To the astonishment of no one, the pesky leak that keeps trickling out the names of the 104 MLB players that tested positive for steroids in 2003 has revealed that Sammy Sosa was a steroid user. Sosa has always denied this, even going so far as to forgetting how to speak English when directly asked about it before Congress. He even managed to not perjure himself, because the "illegal steroids" he claimed to never have used aren't illegal in the República Dominicana where Sosa hails from. However, they are banned in the league in which he plays baseball, so there's that.
Now begins the discussion on whether or not Sosa is Hall-worthy. On paper, his numbers speak for themselves. His ridiculous string for 60+ homer seasons alone makes him eligible. But now that this steroid thing is out there, his chances are greatly decreased. The sports writers have already shown what they think about 'roiders, taking a resounding pass on Mark McGwire, who has never been confirmed as a user, but has always been suspected. (Mind you, even if McGwire could provide a clean test for every day he played, I still wouldn't induct him. And I actually LIKE McGwire.) And now Sosa has that same taint on him.
But the thing that must be remembered is that steroids don't make you a better player; they only make you a bigger player. Taking steroids is not suddenly going to turn you into a premiere homerun hitter. The talent has to be there. The steroids only improve the physical aspect, not the skill. Take Jason Grimsley: heavy, HEAVY steroid user, absolute shit player. Any performance bump needs to be backed with natural ability. Take me, for example. I'm 5'10", a buck 70. If I were on steroids, I'd get bigger all right, right in my fucking gut, maybe even grow some nice b-cup breasts. With some physical effort, I could probably get to be pretty strong. But I still couldn't put a bat to a fastball, much less knock it over the fence 600 times.
So, yes, there are a lot of All-Star-caliber players who have been revealed as steroid users. But how much did steroids improve their performance? How would they have done on talent alone? Would they have been complete garbage without, or just slightly diminished versions? If Sosa had hit a "mere" 30 homers a season, he'd still have 500+, which is nothing to sneeze at.
Maybe we need a "steroid curve," something on which we can judge juiced players' actual performance against their "what if" performance. Subtract 300 off every one of Barry Bonds' stats, and he's still one of the greatest players ever. And there are others who would pass a similar test.
The problem with that starts to show when you go back in the history books and compare the stats of today's supremely fit players against Hall of Famers that weren't as fit. Hank Aaron, an unremarkable guy my size, put up the greatest stat line in history. Babe Ruth, whose bulk was mostly gained from eating, drinking, and smoking constantly, put up numbers that took 80 years of trying to surpass. Mickey Mantle, who drank himself through two livers, hit a third of his 536 homers off of a destroyed knee. Sandy Koufax pitched four of the greatest seasons ever with an arthritic arm that was in constant pain. Add some sort of "doping factor" to the stats of these less-than-stellar physical specimens, and they dwarf those of today's enhanced superstars.
But, there is no curve for determining Hall-worthiness. You have to go by the numbers as they are: Do Sosa's stats put him in the Hall? Mos def. You then have to weigh that against an opinion of whether or not someone who "skewed" their stats should be in the Hall: Does the fact that Sosa used steroids to enhance his performance put him in the Hall? Not so much.
It will be interesting to see how it all pans out in 2013, when Sosa, Clemens, Bonds, and Piazza, all Hall of Fame-level players and all alleged steroid users, become eligible for Hall induction. It will be the first true test of the Steroid Era for Hall induction, and whether or not any of them make it in will shape the future of the Hall.
Ya know, back in the day, potential Hall of Famers used to retire with honor and dignity in public, tearful ceremonies at the ballpark. Nowadays, potential Hall of Famers retire after no one wants them anymore via press release and couldn't get into a ballpark on Free Admission Day.
I think that says a lot.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Posted by E at 9:16 am