What we read while dabbling in witchcraft….
A-Rod: The latest member of an exclusive club.....
Here’s something you may not be willing to accept: Barry Bonds is probably one of the five best hitters to ever play professional baseball, regardless of his use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Bill James called him “certainly the most unappreciated superstar of my lifetime.” Bonds was, according to James, by far the best player of his era. It should be noted that Bill James wrote this after the 1999 season—that is, he wrote it before five consecutive seasons in which Bonds had an OPS over 1.100, an OBP of at least .440 (and over .500 four times), and (in)famously set the single-season home run record, with 73 home runs in 2001. Continue reading
Mark McGwire picked a good week to publicly admit using steroids. Between the Conan/Leno stuff, the NFL playoffs, and Simon Cowell leaving American Idol, one of baseball’s most-anticipated steroid confessions almost got swept under the carpet. Almost.
The reaction to McGwire’s admission has been surprisingly negative. I may not be the best judge of reactions to steroids, but I would have thought an unprovoked, damningly complete (since he admitted using during his record-breaking 1998 season), and heartfelt apology from someone as once-beloved as Mark McGwire would have been greeted with something more akin to a sigh of relief. After all, this revelation is not exactly stunning. At least the issue is finally out in the open.
Instead, people have picked the apology apart. The main problem with it, apparently, is McGwire’s insistence that steroids were not what made him a great hitter. This is, admittedly, pretty laughable. What is McGwire’s explanation for how he was able to hit home runs at a rate higher than anyone who has ever played the game? Well, apparently God gave him magical powers: “I truly believe I was given the gifts from the Man Upstairs of being a home run hitter, ever since…birth.” He goes on to talk about how he’s been a home run hitter at every level of play, since before he took steroids: “My first at-bat in Little League was a home run…They still talk about the home runs I hit in high school.”
This is, of course, absurd. Nobody gives a shit about McGwire’s Little League career. McGwire was not a surefire HOFer because of the home runs he hit in high school. And the fact that he hit 49 home runs as a rookie—while impressive—wasn’t enough to make some consider him the best right-handed hitter of all-time. What made Mark McGwire “Mark McGwire” were his feats of strength from 1996-99. And those numbers were undoubtedly a byproduct of the steroids he was taking. Continue reading
You thought we were done, didn’t you? That we would stick to our promise to end by December 31? Please. We’ve still got two posts to go to determine the most important title of all: Athlete of the Decade.
In defining what exactly constituted the “Athlete of the Decade” in a sport, there’s a fine line between who is best and who is the most iconic. I tended toward the latter, which runs the risk of predicting how future historians remember the Aughts.
And a little wrinkle: The order in which I present the sports counts down to the Athlete of the Decade across sports. That is, the last sport I do will have the No. 1 Athlete of the Decade, the penultimate is the second-best across sports, and so on. Here are Nos. 6, 5, and 4. Continue reading
Nobody likes steroids. On a list of things that are popular, steroids probably fall somewhere between cancer and traffic. While the popular outrage over steroid use in baseball has diminished recently, the primary reason for this is not any change in attitude; it’s mainly due to the fact that so many players have now been revealed as steroid users that fans have generally become jaded about the entire subject.
Most fans, however, still think that steroid use is objectionable, and that if Bud Selig could wave a magic wand and eliminate them from the game, then he should.
What exactly is it that makes steroids so despised, and should we so hastily vilify their use?
Now, a lot of people have made the argument that steroid users should be allowed in the Hall of Fame, and that their accomplishments should not be erased or totally invalidated. Even Bill James recently released a paper saying that he expects steroid use to be tolerated in the future—though his article is descriptive as opposed to normative.
But it doesn’t seem that anybody, aside from Jose Canseco, is actually advocating that baseball lift its ban on steroids.
Well, I am. Steroids are not bad for baseball; banning steroids is bad for baseball. Continue reading
Imagine, for a moment, that the home run totals of Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and any other slugger strongly linked to steroids between 1998 and 2007 never happened. Not that they were invalidated in retrospect or slapped with an asterisk, but that they had never even happened in the first place.
Nobody knows what BALCO is, George Mitchell is still only known for his work in Israel, and the most home runs ever hit in single season is still 61. (Really, the only thing we’d miss are those “Chicks Dig the Long Ball” commercials.)
Well, guess what? Albert Pujols is on pace to end this year with about 59 home runs. OH MY GOD! HE HAS A SHOT AT THE RECORD THAT HAS STOOD FOR ALMOST 50 YEARS!
Now, I realize that this scenario is imaginary, but right now Pujols is having a very impressive year. He is batting .336 with 32 home runs, 85 RBIs and an astonishing .739 slugging percentage. It is getting to the point where you have to consider walking him with nobody on base. His OPS is 1.202; no player has had an OPS that high over a full season since Barry Bonds.
And that’s the problem. Pujols is putting up Bondsian numbers, and we all know how Bonds put those numbers up. Before Bonds, the last player to put up an OPS that high was, er, Mark McGwire.
Let me set the scene for you: A very strong, and fairly slow, man is at the plate. He swings his bat and breaks it as the ball flares out to left field. It goes over the fence for a home run.
Let me reset the scene for you: That very strong, and fairly slow, man is at the plate. He swings his bat and breaks it as the ball flares out to left field. The ball is either caught by the left fielder or keeps rolling, because there is no fence in left field.
Take a trip back to baseball’s past. The game was first played on large, boundary-less fields. Home runs were achieved only when you could circle the bases before the defense got the ball back in. Every home run was an inside-the-park home run.