Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Sanctimonious Moralistic Hall of Fame Voter Hypocrites

I had recently written about the vote for Barry Bonds and other tainted with steroids and PEDs, but I recently ran across a column written by a local columnist who I admire, so I won't mention the writer's name, but since the writer's stance is similar to a lot of the national writers who are going to vote No for Bonds, I felt the need to answer some of the points made in that column.

Also, the Hall of Fame vote was reported today and it was a referendum against the steroid era, as nobody was voted in.  Probably because there were a number of people who voted but left their ballot blank.

"Don't Reward Those Who Cheated the Game"

This would be a great idea:  if it were done about 40-60 years ago.  Journalists can beat the drum loud today  but the real assault on the record books began when amphetamines entered the game.  This enabled the better players to be better later into the season, helping them compile better seasonal and therefore career stats.  However, even though many players came out about this - BACK THEN (Ball Four, testimonies in court attesting to Mays' usage of "red juice", others) - there was never anything done by the media about this type of cheating, certainly nothing to the extent steroids gotten, and that covers a  much longer period of time.

Moreover, the benefits of speed is clear, it boosts the athlete's ability to stay at the same level of performance deeper into the season, whereas steroid's benefits seems to be driven more by non-experts' (public and journalists) fears of how steroids might help a player, rather than what science has been able to show are the real effects (which by one large compilation at High Boskage House is minimal, at best).

One justification for this type of behavior versus steroids is that "everyone" used speed while not everyone used steroids.  But cheating is cheating, no matter how many do it, it is still cheating.  And that is what the writers have been saying, that cheating is why they are not voting for certain players.  That is, if that is really what the writers feel.

Cheating Since World War II

Cheating has been happening at least since the 1960's and, most probably, since World War II, when the military routinely dispensed amphetamine to the troops to keep them in fighting shape.  It is only natural that once these ballplayers returned to civilian life, they knew of and seeked out such medical help when the effects of the long baseball season made them feel weak.  Krukow in his morning show a few weeks ago noted that each team's training staff routinely and openly dispensed this to players (this was in the 70's).

At least one baseball journalist, long ago, must have seen this in the clubhouse, and even if they could not go after the players - because that would ruin their relationship with the team - they could have had one of their colleagues in another department investigate and expose this cheating long ago, at minimum, when Jim Bouton's Ball Four came out and he outed the players.  No reporter ever did anything about it.  Ironically, amphetamines were finally pushed out with the drug rules put in place because of steroids.

If cheating is going to be the litmus test today for not voting for Barry Bonds, then this national debate should have been happening when his godfather, Willie Mays was being voted into the Hall of Fame.  Cheating was rampant then.  Heck, cheating of all sorts have been rampant throughout the history of the game.  Today, the horse has not only left the barn, it is on another continent, perhaps another planetary object.

If the writer cannot vote for a player clouded by this, why vote at all?   Maybe the bigger message would be sent by not voting at all for anyone, because we can never really know who was using what.  And some are doing that.

Yes, certain players were obvious with their steroids usage.  But HGH usage was not, but is equally considered to be cheating and helpful by the public (High Boskage House research also shows minimal benefits), so for all we know, even players who appear to be clean are not clean at all either.  There is no real way to distinguish who was a cheater in this era and who was not.  And so many writers say that they are not going to vote, either by not returning their vote (which at least does not actually affect the voting) or by returning a blank vote (which makes it harder for any player to make the Hall of Fame, whether cheating or not).

Moralistic

Also, when were writers made the arbiters of "character"?  I mean, I know that is in the language of the Hall of Fame determination, but as far as I know, the only requirement for a writer to earn the right to vote for the Hall of Fame is having 10 years following a team under their belt.  They don't add in any language there about the writers being good judges of character.

In fact, one of the major reasons given that justifies giving the vote to writers with at least 10 years of experience following a team every day is that this enables them to be able to view baseball players with an expertise that allows them to see when a player is good or not, and thus whether they belong in the Hall of Fame.  Many writers today say that Bonds had a Hall of Fame already made when he allegedly started using steroids.  Instead of standing on moralistic grounds on which their expertise is unknown, they should use the skills that they are suppose to have developed over the years and see who should get in and who should not?

Unless they are saying that they cannot distinguish this.  But in that case, why are they being allowed to vote then?  If they have this expertise, use this expertise.  If steroids help homers (according to research found by Eric Walker, steroids add about 5 feet to any ball hit by a hitter, so this appears to be a fallacy in the thinking of people who don't want to vote for steroids users), then make some determination of what exactly is so different.

Here is a good quote from his steroids website (about third way down):


As I remarked above, there are at least five other studies--all listed and linked on the longer page--all based on sophisticated analysis of real data, and each using a different approach, that each reach the same basic conclusion: there is no visible effect attributable to steroids. In the most mathematically dense and rigorous paper, its author, Professor Arthur DeVany, spares no words:
There is no evidence that steroid use has altered home-run hitting and those who argue otherwise are profoundly ignorant of the statistics of home runs, the physics of baseball, and of the physiological effects of steroids.


Walker later had a section on Bonds specifically.  He illustrated that what Bonds did was not all that different from other players who had extraordinary seasons.  He states that there is no proof in his performance that he had extra help.

Witch Hunters

So Bonds should be in, not even close.  I've seen nobody yet claim that steroids helps a hitter see the ball better and to hit it hard.  All they talk about is body bulk, and there are 250 pound behemoths that hit lollipops while a lanky 180 pound stick with good wrist action can become the career leader in homeruns (Aaron;  of course, he got legal cheating as the Braves brought in their fences, coincidentally enough, right when he was getting close and they brought them back out when he left the team and set the new record;  why there was no outrage about that as the reason Ruth was beat, I don't know).  Bonds was universally agreed to be a Hall of Famer before he reportedly started using.  This non-vote is meant to be punitive.

That's funny, I thought the Hall of Fame was suppose to celebratory, not an instrument of punishment.

What makes it even more sad is that the writers have had over 20 years to get down to business and actually DO THEIR JOB as journalists.  Eric Walker, of A's and Sinister Firstbaseman fame, keeps up a website to sell his baseball analytics service and, first, he discovered that the offensive era looks like it was caused by a juiced ball, and second, because people claimed he was wrong and started claiming steroids did certain things, he researched the heck out of it and concluded that steroids provided very little to benefit baseball players and gave further evidence that the ball was juiced during that period.  He did the investigative journalism that was necessary to show that steroids didn't do much of anything, instead of copying the "journalists" who just spread the same misconceptions that another "journalists" claimed was true.

Read through his steroid's website, look at all the associated subsites that cite even more things in detail, discussing the physical changes to the baseball, the actual effects PED has, the medical effects, the healing effects, ethical issues, and effects on role models.  Makes a very strong case that the general public, including reporters, got it all wrong:  yes, they might have cheated (definition slippery), definitely took something illegal (at least the ones caught), but it apparently didn't help players out at all in performing better.

In other words, whatever PEDs players might have used were no different than a placebo.  They cheated with today's version of snake oil.  They are no different from the Asians today who eat rhino horns, thinking that would give their bodies some sort of boost.  Both groups are sadly wrong.

Journalists could have done this type of investigative journalism work long ago, not some OCD baseball analyst, if they were really interested in the truth and not in a witch hunt.  Here is how I view this:  the writers felt greatly embarrassed by the steroids era because they did nothing while it was going on, and thus many of them feel the need to punish the players who used or allegedly used PEDs.  When, really, they should be embarrassed twice over now, first for not only missing the steroids rise, but mostly overlooking and ignoring it - it is not like it is a shock, McGwire was suspected of using long ago, yet no reporter ever thought of investigating him closely, they waited until Bonds was suspected and even then they used illegally released grand jury testimony that basically proved nothing - and second for spreading false "truths" about steroids, and then taking their anger out on star players like Bonds and Clemens, and really, since nobody got in this year, all players, as there were players who appeared clean and who should get in, like Biggio.  They should be ashamed.

21 comments:

  1. Verducci addresses your post point by point.

    His quotes of the effects on users by users is persuasive.

    http://tinyurl.com/adf2xhq

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    1. Well, he fits in real well with the title. First off, if he has ever voted in the past, he most likely voted for amphetamine users. Does that mean that he is endorsing amphetamine usage? Oh wait, he's OK with it if it is discovered later, but once exposed, he's going to clamp it down and stop others.

      I think Ray Ratto has captured a lot of this nonsense in his column for CSN: http://www.csnbayarea.com/blog/ray-ratto/festival-amorality

      And if you want to right down to it, he's as guilty as ANY media member of causing this steroids era. Protesting now does nothing for baseball. As I noted, the horse have left the barn generations ago, for both amphetamines and steroids.

      And I blame the media for the steroids era, not the players, not the owners. The players and owners were driven by profits and revenues to do what they did. And if you are divvying up responsibility there, 95% goes to the players, as the players union has fought the owners hard and fast for decades now, softening up penalties, no matter how minor. Oh, the owners could have fought harder, but that would have probably precipitated another crippling strike that could have killed baseball (last strike was around the start of the era). However, the reporters were suppose to be on our side, they were suppose to, as they say now, protect the integrity of the game. Where were they for all those years?

      So I blame the media: did you read my post? I think I made that pretty clear. They had many years to investigate and put this on the front pages of their publications. And I don't go to race regularly, but I find it interesting that when McGwire and Sosa were lighting up the headlines, while also strongly being suspected of using, there was no furor over that, but when Bonds was doing it, suddenly the reporters are looking for blood.

      Especially after the Creatine exposure by McGwire. This happened all the way back to 1998. Where was SI then? Where was Verducci? Why didn't anyone start hard core investigative reporting on steroids then? They went after Gary Hart pretty hard, catching him with his mistress, why wasn't anyone following McGwire hard too?

      The media dropped the ball on that and that put pressure on non-users to use. In fact, that was right around when Bonds alledgedly complained about that and threatened to start using, according to one SI writer. So if the effects on users by users is pervasive, then he should let Bonds off then, right, it is not his fault, it is the fault of the users before him, forcing him to do this. In fact, this was alledgedly how it went down according to SI's reporter's book.

      Also, again, did you read my post? Steroids does not do anything for anybody, according to the evidence collected by Eric Walker on his website. Why doesn't anybody read this stuff if you care about this so much? That is why I read it.

      So they cheated with something that does not work. Does that still make it cheating? Perry clearly cheating during this career, doesn't voting for him condone cheating? How about Sutton? How about any pitcher caught cheating on the mound, with emory boards and the like? Does that mean all that is condoned?

      The Hall of Fame is what it is, as Ray says. There are a lot of people in there who have done things we don't condone. It's pretty late to suddenly change the rules, the only real alternative is to refute all Hall of Fame membership now, and start over with a clean slate.

      And obviously, Babe Ruth can't be in the new Hall of Fame, he was a womanizer and we can't condone that. Willie Mays is a reported speed user, he can't get in too. I've seen references to Aaron using speed too, so he's out too, that's cheating as well. I guess he'll be surprised to learn that using speed is cheating too.

      Can't have it both ways.

      Delete
    2. verducci uses self reported, anecdotal evidence and does not take into consideration that his subjects all used a combination of other drugs and alcohol

      roid rage is a myth

      Delete
    3. I respect your thought process and writing. You have been vilified for opinions that have proven out.

      I read your entire post.
      We disagree.

      "So they cheated with something that does not work."

      Please explain why any of the players would take the risk of using for zero benefit. Seems like robbing a bank you knew was stocked only with Monopoly money.

      Delete
    4. Why did people use snake oil? Why do people take a pinch of salt spilled and throw it over their shoulder? Why would people put leeches on to cure anything and everything? Etc.

      People will do anything to get an edge sometimes. Especially when there is money involved. Most especially when there is millions of dollars involved.

      People get scammed all the time. Read the news enough, you will see everything under the sun. Dumb things too.

      It was even worse because there were not a lot of good information easily available. It was even worse because reputable newspapers and magazines would report the same misconceptions that other media reported as truths. Like the mythical Pez dispenser that supposedly started EBay.

      And it made some sense too. If you make your arms stronger, you would think that would help your hitting too, especially for power. Read that part of Walkers analysis and if you know a bit about playing baseball, you will go, ah, that does make sense that arm strength is not the end all and be all. Then you realize that there are skinny hitters who blast homers and huge guys who hit softly. Then you remember all of Ted Willams advice on hitting.

      And there is always the placebo effect for some.

      Add some mystery, secrets, and you got people using even if it did not work.

      Please read through everything Walker researched. It makes a lot of sense. It has been built over time. I saw the early beginnings long ago but never quoted it much until recently because the evidence built up over time.

      And if you are still not convinced, cest la vie and thank you.

      And thank you for your kind words.

      Delete
    5. Horsecrap, El. Verducci DOESN'T respond to the salient points:
      1. Steroids have had no measurable effect on hitting or records; and
      2. Amphetamines are a verified PED.

      He also gets the origin of the character clause incorrect -- it was put in by Landis to try and get a mediocre ballplayer who died in WWI inducted. It didn't work.

      Delete
  2. Wow.. This is an amazing blog article. I always jokingly tell my friends that MLB should either drug test the EVERYONE or "F" it let everyone be on performance enhancers (steroids). But on a serious note, I agree with you 100% on everything you said in here, especially on the point that journalists failed to investigate and report in a non-biased manner. Great post! Now following and Go Giants!!!

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    1. Thank you Jess for your comment and compliment.

      Yes, Go Giants!

      Delete
  3. You do very good work. I read regularly, but never comment. Thought it was time to say thanks, so "thanks".

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  4. OGC;
    I guess this is why Hank Aaron is Ok with Barry taking his record. I wonder if what these reporters would do, if they found a way to make sure they were able to scope any breaking news items! No, they would want alll their "hermanos" have equal right to any news story.
    As always, I love your thought process.

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    1. Well, to be fair to Hammering Hank, I've never seen any substantive reporting of him cheating with anything illegal, just some fans' comments, so you know that is already suspect.

      And I doubt he views moving in the fences to be cheating. It is what it is.

      Thanks for the comment and support over the years!

      Delete
  5. Of course you are right, ogc, in pointing to the sportswriters' hypocrisy, and, in fact, to their tradition of hypocrisy on the "character" issue, which has been a HOF criterion from the get-go, as a way of entrenching hypocrisy into the very idea of the HOF. Jason Turbow, *The Baseball Codes* and Derek Zumsteg, *The Cheater's Guide to Baseball* ought to be required reading for baseball moralists, since both books go into considerable detail about how much cheating in various ways has marked baseball from its earliest days to now. It's hard to believe that the HOFs who now shake their graying heads at Bonds et al. were unaware of the antics that marked their own times in baseball: can their sanctimony come from a mix of desire to minimize their own contemporaries' transgressions and envy of the whopping salaries that Bonds et al. earned, in comparison to those of, say, Al Kaline?

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    1. Thanks for the tips on the two books. I will have to check my library to see if it is available.

      Players who are already in the HOF seem to feel an entitlement that inducting more players in would lessen their status. At least it seems that way, the veterans committee was put in the hands of HOF players when whatever existing members weren't doing a good job of adding new people in, but after the players were put in charge, no new players were added at all, instead of a slow addition.

      Not that the people remaining were necessarily worthy, but the point of the change was to increase the flow of players being inducted, and with the players in charge, the spigot was shut down totally, whereas it was just slow and apparently based more on who the ex-player knew than necessarily on merit.

      And I'm not lumping all HOF together. Some are openly for Bonds making it, others adamantly against. I think that there is a mixture, just like the HOF vote.

      I'm sure there might be some jealousy. Particularly with the outsized performance that Bonds put up, they would rather say that he cheated and keep him out, than to say "I'm not worthy" and acknowledge his greatness as a hitter and player.

      There is also monetary jealousy for sure. They are probably living a comfortable but not extravagant life, because of their baseball pension, because, most probably, a good number of them blew their money, whatever they may have made. Or just as you note, compared to what players are making today, they made peanuts. Still, players in financial troubles pop up in the news all the time.

      Understandably so, I might add. I'm knowledgeable about money and investments because I've had an interest in it since high school, but I would say that my money is managed poorly, so it would not surprise me that players who made a lot of money, and many of them only had a high school education, probably blew it all away unless they had a smart (and kind) agent who watched over him and helped him manage his money properly. But Jack Clark's bankruptcy, after making many tens of millions of dollars in his career, is a example of how some players' post-baseball career goes.

      Delete
  6. I think we need to make a new baseball, unauthorized Hall of Fame. Maybe the baseball bloggers unofficial baseball Hall of fame. Rose, Bonds, and Clemens could be in for starters. Maybe Joe Jackson as well. Shoes or shoeless. If the live ball was mostly responsible for all those home runs, how did steroids allow for pitchers to enhance their performances? I am not happy with what the writers did. Nor should baseball be free of guilt as they were the ones who promoted the idea that chicks love the long ball.

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    1. Not really sure where you were going with this rant.

      Lots of bloggers have created their own HOF, no need for another one.

      The evidence is that there was a live ball that resulted in this "steroids" offensive era. There has been analysis done on balls showing greater springiness, plus there is the historical data regarding how the leap and drop back down in runs scored was not spread over years when presumably players started using, but was very quick, over 1-2 years, and the evidence that steroids and HGH didn't do much (or anything) to help boost performance.

      Not sure what your reference to pitchers pertain to. Other than I'm not sure what steroids does to help pitchers, is that your point?

      Chicks (and guys) do love the long ball, that's not baseball, that's attendance blasting off into the sky once Babe Ruth starts becoming the homerun king. That's attendance blasting off again in the last 20 years.

      Delete
  7. This business of keeping qualified candidates out of the HOF for some perceived "noble stance" is hyprocisy of the highest order. Here is a link to an article which sums up the views I also hold about this subject:

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/gametheory/2013/01/steroids-baseball?fsrc=scn/tw_ec/if_you_ain_t_cheatin_you_ain_t_tryin_

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    1. Great article, thank you Boof!

      I personally don't go for the "not really cheating if it was not prohibited" angle. Not a real strong soapbox to stand on, I think.

      From what I can tell now, from Walker's site (this is my interpretation), steroids was a scam put over smart (and not so smart) people because there was a lot of unknowns involved and semi-smart people saying things about the efficacy of the drug. And it makes sense at some level, so people try it, to get the edge, to keep up with the Jone's, to make the big money.

      If the Hall of Fame had been consistent in their voting, regarding the character clause, it would be one thing, but it hasn't. And I don't usually go for the rapists, killers, and Ty Cobb angles because that is so long ago, none of those reporters were around and so it don't mean anything to them.

      That's why I go the amphetamines angle. That was a bigger thing because it was recent but still covers at least 50 years of baseball, the benefits are undeniably clearly beneficial whereas steroids look to be a scam (at least in baseball, I'm sure it helped in football), and most likely most HOF voters today look fondly upon Ted Williams and Willie Mays, and I know Mays used and I would be shocked if Williams didn't use, he was a Marine in two wars.

      Writers turned a blind eye to speed use for 40-50 years. They must have known about it, the players were openly using it, trainers were openly dispensing it. That allowed our great players to stay great later into the long seasons. So to play the moral card now, after all that, is the height of hypocrisy.

      And steroids is nothing new. We have been talking about it for at least 20 years about players. Not one reporter thought to do what Walker did? That is, find actual evidence on what it is, instead of spreading around what the other reporter said?

      I wish players did not cheat. I prefer a clean game. But players have been using grease and emory boards forever, and as much as we love the hidden ball trick, that's cheating too, if you want to be technical.

      I feel sorry for the players who felt the need to take steroids. Had the writers did their job and research and investigate this, it would have been clearer sooner that steroids did not have any beneficial effects for baseball players, and much less of them would have used.

      But keeping them out now, given this evidence of the lack of benefit from steroids and especially the evidence of the juiced ball, amounts to punishing players because they were being stupid and ill-informed cheaters.

      If you don't want cheaters in the HOF, then you may as well have no HOF, people will cheat and you can't ever catch all that people do to cheat.

      Look at the Olympics. Despite all that they do to get the cheaters out, new stuff and atheletes come in and use. You have to think that there are cheaters who got away with it and are keeping their medals. The HOF will be the same, you don't know who the cheaters are.

      Delete
  8. I'm not sure if you heard this or not, but a HOFer came out and said that there is a rumor that there is already a steroid user in the HOF. Loved the blog entry, and love reading all of your stuff

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    1. No, I missed that, thanks. I wonder who that is.

      Won't change things for these writers, their stance is against voting for anyone who is rumored to have cheated (Bonds, Clemens) and those who were caught with drugs in their systems.

      Thanks for the compliment, much appreciated.

      Delete
    2. I want to say it was Rollie Fingers, or Ferguson Jenkins. I can't exactly remember but whoever it was, he went on MLB Network and talked about it.

      Delete

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