Saturday, August 31, 2013

Jose Can You See: Steroids Oz Not the Magic Shot to MLB

[Note:  I had worked on this a while back, just found it among my drafts, pretty much done, so I'm publishing it now, after a few edits]

As many of you know, I currently do not believe that the recently passed heightened offensive era is the steroids era.  As Eric Walker showed brilliantly at his websites, Steroids and Baseball and Sillyball, that era was more the Juice Ball era, not the Juiced Men era. 

One huge conversation starter for Steroids Sympathizers and those of us non-believers is the whole Jose-Ozzie Canseco connundrum:  if steroids is so great, then why was Ozzie such a dud.  One reasoning is that Ozzie didn't get the experience to enable that to happen, didn't get the repetition as a hitter since he started as a pitcher.  What follows is my response, which of course, I have updated and modified from the original, as it is my wont to do, I'm always tweaking.
ogc thoughts

I do realize that Ozzie was originally a pitcher and that the reps was different. That's something that Steroids Sympathizers can't have both ways: is steroids the magic bean that turns 90 pound weaklings into power pounding homerun hitters and shut down pitchers that they claim it to be? This is a perfect test, to me, given that they are identical twins, yet had different starting paths into the pros.

Ozzie, for me, shows that steroids is not the magic shot that improves eye sight, improves hand-eye coordination, provides strength that enables abilities to be superior in MLB baseball, or for that matter, in pitching either.

Ozzie may have started as a pitcher professionally, yes, but he got switched over to a position player at age 21 and by 25, he already had 1837 PA under his belt, which should be more than enough to get him prepared as an MLB hitter, that is, if he had any talent for that, which presumably he did given that he's Jose's identical twin brother (he eventually ended up much higher than that in his pro career with time spent in AAA and other pro leagues).  And when he was done with his career, he had nearly 4000 PA in total.  Yet he could never get past OK offensively at AAA, heck, he was not ever really good at all in the minors, they just kept on trying with him, probably because of his brother's great hitting.

I would also note that many amateur pitchers usually were good hitters as they advanced to high school.  Thus he should have gotten a lot of reps during that period of development.  So the main difference to me is that Jose started earlier as a hitter, once signed as a pro.

Jose reached the majors by age 20, had 1,437 PA up to then, which was more than enough to launch his career, which was borderline HOF.  So given that both should have similar physiology and that steroids supposedly provides a kicker in both helping the player develop muscles faster and further than he could on his own, plus according to some, improve his eyesight and hand-eye coordination, since Ozzie started at age 21, he should have had plenty of time to make up for lost time, and a player's prime is generally considered to be around 27-30, so he had plenty of time to make up for lost time.

Given Jose's quick development, Ozzie's large PA accumulation by age 25, and presumed steroids usage, Ozzie should have had some sort of similar, but lite version (much like the Giambi brothers), career starting at age 27 (for some reason he was out his age 26 season).  One would have thought he would have had at least a nice journeyman career, much like Ankiel or Geronimo (for the A's), during his peak prime years around age 30.  He barely got a cup of coffee in the majors.

I would think that Ozzie must have started using steroids at minimum by age 20, at which point twin brother Jose had made the majors already.  Given that his brother was probably already taking in high school - again, steroid believers think that his abilities were due to steroids, and since he started out great, he should have been using in high school as well - I think the case could be made that he was also using in high school as well. 

However, the story line goes off script here, and not even by a little, he went off a cliff to the sea shore a thousand feet below.  He couldn't pitch his way out of A-ball at that age. Worse for steroid sympathizers, if he started as early as Jose, probably in high school or at minimum once turning pro, steroids then could not even help him get above rookie league for a number of seasons as a pitcher. Where is the magic in his pitching line?

Steroids is No Magic Bullet

Many people make steroids out to be that magic bullet that enables nobodies to be somebodies, somebodies to all-stars, all-stars to all-time greats. The Steroids Sympathizers make it look like something mystical and magical that made baseball players into good players.  If it was that great in doing that, then why not with Ozzie, an identical twin, who while might have started later in life as a position player, still had a very substantial professional career in the minors as a hitter, yet could not really hit his way out of AA - took him three seasons to figure out that level - then could never get above AAA. He never even made it to being a somebody, all he got was a cuppa joe in the majors.

Compared that with his brother who had a borderline HOF career that would have gotten some consideration from the writers/voters if not for his steroid stain.

If steroids had any efficacy in enabling the talent to hit and pitch, why is the difference in career trajectories so starkly different between Jose and Ozzie? I think the fact that they are identical twins, leading to the supposition that any juice that steroids provides to a human body should be duplicated in each with the same sort of reaction, would lead to the conclusion that Ozzie should have had a career closer to Jose rather than what he actually accomplished, which was essentially the complete opposite, a non-MLB career.

I also realize that identical is not IDENTICAL, which is what makes this a great example of how steroids don't seem to do much. There probably is something genetic that differentiated Jose the hitter from Ozzie the hitter, and hence the bifurcated path to the pros. Yet, they should be very similar physically, none the less. Steroids, according to the hype, is the magic elixer that transforms anybody into a better baseball player. Unless Ozzie didn't use - highly improbable given Jose's huge success - he should have shown some sort of jump in performance at some point either as a pitcher or as a hitter. He did neither.

I've not seen anyone explain that one away. With other players, I can see it - with waves of hands - being explained away by the sympathizers that different people react differently to drugs, that just using it gives them the confidence to do well, and that's why not everyone was a superman in baseball during that era.  Of course, not everyone benefits, each human is different.

But they were identical twins.   Given that steroids usage supposedly helps a broad range of prospects, hence why there is the Steroids Era, there has to be something significant that causes one person to benefit and another not to.  How could identical twins be so different in that one key DNA change that enables one twin to greatly benefit, and another not to? 

Sure, maybe their difference in development in the womb explains why Jose became the great hitter he did, but assuming Ozzie used, how can the difference in performance be so great given that they are identical twins?   How could Ozzie both not benefit from it either as a pitcher or a hitter?

The way I see it, I'm being asked to believe that not only did Jose got that extra something that enabled him to be a great hitter, but he also got that something extra that enabled steroids to enhance his abilities but not that of his identical twin. That stretches my limits of believability. 

On top of that, Walker has collected a lot of medical and scientific studies that support his thesis, at his website.  I've read through most of that and I'm thoroughly convinced.  Ironically, Walker was taken to task for his site at a sabermetric website, and the attack was not via sabermetrics but because, basically, it didn't feel right to them.  I was flabbergasted. 


  1. I tend to agree that the beneficial effects of anabolic steroids on performance, especially, hitting a pitched baseball are far from proven. At the same time, I would be extremely cautious about making too much out of a single set of twins, even if they are identical. There is still just too much we don't know about the whole nature vs nurture dynamic, we do not know for sure if Ozzie used or not, and of course, it is an extremely small sample size.

    Just for starters, age 21 is awfully old to try to convert from pitching to hitting, which I contend is much more difficult than converting from hitting to pitching. Yeah, Babe Ruth did it, but how many others?

    1. I understand your point about it being an extremely small sample size.

      My main point is that it does not pass the smell test for me, which is a stance that apparently a lot of people take with steroids, so I figure, so can I.

      Yes, don't know if Ozzie used, but I would be greatly astonished if he didn't. That would greatly defy human nature. Still, don't know if he used.

      But given what I've read and heard about other professional athletes, many have no problem paying the devil to succeed. Ozzie would have to be a saint to not use when his twin brother not only uses but is a huge success with it. Is that believable that Ozzie is the complete opposite in personality than his twin brother, who had no problem using? Again, don't know but it don't pass the smell test.

    2. Babe Ruth is a different case. He was always a good hitter, even while a good pitcher, and so he was frequently getting starts in the OF on the days when he wasn't pitching. So he never really stopped hitting, he just didn't do as much as a starter did, at least in actual game situations.

      Can someone retain their skills after such a long lapse of professional playing? We have an example right here in our farm system, Angel Villalona came back from 3 years outside of US professional play and has basically reached where he was when he stopped playing, perhaps maybe even better.

      We also have another example, probably better, since it was similar, in Rick Ankiel. He signed as an 18 YO and came up to great success as a pitcher but then couldn't do it anymore, mentally. He stopped pitching at age 21. At which point, he then devoted himself to hitting, and eventually become a good enough player to string out a nice long journeyman's career path. Ozzie couldn't even come close to doing that.

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