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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Brown: Beyond Hall of Fame Voting, Baseball Writers Need to Get Educated on PED Use in Baseball

BTW…the Maury Brown vs Jeff Pearlman donnyFacebrook is pretty damn entertaining!

I am not advocating a witch hunt. I am not advocating an erosion of player rights. I’m advocating education. I’m advocating being on watch. I’m advocating a certain amount of proactiveness on the part of the writers.

While MLB has stepped up testing at the Major and Minor league levels, I’m not seeing the same level being put forth by the writers, and when I say “writers”, I include myself.

Yes, I have published data on drug suspensions—voluminous amounts of it. I have done analysis each year. And yet, I, of all people, should have seen the signs.

We can go back to last year and start with Melky Cabrera or Bartolo Colon. Here were two examples of players that last year saw performance well above what should have been their statistical norm. But, it goes further, and here’s where we as writers need to tread lightly.

In 2011, the BBWAA voted Ryan Braun the NL MVP and shortly thereafter, by only a break in the chain of custody that today would be rendered moot by changes to the drug policy, Braun avoided a 50 game suspension for elevated levels of testosterone. Melky… Bartolo… Yasmani Grandal… Eliezer Alfonzo (although his suspension was rescinded)…. Ryan Bran. There’s your pattern. There’s your story.

Repoz Posted: January 10, 2013 at 09:34 PM | 29 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hof, steroids

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   1. Maury Brown Posted: January 10, 2013 at 11:13 PM (#4344700)
Yes, Pearlman is prattling about how he hates cheaters in the game and that he covered the steroid era, to whit, I asked, "Well, how did you miss the 'cheaters'?"
   2. Maury Brown Posted: January 10, 2013 at 11:22 PM (#4344703)
And... so much for the convo with Pearlman on Facebook... Defriended.
   3. rr Posted: January 10, 2013 at 11:35 PM (#4344704)
And... so much for the convo with Pearlman on Facebook... Defriended.


Heh. Gotta say--that's kind of funny.
   4. Maury Brown Posted: January 10, 2013 at 11:45 PM (#4344712)
There’s your pattern. There’s your story.
To be clear, there were stories on testosterone use. I don't know how much of today's changes to the drug policy impact matters, but "the pattern" and "the story" is to watch the game when the suspensions are going on. That's the "proactive" part I was talking about.
   5. boteman Posted: January 11, 2013 at 12:09 AM (#4344722)
Melky… Bartolo… Yasmani Grandal… Eliezer Alfonzo (although his suspension was rescinded)…. Ryan Bran.

You mis-spelled Raisin Bran.
   6. Maury Brown Posted: January 11, 2013 at 12:25 AM (#4344729)
You mis-spelled Raisin Bran.
Clearly, I was overcome by the Juice. Fixed, and yes... a very funny comment.
   7. Repoz Posted: January 11, 2013 at 12:44 AM (#4344739)
And... so much for the convo with Pearlman on Facebook... Defriended.

Didn't Pearlman sorta defriend Baseball Primer after being interviewed y hassled here?

The 2004 Jeff Pearlman interview.
   8. Maury Brown Posted: January 11, 2013 at 02:11 AM (#4344773)
Didn't Pearlman sorta defriend Baseball Primer after being interviewed y hassled here?
Here it was "quirky". On Facebook, it was a message telling me I was about to be "really angry" that he was going to defriend me via DM. In other words, what Jeff really doesn't like is people doing what Jeff Pearlman does. Buster Brown kind of showed it in 2004.
   9. AROM Posted: January 11, 2013 at 11:02 AM (#4344893)
Looking back at that interview, did we ever figure out who the 160 pound middle infielder was who became a 40 HR slugger?

middle infielders who hit 40+ are:
A-Rod (6 times)
Banks (5)
Davey Johnson
Hornsby
Sandberg
Petrocelli

A-Rod was much bigger than 160 on the day he was drafted. He obviously did use steroids, but there's no transformation here - he was a power prospect from day 1 and hit 36 HR at age 20.

I'm going with Johnson as the culprit. After all, Pearlman's focus here is on the 1986 Mets.
   10. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: January 11, 2013 at 11:13 AM (#4344903)
Looking back at that interview, did we ever figure out who the 160 pound middle infielder was who became a 40 HR slugger?


He didn't actually ever hit 40 but Pearlman has always had a hair across his ass about Bret Boone, I assume that is who he is referring to.
   11. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 11, 2013 at 11:18 AM (#4344907)
I'm going with Johnson as the culprit. After all, Pearlman's focus here is on the 1986 Mets.

AROM, the obvious answer is Rogers Hornsby. When he first came to a Cardinals at the end of 1915, he weighed 135 pounds and hit .246 with no power. When Miller Huggins told him he was going to have to "farm you out for a year", Hornsby took him literally and went back home and spent the winter on his uncle's farm, with a diet consisting mainly of steak, fried chicken, and "all the milk I could hold." No mention of bull testicles, but by the beginning of the next season he'd gotten close to his final playing weight of 175, and put up a 151 OPS+.
   12. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 11, 2013 at 11:50 AM (#4344937)
How does the NFLPA get away with not publicizing the substance involved in their PED suspensions? I'm wondering if the outrage over PEDs in baseball would be as severe if all the suspensions were being reported for "dietary supplements."
   13. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: January 11, 2013 at 11:57 AM (#4344942)
I am not advocating a witch hunt.


Every time I see this expression, I think, "So many witch hunts, so few witches."
   14. LargeBill Posted: January 11, 2013 at 02:14 PM (#4345071)
Brown's larger point is valid and not just for sports reporting. Reporters make themselves out to be self-declared experts on what ever they cover, but in most cases have very little understanding of the subject on which they are reporting. Whether it is science news, music, or whatever the public would be better served by reporters with a greater background in the area they are covering. Problem is if someone has the smarts to be a scientist they wouldn't get in the journalism profession. Folks go into journalism because other disciplines require more effort. Obviously, you have to work to be a successful journalist but it is a much different kind of work. We sometimes get irritated that sports reporters don't want to learn and understand advanced metrics. At some point we have to accept that most of them didn't go into sports reporting because they were great at math. Figuring out a batting average or ERA is as far as some of these guys will get.
   15. Ron J2 Posted: January 11, 2013 at 03:16 PM (#4345131)
#9 As I recall it, Ernie Banks wasn't very big when he first came up.
   16. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 11, 2013 at 03:24 PM (#4345138)
Brown's larger point is valid and not just for sports reporting. Reporters make themselves out to be self-declared experts on what ever they cover, but in most cases have very little understanding of the subject on which they are reporting. Whether it is science news, music, or whatever the public would be better served by reporters with a greater background in the area they are covering.

I agree with your overall point,** but it depends on what specific reporters you're talking about. There are plenty of reporters covering politics and international affairs, just to name two subjects, who are versed in their subject matter to the point where they could quite easily hold their own in academic discussions of the subject in question, and explain the subject to the general public much better than most academics. The fact that few of these Grade A reporters are found in the sports department is what justifiably irritates people here.

**I'll say one thing from personal experience: I've yet to meet a single reporter, even among those who review books on a regular basis, who could tell a first rate used book shop from a glorified garage sale, or at least be able to describe the difference in print.
   17. Rants Mulliniks Posted: January 11, 2013 at 03:36 PM (#4345145)
Ernie Banks wasn't very big when he first came up.


Mel Ott was never very big, but he hit 511 homers. There isn't a meaningful correlation between size and power.
   18. Bitter Mouse Posted: January 11, 2013 at 03:43 PM (#4345151)
Folks go into journalism because other disciplines require more effort.


This is a ridiculous statement. People go into journalism to be journalists. They should have an understanding of the subject, but I am not convinced they need to be somehow nearly professionals in the subject they cover.

Are professional athlete's the best equipped to speak about athletics? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. I have read physicists trying to explain physics and it is not better than Journalists explaining it (different though I do admit).
   19. Ron J2 Posted: January 11, 2013 at 03:51 PM (#4345155)
#17 Actually I'm pretty sure there is. ISTR a study on the matter, though I can't locate it just now.

To be clear though, not all HR hitters are big and not all big guys are HR hitters

I wouldn't choose Ott as my example in any case. He took advantage of a special circumstance (the cheap HR available to a LH pull hitter in the Polo Grounds). But Jimmy Wynn will do just fine in his place. He sure wasn't hitting many cheap HR.

Still I was responding to AROM's question (which in turn is in response to Pearlman's assertion)
   20. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: January 11, 2013 at 03:54 PM (#4345158)
The ability to do something well and the ability to explain something well are two very different skills. Very few people are able to do both.
   21. Tippecanoe Posted: January 11, 2013 at 03:56 PM (#4345160)
There isn't a meaningful correlation between size and power


Looking forward to Altuve's next HR title.
   22. bjhanke Posted: January 11, 2013 at 04:16 PM (#4345180)
Getting educated on PED use is hard. I mean, you can't take all of MLB players, divided them into groups with even group numbers, but give HGH or whatever to one group and a placebo to the other, allow each group equal amounts of exercise and weight room training, and do a double-blind study of next year's performance. In this field, Double-blind placebo-controlled studies are the Gold Standard, but no major league player, manager, or owner will ever agree to it, for fear that they will end up with all the placebo guys.

The gap in knowledge that this opens up is the basement window through which the Steroid Inquisition can find free arguing room to make their emotional appeals. You can't contradict those emotional appeals without the serious studies. So the writers get away with things like backne and head size as criteria. This led them, this year, to embarrass themselves completely, electing no one in a year when there were more Hall-worth candidates than there have been for years. I would say that they should be ashamed of themselves, except that they are in denial about what they have done, and how they were allowed to do it. So, they're not ashamed at all.

The should be. Right now, for me, this means that I would rather vote in the Hall of Merit than have a BBWAA card. The HoM has a better response to emotional appeals, and therefore, a better Hall. - Brock Hanke
   23. Tippecanoe Posted: January 11, 2013 at 04:38 PM (#4345197)
Just checking some BB-ref numbers -- all time top 10 in slugging average 6'2", 207 (note somewhat dubious weight listings of 185 for Bonds and 215 for McGwire). Top 30 all-time is almost exactly the same -- 6'2" 208, this time with Juan Gone listed at 175 and Larry Walker at 185. Mays at 5'10", 170 and Hornsby at 5'11", 175 are the smallest. Ott does not make the top 30.

Would rather have done isolated power, but this was easier.
   24. Tippecanoe Posted: January 11, 2013 at 04:41 PM (#4345199)
Among active players the top ten in slugging average 6'3", 231.

   25. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: January 11, 2013 at 04:54 PM (#4345214)
you can't take all of MLB players, divided them into groups with even group numbers, but give HGH or whatever to one group and a placebo to the other, allow each group equal amounts of exercise and weight room training, and do a double-blind study of next year's performance


Why would you give the placebo to both groups?
   26. Moeball Posted: January 11, 2013 at 06:24 PM (#4345299)
I wouldn't choose Ott as my example in any case. He took advantage of a special circumstance (the cheap HR available to a LH pull hitter in the Polo Grounds). But Jimmy Wynn will do just fine in his place. He sure wasn't hitting many cheap HR.


I always wondered how Joe Morgan became the "All Time leader in HRs for Second Basemen". Had multiple seasons over 20 HRs, led NL in slugging % in 1976.

Little Joe was 5'7, 150 lbs. Pretty small guy to generate that kind of power.

The ability to do something well and the ability to explain something well are two very different skills. Very few people are able to do both.

I know the saying is "Those that can, do, those that can't, teach".

In my experiences dealing with the scientific/medical communities, however, I have found just the opposite to be the case. The ones I've seen who can clearly explain a process step-by-step in detail can go into a lab facility and make reproducible results specifically because they can explain the proper way to do a procedure and understand what it is they are doing and how it should be done (example: expert testimony on DNA results re: forensics/paternity testing). When someone else (i.e., opposing counsel) tries to say how the results of the testing could come out different, I've seen it shown repeatedly how the ONLY way for that to happen is if the proper protocols were not followed. The ones I've seen who can't explain what they are doing have a reason for that - they really don't know what the heck they are doing and you can see it if you watch them in the lab.
   27. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: January 11, 2013 at 06:38 PM (#4345319)
I know the saying is "Those that can, do, those that can't, teach".


I know too many teachers to be comfortable with that but that's the phrase that came to my mind too.


In my experiences dealing with the scientific/medical communities, however, I have found just the opposite to be the case. The ones I've seen who can clearly explain a process step-by-step in detail can go into a lab facility and make reproducible results specifically because they can explain the proper way to do a procedure and understand what it is they are doing and how it should be done (example: expert testimony on DNA results re: forensics/paternity testing). When someone else (i.e., opposing counsel) tries to say how the results of the testing could come out different, I've seen it shown repeatedly how the ONLY way for that to happen is if the proper protocols were not followed. The ones I've seen who can't explain what they are doing have a reason for that - they really don't know what the heck they are doing and you can see it if you watch them in the lab.


Yeah, in that example some ability to do things is going to be necessary. But I'd bet even in that situation the best lab tester is often not as good at explaining his processes as the fifth best lab tester. Some basic ability or knowledge is obviously a necessity but at some point it's that ability to teach and to communicate that is more important.

To give a different example, there is a reason that many hitting/pitching coaches were not in fact elite Major Leaguers. At the same time they had to be very good in their own right to reach the level they reached but being a great coach is a different thing than being a great player.
   28. Moeball Posted: January 12, 2013 at 06:13 PM (#4345743)
To give a different example, there is a reason that many hitting/pitching coaches were not in fact elite Major Leaguers. At the same time they had to be very good in their own right to reach the level they reached but being a great coach is a different thing than being a great player.


The athletic arena is completely different. Most who excel in the sporting world cannot even begin to tell you why they do. They see the ball, they hit the ball. Either you have the athletic ability or you don't. Being able to get around on a 95 mph fastball cannot be taught - either you have the needed hand-eye coordination or you don't. What you can teach players is how to notice others' tendencies, how to identify developing patterns and how to take advantage of such. Even I can learn to identify which pitches a certain pitcher tends to throw in specific situations. A major league hitter might be able to use that to gain a slight advantage. But you could flat out tell me that the next pitch coming was going to be a fastball right down Broadway and I still wouldn't be able to hit it.
   29. Howie Menckel Posted: January 12, 2013 at 06:30 PM (#4345753)
"Folks go into journalism because other disciplines require more effort."

What's most fun about negative stereotypes is that people offering them apparently have no idea what fools they make of themselves.

I do agree that many or even most baseball writers haven't researched PED use sufficiently well. But that's a lot different than making ridiculous, ignorant blanket statements.

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