Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bonds Reportedly Tests Positive for "Serious" Amphetamine Usage Plus Thoughts I'm Throwing Out

Boy, it sure does get worse for our boy Barry. It has been reported all over the place that Barry Bonds tested positively for usage of a "serious" stimulant last season. According to the reports, Barry blamed a substance that he got from Mark Sweeney's locker when he was notified of this transgression.

His excuse is also about as lame as Sosa's corked "batting practice" bat, though obviously Palmeiro/Tejada is the gold standard since he blamed Sweeney: Thanks for Giants Idol and the positive publicity I got from it Mark, I'll toss you under the bus now...

Some Thoughts I Would Throw Out

On Murph and Mac today on KNBR, Brian Murphy speculated that Aaron was a user of amphetamines too. While I have not seen any rumor about him and the use of greenies, I offer you these interesting facts.

  • Aaron is one of a handful of players who were able to keep hitting homers at a high rate into his late 30's.
  • Ted Williams, Darrell Evans,and Barry Bonds round out that group, as far as I could find (someone had done research on players with high OPS+ late in their career and I used that group of high achievers to put together this list).
  • Not only did they keep on hitting homers, but they also somehow boosted their HR rate as well, on a HR/AB basis.
  • I think it is pretty clear that it was the use of amphetamines in WW II by soldiers that led to its use in baseball afterward and we all know that Ted Williams served our country in WW II as well as the Korean War.
  • And if Willie Mays was a big user of amphetamines (he served in the army in the early 50's, though I don't think he saw combat), obviously he then endorsed its usage, so it makes me wonder what type of advice he gave his godson, Barry Bonds.
  • I would also note that Darrell Evans and Hank Aaron were teammates for a good number of years with the Braves.
So no hard evidence, but Aaron is one of a handful of players in baseball history who not only was able to continue hitting 30 HR or more into his late 30's, but was able to increase his HR rate per AB as compared to his peak period, which is normally from 28-32. Not only that, but the other players in the group have some logical connection to amphetamines, particularly given Bonds recent positive testing for it plus his strong connection to Mays.

Obviously, amphetamine usage did not appear to help Willie Mays at all, he declined about as soon as he entered his late 30's, but everyone's body is obviously different, some get help from drugs and some don't. Plus some continue to function well late in their life and some deteriorate sooner.

My Speculation About Hangup Over Bonds's Contract

According to the Merc, the major hangup is about Bonds's entourage's access to the clubhouse. He apparently feels that since he was able to do it before, why change it now. Obviously, the team does not agree, at least thus far.

Now many fans have been complaining that signing Bonds sends the wrong signal, that it does not show that things are changing. What if this hangup is the signal? What if the Giants make this their line in the sand? Could the Giants just not sign Bonds? That would be a pretty clear message, should it happen (and it would bring out budget back in line with $85M target, I would note). We do have Klesko ready to play LF plus Linden could platoon with him there (though Linden hits RHP better than LHP, go figure since he's a righty). The Giants might pick up another OF vet for backup should the Bonds contract not go through.

Of course, this is just my speculation, I don't know either way. But I thought I would throw it out as food for thought. My guess is that the contract will eventually go through, because Bonds is not going to get a $20M contract from another team, particularly this late in the game. He's going to have to suck it up and bend over. So he won't be humilitated by a low figure contract, but he'll have to bend to get the contract.

Can his ego take that? Don't know, but I assume the call of the green benjamins will get him to sign. He can only sell so many signed bats.

I can only guess how he might take this contract "defeat" on the field during 2007. He needs to play well if he's going to get to Aaron and any other career goals (3000 hits) he might have. However, I can see him being too "tired" to play near the end of the season if he is close to Aaron and ends up short by one or two homers of tying him, seemingly forcing another season to get that record.

I don't know what the Giants would or could do in that case. I don't know that they would want to do another year with him and, after this revelation, Bonds reputation is pretty much in tatters now, so I don't see how any other team would dare sign him up for the 2008 season. His story just gets sadder and sadder.

16 comments:

  1. Linden hits RHP better than LHP, go figure since he's a righty

    Actually, Linden is a switch hitter. He had problems hitting from the left side until last year, when he did pretty darn well (in both Fresno and SF).

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  2. I do know he's switch-hitter, I just remember him hitting better as a lefty than a righty in 2006, hence why I thought it was ironic that he's a right handed thrower.

    The Giants were talking to him about dropping switch-hitting early last season but then he started hitting finally as a lefty (against RHP)and better than he did as a righty (against LHP), or so my memory told me, and thus that idea was dropped. Maybe that was the impetus he needed to finally hit well as a lefty, being threatened with dropping it. I see mental blocks as possible reasons for him not breaking through yet, he was suppose to be better than this. Maybe he's the position player equivalent of Brett Tomko? :^(

    Of course, it didn't do JT Snow any good to drop switch hitting, he just sucked against LHP no matter which side he batted.

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  3. Well, at least he didnt' throw Sweeney under the bus. Bonds did not acknowledge the positive test (but like McGwire's "not here to talk about the past", the silence was deafening) but did say unequivically that Sweeney never gave him anything and has nothing to do with this matter (and if he didn't test postively, there would be no matter to be there). http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2728327

    I should also repeat, for emphasis, that I'm not saying that Aaron was absolutely using, but that he is one of a select few and two of them are probably tied to the use of amphetamines: Ted Williams and Barry Bonds.

    Of course, not every soldier used and thus perhaps Williams did not use, but with all his injuries that he suffered during his career and his general competitiveness, plus the fact that despite his injuries and advancing age, somehow he was able to increase his home run rate in his late 30's, I think there is a very good probability that Williams used.

    Then that leaves Hank Aaron and Darrell Evans then as the only two players in major league history to have been able to hit over 30 homers plus boost their homerun rate above the rate when they were younger, in their late 30's. And they just happen to be teammates. Interesting...

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  4. So, BB signs the contract, then, leveraging 'The Record' - ignores the provisions he was forced into.

    Think the Giants would suspend him?

    Perfect situation for management to back away from the contract.
    Season tix money is in the bank.

    Not that it matters. Without a closer, the season's shot anyway.

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  5. none of the Giants free agents have signed, have they? The Giants' front office apparently hired some amateur to do contracts who thought he could forbid everything to everybody (like bowling) and the players and their agents were taken aback. The Giants have since hired someone senior to help with contract preparation.

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  6. Yes, please read my post on the hiring of Siegle to replace Colletti. Amateur is being kind, by the way.

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  7. Good post on Siegle.

    More on the Giants contract issues and the Bonds speed test is on baseballprospectus radio, which can be accessed free from their website.

    Still listening to it.

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  8. What Aaron and Darrell Evans have in common is that they both played in much better hitters parks late in their careers than in the middle. Evans played at the 'Stick from '77-'83, which was a poor HR park, then moved to Tiger stadium from '84-'88 which was a good hitters park, especialy for LH power hitters. Aaron played in Milwaukee County Stadium from '54-'65, which was a very tough park to hit HRs in, then moved to the Launching Pad starting in '66.

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  9. Well, that would make sense for Evans except that he busted out for 30 HRs for the Giants in 1983, after 9 straight seasons of basically high teens, low 20's homering, with only his 41 HR in 1973 besting that 30 HR (plus two seasons before that of teen homers). And that includes his years in Atlanta, a hitters park, when he was unable to do much there, except for that one glorious season.

    Also, here's the hitter's park factors for Detroit for the 1984-1988 period: 99, 99, 100, 96, 96. Those are slighty to moderate pitching oriented factors. So Detroit was not even a hitter's park one of the years he was there.

    And for Aaron, he started hitting above his career norms for HR-rate in 1969, which was his 4th season in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. From 1966 to 1969, the park was basically a neutral ballpark, but something did jazz it up starting in 1970, and that's when it became the launching pad that we all knew and loved. That helped him to 1973, but then in 1974 didn't help him anymore, as his HR-rate plummeted.

    I admit its flimsy evidence, just curious you know? To back up what you are saying, why did it take Evans that many years after playing with Aaron for his power to suddenly jump? If he had picked up something from Aaron, why didn't he use that info sooner? I have no answer for that one.

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  10. Atlanta moved the fences in in 1970 and moved them back out in 1974 so Aaron would break the record less cheaply. Seriously.

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  11. Gonna put on my tinfoil hat and throw this out:

    The Giants knew about the failed test. Had to. It was being talked about in the clubhouse - even by Stupidman himself (if you know you're the target of a 'witchhunt', do you put on a pointy hat and ride around on a broom?).

    They make the ridiculous offer to appease the fans and bank the season tix money, knowing that they (management) will insist on pre-conditions after announcing the contract.

    If BB signs - all well and good. If he balks (and they HAD to know what provisions he'd never agree to), they *plant the failed test story and back away.

    I'm not saying they did it, but it makes me smile.

    *This is, after all, the same group that dusted Baker with the IRS story as a parting gift

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  12. About Atlanta moving the fences to help Aaron: I would believe it. The Giants watered the 1B area into a swamp to stop Maury Wills, some other team made the grass high to slow up grounders, Rockies are performing ball experiments with their humidor, the Yankees built the stadium "that Ruth built" so that Ruth could continue to blast homers out. But Aaron somehow did start hitting them out more frequently in 1969, the year before they moved the fences out.

    Dress Left, yeah, I would have to agree that the Giants management must have known and probably are the most obvious suspect for planting the story, a la the Baker/IRS story. Your story makes sense for the most part.

    I don't know that they did the contract to appease fans, that's a $20M gamble, though I guess per your point that they knew they would insist on certain conditions, that it wouldn't be a total gamble.

    I suppose with knowledge of this failed test, one would clearly make sure that Bonds does not get paid for any days he is suspended should he fail the greenies test again (not sure what the penalty for a second failure is). And all the various other permutations related to the government witchhunt.

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  13. Ralph Kiner took greenies way back when. If you've read Ball Four by Jim Bouton, there are some very frank comments about greenie usage in the late 1960s. As far as I'm concerned, everyone took greenies, annd I've always accepted it as a part of the game, so I think Aaron took Greenies, but I don't half care. Besides, baseball is entertainment, and should be viewed as such. It's no secret that Arnold took steroids. Why get all over Bonds?

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  14. I have the benefit of a week gone by since the "story" broke. 1) there is not one reliable source saying taht Bonds thru Sweeney under the bus. Bonds and Sweeney both deny it. Bonds + Sweeney vs unnamed source? I'm ready to vote.
    2) The use of amphetamines? For what purpose? The most intelligent discussions I have read indicated that this would have been part of a designer, fairly elaborate weight loss medication. Since Bonds couldn't work out much last winter, his weight ballooned. He was not only out of Bondsian condition, the extra weight caused added stress and irritation to his knee. He definitely lost some weight during the season.
    So, I accept he violated policy for which there was no penalty, save increased testing. This, to me, is very different than PEDs. If one gets past the witch hunt hysteria, isn't this a 'so what?' Sure, it is embarrassing to him, but it is not in the same class as "cheating." In fact, wouldn't we have liked to have orderred Thighler and Benitez to take some of the same?

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  15. If I were shelling out an $18 million guaranteed contract to an overweight old guy coming off multiple surgeries, steroid use and failed drug tests I would insist on a 'clean bill of health'. (relatively speaking). He could easily fail the obligitory physical if I changed my mind re the contract.

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  16. Thanks, El Person. I haven't read Ball Four yet, but have heard a lot about what he revealed in the book (I think the Mays reference is from his book, from a fellow Mets player, if I recall correctly).

    Yes, I agree, so many players took them, so it's part of the game, that's why I didn't make too much of a deal that he got caught, and focused more on the reported accusation of Sweeney as the source and that his public persona took another hit. I don't think Giants fans, however, were very affected by this, other than the possible strife in the clubhouse in regards to the Sweeney thing, but that appears to be smoothed over now. Plus Sweeney's contribution to the Giants success in 2007 will pale compared to Bonds, assuming he signs and plays.

    Statman (nice moniker, btw, I loved Scatman: Hong Kong Phooey! :^), nice thought, but that's not always baseball. Magglio Ordonez had to accept a clause about his pre-signing injury, then goes and injures another part of his body. I-Rod had numerous injuries during his peak physical years, but didn't have to accept any clause about "clean bill of health" from the Tigers, but lucky for them he has been healthy since signing.

    I think the Giants will have the standard "clean bill of health" physical upon Bonds agreement on the contract, but I think any langauge they have in the contract will cover not paying if he is not available to play for non-physical reasons, but injuries are just part of the game and once he passes his physical, that's the Giants last chance to back out of the contract.

    Allfrank, I did note in a comment above that it did not appear now that Bonds necessarily threw Sweeney under the bus. In any case, Sweeney appears to be over it, at least publicly.

    I guess I didn't provide intelligent discussion? :^) That makes some sense, but when it is reported all over plus he probably got a certified letter from MLB and the Players Association that amphetamines will not be tolerated for any reason, then he has no excuse, weight loss or not.

    In any case, as I noted to El Person, I don't have any particular problem with it, I accept that there are players who use it, but if you get caught and you are already embroiled in the Balco scandal, your reputation will be in more tatters.

    I agree that this is a "so what", hence why I didn't make too much a deal about him being caught, just about the wrongly reported snitching (still no "proof" either way, imo) and the negative effect on his public persona.

    But that is a good point about losing weight, it makes sense, but, if he even thought through it that far, it is still stupid when you know you will get caught, the Balco info was suppose to be constitutionally kept secret and it was easily leaked, did he really think that a failed test for greenies would not also get leaked?

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