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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Hank Aaron

Eligible in 1982

John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 23, 2006 at 09:57 PM | 177 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   101. Sean Gilman Posted: July 26, 2006 at 08:10 PM (#2113580)
Don't feel too smug about 35 years later. Barry Bonds received hundreds of death threats (enough to get FBI attention) during his chase of 70 HR.

not that I condone the letters to Bonds but I think that has more to do with his personality then his race


Bonds's race, his personality and the public perception of his personality are so intertwined that I don't think that's a distinction you can make.
   102. Dizzypaco Posted: July 26, 2006 at 08:18 PM (#2113593)
Bonds's race, his personality and the public perception of his personality are so intertwined that I don't think that's a distinction you can make.

Well, put it this way. Would Ken Griffey Jr. receive hundreds of death threats if he was chasing a big record? Would Kirby Puckett? Would Pujols or Ortiz or Ramirez?

I suppose you could claim that a white player with Bonds personality wouldn't have gotten death threats, but I don't know that its been tested. There aren't a lot of guys of either race who are superstars and have Bonds'charming personality.
   103. Sean Gilman Posted: July 26, 2006 at 08:32 PM (#2113617)
Mark McGwire is a good point of comparison.

Just like Sammy Sosa (in 1998), the media (and certain parts of the public) would likely not react they way they have to Bonds if it were Puckett or Griffey or Ortiz.

But I don't think it's an indicator of the decline of racism that the public and the media can accept jolly black people but not prickly ones, while prickly white people are described as serious or intense or competitive or scrappy or whatever.
   104. Dizzypaco Posted: July 26, 2006 at 08:38 PM (#2113621)
I don't think Bonds is representative of anyone but Bonds. I can't think of another recent player who would have gotten the same reaction as Bonds if he challenged the record. Maybe Sheffield.

I don't necessarily think of McGwire and Bonds as having the same personality either.

Finally, I'm not quite sure that Griffey and Ortiz (or Pujols for that matter) would like to be described as "jolly black people."
   105. Sean Gilman Posted: July 26, 2006 at 08:48 PM (#2113630)
I'm sure they wouldn't. That's why it's unfortunate that that's the way they get portrayed in the media.

Sheffield, Albert Belle, Milton Bradley, Rickey Henderson, Frank Thomas, Manny Ramirez?, the continuing coverage of Dick Allen?. . . .

I'm not saying everything said about them is determined by their race, just that our perspective is limited and access and so much of what we learn about players is being filtered through a media that tends to like its minorities when they fit certain stereotypes and not when they don't. That's not to say that there aren't other, non-racial influences in the portrayal of athletes in the media, the most obvious being how pleasant that player is to the reporter writing about him.

Yes, Bonds is most likely not a very friendly person. But is he as evil as the media makes him appear? How do we know?
   106. DavidFoss Posted: July 26, 2006 at 08:57 PM (#2113649)
Yes, Bonds is most likely not a very friendly person. But is he as evil as the media makes him appear? How do we know?

Some people are much more insular and don't respond well to a constant barrage of media questions every day. 'Nice guy' Roger Maris snapped when the media cranked up the spotlight on him. Some people handle friends much better than acquaintances.

Sure some of these guys with bad reputations might just be mean SOB's, but its not quite as cut-and-dry as to how their relationship is with the media.
   107. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 26, 2006 at 09:21 PM (#2113680)
I didn't see Aaron that often other than on TV, but I don't recall any general booing of him during his chase of Ruth, in any park. Those haters were 100% anonymous. In that sense, what Robinson underwent on the field was much worse than anything Aaron had to put up with. There weren't any Ben Chapmans in opposing dugouts in 1973-74.

I think by the Seventies that hate of that kind was more or less covert. I remember kids and adults who would say some terrible things, but only for certain audiences. I don't think that was the case in '47.


Score one for one of the few positive benefits of PC. Some of those earlier racists have undergone genuine changes of heart, and some of them haven't, but at least most of them who haven't have learned that open expressions of bigotry aren't just brushed off the way they once were, and have mostly learned to keep their opinions to themselves, which isn't perfection but it's a lot better than the alternative. One John Rocker almsot borders on amusing, but one John Rocker on every team would be a not-so-minor catastrophe for baseball, not to mention public life in general.

As to the Bonds - McGwire comparison: Part of the differing public reaction to the two is just due to the differences in their personalities (though most of that difference is more PR smarts on McGwire's part [pre-Bunning, that is] than anything else), but I'd say the bulk of it has to do with the fact that McGwire retired five years ago. If he were still playing, and chasing Aaron, and if he were still spouting that "I'm not here to talk about the past" bullshlt, I bet he'd get nearly as much grief as Bonds does now, and deservedly so.
   108. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: July 26, 2006 at 09:22 PM (#2113683)
You might be able to add Pete Rose to the list of "charming" white players.

But is he as evil as the media makes him appear?
Is anyone as evil as Bonds is portrayed? Read Murray Chass's piece from yesterday about Barry's legal troubles. Chass is virtually salivating in anticipation of Barry getting rung up by the next grand jury, while apologizing left and right for why the prosecutor didn't get an indictment the first time around (and getting an indictment is apparently much, much easier than getting a conviction since there's a lighter burden of proof). And could anyone spew more venom than has George Vecsey?

Has Bonds eaten the first born child of all these reporters? The universal loathing is just tiresome by now. The media doesn't like him, they keep writing how much they dislike him, it's a nonstory.
   109. Sean Gilman Posted: July 26, 2006 at 09:38 PM (#2113696)
As to the Bonds - McGwire comparison: Part of the differing public reaction to the two is just due to the differences in their personalities (though most of that difference is more PR smarts on McGwire's part [pre-Bunning, that is] than anything else), but I'd say the bulk of it has to do with the fact that McGwire retired five years ago. If he were still playing, and chasing Aaron, and if he were still spouting that "I'm not here to talk about the past" bullshlt, I bet he'd get nearly as much grief as Bonds does now, and deservedly so.

Sure, and McGwire's getting a lot of grief over the steroids issue now. To the point that it's unclear if he'll even get elected to the HOF on the first ballot (or anytime soon).

My comparison was more with McGwire's treatment in 1998 to Bonds's in 2001. Bonds, I think, actually got a lot better coverage then than he says since the BALCO allegations were leaked. I think with Bonds we've got a perfect storm of racism, anti-drug hysteria, ax-grinding journalists and a ballplayer who's probably a jerk.
   110. Sean Gilman Posted: July 26, 2006 at 09:40 PM (#2113697)
<strike>then than he says since</strike>

. . . then than he's had since. . .
   111. fra paolo Posted: July 26, 2006 at 09:43 PM (#2113699)
Aaron comes up on Fielding Runs as a top NL outfielder between 1964 and 1968, before he once again retreats to his career norms. What was that all about?
   112. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 26, 2006 at 11:07 PM (#2113770)
But is he as evil as the media makes him appear?

Is anyone as evil as Bonds is portrayed? Read Murray Chass's piece from yesterday about Barry's legal troubles. Chass is virtually salivating in anticipation of Barry getting rung up by the next grand jury, while apologizing left and right for why the prosecutor didn't get an indictment the first time around (and getting an indictment is apparently much, much easier than getting a conviction since there's a lighter burden of proof). And could anyone spew more venom than has George Vecsey?


This is somewhat off-topic, but one of the more amazing phenomena of the Tonya Harding case was the way that every single NY Times columnist went out of his (and her) way to stress the innocent-until-proven-guilty-with-a-smoking gun-line, to demand that Harding be allowed into the Olympics, to paint Kerrigan as some sort of an upper class diva (which was complete BS), and to stress Harding's blue collar background, as if that were some sort of rational explanation for having your boyfriend cripple your main rival. If there's ever been a more clear-cut case of "unsportsmanlike behavior," this was it, and yet not one of these Times writers came to the obvious conclusion that Harding didn't deserve to benefit from Kerrigan's maiming. In fact, the only prominent voice calling for Harding's disqualification was Mike Lupica, which may have been the last sensible thing he's written.

All of which is to say that while I might agree with their take on Bonds, I'm a little embarrassed to be associated with any NY Times columnist when it comes to the general question of ethics in sport.
   113. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: July 27, 2006 at 12:54 AM (#2113894)
It would be really fascinating for some lucky researcher or sociologist to undertake a longitudinal study of Bonds's national press clippings from beginning of career to end to see how they've changed over time, and what percentage of the national media has become antagonistic to him.
   114. Jeff K. Posted: July 27, 2006 at 12:58 AM (#2113904)
If you're making a list of white baseball players who were completely misperceived by the media (unless the media willfully participated in some sort of cover-up, and I can't imagine their motive for doing that), Steve Garvey has to be on it.
   115. rawagman Posted: July 27, 2006 at 08:52 AM (#2114404)
Agreeing with the Doc on the Bonds treatment.
I personally think the whole steroids issue, while bad for the game, sports in general and society as a whole, is something we can never truly understand - who benefitted more? how much of accomplishment was "enhanced"? etc... the media hate-fest has an almost religiously fundamental aspect to it.

I can almost see the journalists getting together to burn Bonds paraphernalia.
   116. sunnyday2 Posted: July 27, 2006 at 12:23 PM (#2114424)
I'd sort of equate Bonds with Bill Clinton. Hang with me here. Clinton got as much bad press as anybody and his standing in the opinion polls went up and stayed around 65 percent favorable. People can tell when there's a vendetta going on and a guy is getting unfair treatment, even though he obviously screwed up and brought some of it on himself. Bonds brought some of it on himself, but the piling on is indeed getting quite tiresome, and I would guess that the average baseball fan, while perhaps not totally enamored with the guy, know that the press has gone too far. So I would guess that all the negative press is actually helping with his rehabilitation--people are feeling sorry for the guy, even though it's largely his own fault.

I would agree that there is almost nothing in the way of analogy between Aaron and Bonds, other than blackness and home runs. Every other dynamic is different.
   117. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: July 27, 2006 at 12:40 PM (#2114432)
Aaron recieved death threats - that's horrible, no matter how many he got. But it makes a difference in characterizing the period whether he got four or four thousand. It makes a difference if 5% of his mail was racist, or 45%, or 85%.
Why? If Aaron received significant numbers of death threats and hate mail, why are the numbers so important to you? Why are these numbers more doubtful to you than others?

If you're calling Aaron a liar about the death threats, I think that's wildly unlikely historically, and problematic ethically.

If you're not calling Aaron a liar but just quibbling over numbers, I don't understand what's in it for you, if it isn't the diminution of historical racism.
   118. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: July 27, 2006 at 12:45 PM (#2114436)
Let me put it this way.

If Aaron only got 4 death threats, then, sure, that would be important information in characterizing the period. In order to assert that that's true, though, you need to deny some very basic facts.

If we're not talking about differences by order of magnitude, I think it's quibbling with no productive goal in mind.
   119. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 27, 2006 at 12:46 PM (#2114438)
I personally think the whole steroids issue, while bad for the game, sports in general and society as a whole, is something we can never truly understand - who benefitted more? how much of accomplishment was "enhanced"? etc... the media hate-fest has an almost religiously fundamental aspect to it.

I apologize for posting the following on a HOM thread (and of course Bonds certainly should be in the HOM), but I can't let this bit of garbage pass.

IMO the reaction of many of the Bonds defenders (including some who aren't defending Bonds so much as attacking his attackers) itself has much in common with "religious fundamentalism," only the basis of this particular brand of religion is the worship of statistics per se, to the complete exclusion of all other considerations. The fact that Bonds (and others) deliberately went to great lengths to systematically and repeatedly subvert the whole idea of a level playing field is somehow less important than the fact that Bonds was "great even before he took steroids," as proven by the statistics of the first part of his career.

It's as if the smartest kid in the class is caught cribbing answers on his final exam, and rather than expel him (or at least throw out the results and look at him in a whole new light) you keep stressing how he would have likely scored a 98 instead of 100 if he hadn't cheated, and that since he would have gotten that 98 (an inference based on presumably legitimate past test results), you have to still elect him to the National Honor Society.

And since the great majority of the public doesn't seem to buy into this curious concept of statistics uber alles, the path of least resistance seems to be to try to find an equally unpopular segment of the population--"the media"--and go after them for their alleged sins, be they racism, sensationalism, Old Fartism, Ruth worshipping, or whatever.

IOW, change the subject.

And while you're at it, promote the idea that if Greg Anderson chooses to stonewall a Grand Jury, you can't infer anything about Bonds (or at least act in any way upon those inferences) without "independent" evidence---as if the whole reason that you'll likely never see any of that independent evidence isn't because Greg Anderson is sitting on it! (Duh.)

And above all, just keep repeating how great a player Bonds was before this "incident" happened. Because that's really all that matters: Those cherished statistics. Don't let anybody spoil the fun of us baseball scientists by pointing out that someone deliberately contaminated the test tubes.

I'd sort of equate Bonds with Bill Clinton. Hang with me here. Clinton got as much bad press as anybody and his standing in the opinion polls went up and stayed around 65 percent favorable.

Except that what Clinton did was entirely peripheral to the essential functions of the office of the presidency, whereas what Bonds did struck at the core of the whole idea of a level playing field. A far better baseball analogy to Clinton would be Steve Garvey: Two skirtchasers whose skirtchasing only affected their job performance to the extent that it was brought up in the media. This is decidedly not the case with Bonds or any of the other steroid users. In their cases, the media coverage has nothing to do with the underlying issue of what they did---and steroids don't read newspapers.

And btw, not that it's particularly relevant, but when was the last time you saw Bonds with 65% support in any public opinion poll?
   120. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: July 27, 2006 at 12:53 PM (#2114444)
And since the great majority of the public doesn't seem to buy into this curious concept of statistics uber alles, the path of least resistance seems to be to try to find an equally unpopular segment of the population--"the media"--and go after them for their alleged sins, be they racism, sensationalism, Old Fartism, Ruth worshipping, or whatever.

IOW, change the subject.
I'm not a big fan of Bonds, but I think the "change the subject" charge is highly problematic in regards to racism. I don't think it's too hard to argue that it's just more important to talk about race in America than it is to talk about steroids in baseball. It matters far, far more to me that racism shows itself in the treatment of black athletes than whether players took steroids - and I'm quite strongly against steroids, and I think I've made that case in any number of threads.

The "change the subject" argument does not apply if the new subject is of much greater importance. I've been told a few times, even though I've been pretty clear that I think Bonds did a bad, bad thing, and that I wouldn't want him in the HoF, that I'm "changing the subject" to talk about race in America. I don't like it. And even if I did have some ulterior motive of defending Bonds, do you really want to assert that societal racism is just a distraction from what really matters, which is condemning an individual steroid user?
   121. rawagman Posted: July 27, 2006 at 12:55 PM (#2114445)
Andy, I am not ready to indict Bonds if the American legal system isn't.

First, proove beyond any shred of a doubt, that the man was "juiced". Next, <u>proove</u> what the effects of the juice had on his game vis-a-vis the juice adding to the games of others.

Simply put, we have no idea what difference it makes. No pill in the world can help you see a ball from a strike. No injection will show you how to hit a ball.

What difference does it make?
   122. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: July 27, 2006 at 01:19 PM (#2114458)
Piling on to what Daddy Wags just said in 121, also we need to know how many people were using the stuff to see if anyone is gaining a true advantage.
   123. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: July 27, 2006 at 01:25 PM (#2114462)
First, proove beyond any shred of a doubt, that the man was "juiced". Next, proove what the effects of the juice had on his game vis-a-vis the juice adding to the games of others.
This has never been the standard used at the Hall of Fame or Hall of Merit.

Can you prove, beyond any shred of doubt, that Rogers Hornsby didn't actually hurt his teams more with his clubhouse presence than he helped them with his bat? No, you can't. You just think it's unlikely enough that you elect him anyway. Or can you prove that Joe Start wasn't actually a terrible, horrible defensive player, and this fact is obscured by the lack of good record-keeping?

Steroids should be put to the same test, not a totally new test. The question of whether Bonds did steroids really shouldn't be up for debate at this point. Even he admitted he took something that he thought was flaxseed oil. What steroids do for athletes is not a specifically answerable question, but I think that, at least for the Hall of Fame, it's a question people need to try to answer as best as they can.

I shouldn't encourage the growth of a steroids thread in the HoM, as I'll probably end up receiving thousands of death threats from Joe Dimino again. I apologize.
   124. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 27, 2006 at 01:26 PM (#2114463)
Matt, I'm certainly not claiming for a second that race isn't a more important subject than steroids in baseball.

What I am saying is that if you want to tie Bonds, steroids, and race together, you have to begin by acknowledging that the issue of Bonds and steroids exists independently of the race question, and that the race question in this case is at most a minor part of what's going on. Do you think that you or I would be against Bonds getting into the HOF if he hadn't used steroids? Do you and I still favor the HOF candidacy of Mark McGwire, because of some racial double standard?

Calling attention to specific cases of a double standard of media venom is one thing, but trying to generalize about this double standard as part of a strategy to diminish what Bonds actually did, and how we should deal with that, is another matter altogether. I know that you're not doing this, but it's not too hard to see evidence of others who have taken this tack.

As for #121 and #122, they're both excellent examples of what I was talking about in my post #119. As if what Bonds did can simply be reduced to a statistical question, and that his pre-steroids level of talent has any bearing on the main issue.
   125. DL from MN Posted: July 27, 2006 at 01:46 PM (#2114478)
I like the Bonds v. Rose analogy. Barry is a selfish guy but he broke a rule that carries with it suspensions, fines, etc. Rose broke the most important rule in the game. Still I bet there are more Rose apologists than Bonds apologists and I think race has a lot to do with it. Bonds may be a jerk and a cheater but Rose is a jerk and a sleazeball.
   126. Mark Shirk (jsch) Posted: July 27, 2006 at 02:16 PM (#2114493)
Well, Rose was also the prototypical hustle guy as well while Bonds was always seen as the lazy, spoiled superstar. Then again that could have a lot to do with race as well.

Also, does cheating on one test get you kicked out of the National Honor Society? i know kids who did coke and go tinto NHS, seems a little harsh to me. Then again NHS doesn't really mean that much.
   127. sunnyday2 Posted: July 27, 2006 at 02:27 PM (#2114505)
>Also, does cheating on one test get you kicked out of the National Honor Society?

One would hope so.

>i know kids who did coke and go tinto NHS

Doesn't make it right. Did the alleged adults know about the coke?

>Then again NHS doesn't really mean that much.

Correcto mundo.

Still I agree. You cheat on one test, snort one line, whatever, there are plenty of honest kids, elect them to NHS.
   128. rawagman Posted: July 27, 2006 at 02:43 PM (#2114516)
What does all this have to do with Hank Aaron?
Was he on roids?
Was there an extra chapter to Ball Four that I missed?
   129. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 27, 2006 at 03:14 PM (#2114548)
I like the Bonds v. Rose analogy. Barry is a selfish guy but he broke a rule that carries with it suspensions, fines, etc. Rose broke the most important rule in the game. Still I bet there are more Rose apologists than Bonds apologists and I think race has a lot to do with it. Bonds may be a jerk and a cheater <u>but</u> Rose is a jerk and a sleazeball.

No argument with any of that, though I might replace that last "but" with an "and." You can argue about which one committed the worse offense, but the more important point is that they (and McGwire, etc.) both stepped well over the line of offenses for HOF disqualification. But of course in the end the writers are going to decide that, and not us. We can only vote on the HOM, where both Bonds and Rose would get my vote.
   130. Kirby Kyle Posted: July 27, 2006 at 03:53 PM (#2114573)
Sorry to continue the hijack, but I've been following the HOM discussions for only the last 20 "years" or so, and was surprised to see recently that Joe Jackson had been inducted a few years after becoming ineligible. How contentious was his selection?
   131. DavidFoss Posted: July 27, 2006 at 03:57 PM (#2114580)
Sorry to continue the hijack, but I've been following the HOM discussions for only the last 20 "years" or so, and was surprised to see recently that Joe Jackson had been inducted a few years after becoming ineligible. How contentious was his selection?

A one-year boycott of a candidate is allowed for these types of reasons. That held him back the first year. After that, he went in with relative ease on his second ballot. The late 1920s was a very slow time for new candidates, so he did not have much competition.
   132. Sean Gilman Posted: July 27, 2006 at 04:56 PM (#2114614)
Uh, Rose broke a baseball rule that's been posted in every clubhouse for almost a century. McGwire may have taken substances which were not banned by baseball at the time, as may have Bonds. Rose was caught in red-handed (or betting-slipped) violation of baseball rules, whereas a whole bunch of people really think Bonds and McGwire took steroids, though neither allegation can be proved (as of yet).

I don't see the two situations as comparable in any productive way.
   133. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: July 27, 2006 at 05:12 PM (#2114627)
As for #121 and #122, they're both excellent examples of what I was talking about in my post #119. As if what Bonds did can simply be reduced to a statistical question, and that his pre-steroids level of talent has any bearing on the main issue.

I understand Andy's frustration with the dithering apologism of the "statistical" point of view. If you feel passionately that someone has done wrong, then what's the difference how much wrong? Or when it started? But there's an absolutism to his argument that says, simply: steroids bad, thus Bonds bad. As a policy, sure, this makes sense, and therefore there's lots of others who deserve exactly the same level of contempt, many of whose names have been made public.

But it's not statistics to ask questions, it's just good problem solving. The problem is "What do we do with Barry and the rest of the steroid guys?" I don't know the answer yet, that's why I'm asking questions and attempting to understand the conditions that would help answer the question to my satisfaction. I do know that the answer is not "Barry is bad, the other guys are pretty bad, and people looking for more in depth answers than guilty/innocent are wrongheaded apologists." And I know that the answer is not "Barry and the gang are ruining the game," because they've gotten plenty of help from MLB's blind eye on this one at the league and team level.

What I think is going on is that the two camps are just asking a different question. Andy's question seems to be "Is Barry Bonds unethical/bad?" And Andy has answered it in the way that I suspect many of us would either answer it now or will answer it in the future. My question is "What's it mean to our perception of history if Barry Bonds and the other guys have done steroids?" That's not stats, and that's not apologism, that's just trying to wait out the facts so that I/we can begin to suss out what it all means.

Now as to whether Barry was on a certain career trajectory before versus after, hey, that's part of figuring out the puzzle. That is a piece of evidence that statistical analysis can help us answer right now. But it's not part of Andy's ethical question, which is why he is seperating the two. Which, by the way, is entirely sensible. If you're arguing ethics, especially in a binary ethical/unethical framework, the question of anything other than Barry's behavior is superfluous. And if I'm thinking about historical standing, then I'm less interested in the ethics question.

I think that the entire discussion is problematic because there is intolerance on the ethics side because they want judgement swiftly delivered, meanwhile, on the other side, there's a lot of intellectualizing (including my own) about fairness and whatnot that feels to the other side like a passive acceptance of what Bonds and others have alledgedly done. [Which is a very 21st Century America way to look at it!] It's not a productive conversation right now, and it won't get any better unless a) Bonds is successfully prosecuted or b) Bonds tests positive. I say this because I don't believe that the ethicists will be satisfied by a no-indictment outcome or even an acquittal. Their argument is abolutist and Bonds is guilty beyond a shread to them. As for the crowd asking for patience and cooler heads (that's me, Wags, Joe Sheehan, and many, many others), I think resolution of any sort is probably for the best, but their interest is in an outcome that sheds light not heat. Sealed testimony is not helpful. They need to know the details of what happened so that they can put performances into some kind of context.

Ultimately, the twain will not meet because their interests are divergent.
   134. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 27, 2006 at 05:19 PM (#2114637)
Rose was caught in red-handed (or betting-slipped) violation of baseball rules, whereas a whole bunch of people really think Bonds and McGwire took steroids, though neither allegation can be proved (as of yet).

Well, I'm pretty sure McGwire's testimony at the congressional hearings proves it, Sean. ;-)
   135. yest Posted: July 27, 2006 at 05:26 PM (#2114642)
You might be able to add Pete Rose to the list of "charming" white players.
There's the perfect anaolgy imagine if the Dowd report came out in 1985 and Rose wass't tossed out till 1986 I can gaurnte you he would have been gettting lots of hate mail
   136. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 27, 2006 at 05:51 PM (#2114660)
Uh, Rose broke a baseball rule that's been posted in every clubhouse for almost a century. McGwire may have taken substances which were not banned by baseball at the time, as may have Bonds. Rose was caught in red-handed (or betting-slipped) violation of baseball rules, whereas a whole bunch of people really think Bonds and McGwire took steroids, though neither allegation can be proved (as of yet).

I don't see the two situations as comparable in any productive way.


Again with the legalisms. Steroid use has the potential to affect every at bat. Rose's gambling habit may have possibly affected the outcomes of a handful of games. There is no proof that it actually did have any such effect, however.

Of course this line of reasoning sounds a lot like the "Bonds was a HOFer without steroids" argument. And if the shoe fits, wear it.

Gambling and steroids are not identical violations, but they both cut to the core of, and undermine, the whole concept of honest competition. You don't have to "rank" them to condemn this both unequivocally, without any ifs, ands, or buts.

Dr. Chaleeko,

Good post. Two points.

1. Nothing wrong with keeping the ethical and statistical judgments separate. This is why I hold that whereas it would be a disgrace to the writers if they were to elect McGwire or Bonds to the Hall of Fame, their statistical careers (with the steriods factored in, but not in a wholly disqualfying way) may still warrant their election to the Hall of Merit. I know I've made this point many times before, but it's still a critical distinction. And I would vote Bonds into the HOM in a blink---McGwire would be doubtful.

2. My "instant judgement" on Bonds wasn't as instant as many people, as it dates only from the BALCO testimony. And my means of "punishment," unless he were to be caught in the act in the future, would be limited to one thing: A Hall of Fame blackball.

And that's it: No suspensions, no stricken records (an asterisk might be appropriate, but the HOF vote would be far more important), no sermonizing from a Commissioner whose blindness and greed was a contributing factor to the mess.

But as for the "unproven" bit. Okay, let Bonds give speak out and tell Anderson to cooperate fully with the Grand Jury, holding nothing back. Then let's see how much is left unproven.
   137. Sean Gilman Posted: July 27, 2006 at 09:21 PM (#2114857)
Well, I'm pretty sure McGwire's testimony at the congressional hearings proves it, Sean. ;-)

It doesn't though, that's what that whole 5th Ammendment thing is for. :)

Again with the legalisms. Steroid use has the potential to affect every at bat. Rose's gambling habit may have possibly affected the outcomes of a handful of games. There is no proof that it actually did have any such effect, however.

Of course this line of reasoning sounds a lot like the "Bonds was a HOFer without steroids" argument. And if the shoe fits, wear it.

Gambling and steroids are not identical violations, but they both cut to the core of, and undermine, the whole concept of honest competition. You don't have to "rank" them to condemn this both unequivocally, without any ifs, ands, or buts.


If it's a legalism to say that someone must break a rule in order to claim that they break a rule, then so be it.

Steroids may be terrible terrible things that destory the very fabric of the game. But you can't say that Bonds and McGwire broke baseball's rules just like Rose did when such a rule did not yet exist at the time Bonds and McGwire allegedly violated it.

And I don't know what Bonds being a HOFer before steroids has to do with anything.
   138. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 27, 2006 at 11:47 PM (#2114963)
If it's a legalism to say that someone must break a rule in order to claim that they break a rule, then so be it.

If you sincerely think that Bonds didn't take steroids, there's a bridge over the East River I'd love to sell you.

Steroids may be terrible terrible things that destory the very fabric of the game.

Why do you bother writing things which you clearly don't believe? You obviously think that Bonds & McGwire are just two clever guys who took advantage of what they thought was a loophole in baseball's regulations, and that there's nothing that can or should be done about it other than to take their records at face value.

If this misrepresents your position, then tell us what you think should be our reaction, other than to say "you haven't proved they used them."

Just tell me one thing: Forget the legalities; do you see the records of those two as being equally legitimate as, say, Ken Griffey's or Tony Gwynn's? Do they pass your personal smell test?

And I don't know what Bonds being a HOFer before steroids has to do with anything.

You would if you'd read all the arguments that Bonds "deserves" to be in the HOF because he had established his credentials before he took steroids. As if the HOF has no character clause that could possibly ever apply to steroids.
   139. Howie Menckel Posted: July 27, 2006 at 11:57 PM (#2114971)
Poor Hank Aaron - overlooked yet again, even on his own HOM thread...
   140. Chris Cobb Posted: July 28, 2006 at 12:09 AM (#2114978)
Poor Hank Aaron - overlooked yet again, even on his own HOM thread...

Too true. However, it is looking like he's going to be a unanimous #1 this year -- at least, no one has spoken up when the query has been raised as to whether anyone is not going to have Aaron at #1. And that will be a nice thing, if it does happen.
   141. Jim Sp Posted: July 28, 2006 at 12:10 AM (#2114979)
Poor Hank Aaron - overlooked yet again, even on his own HOM thread...

indeed. there is a separate thread for steroids, let's get back to Hank Aaron on this thread.

I'm in favor of voting for him, myself.
   142. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: July 28, 2006 at 12:19 AM (#2114989)
Howie:

Exactly. I had hoped that this thread would be a celebration of a career that didn't receive much attention until literally on its last legs. (The home run chase) I thought if ANY group of fans would appreciate the breadth and depth of Aaron's career it would be here.

Instead, one person all but brands Hank a liar and then the discussion veers into a topic that is the very definition of tedium.

With the utmost seriousness I request that this thread be expunged from the record and a new Hall of Merit Aaron thread be posted.

Hank deserves better.

Sincerely,

Harvey
   143. OCF Posted: July 28, 2006 at 12:36 AM (#2115000)
Two biographical questions:

1. What Negro League teams (and pro or semi-pro "minor league" Negro teams) did Aaron play for and in what years?

2. At exactly what point did he drop the cross-handed style and begin batting "normally"? Was it when he first became a professional for a segregated team? Was it when he signed with the Braves and was assigned to a minor league team? Or was it somewhere in between those two times?
   144. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 28, 2006 at 01:36 AM (#2115064)
Harvey et al,

This thread went from Aaron to racism to Bonds to steroids. But you all are right that Aaron deserves better, being that he is one of the all time class acts, and I apologize for rising to the "media hate-fest" bait in #115. Even though I apologized for addressing the subject in this Aaron thread, I should have just turned the other cheek.
   145. Cblau Posted: July 28, 2006 at 02:27 AM (#2115110)
What does all this have to do with Hank Aaron?
Was he on roids?

Well, he did bulk up in his later years, and he had his best home run rates at ages 37 and 39.
   146. Sean Gilman Posted: July 28, 2006 at 02:32 AM (#2115117)
If you sincerely think that Bonds didn't take steroids, there's a bridge over the East River I'd love to sell you.

I didn't say, or imply, any such thing. The fact is that steroids weren't banned by baseball when McGwire and Bonds allegedly took them.

That's the extent of my Bonds/steroids argument. I don't know why you keep accusing me of thinking and/or saying a random variety of other things.
   147. Sam M. Posted: July 28, 2006 at 03:43 AM (#2115194)
The first baseball book I vividly remember reading was a quickie biography of Tom Seaver done after the 1969 season. Just about what you'd expect, and I don't even remember the title of the thing. But I do remember the title the author used for the chapter on the NLCS played that year, the very first one, by the way, between the Miracle Mets and the Atlanta Braves:

Bad Henry

The players' nickname for Aaron wasn't "Hammerin' Hank." At least that's not what the pitchers called him. They called him Bad Henry. In that chapter, Seaver told the story of the first time he faced Aaron, of whom he was in total awe. (I'm filling in the details from the box score on Retrosheet -- the game must have taken place on May 17, 1967, the 7th start of Seaver's rookie season.) In the 4th inning, Seaver struck out Aaron on a called strike three (in the book, Seaver describes it as an inside fastball, and how it was one of the first moments he thought he belonged in the bigs: "I STRUCK OUT HANK AARON!!!!").

So Hank comes up again in the 6th, with Felipe Alou on first base, and the Mets up 3-1. Seaver, smart kid that he is, thinks, "Hey, I got Aaron with an inside fastball. I'll throw that again." You already know the rest: Aaron, knowing exactly how this rookie is thinking, knows precisely what pitch is coming, and even though it is Tom Seaver's heat whips those amazing wrists and hits the ball a mile and a frigging half for a game-tying home run. And Bad Henry teaches a rookie a lesson.

Not that it helped. Aaron doubled and homered off Seaver in Game 1 of the NLCS, two years later. Yup . . . Bad Henry. What a player.
   148. yest Posted: July 28, 2006 at 06:03 AM (#2115280)
If Aaron retires after the 1963 season is he a HoMer?
   149. OCF Posted: July 28, 2006 at 07:40 AM (#2115298)
If Aaron retires after the 1963 season is he a HoMer?

Yes. His offensive value in my system at that point would be a pretty good match for Joe Jackson's career.

The 1964-1976 Aaron would also have an excellent case.
   150. rawagman Posted: July 28, 2006 at 08:38 AM (#2115315)
Let's give Hank Aaron two plaques - it's only fair.
   151. fra paolo Posted: July 28, 2006 at 09:20 AM (#2115319)
I tried to redirect the thread with a comment about Aaron's improved fielding, according to Fielding Runs, in the mid 1960s. I checked who was different on the pitching staff between 63 and 64, but on a quick look at names it didn't appear particularly different, so I'm still curious. Is this some quirk of Fielding Runs?

I wouldn't say I was surprised at how good Aaron was, but looking at his career did highlight to me how little I knew about the National League in my early baseball years of 1967-72, when I was growing up in an American League city. It was only after I found WLW while exploring the dial on my new radio over Christmas 1972 that I began to get acquainted with the NL, via the Big Red Machine. That and joining a group of APBA players in 1976.
   152. Rick A. Posted: July 28, 2006 at 10:58 AM (#2115327)
Glad this thread turned back to Aaron. I was ready to give up on it, since Aaron is a clear #1.
   153. Dr. Vaux Posted: July 28, 2006 at 11:54 AM (#2115339)
I remember when I found WLW. I actually liked Marty Brenneman back then. Hey, I was young.
   154. Al Peterson Posted: July 28, 2006 at 11:56 AM (#2115341)
Obscure stat for Aaron is he was HBP just 32 times in his career. I don't have any rates on HBP but that seems low for the number of times he batted in his career. Since I didn't get to see Henry play someone fill me in: Was he that far off the plate and didn't dive into pitches or some other reason?
   155. sunnyday2 Posted: July 28, 2006 at 12:25 PM (#2115348)
Hey some of our best threads have been complete and total tangents to the player named at the top, and some great great players didn't generate a lot of discussion because (I suppose) their election was so obvious. So go at it!

And even with all those steroids that he took, Bonds still hasn't caught Aaron, which says a lot about Aaron.
   156. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: July 28, 2006 at 12:38 PM (#2115353)
OCF:

Aaron played for a team in Mobile when he was a teen-ager just out of high school. I believe there were termed "semi-pro". Hank then joined the Indianapolis Clowns until about June of '52 when he was signed by the Braves.

Aaron continued to hit "cross-handed" periodically throughout his stay in the minors. He began to hit the "correct" way upon reaching the majors. Though every so often he would revert back to the cross-handed style for an at bat. I have heard Hank mention how he had to remind himself because his hands just gravitated toward that approach.

Al:

As I mentioned earlier when Drysdale would buzz him The Hammer would only BEEEEENNNNNDDD back as opposed to hitting the dirt. Like many a great player his pitch recognition plus amazing reflexes likely helped him avoid a pitch or two. And getting hit requires that a pitcher come inside. As Sam relayed in his anecdote above, pitching inside to Henry Aaron was akin to looking in a gas tank with a burning torch. You can DO it but anyone watching is going to think you are a d*mn lunatic.

I distinctly recall Gene Mauch coming out of the dugout at the end of an inning to meet one of the Phillie pitchers to "discuss" a pitch to Aaron that ended up over the fence. I remember it was late August and the gist of the conversation.

Mauch, "Did you call that pitch?"

Pitcher (Ed Roebuck??), "What?"

Mauch, gesturing to Dalrymple the catcher, "Did you call it?"

Dally shakes head.

Mauch, now even with pitcher who is crossing the base line, "So you called it? You called that f*cking pitch?"

Pitcher, mumble followed by, "can't always go away"

Mauch, vein now clearly visible in neck, "Why? Jimmy stays away. (presume reference to Jim Bunning) Drysdale stays away. Why didn't you?"

Mauch now following pitcher into dugout.

Pitcher, inaudbile except for "trying to" followed by mumble.

Mauch, at about 120 decibels, "Try?? Try WHAT? To show me you are a f*cking moron?!! Next godd*mn time that son-of-a-b*tch comes to the plate you stay away."

General cursing, banging of stuff (I think he kicked some bats) followed by more cursing.
   157. Dr. Chaleeko Posted: July 28, 2006 at 01:22 PM (#2115379)
Two and a half things about Aaron

Bad Henry is what we call our cat Henry. (that's the half.) Was he called Bad Henry because he was surly? Because there was evil in him? Is it Bad in the Michael Jackson sense of Good/Cool? Or was he called that in the same way that Jud Wilson and John Beckwith were called one of black baseball's four bad men?

About the notion of two plaques. Yes, that's about right. If you take the best group of 11 seasons in his career and the worst group of 12 seasons in his career and you make two different players from them, you get one great short-career Hall of Famer and one borderline Albert-Belle like case. Here's the numbers:


G   AB    R    H  HR  AVG  SLG OPS+  WS
------------------------------------------------------
BEST HANK   1698 6623 1211 2100 414 .317 .580 165  384
WORST HANK  1600 5741  963 1671 341 .291 .525 143  259 


That's f*cking amazing.

And if you really want to get two Hall of Famers, you can probably just take his 11th best season and add it to the 12 WORST HANK seasons and get him up to about 375 HR, a 145 OPS, and 280 WS. The good Hank years end up being a little leaner, but are so good that he's still a 10-year-and-out HOFer/HOMer.
   158. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: July 28, 2006 at 01:28 PM (#2115382)
Is it Bad in the Michael Jackson sense of Good/Cool?

That's the one, Eric.
   159. sunnyday2 Posted: July 28, 2006 at 02:35 PM (#2115423)
>And getting hit requires that a pitcher come inside.

Unless you're Jason Kendall of course.
   160. OCF Posted: July 28, 2006 at 04:19 PM (#2115523)
Harvey already answered my questions, but I also found this:

I found the answers to my biographical question, in Bill James's The Baseball Book 1990, in the five-page essay on Aaron that kicks off his section of biographies.

Aaron signed with the Mobile Bears in 1950 at the age of 16. At that point he batted cross-handed. The Indanapolis Clowns, on a barnstorming trip, played the Bears in 1951, and the Clowns started making Aaron offers, which he eventually accepted in the spring of 1952. (Aaron was also being recruited by college football teams.)

"The Clowns didn't live in Indianapolis," recalled Aaron, "they lived in that bus. I never did see Indianapolis."

The owner of the Clowns got an offer from the Giants for Aaron, then wrote a letter to the farm director of the Braves, ostensibly about other things, then added a line at the bottom:

"P.S. We got an eighteen-year-old shortstop batting cleanup for us."

And hitting over .400. With the Clowns playing in Buffalo, the Braves sent Dewey Griggs to check out the shortstop. Griggs talked to Aaron about his cross-handed batting style, told him that major league pitchers would knock the bat out of his hands if he tried to hit that way. Aaron said he would try it the other way, with his right hand on top. The first pitch they threw him he hit over the right-field fence. Later in the game he hit one over the left-field fence. Griggs was impressed; Aaron never went back to hitting cross-handed.


It's really a very nice article.
   161. Boots Day Posted: July 28, 2006 at 05:30 PM (#2115590)
Instead, one person all but brands Hank a liar

I think you're talking about me, since I introduced the topic. If so, I apologize for giving you that impression, because I meant to do no such thing. I have the utmost respect for Henry Aaron, and I believe anything he says about what happened to him. I wasn't taking issue with how Aaron describes the racism he confronted, but rather with baudib's assessment of the situation. If Aaron says he got "mailbags full" of death threats, then I gladly retract my skepticism.

As a white person who has never received a death threat, I have no real sense for what Aaron went through, but as someone who was a young fan in 1973-74, I do know that I and all my friends were rooting for Hank. This was the midwest rather than the south, but it never even occurred to me that people would oppose Aaron on racist grounds until the stories about the death threats began coming out.

Goodness knows, even one death threat is one too many, and the racism Aaron faced was both intolerable and beyond my understanding. But it has been my perception that Aaron has dwelt on this hate mail an awful lot since 1974, which makes me sad. The racists were a particularly ugly minority, but they were indeed a minority. Most of us were rooting for you wholeheartedly, Hank. Don't let the bastards get you down.
   162. jimd Posted: July 28, 2006 at 06:26 PM (#2115640)
Let's give Hank Aaron two plaques - it's only fair.

We've played that game before (long timers will remember this).

For your contemplation, the great turn-of-the-century pitcher:

Amos R.J. McGinnity 491-316, 126 ERA+. aka "The Iron Thunderbolt".
A better peak than Cy Young, though not quite the career. (!)
   163. OCF Posted: July 28, 2006 at 06:42 PM (#2115666)
Who's bad? I've been reading the Walter Mosley novel Fearless Jones. There's a scene (I'll have to see if I can dig up the quote) in which the title character (a very tough man) describes a potential antagonist as "three quarters bad." This leads to a digression about whom he would consider "full bad" and it's a very, very short list that includes Raymond Alexander (a.k.a. "Mouse," a prominent character in Mosley's Easy Rawlins novels.)

There seems to be a slight disagreement in detail on the cross-handed batting. The quote from the Bill James article implies that he dropped it suddenly and completely during his 1952 time with the Clowns. Harvey suggests the possibility that he continued batting cross-handed at least some of the time through his 1953 year in the minors. The latter is actually a little more plausible, that he didn't make the change all at once.

Also: Harvey said something about joining a semi-pro team out of high school. What the Bill James article says is that he was still in high school for the two years in which he played for the the Mobile Bears. He skipped out on the last few weeks of his senior year in high school to go to the spring training camp of the Clowns. That article also refers to the Clowns, and all remaining Negro League teams in 1952, as "hanging by a thread from an upstairs window" and mentions that the veterans on the Clowns treated the talented youngster "like a disease."
   164. OCF Posted: July 28, 2006 at 06:45 PM (#2115668)
jimd - this isn't really the same. It's more on the order of talking about NL Cy Young and AL Cy Young, or splitting Walter Johnson into to pieces, the first one as long as Addie Joss's career. (The key to the joke in the "Iron Thunderbolt" case is that even though Rusie's career was essentially finished before McGinnity's began, McGinnity was actually older than Rusie.)
   165. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: July 28, 2006 at 06:58 PM (#2115690)
OCF:

I know Hank still reverted back to the cross-handed in the early part of his career. I saw him do it. Again, I don't think he went to the plate and decided, "hey, I'm going to hit cross-handed this at bat". I think it just happened. But the vast, vast majority of the time he hit the "normal" way.

I am likely wrong about the timing with the Mobile Bears. I was writing from memory. I know he played with them but would have to check a source to be certain of the exact timing.

But I am certain about the cross-handed. Sure he stopped for the MOST part. But EVERY so often he would bat that way. It was fun to watch.
   166. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: July 28, 2006 at 08:01 PM (#2115762)
Site:

Well, who on the Braves was going to yell at Henry Aaron? He was the best hitter on the team from almost Day 1. If he went to the plate wearing a kimono I doubt anyone would have said anything.

Also, remember that guys didn't get in and out of the box back then. It was step in, take your stance, and away you go. No in between fussing. Did you ever hear the old anecdote from the 1957 World Series between the Yankees and the Braves? Hank was at bat. Behind the plate was Yogi Berra. And Berra did what all great catchers do when they're faced with great hitters-he tried to rattle him. As Aaron stood ready to swing, Berra said, "You're holding the bat the wrong way. Turn it around so you can see the trademark." With his eyes steady on the pitcher, Aaron said in a steely voice, "Didn't come up here to read. I came up here to hit."

The story is pretty silly but it's meant to convey how Aaron was perceived by his peers while at the plate. He just shut everything else out. The guy could have been swinging a pitchfork for all he cared. Hank just wanted the pitcher to throw the ball.

I saw him hit cross-handed several times. The one time he did catch himself and change. But at no time did I hear anything from the Braves bench.
   167. Jim Sp Posted: July 28, 2006 at 08:54 PM (#2115825)
If Aaron retires after the 1963 season is he a HoMer?

The 1959 season convinced me.

Bad Henry

Great nickname, wish that one had stuck. "They call him Bad Henry because he's so good"--Maury Allen, in The Incredible Mets.
   168. Brent Posted: July 28, 2006 at 10:25 PM (#2115914)
There are probably about a dozen players for whom the game of splitting their careers and making two HoMers works. However, there's only one player for whom I think it's plausible to create three HoM careers: Ruth (1914-20), Ruth (1921-26), and Ruth (1927-35) -- all would be short career, high peak candidates, but I'd vote for all three.
   169. Jim Sp Posted: July 28, 2006 at 11:25 PM (#2115951)
On the Koufax/Jennings peak standard (those elections show 4 peak years is enough) you might be able to squeak 4 HoM careers out of Ruth:

1914-1919
1920-1923
1924-1928
1929-1935
   170. Cblau Posted: July 29, 2006 at 02:22 AM (#2116273)
Interesting fact from that Bill James article- Aaron's second wife's name was Billye Williams.
   171. OCF Posted: July 29, 2006 at 03:19 AM (#2116345)
I found the quote in Walter Mosley's Fearless Jones. It's at the very end of Chapter 18. Fearless Jones has just told Paris Minton (the narrator) that he knows Leon Douglas, aka "Big Bama" from jail.

Fearless shrugged his shoulders.

"What kinda dude is he?" I asked.

"Armed robbery, single-handed, two men shot. Three-quarters bad if he can blindside ya. Half bad face to face."

Fearless considered himself and maybe three other men he'd ever met to be full bad: Jacob Tench, Doolen Waters, and, of course, Raymond Alexander. But three-quarters was plenty scary enough for me.
   172. yest Posted: July 30, 2006 at 03:27 AM (#2117511)
There are probably about a dozen players for whom the game of splitting their careers and making two HoMers works. However, there's only one player for whom I think it's plausible to create three HoM careers: Ruth (1914-20), Ruth (1921-26), and Ruth (1927-35) -- all would be short career, high peak candidates, but I'd vote for all three.
Ty Cobb
1905-1911
1912-1918
1919-1928
   173. ronw Posted: July 30, 2006 at 12:56 PM (#2117648)
Harvey:

I'll bite, because I really don't read the rest of Primer (no time). You obviously have more first-hand knowledge than most, especially given that you can reference the conversations and could tell Aaron was hitting cross-handed while simultaneously being able to hear the Braves dugout. Were you a coach, player, or a fan with excellent seats in County Stadium?
   174. dlf Posted: July 30, 2006 at 01:51 PM (#2117655)
Aaron signed with the Mobile Bears in 1950 at the age of 16.


The pervasiveness of racism in the Jim Crow era: there were two minor league teams in Mobile when Aaron was growing up. One was the Bears and the other, the Black Bears. Aaron played for the later. The city now has the AA club of the San Diego Padres; honoring both of its predecessors, the new club is the BayBears. They play in Hank Aaron Stadium.
   175. Mike Webber Posted: July 31, 2006 at 03:09 AM (#2119060)
I hate to hijack Hank's thread again, but I just love Walter Mosley's mysteries. I have read all the Easy Rawlins mysteries and highly reccomend them. I think I've read all of the Fearless Jones series - though to be honest those are almost too grim for me. I tried to read Mosley's book about Jazz but just never could get into it.

Sorry Hank - but I bet Aaron would like to read Walter's books too.
   176. OCF Posted: July 31, 2006 at 06:24 PM (#2119825)
...Fearless Jones series - though to be honest those are almost too grim for me.

Well, yeah, the one I was reading had a body count that topped anything Raymond Chandler ever did, and Chandler wasn't shy about offing his characters.
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