Baseball Toaster Bronx Banter
Know the Ledge
2005-08-01 04:44
by Alex Belth

Howard Bryant became a sports writer so that he could write a book about racism and Boston sports, specifically as it pertained to the Red Sox. "Shut Out" featured fine reporting but the writing was surprisingly repetitive and weak in spots. However, it remains an extremely useful book in spite of its flaws because the subject is so rich. I always felt as if Bryant did not have a strong editor to help make his narrative shine. That is not the case with Bryant's second effort, "Juicing the Game," a story that is much larger in scope but one that is also told with great precision and focus. Bryant's reporting continues to be top-notch (and this book certainly could not have been written if Bryant was not established inside the game), but it is his writing that has grown by leaps and bounds. If "Juicing the Game" is not a truly great book--and it might just be--it certainly is an exceedingly good one. It is the story of the Bud Selig Era and will go down as the logical successor and ideal companion to John Helyar's "Lords of the Realm."

I wasn't exactly sure what the book was about when I first heard about it. I assumed it was an expose about steroids, a subject that doesn't exactly captivate me. But "Juicing the Game" is really an insider's history of the professional game since Fay Vincent was commissioner. It features a huge cast of characters and explores how and why the current Offensive Age, the Steroids Era came to be. Perhaps the most compelling aspect of the book is that Bryant does not attempt to simplify a complicated situation. The bottom line may not be complex (mo money, mo problems), but Bryant doesn't lay the blame on one thing in particular-—instead, the entire game is complicit:

To Glenn Stout, the crumbling of the 1998 monument resembled nothing less than a classic morality tale. It wasn't just the players, and it wasn't just drug use, Stout thought, but the entire baseball institution that was under indictment. Baseball needed to recover from the strike, and found itself seduced by a culture of uncontrolled accumulation. Every segment of the game was culpable. It was the players who used whatever substances were available to maximize their achievements, and in turn their earnings, at the expense of their credibility. It was the fans who did not care that the game was being made less legitimate as long as they were treated to a more exciting product. It was the press and the broadcast media that chose to reap the added profits and increased exposure that came during the boom time instead of employing the stamina and scrutiny required to confront a spiraling baseball culture. Finally, Stout thought, it was the owners that profited from drug use and ran from the responsibility until there was nowhere else to go.

And this:

Tony Gwynn did not believe baseball was in crisis, but thought the decade of offense had to some degree been engineered by design. The strike had forced the game's hand, Gwynn believed. Piece by piece, from the gradual institution of a tighter strike zone, to the manipulation of the baseball, to the construction of home run-friendly parks, and ultimately to allowing player's growth in size to go unchecked and largely unquestioned, baseball had manipulated its product toward greater offensive production. It was a stunning consideration.

"Take into account us trying to regain and recapture the American public's imagination and the hitter's realizing that if he got bigger and stronger he could hit the ball out the other way," Tony Gwynn said. "And it all manifested itself into a product people liked. And now it's too late to go back. It's too late and you can't go back."

This line of thinking reminded me of Mel Gibson's drug dealer trying to go straight in Robert Towne's movie, "Tequila Sunrise." He can't seem to get out of the business, and he tells the Michelle Pfieffer character:

"Nobody wants me to quit. The cops wanna bust me, the Columbians want my connections, my wife she wants my money, her lawyer agrees, and mine likes getting paid to argue with them...I haven't even mentioned the customers. You know they don't want me to quit."

In the late 1990s, home runs were sailing out of the park at an alarming rate and everybody was making money. Nobody wanted the party to stop. But if everyone is culpable to an extent, Bryant lays the responsibility squarely on the leaders of the game. "They've really damaged something," the historian David Halberstam tells Bryant. "It's a fascinating look at the psychology of weak, greedy men." More than anything, "Juicing the Game" is a story about the failure of leadership--from Selig and Fehr and the owners on down:

In the end, Bud Selig is alone, isolated to a degree from the game over which he presides, the old history major banking on the fact that indeed history will absolve him, his renaissance destroyed largely by his own opposition to investigation. "We need to move forward," Selig says in defense of the era. It is the worst indictment of the tainted era, that the commissioner of baseball honors the years he once so happily called the greatest in baseball history by refusing to look back at them.

Bryant's narrative is even-handed and balanced yet authoritative and convincing, not an easy trick. Another pitfall is that Bryant is writing about a topic that has not fully played itself out yet. The introduction covers the Congressional investigation that took place earlier this spring, yet his coverage seems complete, and not likely to become dated by the time the book is released in paperback. That takes real confidence and courage. Bryant has both to spare.

In this dense popular history, Bryant creates striking portraits of the kind of driven, super-competitive, insecure men you find in the game, from Sandy Alderson to Reggie Jackson and Barry Bonds. The sections of Brady Anderson and AJ Hinch are empathetic without being sentimental. I found the behind-the-scenes accounts of the owners, small market vs. big market, as well as the lot of them pitted against the Players Association to be riveting. Amongst other things, Bryant also discusses Alderson's battle against Richie Phillips and the umpires, the sorry tale of Ques Tec, the Crusaders who fought with MLB to recognize its growing drug problem, the devastating impact of the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act, the changing perception of the Players Association, both from inside and outside the union, the vilification of Steve Wilstein, the Associated Press reporter who first broke the Mark McGuire Androstenedione story, to the San Francisco Chronicle's historic coverage of the BALCO affair. (I don't know enough about the drug culture to know how good of a job Bryant does in relation to performance-enhancing substances, but I'm eager to see what extremists like John Perricone make of his efforts.)

What gives "Juicing the Game" depth is how Bryant is able to set the story in the context of the culture at large. He is especially poignant when writing about the influence of Television. These days, we are bombarded with commercials about drugs that can help everything from weight loss to erectile dysfunction:

Television beamed twin messages that, taken together, forged a mind-set. The first was that, as far as baseball was concerned, the players who received the most attention, the highest salaries, and the greatest adulation were the ones who hit the ball the farthest and threw the hardest. The second was that there existed a pill for everything, and that included, by extension, pills to make a person a better baseball player. In a sense, the baseball player and the average American were being barraged with the same message and seeking the same remedy for vastly different problems. The end result, however, was essentially the same: When in doubt, there was always a drug that could help.

In fact, the sports world in the age of ESPN and the Internet had changed drastically:

To Paul DePodesta, the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the reason for watching sports was shifting. A greater number of fans did not seem to care about how these great accomplishments were achieved but rather sought only to be entertained. Not only did the drama of the game not have to be real, but neither did the people who played it. Matt Keough, the Oakland superscout who pitched nine years in the big leagues, agreed. "There was a time when baseball was a sport first and entertainment second. That day is past. It is entertainment first, and then it is a sport." To DePodesta, this shift had potentially fatal consequences for the world of sports."

Regardless, this is a story about a cynical, Post-Watergate America (late in the book, Bryant makes a fitting analogy between Selig and Richard Nixon). While some players, owners, writers, and fans--not to mention Congressmen--were morally offended by baseball's drug culture, others like David Wells "thought that steroid use in baseball represented nothing more than a kind of Darwinism." Bryant compares the current drug problem with the quiz show scandal of the late fifties and concludes that:

David Wells was a product of a very different America, one that was less loyal, less inclined to be outraged by scandal, and wholly more cynical, believing that the means by which success was gained were infinitely less important than the end result. Not only did David Wells not care that players used steroids, he expected everyone who competed against him, especially considering the enormous sums of money that were on the table, to do whatever it took to get over. Wells exemplified this new American way of thinking, and it explained exactly why the fans kept coming back to the ballpark. In David Wells' America, it was the crook who got the TV show.

Ironically, the more things change the more they have stayed the same since the end of Helyar's "Lords of the Realm." Bryant's book may end on a darker note, but it is remarkable how relevant Helyar's concluding paragraph remains:

The Lords and the agents, the lawyers and the czars, had done their best to kill baseball. There was something about the national pastime that made the people in it behave badly. They were, perhaps, blinded by the light of what it represented--a glowing distillate of America. Men fought to control it as though they could own it. They wallowed in dubious battle, locked in ugly trench warfare for dominion over the green fields. The money poured into the game and men gorged and gouged over it--made damned fools of themselves over it.

And the fans, ever forgiving, we still there.

The fans are are still here. Same as it ever was.

Comments (52)
Show/Hide Comments 1-50
2005-08-01 05:30:54
1.   Alex Belth
The only stylistic flaw that I noticed in Bryant's writing is his habit of starting sentences "To so-and-so, such-and-such happened." By the end of the book, it became a minor distraction.

However, one of the things I found really terrific about his writing was how he was able to covers familiar baseball ground in a way that springs your imagination--at least mine--into action. I love it when I can read something that allows me to digress and daydream. For instance, take the following passage:

"Perhaps more than in any other sport, baseball men tended to be a sour lot, who often focused on what a player could not do, instead of what he could. Part of it was the nature of the game. It was the only sport in which failure was an acceptable part of the game...The other part was how the game was played. Scouts and coaches tended to focus on what a player could not do, because that's what good pitches and hitters would do, mercilessly exploiting one another's weaknesses. A with a hole in his swing was going to see pitches in that same location until he proved he could reach them. A pitcher without a breaking ball would watch hitters sit and feast on the fastball. But this constant negativity had a crippling effect on the fragile psyches of young players, under great pressure to succeed, with failure resulting in a return to suffocating economic conditions."

Later, when discussing A.J. Hinch, a prospect in the Oakland system, Bryant writes:

"Hinch reminded Ken Macha, the A's bench boach, of his own son, Eric, in that both were supreme perfectionists. In a baseball sense, this was not entirely a compliment, for Macha thought one of Hinch's greatest troubles was his inability to release negativity from his mind. He would obsess about one bad swing in one at-bat. A good big league hitter needed to clear his mind of negative thoughts as quickly as they appeared."

Remember in "Moneyball" when Billy Beane realized the moment he would never make it as a big league regular? It was while he was teammates with Len Dykstra, a guy who never thought too much or let his confidence get rattled by failure. Well, this passage got me to thinking, "This explains why Derek Jeter is so good." Sometimes I wish that Jeter would show his frustration on the field, throw a helmet, something, after making an out, because that's invariably what I would do. But Jeter rolls with failure and never lets it get to him.

Anyhow, I just wanted to show an example of how good, descriptive writing--and there are plenty of examples in this book--stimulates intellectual curiosity.

2005-08-01 06:34:51
2.   Murray
Gwynn's comment suffers from the same old-fartism that plagues men much older than he who discuss the state of the game (speaking of which, Ryne Sandberg's sermon at Cooperstown yesterday was embarrassing).

For one thing, it's a question of where he wants the game to return. If by "tighter strike zone" he means a smaller one, forcing umpires to call the rulebook strike solves the problem. In fact, a lot of problems stem either from the refusal to enforce the rules as written or reluctance to change them at all. Baseball's near refusal to change rules to address perceived problems is silly if one considers how much the rules changed from 1876 through to 1910. It's not cricket, whose rules remain trapped in the mid-19th Century. Baseball's rules weren't brought down from Mt. Sinai on stone tablets. Other major sports make rules changes all the time to correct perceived imbalances. Why can't baseball?

2005-08-01 07:25:43
3.   monkeypants

Indeed, even cricket rules have changed significantly, from the adoption of such innovations as the much shorter 50-over match, rules about where a team can place defenders during a shorter match, the recent "super-sub" rule, etc. These are attempts to shape the aesthetic of cricket in order to win over more fans (and, according to cricket fans I talk to, it has worked).

As to the substance of of your comment, however, I would agree--but only to a point. Yes, rules changed a lot from 1876 to 1910, but is that a fair comparison? All games tend to develop and evolve more in their formative years than later, when the games (and the leagues in which they are played) become more standardized. Thus, there were major rules and equipment changes in football and basketball in the early part of the twentieth century (with professional BB culminating, perhaps, in the shot clock in the 1950s), followed by standardization and rules tinkering. At the risk of succumbing to the "old-fartism" that you decry, one of the things that I enjoy about baseball is the relative timelessness of the rules--I far prefer that the rules are not changed very much than to the yearly ritual of NFL or NBA players, refs, and fans adjusting to those increasingly byzantine and ever-changing rule codes. I don't think that MLB's near refusal to change rules is silly at all, so long as one is happy with the aesthetic of the game.

Now, if there is displeasure with a perceived imbalance, then your general observation is correct and MLB should consider tinkering with the rules. I would not change the rules of play per se, but would look at adjusting some of the equipment, perhaps making the ball 10% or 20% less lively, or regulating bats more. Of course, even these efforts would be hampered because the playing fields are not uniform (so owners can still greatly engineer the game aesthetic independently of any rules changes).

2005-08-01 07:28:38
4.   rbj
Mo's another one who doesn't let failure get to him. On the other hand, you've got Paul O'Neil who'd take out a strike out on a water cooler.
2005-08-01 07:44:09
5.   Schteeve
Great review Alex.
2005-08-01 07:57:28
6.   Murray
Let me clarify what I mean: Baseball's self-appointed poets laureate (the George Wills, Bob Costases and Bart Giamattis) wax rhapsodically over the majesty of bases set 90' apart, or a mound 60'6" from the plate as if such dimensions were the Golden Mean. But there's nothing wrong with saying "Batters are getting too close to the plate. Let's move the batters' box 3" off the plate." There's nothing wrong with saying, "The balk rule doesn't make any sense and is enforced selectively. Let's review its purpose and enforcement." There's nothing wrong with regulating the thickness of bat handles. There's nothing wrong with stating that foul lines have to be at least 330' long and that center field has to be 400' away (whoops, we already have, but we've chosen to ignore that).

I like to think that the constant changing of rules in the NFL and the NBA is a sign of the weakness of those games. But I know that's just a supercilious attitude based on my preferences rather than objective information. More realistically, rule changes are a recognition of changes in the way that games are played over time, the constantly changing capabilities of well-conditioned professional athletes, and the ability of referees/umpires to keep up with the athletes. So if we want to keep bulked-up sluggers from driving the outside pitch to the opposite field, then maybe we should enforce the batter's box and see whether that helps. If we don't want bandbox ballparks, then the rule about minimum dimensions is easy enough to enforce. Because nobody knows exactly how much tinkering with the ball, I would steer clear of it.

Sure, there are ways to influence the way the game is played. There always will be. But there are rules that are simply ignored, and everybody accepts that it's all right. Maybe it isn't.

2005-08-01 08:53:02
7.   Dan M
Murray brings up a good point about the batter's box, and that teams ignore the Rules by not painting the inside line of the batter's box. If the umps/MLB forced teams to paint the line, and if umps forced batters to keep their feet within the boxes, we might see a change re: opposite way power.

And we might see Carl Everett flip out again.

2005-08-01 09:15:28
8.   JohnnyC
Actually, I don't think that "opposite field power" has that much to do with the majority of hitters moving up and over the plate in recent years. It's an instance of baseball Darwinism that David Wells probably wasn't referring to. It's key to why the slider is no longer as effective and ubiquitous a pitch as it was in its heyday of the '60s thru the '80s. By moving up in the box and closer to the plate (remember most classic sluggers in the past set up way back and away from the plate in order to pull the fastball inside or down the them a split second more reaction time and the leverage to hook the ball), they can reach sliders thrown middle away in the zone. Since most sliders are mediocre fastballs with a small curl, batters needn't worry about catching up velocity-wise. The steroids came in as a way to protect the inner part of the plate...short of Mo's hellacious cutter, no pitch is going to saw off the bat on a juiced-up batter who hangs over the plate with the increased bat speed afforded through chemistry. Which is why change-ups are truly the king of pitches these days...changing speeds trumps location in today's game.
2005-08-01 09:43:11
9.   JohnnyC
Of course, we have one of the few pitching coaches that exhorts his pitchers to throw guessed it...sliders. 'Cos you know there's such a thing as too many strikeouts.
2005-08-01 09:59:13
10.   Alex Belth

Another one bites the dust. Raffey has tested positive for steroids.

2005-08-01 10:00:09
11.   Oscar Azocar
Just read this and Jedi posted this in the previous post: Palmeiro has been suspended for roids:
2005-08-01 10:05:04
12.   Oscar Azocar
Oops, posted that one right after Alex posted the same link...

What a shame. The guy testifies in front of congress and points his finger while denying roid use. Also, this happens right after hit #3000. There's going to be a whole bunch of columns in the press tomorrow debating whether or not he belongs in the HOF.

2005-08-01 10:05:28
13.   Alex Belth
A friend of mine at work said "How stupid can a person be?" I think it has more to do with arrogance than stupidity but I guess that's just semantics.
2005-08-01 10:07:25
14.   Alex Belth
Here is what Raffey told Congress on March 17:

"Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. My name is Rafael Palmeiro and I am a professional baseball player. I'll be brief in my remarks today. Let me start by telling you this: I have never used steroids. Period. I don't know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never. The reference to me in Mr. Canseco's book is absolutely false. I am against the use of steroids. I don't think athletes should use steroids and I don't think our kids should use them. That point of view is one, unfortunately, that is not shared by our former colleague, Jose Canseco. Mr. Canseco is an unashamed advocate for increased steroid use by all athletes."

2005-08-01 10:29:14
15.   Shaun P
Is it possible that Palmiero's test was a false positive, or that he tested positive for a non-steroid substance that was on the banned list?

I'm afraid I don't know enough detail about how the testing works, and what's on the list, to make a judgment on Palmiero and his words. Just a bad situation all around. Sigh.

2005-08-01 10:32:02
16.   JohnnyC
Makes you wonder how they came up with that list of players to testify before Congress. Raffy, Sosa, Schilling, Frank Thomas (he weaseled his way out with some injury excuse), Canseco, McGwire, Giambi (they reconsidered his subpoena). Wink wink.
2005-08-01 10:33:37
17.   Murray
Perhaps we have a nomenclature problem. Human Growth Hormone is not a "steroid." That's the drawback to using the term "steroid" as a catch-all for illicit performance-enhancing drugs.

It's more than just the way to beat the slider, though. The problem is that people simply thought that it was impossible to drive the outside pitch to the opposite field. The metal bat, however, allowed college and high school hitters to discover not only that their bats allowed for it, but that the skill translated to wood.

Here's a point that is oft-cited, but worth repeating: it is difficult to assign proper weight when there is a confluence of causes.

2005-08-01 10:37:45
18.   Oscar Azocar
There's a link on the Orioles MLB site with his statement. I'm having trouble pasting the link but here's a try:

We'll never know what exactly he tested positive for. A false positive would truly be unfortunate for all parties involved, but it seems like from his statement that he may have mistakenly taken some sort of supplement that contained some sort of banned substance. Who knows. Only he knows the truth. I'm still stunned by this.

Maybe it was all that Viagra he's taken over the years...

2005-08-01 10:43:04
19.   Alex Belth
Yeah, and I claimed he tested for steroids when it wasn't announced what he tested positive for at all. It could also be a false positive. I would like to give the man the benefit of the doubt, but I'm skeptical.

I wonder if MLB is privately pleased. Not that a great player is going to be ruined but that by nabbing a prominent player it gives their new drug policy some teeth. You had to figure this was all going to get worse before it got better. It is officially worse this afternoon.

2005-08-01 10:46:38
20.   earl
Apparently Buster Olney said (on WEEI) that the positive was indeed for steroids, and they checked numerous times. Not sure how he would know though.

In Palmeiro's recent denials, he always uses the word "intentionally". A trainer could be involved, with a wink-wink-nudge-nudge by the player.

2005-08-01 10:53:07
21.   rilkefan
Haven't read the book, but from interviews/reviews I get the impression that the author thinks the changes in the game are all about steroids. Not being convinced that they're of (long-term?) benefit for (most?) players, and considering the other possible factors, the simple-explanationism bugged me.
2005-08-01 10:54:12
22.   bp1
No doubt there is some reporter now trying to find Jason Giambi, so he can be the first to ask him "So Jason - what do you think of Palmeiro's test results?".


Yeah - definitely worse.


2005-08-01 10:56:11
23.   Alex Belth
I didn't get that impression from the book. Actually, I think he went out of his way to make a case for just how many factors have contributed to the offensive boom. I haven't heard any of Bryant's interviews for the book, but like I mentioned above, I thought one of the book's strengths was that it didn't seek to oversimplify a complicated issue.
2005-08-01 11:11:31
24.   JohnnyC
"the skill translated to wood" That's news to several hundred college sluggers who couldn't make that translation. Two of the main reasons why top tier college hitters fail in the pros...lack of bat speed and lack of a flat plane swing. Metal bats intensify those deficits by being much lighter than wood bats and by negating the sweet spot, encouraging upper-cut swings. When college players try to hit against better, faster pro pitching with wooden bats, they soon realize that they need something that will radically increase their bat speed so they can clear the inner half of the plate. Driving the ball to the opposite field is not an option when they keep pounding you inside with fastballs. Of course, that does nothing to correct their upper-cut swing. Well, nobody said hitting a baseball was easy.
2005-08-01 11:53:41
25.   rilkefan
Noted, Alex, that makes me more likely to pick up a copy.

Trying to defend Giambi at (links don't work here it seems).

2005-08-01 11:55:15
26.   Alex Belth
Here is a good e-mail I received from fellow Baseball-Toaster scribe, Mike Carminati:

Palmeiro on Canseco's book in spring training, quite prescient stuff: "In my opinion, everyone that plays baseball in this era has been tainted," Palmeiro said. "Not just the people that he has named in the book, I think this whole era over the last 10, 15 or 20 years has been tainted. Regardless of whether you did or you didn't do anything, this whole era will have that label."

2005-08-01 12:37:48
27.   Simone
I'm reading Bryant's "Juicing the Game" right now. I'm about a 1/3 way through. I agree with Alex that it is very compelling and engaging read, despite the occasional awkwardness. I've really learnt more about the minds and inner working of MLB and its powerful personalities than ever before. I strongly recommend this book to baseball lovers.

Palmeiro went before an arbitrator and this never made it into the sports pages. Goes to show how the sports writers are completely in the pockets of MLB.

2005-08-01 12:59:38
28.   Ben
Just speaking with a collegue about doping in sports and parallels with the medicaid lawsuits against big tobacco. he cited that it was a shame, and more than that, a sham, to place people in the position where lying is in their best interest. It was the case with the tobacco execs who couldn't readily admit that they knew how dangerous smoking was because of their responsibillity to their shareholders, and the same is true about baseball's big stars. They have to lie and hope that when they really get nailed, there is a semantic issue that will help them out.

This is the problem with crusaders who do not allow for their own culpability in a case. After all, who was it that was buying all those baseball tickets when Mac and Soso were clearing using? Not Me Not Me Not Me!!!

2005-08-01 13:44:46
29.   Shaun P
I'm skeptical, too - maybe he did take a banned substance, but we don't know. That's the most troubling part of this whole area. Palmiero may be innocent, but we won't ever know for sure. And because of that ambiguity, it is very easy to call him a liar, a cheat, and a fraud - to destroy his reputation - without any hard facts. (And probably without needing to worry about being sued for libel.) What if he is actually innocent?

BTW, FWIW, I recall there was some confusion over whether a test for hGH did exist - and I believe if such a test did exist, it was a blood test. MLB players who are tested just pee in a cup - no blood is taken. So whatever we're talking about here, its not hGH.

2005-08-01 14:05:32
30.   Shaun P
For those who haven't seen it yet, Will Carroll has an article up at Prospectus about Palmeiro and the testing program:

Its free, so enjoy - if I'm reading it right, doesn't sound very good for Palmeiro.

2005-08-01 14:37:49
31.   Simone
Shaun P, if a player tests positive, especially after re-tests, they are not innocent. Palmeiro is guilty. The fact that Palmeiro refuses to say what he tested positive for simply compounds his guilt.
2005-08-01 16:02:07
32.   jonm
Great review, Alex. Makes me want to read the book. I didn't want the quality of the review to be lost in all the Palmeiro news.
2005-08-01 16:04:39
33.   rsmith51
According to the radio(perhaps not a reliable source), the privacy issue which Palmeiro speaks of in saying that he can't disclose the information is in there to protect him, not MLB. Therefore he could say what it is that he has taken. I am sure there are other legal issues surrounding the whole "I'm holier than thou" speech in front of congress. According to my brother-in-law(months ago), before Palmeiro was traded to the Rangers from the Cubs he had very little power so the difference between him and Grace was very little. Apparently once he got to Texas he bulked up and was hitting HRs. Of course, maybe he just worked out and stuff but this new information does not put him in a very good light. I am disinclined to believe him, but I wouldn't be shocked if he never took steroids or if he did.
2005-08-01 17:00:57
34.   jonm
I read the free Prospectus article and it was very good. I liked the site in the past, but thought the cost was unreasonable. My question : is it worth $40 a year?

I like reliable fielding stats and I've heard that Prospectus metrics aren't that great. Is that true?

2005-08-01 17:19:49
35.   jedi
Dont mean to change the subject, but on a totally different note, the Mariners just released Aaron Sele. Cashman, please do not pick him up. Please...please do not pick him up. He totally sucks ass. Nomo was enough.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

2005-08-01 17:40:54
36.   JeremyM
I don't know why I never looked before, but Palmeiro's stats, power-wise, show a marked difference in 1993, which is Canseco's first full season with the Rangers. Did this coincide with the opening of Texas's new stadium, and if so, was the previous stadium also a launching pad?

Canseco's book is suddenly very credible as far as kissing and telling.

2005-08-01 17:41:59
37.   mikeplugh
Great review. All my recent baseball reads have been Japanese baseball books (as I'm over here and want to understand this maddening version of our national passtime), so an American book is welcome fare!!

I have no sympathy for Palmeiro, if in fact he used 'roids.....or anything else for that matter. The winds have been blowing on this stuff for 2-3 years and any smart player (or agent) would work as hard as possible to get off the stuff and rehab ASAP.

I wrote yesterday that I thought Giambi got off the juice a couple of years ago and slowly worked his way back....remember how thin he was during 2004 Spring Training? He saw it coming and did something about it (presumably). Now he's gone through his trouble and seems to be back to his old self.

Look at the older players that have been swallowed up by injuries lately. Many of them are guys who were steroid rumors of recent years. Nomar, Bonds, Schilling, Frank Thomas, Mark McGwire.....all slow to come back from injuries. McGwire and Canseco both had back problems that came from the deterioration of the muscle supporting their weight, etc....And, look at Sosa's precipitous decline with the Orioles.

I won't make the complete leap to say that these players are steroid users, because none of them has actually been caught. No baseball McCarthyism here. What I will say is that these players should heed the warning that Giambi apparently heard. They should do whatever they can to leave doping in the past (if they have been guilty to begin with) and note the example of Palmeiro. Fans will not forgive him the way they forgive Giambi to the degree they have forgiven him.

The media will not forgive him when his name comes up for the Hall. Many of them already had a question mark next to his name.

It's going to get ugly if other players don't do their rehab and go cold turkey. We'll see the game's popularity decline and the heros of the 90's resurgence will ultimately be remembered as snake oil salesmen.

2005-08-01 18:20:11
38.   rsmith51
Regarding Frank Thomas, he was an outspoken critic of the union for not testing for steroids. I am not sure he belongs in the same discussion as Bonds, Sosa, Palmeiro, and McGwire.
2005-08-01 18:28:56
39.   mikeplugh
Fair enough. Leave Frank Thomas out of it, but his name has been tossed around with the others. He's a big guy and an injury plagued former power hitter, so he gets lumped in with the rest.

I hope that none of these guys is guilty. I hope that someday proof is revealed unquestionably clearing the big names of any wrongdoing, but at this point you have to be skeptical first and optimistic second. Big money, big stardom, big risks......

2005-08-01 19:45:14
40.   Simone
Actually Frank Thomas' name has never been tossed around in the steriod talk beyond the fact that he was called a whiner for calling out guys who he felt were using steroids. Thomas has always been an outspoken critic of steroid use. He said that he was a huge powerful guy and there was no way these other guys could be hitting more home runs than him so they had to be using something. So Frank shouldn not be "lumped in the rest," period.

Tony Gwynn is busy trying to defend Palmeiro. Who do these people think they are kidding?

2005-08-01 19:54:43
41.   mikeplugh
Got it. I stand corrected. Sorry Frank.

He is HUGE. I was in Vegas on business a few years back and saw him at a craps table. He stood head and shoulders above the other men at his private table and he was as wide as Randy Johnson is tall.

It's no wonder that he played TE at Auburn. Between Thomas, Bo Jackson, and Charles Barkley Auburn has produced some big boys.

2005-08-01 19:56:34
42.   rsmith51
I'm with you, Simone. I don't understand why they are so quick to defend Palmeiro. It was his arrogance or stupidity that allowed this to happen. Maybe he was taking steroids all these years and just didn't know it. Considering how many players have taken steroids, there are only a handful who have admitted it. And of the handful they either had something to gain or were under oath or retired. It would be nice of somebody would just fess up with no other reason then to get it off their chest. Of course, if you are willing to cheat by taking steroids...
2005-08-01 20:47:30
43.   brockdc
I visited an old friend over the weekend in the City. He was a dominant baseball player back in high school and went on to play in college and, later, in the minors for a few years. In the minors he was good but not nearly good enough to make the leap to MLB. As we stood on the sweltering subway platform on our way to the Stadium, I asked if he'd every considered using steroids or any other illicit performance enhancing substance in his playing days.

Before I tell you his response, I cannot emphasize the moral rectitude of this individual. I mean, I know I'm his friend and, admittedly, I'm biased, but this is just a terrific individual here. Anyway, as you might have already guessed, he didn't hesitate. He said, "If I'd been close - even a stone's throw away - I'd have juiced like hell."

My point? I suppose I have little sympathy for fading superstars bent on padding their already gaudy stats for a trip to Cooperstown and assuring an indelible legacy. But I wonder how many borderline major leagers out there over the years have tried desperately for that edge. And I wonder if many of us would do the same.

2005-08-01 20:50:53
44.   uburoisc
Uuhhhgggg! I have heard enough of that sanctimonious, gasbag Sandberg to last a lifetime. What a suck-up and what a opportunist. Ryne, your 15 minutes is over and it couldn't have ended fast enough for me. Bootlicking, self-righteous old fart; I hope what's left of your hair comes out in clumps. Thank God for you or nobody would remember the right amount of respect the game deserves.
2005-08-01 20:56:29
45.   rilkefan
rsmith51: "I'm with you, Simone. I don't understand why they are so quick to defend Palmeiro."

The reluctance to see a storied career sullied? The sense that he's been one of the good guys in the sport? The weird review process he was exceptionally allowed? His straightforward denial?

uburoisc, remind me to stay on your good side.

2005-08-01 21:12:57
46.   Simone
I love Harold Reynolds, but he is making a fool of himself on BBTN trying to sell Palmeiro's story of "borrowing" something from a teammate and demanding education for multimillionaire baseball players. How come the teammate didn't test positive? What BS. If Palmeiro had tested positive for something that could be found in a supplement, he would have said exactly what it was and what supplement he used.

rsmith51, I think that baseball is just one of those fraternities where the members cover up for each other as a rule. Although Todd Zeile was interviewed saying that he found Palmeiro's story difficult to buy. Also, it is clear that these media personalities think that baseball fans are fools in general, but they are about to find out that those days are gone. No one is wearing those rose colored glasses any more.

2005-08-02 02:32:33
47.   mikeplugh

"Also, it is clear that these media personalities think that baseball fans are fools in general, but they are about to find out that those days are gone. No one is wearing those rose colored glasses any more."

I agree. I think that there's a lot of money wrapped up in the coverage, promotion, and operation of the sport. It's a very scary thing for any sponsor, broadcaster, or owner to think of 1994 and the damage that came from the last work stoppage. That's not even considering the "small" people that get hurt most in the mix....vendors, ticket window people, local bars, etc.....

ESPN and others like them must be in a total panic. I guarantee they've called a series of emergency meetings in the wake of the Palmeiro revelations, and the topic of spin is high on their list of priorities. If fans become disillusioned and other players get busted, the whole thing could start to collapse on itself.

I think it's like a stock market panic. The president and his chief financial advisors get together spin the story and alleviate the swelling panic in the streets. ESPN is trying to quiet the storm, but we'll have to wait and see what happens to other players in the near future.

Baseball gets more teeth to toughen their steroid policy now, and the union may just have to give in for the sake of their own survival. You'll see the pace quicken on a tougher policy, but I'm guessing that real strict testing will start in earnest after this year. The rest of this year is a grace period for people like Palmeiro to get off the juice, and then next year it's curtains.

2005-08-02 05:18:19
48.   monkeypants
"ESPN and others like them must be in a total panic. I guarantee they've called a series of emergency meetings in the wake of the Palmeiro revelations, and the topic of spin is high on their list of priorities. If fans become disillusioned and other players get busted, the whole thing could start to collapse on itself."

You're joking, right? ESPN and other news agencies win either way--reporting the HRs and then wagging their fingers at the steroid users. And frankly, if MLB did collapse because of disillusioned fans, ESPN would go on covering the myriad of other sports that would take its place. A little perspective, please...

2005-08-02 05:29:32
49.   Simone
mikeplugh, I think that you are right about the media spin. I also think that MLB is trying to tone it down. On the earlier BBTN, Harold Reynolds was much tougher on Palmeiro, holding him accountable. By the midnight BBTN, Reynolds had toned down his criticism of Palmeiro offering up the BS "borrowing something from a teammate" story. Reynolds clearly had been given a version of the story to spin for the viewing audience and like a good soldier he offered up the new version.
2005-08-02 05:38:34
50.   Knuckles
Mr. Plugh,
I think ESPN eats this stuff up- it gives them yet another topic for their talking (air)heads to get on their high horses about, while secure in the knowledge that Average Joe fan has been found to not really care about the whole steroid issue. These are the people that MLB and ESPN make their money off of- the suburban dads who make too much money and compensate for not spending enough time with their kids by buying them every new Sunday/Alternate/Batting Practice jersey, cap, and tee shirt that hits the shelves...
Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2005-08-02 09:52:05
51.   Shaun P
Just FYI . . .

I'm not saying Palmeiro shouldn't be responsible for what he puts in his body, particularly given his testimony to Congress - I'm just saying that he could have been responsible, and still been screwed over . . .

Moral issues aside, the supplements industry is almost 100% unregulated. Supplement manufacturers don't have to do anything they don't want to do, more or less, and often change comes only when a tragedy strikes (remember Steve Belcher and ephedra?).

The arbitrator was apparently impressed with Palmeiro's testimony - but said that he still didn't meet "the high burden of proof" placed on a player in his situation, and thus under the terms of the program, the arbitrator HAD to suspend him. Am I the only one who thinks "sympathetic judge who's hands were tied by the rules" when I hear that?

And as for Palmeiro hiding behind the confidentiality portions of the testing program - he might have no choice! The penalties for violating confidentiality may be so severe that it isn't worth him doing so, even to protect or save his own skin.

There aren't enough facts available here to completely judge the situation. I'm inclined to give Palmeiro the benefit of the doubt - because that's how we do things in the USA. The entire foundation of our system of justice is "innocent until proven guilty" and when we toss that out the window, we've lost something that's vital to our character and integrity. Unfortunately, we seem to toss it aside all too often in these troubled times.

2005-08-02 12:55:01
52.   uburoisc
Rilke, anyone whose tagname is from the great, German poet is always going to be OK by me.

Shaun, people have been ganged up on and subject to the rumour mill and "presumed guilty" and maliciously smeared for long, long before these "troubled times." Actually, it was, in many respects, much worse in the past than now. The public has always been a pack of dogs and times have always been "troubled."

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