Hall of Famers enjoyed success in the steroid era (which we know started in the late ’80s). Why not suspect them? Just because they’re such good guys we can’t believe they cheated?

    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=caple/110105_HOF_voting&sportCat=mlb

  • DG

    Um, if you found that guy guilty with no evidence you would be a bad juror.

  • john

    Better analogy. If Bob lives in a high crime neighborhood and tolerates crimes, that doesn’t mean it’s OK to punish Bob for the crimes of other people if you have no reason to believe he never broke the law himself.

    If you want to punish everyone (basically, martial law in this analogy), punish everyone, not just guys who took the time to lift weights.

  • Kenric

    Jeff,

    I love your blog, if not your take on this particular subject. The only comment I’d make in response to this post is the IS a lot of quasi-evidence from the steroid era. From Jose Conseco’s book(s), to the Mitchell Report, even to the leaked names from the anonymous steroid tests, a lot of players have been named, but none of those players were Jeff Bagwell.

  • VLM

    And how about the reporters who knew about steroid and drug use but declined to report on it? How about the guy ostracized by his fellow media members for even mentioning McGwire’s andro? Where is the press accountability? The same guys voting for HOFers were the ones not reporting on steroids for decades.

    Unrelated: Try a coffee shop that isn’t some disgusting Starbucks. Bathrooms in those are marked cleaner especially in Manhattan where the company stopped giving two sh*ts about its presentation years ago. But if you prefer the soulless suburbs, enjoy that.

  • http://@greggferrara Gregg

    What I find funny about this steroid witch hunt is the hilarious speculation like its some national secret. “I don’t have proof, and I never heard his name mentioned, but I just know he did! So he will not be in the HOF on my watch!”

    Great, except for the fact that we have numerous HOF players who freely admit that took amphetamines. Where is the outrage that they are in the HOF? Where are the columns by Pearlman about taking Mike Schmidt and Hank Aaron out of the HOF?

    The funniest line you hear is “I hope one day it doesn’t come out that we elected a PED user to the HOF.” What in God’s name do you call the people you elected who took amphetamines?

  • john

    It’s frustrating that Pearlman feels compelled to answer idiots who call him names elsewhere, but not constructive criticism (at worst) on his own blog.

    But someone somewhere will call him an idiot, and he’ll yell about being shouted down.

    And then he’ll wonder why his books aren’t selling more.

    Come on Jeff, you are better than this.

    • Jeff Pearlman

      John, just sent you an e-mail that elaborates more. I’m not saying this to pat myself on the back AT ALL. Just as self defense: Name a national writer out there who responds to readers with the regularity and frequency that I do? I’m sure there are some, but not many. I really, really, really try. Sometimes I miss, and sometimes—out of frustration, admittedly—I pass. But I hope, overall, I’m strong in this area. I like to think I am.

      As for the books, who’s complaing? Clemens tanked, Bonds did so-so, the two others were NYT best-seller’s. If I at all sound like I’m complaining about my book career—slap me. Hard. Because I’ve been incredibly blessed.

  • http://platoonadvantage.com Bill@TPA

    Yeah, this perfectly illustrates why this whole argument of yours is misguided. Because in “a murder trial where the accused, and those working on behalf of the accused, hid the bloody knife, the gun and the severed head beforehand so nobody could find them—then argued, ‘No evidence,’” do you know what would happen? THEY’D BE ACQUITTED.

    Unless, that is, you could prove that that evidence existed and that those specific people hid it. Which is a situation completely impossible to equate with this one, because you’re not arguing that there was evidence against specific people and that those people hid that evidence; rather, you’re arguing that the MLBPA hid the evidence against everybody (which is true, aided and abetted by Selig and MLB) and that this somehow gives you the right to pick and choose which individual players you’re going to guess did steroids and which didn’t.

    Which, I suppose, do whatever you want, but know that it’s not remotely defensible by any of these kinds of high-minded legal principles.

  • Tom

    Perlman, If you didn’t take steroids the world is flat.

    You feel guilty so now you squeal about everyone else to deflect attention from yourself.

    Prove byond a shadow of a doubt that your not a juicer, or you are presumed quilty!

  • webster

    Peds have been outlawed beginning with the 1950′s. The way innocence has been adjudged since that time is through drug testing, ie, the competitor proves his innocence.

    The best way to support Pearlman’s position is to say that the standard that has been established for decades vis-a-vis peds usage in any honest athletic competition is that the assumption of guilt is applicable. Missing tests disqualifies. In an era where ped use was prevalent, mlb players ran away as a body from testing and the only valid way to be adjudged innocent of ped usage.

    This is 2011. Rather late in the game to be honoring ped usage. If a reporter wants to confer innocence to a particular steroid era player as a generous gesture of giving the benefit of the doubt and believing that player didn’t use, fine, but don’t think he’s obligated to vote for any of these guys if his objective is to keep ped users out.

    And honoring ped users in 2011 and beyond would be a sick joke. It shouldn’t even be viewed as in any way acceptable.

    The “innocent til proven guilty” crowd are the ones who should get off their moral high horse attacking the character of such voters since the attacks go to their character. That they’re mostly for letting all roiders in tells that they don’t really give a rat’s behind about whether Bagwell used or not.

  • Jeff

    Why is Alfonso’s picture on this piece?
    “Kiko” as he was known was a banjo hitter..

  • Tom

    Jeff Pearlman, you are worse than the players you accuse of cheating.

    Craig Biggio? Really?

    You are unworthy of a HOF ballot.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life