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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Peter Abraham: Erasing a line in the sand

Last year I moved my line and decided that unless there was some kind of tangible connection to PEDs, I would consider voting for a player. I changed because of Jeff Bagwell, a guy who sure looked the part of a drug user but was never linked to it. It seemed unfair to exclude him based only on suspicion.

Now I’ve decided to erase the line completely.

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and the rest of the scoundrels will get my vote. I’ll look at the players based on their statistical merit, how they compared to other players of their era and to other players in the Hall of Fame. I won’t sit at my desk and do Google searches to decide who is clean and who was cheating.

If you think that is a cowardly way out, I can’t argue with you. But it beats stabbing around in the dark and hoping to be right.

...Clemens was ridiculously good for 13 year with the Red Sox. Then, if you believe McNamee, he started using PEDs when he got to Toronto in 1997. So is Clemens out because of some moral code or is he in based on those first 13 years?

Peter Abraham reverses his position on HoF voting.

Drew (Primakov, Gungho Iguanas) Posted: November 28, 2012 at 10:47 AM | 36 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hof, peds

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Repoz Posted: November 28, 2012 at 11:06 AM (#4311298)
I just made a really cool Hugh Downsian Concentration (CHA-CHIK!) sound of switching Abraham's name off the WILL NOT to WILL vote list.
   2. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: November 28, 2012 at 11:08 AM (#4311299)
He's in based on those first 13 years.
   3. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: November 28, 2012 at 11:14 AM (#4311302)
This is actually, well, it isn't exactly a good article. It's a whole lot of related arguments strung together one after another without any particular artistry or structured composition. But the arguments, they're good. He hits on the importance of capturing the era in the Hall, the lack of testing, the effects of PEDs on pitchers as well as hitters, the flimsy distinction between stimulants and PEDs, and most importantly the impossibility of determining with any confidence that any player was clean.
Some of players got caught. They got their drugs from a small-time dealer named Kirk Radomski, a clubhouse attendant with the Mets who ratted them out. Clemens allegedly fell in with Brian McNamee, a former cop who proclaimed himself a trainer.

But other players were smarter and kept their secrets hidden. The Hall of Fame shouldn't be determined by who covered up their wrongdoing the most effectively. If so, then what is the point?
I am still hopeful that there will be a significant movement along these lines. It's going to be really hard for voters to vote over and over again for excluding Bonds and Clemens. Bonds and Clemens are among the 10 best baseball players ever.
   4. Rants Mulliniks Posted: November 28, 2012 at 11:17 AM (#4311305)
But it beats stabbing around in the dark and hoping to be right.


I don't have high hopes, but hopefully other BBWAA voters will make the same decision now that Abraham has come out and said this.
   5. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: November 28, 2012 at 11:38 AM (#4311325)
Congratulations to Peter Abraham for being reasonable on this issue. Hopefully more will follow his lead.
   6. Repoz Posted: November 28, 2012 at 11:42 AM (#4311332)
Paging GGC! I forget what the Abraham beef was with Primer...was it about steroids/HOF?
   7. SoSH U at work Posted: November 28, 2012 at 11:56 AM (#4311351)
Paging GGC! I forget what the Abraham beef was with Primer...was it about steroids/HOF?


I don't recall Pete Abe having a beef with Primer. He was involved in a little tiff with the folks at NoMaas, when the site's operator outed him as the author of anonymous posts. We had a thread about it here, where most of us thought the NoMaas guys were way out of line in outing him and some of their regulars joined up to defend the site.

Other than that, he seems to get the mix of occasional praise/slightly more occasional criticism typical of your average beat writer.
   8. zack Posted: November 28, 2012 at 12:15 PM (#4311377)
So is Clemens out because of some moral code or is he in based on those first 13 years?


After watching an episode of Baseball last night I was playing with bWAR for Bonds in the same light. If you retire Bonds after 2000*, Bonds is Lou Gehrig, both done at an early age for superstars with 108 WAR. If you give him a generous non-steroid decline phase, -0.5 WAR per season and retiring at age 40, he's Hank Aaron: 138 WAR in a very long and consistent career. Doesn't that seem about right?

*Maybe I should be using 1999 instead, I can't recall the most-likely start of steroid usage.
   9. zack Posted: November 28, 2012 at 12:27 PM (#4311391)
The funny thing about Clemens is that outside of Toronto the roided-up version wasn't all that good, relatively. It not-unlikely that the non-steroid Clemens would have been finished very young, of course. Did he use sporadically after that first year?
   10. Repoz Posted: November 28, 2012 at 01:37 PM (#4311482)
Here's Abraham on Primer from 2007...on the HOF vote.

I tried to open a civil discourse and all I got was insults. Or wildly inaccurate descriptions of what I said. Or in some cases (such as calling Morris a gamer, which I never did) outright fabrications.

I've tried, foolishly in retrospect, to try and bridge the gap between writers and fans by blogging as often as I do and by contributing in forums such as this. Time after time, it gets thrown back in my face.

It's just baseball. There's no reason to be mean-spirited about it. It's a game. I'm not fascinated with Bert Blyleven. Should I slit my wrists? Don't answer, I already know.
   11. Bob Tufts Posted: November 28, 2012 at 01:42 PM (#4311492)
The bright line illegal PED solutions are:

1. If you were caught after MLB and the MLBPA put drug testing in the CBA, you can and should be punished by the BBWAA voters

2. Before that agreement, if you were caught by law enforcement, you can and should be punished by the voters.

Anything else is speculation, hearsay and nonsense that passes for the currency of the realm of inkstained wretches.

   12. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: November 28, 2012 at 02:15 PM (#4311538)
After watching an episode of Baseball last night I was playing with bWAR for Bonds in the same light. If you retire Bonds after 2000*, Bonds is Lou Gehrig, both done at an early age for superstars with 108 WAR. If you give him a generous non-steroid decline phase, -0.5 WAR per season and retiring at age 40, he's Hank Aaron: 138 WAR in a very long and consistent career. Doesn't that seem about right?

*Maybe I should be using 1999 instead, I can't recall the most-likely start of steroid usage.


I think that the standard narrative (see this article, for example) is that he got pissed off about McGwire and Sosa and started using after the 1998 season. He had arm surgery early in the 1999 season, which explains the bad numbers that year.

BBRef has him with 88.8 WAR through 1998, so if he's hit by a bus then he's in the WAR range of Yastrzemski, Kaline, and Clemente (and Mathews, Boggs, Ripken, and Lajoie). The same decline you suggest leaves him at 123.8 WAR, basically a tie with Musial and Hornsby.

IOW, by this conjectural measure a clean Bonds is somewhere between Yastrzemski and Musial. Not quite as good as Gehrig and Aaron as bookends, but pretty damn impressive.

EDIT: I screwed up the math. Retire him in 1998 and he's about Joe Morgan, a couple of WAR below Frank Robinson. Decline him from there and he's halfway between Speaker and Aaron. Pretty damn good, in other words.
   13. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: November 28, 2012 at 02:43 PM (#4311577)

The bright line illegal PED solutions are:

1. If you were caught after MLB and the MLBPA put drug testing in the CBA, you can and should be punished by the BBWAA voters

2. Before that agreement, if you were caught by law enforcement, you can and should be punished by the voters.

Anything else is speculation, hearsay and nonsense that passes for the currency of the realm of inkstained wretches.


Were I a voter, this is roughly the standard I would apply. Unfortunately, this would put me in a tricky place wrt Clemens: I think the evidence is strong that he used, but he has done absolutely everything I would expect a clean player to do if falsely accused and he prevailed in the process. Consequently, a good faith voter should vote for Roger Clemens.

WRT amps, they were institutionally (rather than tacitly) promoted, so I give users a free pass on them prior to whenever they were explicitly re-banned by baseball and tested for (2006?)

   14. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: November 28, 2012 at 03:26 PM (#4311642)
I just made a really cool Hugh Downsian Concentration (CHA-CHIK!) sound

No match! The board goes back!
   15. Walt Davis Posted: November 28, 2012 at 03:26 PM (#4311643)
1. If you were caught after MLB and the MLBPA put drug testing in the CBA, you can and should be punished by the BBWAA voters

Yes and no. The players have already been "punished". IF they lost 50 to 150 games in their career, that hurts their career and possibly peak/prime stats which obviously voters should take into account. It is reasonable to apply "extra" demerits for letting down the team but, especially if it's just one violation, it's not clear to me why that should be "disqualifying" on its own.

What did Alomar get for spitting at the ump -- 10 games? That didn't keep him out of course. A 50-game suspension is 5 times worse than what Alomar did -- would that have been enough to keep Alomar out? What about, say, Bagwell? If Pujols tests positive next year then plays another 8 clean years, is he out?

I suppose I'm focusing too much on the word "punished." I have no problem with voters including suspensions in their assessment of a player's worthiness and I have no problem with them treating a 50-game suspension as worse than a 50-game injury. But it is now just a "standard" form of cheating with clear real-time punishment -- it's just much naughtier than throwing a spitball or using a corked bat.
   16. Sean Forman Posted: November 28, 2012 at 03:35 PM (#4311662)
I have to agree with Walt. If Carlos Ruiz is now banned from the HOF, doesn't it seem like the BBWAA is applying a ridiculously more punitive penalty than the league? The 50 game suspension is the penalty. If you think it should be more start arguing for a multi-year suspension like track and field or cycling.
   17. Heinie Mantush (Krusty) Posted: November 28, 2012 at 04:06 PM (#4311694)
@15/16:

For better or worse, just as HoF standards have evolved over time, the last decade has witnessed the evolution of the Writer's Penalty for PED usage. It's pretty clear right now that for the majority of writers, a failed steroid test or a steroid admission is an automatic disqualifier from the HOF. It is a much, much stiffer penalty, but it's intentional so as to discourage PED usage.
   18. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 28, 2012 at 04:44 PM (#4311740)
...Clemens was ridiculously good for 13 year with the Red Sox. Then, if you believe McNamee, he started using PEDs when he got to Toronto in 1997.


No. Wrong. Incorrect. Not factually accurate.

If you believe McNamee, then Clemens started using PEDs in 1998, a year after he got to Toronto, and a year after he had a historical season in 1997.
   19. Rants Mulliniks Posted: November 28, 2012 at 04:50 PM (#4311748)
I posted this in the Phil Rogers thread - curious as to what everyone else thinks.

17. Rants Mulliniks (formerly Cold Prosimian) Posted: November 28, 2012 at 04:31 PM (#4311723)
I just looked up Sosa's stats and was shocked at how low a lot of his numbers are despite the 609 homers. I honestly don't know if I'd vote for him or not. His case is quite unique. After his age 28 season, he was sitting on .257 .308 .469 with a 107 OPS+ in almost 4400 PA and no seasons higher than 127, and never leading the league in anything except Ks. Then he somehow hits 292 homers over the next five seasons, averaging 58 a year with a .306 .397 .649 line and a 167 OPS+, leading the league in runs, homers, total bases and RBI a combined 10 times. Then he had two more decent seasons and was washed up by age 36.

It almost seems wrong not to discount that five year run of video game stats, but even with them, his career OPS+ is only 128. I know the conventional wisdom is that steroids can't all of a sudden make you a Hall of Famer, but that doesn't seem to fit Sosa. I realize he was a valuable defensive player for at least the first half of his career, but never a game changer. I'd vote for Palmeiro before him, who's OPS+ is 132 in 2150 more PA. I would certainly vote for Bonds, Piazza, Bagwell, and Clemens, so I'm not strictly anti-steroid by any means, but Sosa's case just seems so weird.
   20. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: November 28, 2012 at 05:08 PM (#4311765)
It's an interesting question Rants. If I had a vote I don't think I could possibly dismiss a guy with over 600 homers but there are reasons to do so. The weird thing about Sosa to me is not the dramatic leap forward but the almost immediate collapse. The shape of his career from peak to end is very Rice-ian as he went from the best year of his career to replacement level in a couple of seasons.

Looking at his bWAR I'm struck by the swing in the defensive portion of that. Again, it's not the change from very very good to very very bad it's the speed with which it happened.

I'd vote for him but as you say, the more you look at him, the less excited you get about him.
   21. just plain joe Posted: November 28, 2012 at 05:37 PM (#4311790)
The weird thing about Sosa to me is not the dramatic leap forward but the almost immediate collapse. The shape of his career from peak to end is very Rice-ian as he went from the best year of his career to replacement level in a couple of seasons.


Isn't this true for most players? The only difference between Sosa and the huge majority of players is that Sosa started from a higher point, and thus, had farther to fall. My personal view on PED's is too just ignore them because I don't care one way or the other. For me Sosa is a definite Hall of Famer, but I don't have a vote.
   22. Bob Tufts Posted: November 28, 2012 at 05:43 PM (#4311795)
I'm willing to have additional punishment (let the writers play with their HOF vote) as long as only those who were caught under a duly negotiated agreement face sanction.

No positive test, no writers bs allowed regarding HOF votes - especially none of the bs that players have to prove they are clean.

Call it the Bagwell Principle.
   23. zack Posted: November 28, 2012 at 05:54 PM (#4311805)
But Bob, even with that supposed bright line, is it really that bright? Is Bonds clear? Clemens? Braun? A-rod?

What is 'caught'?
   24. Bob Tufts Posted: November 28, 2012 at 06:12 PM (#4311818)
"Caught" is failing a drug test under terms agreed upon in the CBA Joint Drug Agreement.

Bonds is therefore "clear" - I assume no pun was intended - despite the "Game of Shadows" lists, as he did not fail a test.

So are Clemens and Braun (won an appeal under the program).

A-Rod? Due to the admission I am inclined to throw him to the wolves, but he admitted usage before a program was in place, so I even give him a pass.
   25. Mark Armour Posted: November 28, 2012 at 08:10 PM (#4311908)
If Carlos Ruiz is now banned from the HOF, doesn't it seem like the BBWAA is applying a ridiculously more punitive penalty than the league? The 50 game suspension is the penalty. If you think it should be more start arguing for a multi-year suspension like track and field or cycling.


Call me old-fashioned, but I would like to think that getting suspended from the game for 50 games is worse than not getting a plaque on a wall. Let's not confuse "baseball" with the meta-games we play after the fact. The point, I hope, is playing and winning the games.
   26. Eric J can SABER all he wants to Posted: November 28, 2012 at 08:29 PM (#4311928)
If Carlos Ruiz is now banned from the HOF, doesn't it seem like the BBWAA is applying a ridiculously more punitive penalty than the league?

Don't worry about Carlos Ruiz - he was suspended for amphetamines, and we all know those don't count.
   27. Bob Tufts Posted: November 28, 2012 at 08:48 PM (#4311949)
If Carlos Ruiz is now banned from the HOF, doesn't it seem like the BBWAA is applying a ridiculously more punitive penalty than the league?


Of course, as the BBWAA is not bound by any CBA and discplines outlined in that document. My point is that I'll gladly allow sportswriters the moral high ground on any player that tests positive post-2003 - as long as those who are not proved to use (and are only rumored to do so) get complete and unbiased consideration for induction.

Let writers play their Hall of Fame games with anyone stupid enough to be caught using any banned or illegal substances at this point in time, but lay off the others!
   28. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 28, 2012 at 09:57 PM (#4311985)
After his age 28 season, he was sitting on .257 .308 .469 with a 107 OPS+ in almost 4400 PA and no seasons higher than 127, and never leading the league in anything except Ks. Then he somehow hits 292 homers over the next five seasons, averaging 58 a year with a .306 .397 .649 line and a 167 OPS+, leading the league in runs, homers, total bases and RBI a combined 10 times. Then he had two more decent seasons and was washed up by age 36.


Any established player is a great five-year stretch away from the Hall of Fame, no? He's a peak candidate, and his peak is great, which is what a peak candidate needs. He also only missed a total of 23 games during those five years, so he was providing a ton of value, a very high rate of quality while maxing out on quantity.
   29. Rants Mulliniks Posted: November 29, 2012 at 09:50 AM (#4312171)
Its just such a weird peak though. Those five seaons were his best by a country mile, came in succession, and were followed by a premature decline. I'm not saying people shouldn't vote for him, but its the oddest route to 600 homers, or any other significant milestone, that you could have. I know you don't like hits Ray, but it would be like a player averaging 170 a year, maxing out at 185, for 9 years, then averaging 240 over the next 5 years, then tacking on 270 over their last 3-4 years to arrive at 3000. I know being odd or unusual doesn't make him guilty, but the shape of his value distribution curve is unprecedented in 120 years of modern baseball.
   30. BrianBrianson Posted: November 29, 2012 at 10:03 AM (#4312184)
It is a much, much stiffer penalty, but it's intentional so as to discourage PED usage.


That's not remotely why BBWAA guys are imposing that penalty. It's a combination of trying to distance themselves from something they participated in and being upset that people broke the records of their boyhood heroes. The writers don't give a #### about discouraging PED use; they're only interested in moral grandstanding.
   31. zack Posted: November 29, 2012 at 10:28 AM (#4312210)
That's not remotely why BBWAA guys are imposing that penalty. It's a combination of trying to distance themselves from something they participated in and being upset that people broke the records of their boyhood heroes. The writers don't give a #### about discouraging PED use; they're only interested in moral grandstanding.


Not to mention that even if it did discourage use, which I seriously doubt, it would only do so for already-great players.
   32. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 29, 2012 at 11:38 AM (#4312282)
Yeah, I don't care about "60 home runs" or "600 home runs" per se, as a HOF qualifier. Similar to 200 or 3000 hits. And I had a question a year or two ago about his candidacy, in that I was trying to see the distinction between him and Rice. But the distinction is that his peak hitting in that five year stretch was extremely strong, better than Rice - including a historic 203 OPS+ season - and his defense and defensive value was better than Rice also.
   33. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: November 29, 2012 at 11:42 AM (#4312288)
Any HOF that includes Jim Rice must rightfully include Sammy Sosa. And I don't really like Sosa as a player that much.
   34. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 29, 2012 at 11:47 AM (#4312296)
.
   35. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 29, 2012 at 11:48 AM (#4312299)
These are the top OPS+ seasons of batting title qualifiers since 1960. Sosa's 203 OPS+ is tied for 12th. And 6 of the top 11 are Barry Bonds. It was a truly historic season offensively, and came within a great five year stretch.

Rk               Player OPSYear Age   G   R
1           Barry Bonds  268 2002  37 143 117
2           Barry Bonds  263 2004  39 147 129
3           Barry Bonds  259 2001  36 153 129
4           Barry Bonds  231 2003  38 130 111
5          Mark McGwire  216 1998  34 155 130
6          Jeff Bagwell  213 1994  26 110 104
7          Frank Thomas  212 1994  26 113 106
8        Willie McCovey  209 1969  31 149 101
9           Barry Bonds  206 1993  28 159 129
10        Mickey Mantle  206 1961  29 153 131
11          Barry Bonds  204 1992  27 140 109
12           Sammy Sosa  203 2001  32 160 146
13         George Brett  203 1980  27 117  87
14            Norm Cash  201 1961  26 159 119
15         Jason Giambi  199 2001  30 154 109
16           Dick Allen  199 1972  30 148  90
17         Mike Schmidt  198 1981  31 102  78
18       Frank Robinson  198 1966  30 155 122
19            Jim Thome  197 2002  31 147 101
20         Mark McGwire  196 1996  32 130 104
21        Mickey Mantle  195 1962  30 123  96
22         Albert Belle  194 1994  27 106  90
23           Hank Aaron  194 1971  37 139  95
24     Carl Yastrzemski  193 1967  27 161 112
25        Albert Pujols  192 2008  28 148 100
Rk               Player OPS
Year Age   G   R
26       Kevin Mitchell  192 1989  27 154 100
27        Albert Pujols  189 2009  29 160 124
28       Gary Sheffield  189 1996  27 161 118
29     Rickey Henderson  189 1990  31 136 119
30       Reggie Jackson  189 1969  23 152 123 


(Somehow I ended up with Runs in there too. Not intended.)

   36. Danny Posted: November 29, 2012 at 03:45 PM (#4312624)
These are the top OPS+ seasons of batting title qualifiers since 1960. Sosa's 203 OPS+ is tied for 12th. And 6 of the top 11 are Barry Bonds.

If you use wRC+, which properly weights OBP, he's 26th.

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