Results tagged ‘ Barry Bonds ’

Walking with Molina

THE THEOLOGY OF JOSE MOLINA
Jose Molina is Friday night’s designated hitter. Did you know that Molina has set his career high in walks this season? His 14th free pass did the trick, shattering his 2005 record of 13. There are all kinds of players — I bet somewhere in his career Barry Bonds got 13 walks in four games. To give Molina all the credit he’s due for his feat, it really does represent a huge uptick in patience. Last year, when Jorge Posada’s injury forced the Yankees to give Molina more playing time than he’d ever received before or ever will again, he walked only 12 times in 297 plate appearances. He’s exceeded that total by two despite coming to the plate 147 times. He’s walking twice as often as he used to. No doubt this is just another example of the cosmic dice finding the sweet spot on Molina’s Strat-O-Matic card again and again, Rosencrantz’s coin coming up heads 92 times in a row. Albert Einstein famously said that God does not play dice with the universe, but this is pretty clear evidence that He does play dice with Jose Molina’s walk rate. Coming soon: The Book of Molina: When Good Things Happen to Inoffensive Reserve Catchers — featuring a new translation of the Book of Job revealing that the whole thing was just a big misunderstanding.

ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE ZACK GREINKE …
… And Jim Leyland is Ophelia. Really. Tonight’s attempt to resolve the never-ending battle of the AL Central features Jake Peavy and the White Sox against Edwin Jackson of the Tigers and Lenny DiNardo of the Royals going against Jeff Manship (whose name always makes me think either of slave-rowed galleys or alien abductions, or both. Methinks the Twins will be but one game out at the end of the night. DiNardo is a journeyman lefty lacking in control or strikeout pitches, and while the Twins have had problems with southpaws this year (they’re under .500 in games started by lefties) DiNardo doesn’t merit any consideration because of his handedness. Manship of Space is a rookie, equally unimpressive in his own way, another Twins pitch-to-contact guy. The thing is, when you’re facing the Royals, pitching to contact isn’t such a big deal.

The Tigers get to try their luck against Peavy, who completely dominated them last week. Familiarity shouldn’t breed success, not with a pitcher of his quality, though it is fair to note that the previous game was at Chicago, and the Tigers have been miserable in road games. As for their own starter, Jackson was impressive early, but note that in the second half his ERA has jumped by two full runs, from 2.52 to 4.53. His strikeout rate has also dropped in that time, going from seven a game to six. In short, his season is a mirror-image of CC Sabathia’s. In his last start against the White Sox, just days ago, he gave up five runs in seven innings. His September includes a solid but unspectacular game against the Rays and seven shutout innings against the Indians. The rest has been mush, the aggregate coming to an ERA of 5.08.

Saturday the odds shift back to the Tigers, as the Twins draw Greinke and they get the sore-armed Freddy Garica. They bombed Garcia last week, but he had actually been pitching very well to that point, with a 3.09 ERA in his previous five starts. Unfortunately, his strikeout rate has been less than intimidating, even in that time, and that means that even if he’s at his best he could give up some runs. The one fly in the ointment for the Tigers is that they’re starting rookie Alfredo Figaro, a sort of functional sinker/change-up guy. One imagines he won’t have too long a leash. The results of Saturday’s play should make Sunday a day of for-all-accounts-and-purposes exhibitions, and the Yankees can get on with the business of figuring out how to beat the Tigers.

Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

manny2_250_050609.jpgEver see a clubhouse picture of Joe DiMaggio with his shirt off? There are a few that pop up in books about the Yankee Clipper. His biceps have a bit of definition, but otherwise the only thing that really pops out at you is his ribcage — he looks as if he just came off of a hunger strike. Had I been a writer at the time, I would have been tempted to bring him bowls of pasta. Steaks. Freshly killed zebras. Joe DiMaggio was not a bodybuilder. Thank you for that, Joe.

The foregoing is an oblique reaction to Manny Ramirez’s 50-game suspension for failing a test for a so-called performance-enhancing drug. According to one article, that substance was a gonadotropin, a substance used to light a fire in underperforming testicles (I believe that in 10 years of writing this feature that is the first time I have typed the word “testicles”). In other words, these drugs kick off testosterone production. Testosterone helps build muscles. Muscles make you stronger. Stronger makes you… Well, we really don’t know that stronger makes you anything but stronger, but you see the reasoning that is at work here.

As always, what is depressing about this development is not its actual impact but the dishonesty that comes with getting caught. Ramirez’s statement on the matter said, “Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue. He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was okay to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility.”

No, Manny, actually it’s your doctor’s responsibility too, and I fully expect that you will be suing him. Thing is, we know Manny won’t be suing, because then this tissue-paper excuse would collapse. For that matter, he would also appeal the suspension, submit medical records as proof of his contention, and make every effort to stay on the field and clear his name. That’s not what he’s doing. Rather, he’s meekly taking the rap.

Ramirez is seemingly oblivious to much besides his personal comfort level, so I don’t expect him to have much feeling for his place in the game or its history, but it sure would be nice if we had a player or two who felt an obligation to the game who had made them famous multimillionaires and exercised due caution, even excess caution, so they did not get into these situations, whether by choosing to do drugs that the public considers to be cheating, or by asking some extra questions of their physician so as to make sure they don’t get poor advice, as Ramirez supposedly did. In the end, it’s really not what the drugs do, but what the public thinks of them. Unfortunately, all the propaganda has been in the service of the Incredible Hulk Theory of PEDs (baseball has chosen to capitulate rather than educate), so rightly or wrongly, when you get caught the public starts thinking of you the way they used to think of Shoeless Joe.

As such, Ramirez now gets a seat at the table that now holds Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Alex Rodriguez. This is a hitter who, whatever controversies have surrounded him, has been an All-Star every year since 1998, who has 533 career home runs and nearly 1,750 RBIs, whose career slugging percentage is .594. Whatever one thinks of Ramirez personally, be you a Yankees fan, Red Sox fan, Dodgers fan, if you’re a fan of baseball it is disgusting and abhorrent to you that a hitter of this stature is now perceived to have fallen.

mannytorre_250_050609.jpgA note of sympathy for Joe Torre, a guy whom must have been cursed to live in interesting times. His team has the best record in baseball, in part due to Ramirez’s terrific start. He now finds himself suffering a violent drop in production in left field, from Ramirez to Juan Pierre. That is, to quote Tom Petty, freefallin’. The Dodgers do have some Minor League outfielders that can play a bit, including prospect Xavier Paul at Triple-A (.344/.385/.542 and a big grain of salt at Triple-A) and journeyman bat Val Pascucci.

If they choose to be more assertive than just surrendering to the Pierreness (rhymes with “unfairness”) of life they can try to patch a bit. Regardless, Torre has his work cut out for him. Needless to say, this is one of those meadership moments that can make for a good line on one’s Hall of Fame plaque — if the Old Man can pull a rabbit out of his hat.

If not, the Dodgers, one of baseball’s best teams in one of its biggest media markets, a club off to a record-setting 13-0 start at home, becomes another casualty of steroids hysteria combined with a player’s ignorance, stupidity, and selfishness. Good work, congratulations to everyone. And so we ask again, “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?”

Actually, if he were here, we’d probably get on him for his cigarette habit. Alas, no one is perfect. 

All rain means all A-Rod

arod_250_050409.jpgWriting for YES as I do, I run the risk of being labeled a pro-Rod shill if I defend Alex Rodriguez too vigorously. And yet, I’ve been a Selena Roberts detractor for years, because whenever she picked up her pen to write about baseball as a New York Times columnist I tended to become ill. I go out of my way not to attack fellow writers out of a sense of professional courtesy, but when Roberts wrote passages such as —  

At 42, Beane didn’t invent sabermetrics, a sci-fi word formed from S.A.B.R., the Society of American Baseball Research [sic] (a k a The No-Life Institute). But with its philosophy filtered through his Ivy League predecessor in Oakland, Sandy Alderson, Beane applies the tenets of numeric efficiency found in the stapled baseball abstracts of the 70’s fringe writer Bill James.

 — she sunk so far below professional standards that it removed any obligation I might have felt. Anti-intellectualism and schoolyard, ad hominem attacks aren’t deserving of professional courtesy, and if she thinks Bill James is a fringe writer (those “stapled baseball abstracts” quickly gave way to bestselling mass market paperbacks and hardcovers), well, she is fringe ignorant. Another baseball passage that sent me running for the bathroom was written when Roberts imagined that Tony Clark was in a competition with Jason Giambi for playing time.

She sided with Clark. “At the plate, Giambi is a withering vision of power… with an on-base percentage of .376, which would be impressive in ‘Moneyball’ wisdom but falls flat in Yankees logic considering he is paid to produce runs, not draw walks.” Walks produce runs, period, but never mind. Roberts also argued that Giambi’s weakness with the glove meant that he was, “not the Giambi that anyone expected when the Yankees seduced him with the perfume of cash in 2001.” If Roberts expected Jason Giambi to be Don Mattingly around the bag when the Yankees acquired him, she was the only one. As I wrote at the time, going after Giambi for his defense is a bit like saying that Mark Twain was a bad writer because he looked terrible in a bikini. It wasn’t anything anyone ever expected of him.

Roberts has a weak track record in terms of thinking and knowledge of baseball, and she also led the charge against the Duke lacrosse players in the 2006 rape case, the one that ended with the prosecutor who brought charges being discharged. As Jason Whitlock wrote on Saturday, Roberts has never been called to account for these columns. Among her last words on the subject: “No one would want an innocent Duke player wronged or ruined by false charges — and that may have occurred on Nifong’s watch — but the alleged crime and the culture are mutually exclusive… A dismissal doesn’t mean forget everything. Amnesia would be a poor defense to the next act of athlete privilege.”

Yes, let’s look on the bright side, because jocks having slightly more restrained keg parties makes calling innocent young men rapists worthwhile.

I don’t trust Roberts’ judgment, I don’t trust her understanding of baseball, and I don’t trust her motives in writing a book about Alex Rodriguez that surely would not exist were it not intended to be a hit piece. If Rodriguez was juicing in high school or kindergarten, it goes to character, not performance, and we have had countless reasons to know that he’s not Mother Theresa in the clubhouse or off the field. Neither were Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, et al. Cobb’s reward was to die friendless, Ruth and Mantle died young, the causes of their cancer probably not unrelated to their youthful carousing, and Williams’ own son had him decapitated and stuck in a freezer.

On the field, they all won their pennants, and for now that should be our main area of interest in regards to Mr. Rodriguez, because the personality stuff is off the slightest relevance. If Derek Jeter loves or hates Rodriguez matters less than this basic equation: Jeter singles and Rodriguez hits a home run. That’s the only relationship, the only trust that needs to be between them — and needs to be between Rodriguez and us.

If Rodriguez used steroids in high school, that tells us a little more about Rodriguez the man but nothing of substance about Rodriguez the ballplayer. If he used HGH as a Yankees, well, HGH seems to help athletes with recovery time and healing, not performance. So does aspirin. Move on. Xavier Nady is having platelets shot into his elbow. The dividing line between these two therapies is entirely arbitrary.

As for Roberts’ allegations of Rodriguez tipping pitches as a Ranger, they had best be better sourced than her work on the Duke case. According to SI.com, “Roberts said that over the course of a couple years, some people with the Rangers began to detect a pattern whereby Rodriguez would appear to be giving away pitch type and location to hitters, always middle infielders who would then be able to repay him in kind when he was at the plate, with his body movement.”

It is extraordinary to think that “some people” would notice this and not alert management as to the practice. Unless there is videotape evidence, or Roberts’ sources are willing to come forward and explain why they sat on their knowledge that Rodriguez was damaging his own pitchers, this must be dismissed as the worst kind of hearsay. That Roberts knows relatively little about baseball must be considered here — her credulity and our skepticism must be of equal proportion.

Rodriguez and his all-too-evident feet of clay are being attacked by a not particularly knowledgeable writer in a way that hurts the player and the game without adding any illumination. Rodriguez should not be made to carry the banner for the steroids era, one which few sportswriters are willing to treat with anything like fairness anyway. Until the mainstream writers are willing to examine in a realistic way what we really know about the impact of steroids on performance, their metaphorically running down Main Street shouting “Cheater! Cheater!” does nothing but add heat where there should be light.

For the thousandth time: the players broke the rules, but they did not rewrite the record books, not A-Rod, not even Barry Bonds. You can’t prove it logically, you can’t prove it by inference, and you can’t prove it medically. Roberts has damaged an already damaged man by wielding a very blunt instrument. Hooray for her, hooray for us for paying attention. 

The Rodriguez discontents

arod_250_043009.jpgThe latest leaks from Selena Roberts’ A-Rod takedown have hit the newsstands, and it’s just endless fun. I mean that sarcastically. I guess it was sadly inevitable that Rodriguez’s “I only used steroids from 2003 to 2005” line was going to be challenged. As I wrote here at the time, Rodriguez’s entire press conference didn’t pass the smell test. Perhaps he should have checked with Roberts first to see if she had more on him before he went out and put the two of them in conflict again.

About the best we can do at this point is to point out again that just about every conclusion drawn about steroids and other so-called performance enhancers is that the enhancement is entirely suppositional. They make you get bigger — provided you work out like a nut. As the book apparently suggests, they can cause gynecomastia, or breasts in males. What they cannot do, and no one has ever proven they can do, not even Barry Bonds, is hit for a higher average or more power. I know that sounds nave at first glance, but if you think through it reasonably it becomes clear that the size of your muscles are not determinant in baseball. There has to be other stuff going on for a player to succeed, things that require skills and precision. None of that changes the fact that the use of such substances is unethical at best and illegal at worst, and if you want to further revise your opinion of Rodriguez downward a few notches, be my guest.

I suppose that the news that Rodriguez sometimes tipped pitches to pals will get more play at this point, but I wonder if it will be merited. There is an old tradition, going back to the game’s earliest days, of sometimes giving a friend a gift in a game that’s already been decided. You can find countless anecdotes about this kind of thing in baseball history books. What we don’t know is (A) is such a thing still considered acceptable behavior in baseball, and (B) were Rodriguez’s pitchers in on it? If they weren’t, they might have a bone to pick, or a bat.

In the end, there’s not much left for us to do — us being we the spectators and A-Rod — except to persevere, to hope that the past is in the past. If he lacks character, that’s fine. No one says you have to have him over to dinner and he’s probably not going to try to date your daughter. A lot of the great stars were not good people. Some have posited that it was exactly that quality, principally narcissism, that made them great stars. Drive has to be fueled by something, and it might as well be self-regard. In the meantime, the Yankees need him, need him to play like he’s always played (except for the part about runners in scoring position). If he’s clean, this will all go away long before Roberts’ book is remaindered.

And if not, it’s going to become spectacularly tedious, especially at any time that the Yankees aren’t winning and people are looking for stories.

I LOVE MY WIFE
I was looking over Joba Chamberlain’s fine line from last night when my wife came into the room. I pointed out the box score — seven innings, three hits, one run, three walks, six strikeouts, a win. Stefanie looked at it and said, “Yes, but he’d be even better in the bullpen!” and walked away laughing. What made this doubly wonderful is that not only do I have a satirical spouse, which you can’t get just anywhere, but you can find people writing exactly that — no matter how good Joba was in a particular game, he would always have been better doing something else.

I’ll be back later with some additional thoughts on Joba, the season debut of 20-Game Watch (usually 30-Game Watch but we’re not there yet), and the Around section. 

Ending the A-Rod debate

arodblog021809.jpgTHE A-ROD FILES (DISCOVERED IN A RARELY OPENED BOTTOM DRAWER)

Judging by the comments and email, my reaction to the A-Rod presser didn’t please anyone. The criticism was about evenly split between those who seemed to think I was too hard on the guy and didn’t give him enough credit for being candid, and those that still think that I’m not hard enough on him because I still argue that his usage almost certainly had little effect on his numbers.

Some days you’re better off just staying in bed. Or maybe I could blog recipes. I don’t imagine that those folks get too much hate mail. “You’re calling for too much sugar! Who likes custard, anyway! Obviously you’ve never cooked in a real restaurant.”

Let’s try to deal with both objections, starting with the first. I would very much like to give Rodriguez the benefit of the doubt here, as I have steadfastly defended him over the years from those so-called fans who want to blame every bad bounce of the ball on him, not to mention the declining economy, global warming, and the continued popularity of “American Idol.” Despite this, I think his performance on Tuesday was ludicrous. I can’t sum up his explanations any better than did Joel Sherman in Wednesday’s New York Post:

So before we even deal with the discrepancy that Rodriguez, according to the Sports Illustrated story, failed a test for two steroids, not just “boli,” let us just sum up A-Rod’s new story: Fitness freak lets untrained relative shoot drugs that the fitness freak cannot fully identify or vouch are safe into his body 36 times, though the fitness freak is not sure he is taking the drugs correctly or if they are having a positive result.

Lewis Carroll’s White Queen could believe as many as six impossible things before breakfast, and you’d have to be her to buy into this mess. It makes very little sense. Nor does the “youthful indiscretion” thread ring true, given that the guy was 25 when he started. Whatever maturity issues the guy was facing, it’s pretty clear he had a fully developed sense of right and wrong or he wouldn’t have tried to hide what he was doing.

As I said yesterday, this has little to do with my estimation of Alex Rodriguez as a ballplayer. I respect his on-field performances and feel they are legitimate. The same goes for Ty Cobb. Had I been around, I would have paid good money to see Cobb play, but I don’t think I would have wanted to be friends with him or have him over for dinner. Heck, given what I’ve read of Babe Ruth’s table manners, I don’t know that I’d want to have dinner with him either. Ted Williams was not easy to get along with. Mickey Mantle was so good he’s actually underrated, but it seems like his personal character left a lot to be desired. These guys are not my idea of great human beings, but they can play on my all-star team anytime.

As for those on the “steroids corrupt all stats” debate, I remain somewhere between agnostic and outright skeptical. I’d be more willing to believe in a placebo effect than I do in a large-scale impact on home run production. If you feel differently, I’m open to your argument, but we need an argument more solid than, “Look at the home runs, man!” I did a radio spot recently, and the host said — I loosely paraphrase — “You puny stathead, I used to play the game, and I look at how Bongs and Ray-Rod can stay back on the ball and still hit it out — that’s unnatural power that can only come from the juice!” And as I struggled to say something more than, “Wait, what?” he repeated, “I played, I know.” Well, great. Let’s say we accept your argument. These guys hit 50 home runs a year. In how many of them did they “stay back” and still hit it out? What is the recurrence of your little anecdote in a given year? Are there any players who can do that naturally? Is it possible that, given that we’re talking about the top one percent of home run hitters in the game, that they can do some things the average player cannot? That you cannot? We’re talking about people’s lives and good names here. We cannot condemn them based on inference, innuendo, anecdote.

All of this searching for a “natural” production baseline is ridiculous given that there is no such thing. The line drawn between fair and unfair substances is completely arbitrary. No player, in any sport, is competing with only the assets that birth gave him. There’s always something else going into the pot, be it aspirin, absinthe, or amphetamines. During his 56-game hitting streak, Joe DiMaggio chain-smoked cigarettes in the dugout to calm his nerves. That gave him an unfair advantage on Wee Willie Keeler.  Heck, genes are unfair and should be banned. Consider Barry Bonds and Jose Cruz, Jr. Bobby Bonds was a very good player. Barry Bonds is better. Jose Cruz was a very good player. Jose Cruz, Jr. is not half the player his old man was. Seems like Barry’s mom brought more to the chromosome hoedown than did Jose Jr.’s mom. Clearly, Barry Bonds is the beneficiary of genetic hypergamy, giving him a competitive advantage unavailable to other players. As such, his records should be stricken from the book. Breeding, intentional or not, makes a mockery of the level playing field.

I’m done. This is over. Let’s move on… at least a couple of yards down the road. At least until the next revelation.

Tejada and the terribly blustery day

tejada_250_021209.jpgIt was painful watching Miguel Tejada weep over his guilty plea for lying to Congress, but a little bit satisfying as well — not in the sense of schadenfreude, of taking pleasure in someone else’s suffering, but in anticipation of the deterrent effect that his tears might have on future ballplayers, arrogant enough, as Tejada was, to dismiss the legal jeopardy that might result from participation in the culture of bodybuilding, that has infected Major League clubhouses. That prosecutors nailed Tejada on something as peripheral as perjury, rather than his own usage, actually makes the potential chill even more visceral — concealing the use of another is enough to get you hooked, booked, and cooked. Potentially all players in a clubhouse can be implicated in the use of PEDs by any one player.

There will always be an incentive for certain players to cheat. These players are not the A-Rods or the Bonds, but the kind of guys that Tejada got in trouble for talking steroids with, Adam Piatt. The vast majority of players caught have been, and will continue to be, those for whom a million-dollar payday is just a few home runs away. Those at the top of the game, those who have the talent and the riches but cheat anyway, we’ll never know why they chose to go that route — there is no good answer. A-Rod suggested that it was insecurity after signing a big contract. For Bonds, the reason seems to have been vanity.

Whatever the reason, it wasn’t intelligence. These athletes seem to be in the thrall of an impulsivity that does not consider consequences. “Field of Dreams” had it all wrong — Shoeless Joe didn’t return from the grave to teach some pseudo-hippie in Iowa the value of forgiveness, but the pain of not being forgiven, of having a shadow hang over you for the rest of your life. Jackson made the dumbest decision of his life at 29 years old and had another 32 years to think of it, 32 years in which he was hanging out in Nowhere, South Carolina, instead of attending reunions in Cooperstown, N.Y. One of the most difficult stories from Jackson’s life to think about is the occasion in which Ty Cobb unknowingly wandered into Jackson’s liquor store, and Jackson was, at first, too ashamed to identify himself.

Cobb had reason for regret as well. He too got caught up in a betting scandal, one that continues to dog his reputation to this day, even though he was officially cleared by the Commissioner. He also lived to regret his reputation for violence and rage. Perhaps Jackson and Cobb are beyond caring now, but both were intelligent enough to know that they were historic figures, and the evil that they did would live after them. “Speak well of me after I am dead,” the old saying goes. They knew that was unlikely to be the case, and it pained their final years — so too for Hal Chase, Eddie Cicotte, Carl Mays, and many of the other players who left the game under a cloud. Again, they are dust now, and beyond pain, but they had to live with the pain, too. Tejada, I think, now has had the smallest taste of that.

Alex Rodriguez could play most of another decade, and his Hall of Fame case will not come before the court of opinion for another five years before that, so he will be living with the legacy of his own stupidity and shortsightedness for a minimum of 15 years, but more likely for the rest of his life. As I said at the outset, there will always be some players who will cheat, who will have the incentive to cheat, but of those for whom cheating is simply a choice born out of greed or ego or just the assumed invulnerability of youth, we can only hope that they will watch Tejada’s tears and say, “That could be me.” We can only hope that they watch Rodriguez, the new Ozymandias, struggle to rebuild his reputation (“Look on my works, ye mighty — I shot myself in the ***”) over and over again in the coming years, and say, “Let the cup pass from my lips — I’m not having any.” The consequences are real, beyond money gained or lost, beyond home runs, beyond temporary suspensions by the namby pamby commissioner. The consequences could be legal, could involve loss of assets or jail, but beyond that, it could result in the permanent suspension of your reputation.

MORE BY ME
For those with an ESPN Insider account, I was charged this week with issuing dire warnings about the Red Sox. In my usual history minute spot at BP, I search for those lineups that are supposedly too left-handed.

I am also proud to note that this year’s BP annual, which I co-edited and to which I contributed much writing, has already begun shipping and currently stands at No. 25 on the Amazon bestsellers list. Select BP colleagues and I will be making appearances around the New York area to sign the book and talk baseball, including (but not limited to) March 1 at the Yogi Berra Museum, March 12 at the Barnes & Noble on East 18th Street in Manhattan, and March 26 at the Rutgers University Bookstore in New Brunswick, NJ. Full details and additional dates to follow shortly. I very much hope you’ll come out and chat. If not, I get kind of lonely.

…I also wanted to note, a bit belatedly, that artist Rich Faber has finally got his signed and numbered Gehrig and Mantle prints in (I have one of each, and they look even better in person). If you scroll down, you should also note his “Drama Queen” T-shirt, which has nothing to do with baseball but was a hit with my daughter when I gave her one — and weirdly predictive, but I don’t blame the T-shirt, as little girls are just like that sometimes. 

Eleven reactions to the A-Rod/steroids story

arod_250_020909.jpg1. Not steroids again. Not A-Rod again. I have seen both of these movies before, and wasn’t clamoring for a re-release or a sequel. This is how I imagine most people feel about Steve Martin’s “Pink Panther” films.

2. I’m still not certain what we’re upset about. We don’t know how performance-enhancing drugs affect a hitter’s performance. We intuitively feel that it should, but actual evidence is nonexistent. I have had acquaintances and fellow writers tell me, “They help you hit the ball farther,” or, “They help you see the ball better.” Unfortunately, none of them could cite a legitimate source for these effects. Indeed, any attempts to tease out the evidence of PED use in baseball statistics tend to come up with few persuasive results (for one effort, see Nate Silver’s chapter on PEDs in Baseball Between the Numbers — in the interest of full disclosure, I contributed a chapter to said book). The key fact is this: steroids help one build muscle. They do not necessarily help one hit a baseball. Indeed, there is no evidence for the latter.

3. Most of the players caught taking steroids have been of the most fringe-y types. These fellows did not turn into Barry Bonds or Alex Rodriguez. It’s hard to see that they received any benefit at all. When we turn to a Bonds or an A-Rod and say that they received a great benefit from using, not only are we automatically in the realm of conjecture about the basic effects, we’re also positing that they received a benefit beyond what other users received. While it is known that certain medications will affect various individuals differently (the impact of side effects varies, for example), it is something of a stretch to say that one guy gets nothing and the next guy gets 50 home runs, or even 10 extra home runs. If you’ve had radiation administered to your eyes, as I have, you will find out that some people have their vision reduced, and some go completely blind (as I have). One guy in a hundred does not turn into Cyclops of the X-Men and go about shooting bad guys with his optic force beams. That kind of result just isn’t on the menu of possibilities.

4. Given the chimerical benefits of PED usage and the fact that Rodriguez lacked the monetary incentives to use that seem to inspire most of the aforementioned fringe-type users, I am forced to fall back on one of the great explanations for everything, vanity. We already knew, or suspected, that Rodriguez was something of a narcissist. This is the confirmation.

5. Rodriguez had the best offensive season of his career in 2007. His 2008 offensive output wasn’t too different, when adjusted for context, than his now-tainted 2003 performance. How do we reconcile these things, assuming Rodriguez was clean after 2003 or 2004? Wouldn’t it be nave of us to believe that 2003 was the only time A-Rod was using?

6. Clearly, using PEDs does not help you come up with the big hit in a postseason game.

7. Rodriguez could play for another eight or 10 years. He won’t be eligible for the Hall of Fame for another five years after that. Get ready to become intimately familiar with this topic, because we’re going to be kicking it around for something like a decade and a half.

8. The bigger story here is not that A-Rod might have used, but that what should have been a confidential testing record was picked up by the government for no particular reason, and further that the government, as custodian of those records, were sloppy enough in their handling of them that we and Rodriguez have come to this reckoning. Whatever one thinks of what Rodriguez did, whatever one thinks of about Rodriguez, he does not deserve to be a victim of drive-by assassination in a legal proceeding against somebody else, and it seems like the 4th Amendment would give him (and you, and me) the right not to be. Of course, the 4th Amendment ain’t what it used to be.

9. The second-biggest story is the Gene Orza of the Players Union might have been tipping players to upcoming tests. That would throw the whole testing regime into question.

10. The “good” part of the Bonds story was that A-Rod was likely going to erase his home run record anyway, so we would have a “clean” all-time home run leader. Now, not so much — despite the complete and total lack of evidence that what Rodriguez might have done has had any impact on his home run totals anyway. This is yet another aspect of the story that will never, never go away. Thanks, A-Rod. Thanks, Feds.

11. The ‘net is teeming with unqualified advice for A-Rod and how he should handle these disclosures, and I’m not even tempted to join the parade. Despite the points cited above about the lack of evidence for the impact of PEDs on hitting performance, that doesn’t mean that Rodriguez should be perceived as being any less corrupt for having failed a test. The records may be safe but our estimation of this already unpopular player is not, and I imagine it will never be restored.

Hot Stove show thread

bonds_250_020509.jpgI’ll be making my final appearance of the season on the YES Hot Stove show tonight at 6:30 EST. After this installment, the show travels to Florida but they won’t take me with them — they couldn’t figure out how to transport the bunker short of hiring a cargo plane. I’m fine with this as long as Bob Lorenz’s library set is staying behind too. I’m thinking that while they’re gone I might sneak into the studio and sit in the plush chairs. I might even sit in Murray Chass’ chair.

You know, the other day I was having dinner with two male friends, and they began discussing thread count in men’s dress shirts. Until that moment, the concept of thread count in dress shirts had not entered my mind in all of my 38 years on this planet. Thread count for sheets, sure, I’ve heard of that, though I’ve never given it all that much thought either. But for shirts? And here’s what I want to know: does Bob think about thread count in dress shirts?

I don’t yet know what topics are on tap for today — I have a sinking feeling the guys might be getting into Barry Bonds and steroids again — but if you have any topics you want to see covered during my glorious one minute of air time, I’d be happy to hear them. I’ll be checking in throughout the day and even during the program — I don’t just keep the laptop open so I can send IMs during the show.

CLARIFIED FRYER OIL
My BP colleague Jay Jaffe, one of those famous Brewers fans from Utah, checked in with some additional notes on yesterday’s Yankees acquisition Eric Fryer. Specifically, the reason that Fryer played in the outfield during the first part of the season was because the Brewers are stacked with catchers, and they had a better prospect than Fryer, Jonathan Lucroy, at the same level to begin last season. When Lucroy moved up a level, Fryer went back behind the plate. He seemed to be a bit raw there, not throwing out many runners and making a ton of errors, but perhaps he was rusty.

To my way of thinking, it’s just as well, because (as I wrote yesterday) the Yankees are in a good place with minor league catching just now, but they could use a corner outfielder in a bad way. As Jay said, if Fryer keeps hitting, he could make Double-A by the end of the year. The Wright trade represents a nice roll of the dice by Brian Cashman.

TWO OTHER BITS AND PIECES

? A final reminder that I’ll be doing a live chat at BP this Friday, February 6, at 1 p.m. EST. If you can’t make it, you can still get your questions in ahead of time at the URL above.

? My pal Allen Barra has a good bit in the New York Observer today as to why Roger Clemens isn’t Barry Bonds.