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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

S.I.: Posnanski: Time to forgive Mark McGwire

Reason/Voice/Poz.

Within seconds of the interview ending, I began to hear analysts tearing up McGwire. Then I read some columnists’ thoughts—they mostly ripped into the man, too. And the more I read, the more I heard, the more I realized that most people did not see this thing the way I saw it. Apparently, McGwire was not contrite enough. He was not believable enough. He was not specific enough. He would not admit that steroids made him the great home run hitter he became. He did not tell the whole truth. He did not sound sincere enough. And on. And on. And on.

Wow. I have spent the last few hours trying to replay this in my head. Why didn’t I see what so many other people apparently did see? The big thing seems to be McGwire’s refusal to accept that steroids made him a better hitter. This apparently trampled many people’s sensibilities. But, the thing is, I didn’t need him to admit that, and, to be honest, I didn’t want for him to admit it.* We all have our opinions about steroids and what they do. That is his opinion. I didn’t need him saying something he did not believe… isn’t that the very definition of “insincere?”

...When Mark McGwire finished with his day of apologies, I forgave him. It doesn’t mean I look at his 70 home run season the way I did in 1998. It doesn’t mean that I respect the choices he made. It doesn’t even mean that I agree with his self-scouting report. No. I just mean that if there was any anger or resentment toward him for cheating, it is gone now. He admitted and he apologized. Now, he wants to coach baseball. He wants to speak out against steroids. He wants people to remember that he was a damned good hitter who worked hard at the game. I wish him well and hope all those things for him.

As for so many others—many of them friends of mine—who do not feel like he met the forgiveness bar and felt like this whole apology thing was a sham, well, as I’ve said, I have been wrong plenty before. One friend emailed me with this line: “Why SHOULD I forgive him?” It’s just my opinion: But I think the answer is in the question.

Repoz Posted: January 12, 2010 at 08:03 PM | 482 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: fantasy baseball, media, steroids

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   301. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: January 14, 2010 at 07:11 AM (#3437322)
And when they finally did come to an agreement, after being forced to do so, the penalties were so lenient that Congress forced them to make the penalties stiffer.


I understand the second part, but who are you referring to that forced them to come to the original agreement?
   302. bads85 Posted: January 14, 2010 at 08:14 AM (#3437333)
your fellow literalists here on BTF that the moral and substantive distinction between steroids and spitballers is impossible to discern;


Who said it was impossible to discern the distinction between steroids and spitballers? Certainly not I. I said there both very wrong forms of cheating -- you think seem to think that altering the ball is something that can just be dismissed as something as trivial as a speeding ticket.
   303. Srul Itza At Home Posted: January 14, 2010 at 09:16 AM (#3437338)
And of course AFAIC I'd probably take Posnanski in general over every other member of the BBWAA. I don't have any particular primal need to agree on every subject with the people I admire.


When you find yourself lined up on the Mike Lupica side of the issue, and opposed to guys like Poz, then it is time to reconsider.
   304. Ron Johnson Posted: January 14, 2010 at 09:34 AM (#3437341)
$302 Nobody "forced" them to reopen the agreement. But it's not hard to find public musings by any number of legislators that the agreed penalties were too light.

In the wake of the bad publicity Selig and Fehr quickly agreed to the 50 game penalty.
   305. Blackadder Posted: January 14, 2010 at 12:02 PM (#3437351)
To be fair, I think steroids are worse than spitballing, in the sense that I think it is correct for the punishment for steroid use to be more severe than the punishment for spitballing. I think that because I think that steroids are (almost certainly) more detrimental to the health of the players who take them, and are (probably, although not certainly) more performance enhancing, and thus it makes sense to provide stronger disincentives to using steroids. I don't know whether they would, but David and Ray could consistently agree with that.

Where people object to Andy is a) the nonsensical argument about being out in the open; and b) the notion that one sort of cheating deserves a wink and a nudge, while the other deserves excoriation and HOF banishment. What I think underlies the difference between the reactions to steroids and other activities is some inchoate sense that steroids, unlike the other things, are somehow "unnatural", and as a result of said unnaturalness qualitatively more objectionable. I don't think that inchoate thought can be fleshed into a coherent argument, but I wish the anti-steroiders would try, rather than throw the kind of sh!t at the wall you see here.

I'm not going to be more explicit about this for fear of Godwin's law style violations, but let me just say I am very happy that enough people in human history have rejected Andy's scary majoritarianism and anti-rationalism (although I have a sneaking suspicion that Andy is not being entirely sincere, and is making the argument because he enjoys getting people riled up.)
   306. Blackadder Posted: January 14, 2010 at 12:02 PM (#3437352)
EDIT: double post.
   307. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 14, 2010 at 12:29 PM (#3437357)
The problem is that the collective judgment of baseball on the subject of steroids may be as wise or as "incorrect" as you think it is,

The BBWAA is not a "collective judgment of baseball," but at most is the "collective judgment" of 500+ people. And so far, at most, the BBWAA has told McGwire three times that he's not close to being elected. (Yes, I agree with you that he'd be in now if it weren't for steroids.) They haven't rendered a collective judgment on anyone else. It's really early here.


Who said that it wasn't? I guess one of our differences is that if Bonds gets elected, you won't find me howling like a banshee for the BBWAA's collective heads, because at that point I'll understand that the sands have shifted, much as Bill James has predicted that they would. And while I'd find it a sad symbolic day, it would hardly be the end of either the world, baseball, or the Hall of Fame.

Of course I don't think that known juicers belong in the HoF, but unlike you and your little band of "hypocrisy" hunters, I'm fully aware that this is a subjective opinion, based on arguable premises. This isn't 1945-47 where the moral points are essentially all on one side of the issue. You all seem to fancy that we're at some BTF version of a self-criticism session, where the witness is forced to "admit" the error of his ways, and where no matter what answer he provides to your questions, it's never good (or "rational") enough. I do find it a bit weird that you seem to have so much invested in pretending that you don't know my reasons for seeing relevant distinctions between steroids and other forms of "cheating," since I've only been addressing this issue for about five years, but I guess we all have our forms of amusement.

-----------------------------

And of course AFAIC I'd probably take Posnanski in general over every other member of the BBWAA. I don't have any particular primal need to agree on every subject with the people I admire.

When you find yourself lined up on the Mike Lupica side of the issue, and opposed to guys like Poz, then it is time to reconsider.


Well, Srul, I might make an observation or two about your own choice of allies right here on this thread, but that wouldn't be polite. Or is there some sort of ABA version of the Carny Code that I don't know about?
   308. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 14, 2010 at 12:55 PM (#3437361)
Where people object to Andy is a) the nonsensical argument about [spitballs] being out in the open;

Hmmmm, what would your reaction be if one of Selig's minions caught A-Rod in flagrante delicto with a needle in the Yankees clubhouse---and then let him flush the evidence down the toilet with an indulgent wink? Would you perhaps infer that this was some sort of a sign that baseball was a bit insincere in its public policy of steroid vigilance?

If so, then what was your reaction to the thousands of instances where a batter or umpire called for the ball to be inspected for saliva----but rather than hand over the unaltered evidence, the pitcher either rolled the ball on the grass to the plate, or tossed it to his catcher, who then wiped the evidence off on his uniform before handing it to the umpire; with the final result being that the umpire shrugged his shoulders as if to say "what can I do?" to the outraged opposing manager?

Gaylord Perry was accused of "openly" doctoring the ball for pretty much his entire Hall of Fame career. How many times in his 22 year career was he caught, fined or suspended? And what does that tell you about the 1967 "crackdown" that was so "ah-ha"ingly referred to earlier in this thread?

Perhaps your defense might be that you never saw this lovely little ritual with your own eyes, or that you've never read about it. Perhaps you were born yesterday and haven't been brought up to speed. In that case I suggest asking Mr. Treder---a steroid "what-of-it?" spokesman if ever there was one---for an historical opinion.

Or perhaps you might open your mind and admit that this nudge-nudge / wink-wink attitude towards Perry & Co., as opposed to its formal rules, reflects baseball's real attitude towards spitballs. But that might be asking a bit too much for someone who has so much energy invested in trying to prove that the baseball world is flat.
   309. Blackadder Posted: January 14, 2010 at 01:10 PM (#3437362)
I would respond, but I don't see anything resembling an argument there. So instead I'll ask a question to people who have argued with Andy for years: does he jump around and conflate the most basic distinctions out of a desire to annoy people and score cheap internet debate points, or does he sincerely believe the arguments he makes?
   310. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: January 14, 2010 at 01:25 PM (#3437366)
You can't dispute the fact that baseball has made a collective judgment that steroids are an affront to the game that's on a far higher level than a goddam spitball. And your only response is to demand a "reason" for this distinction.
Yes. What other response would ever be appropriate?


The problem is that the collective judgment of baseball on the subject of steroids may be as wise or as "incorrect" as you think it is, but whatever you think it is, that collective opinion carries a hell of a lot more weight than the individual opinions of you, me, or anyone else. I know that this is a terrible sentiment to express
You could have stopped right there. It's a terrible sentiment to express, period. The opinions of people do not carry more weight because more people hold them. Unless by "carry more weight" you just mean in the narrow sense that the majority has the power to implement their opinion, which is true but then who cares?

Moreover, I once again point out that you're full of crap when you talk about the "collective judgment of baseball," which is actually that steroids are no big deal, or worthy of punishment on the same scale as other forms of 'cheating.' It was the collective judgment of Congress, not baseball, that forced baseball to impose the more serious penalties now in place.
in a forum where half the people who post here think that they could manage better than Joe Torre, 90% of them likely think that they could run the game better than Bud Selig (count me in that latter group), and about 3/4 of them see Mark McGwire's needle as no more morally objectionable than one of Mickey Mantle's greenies or Gaylord Perry's spitballs. This conceit that some of you have that you can determine the "correct" position on steroids by some sort of self-referential "logic," without any consideration of the sentiments of anyone other than yourselves, no matter how widely that sentiment is held, is simply that---a conceit.
No, it's a fact. A widely-held sentiment is just that -- a widely-held sentiment. The fact that you put "logic" in quotes shows how irrational your position is. Of course, my position could be wrong -- but it must be shown to be wrong through "logic," not through citing the majority opinion.

Why would you ever "consider[] the sentiments of anyone else" in forming your opinion? (Yes, I know that it's a straight line that's going to be taken out of context later and thrown back in my face?) Or, well, let me clarify that: it's certainly reasonable to say, "I think X. But lots of people disagree with me, so I ought to carefully review my position and make sure it's right." But to say that one should change one's view because other people think differently -- well, didn't your mother ever ask you, "If your friends jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge, would you do it, too?" Thinking can only be done individually. There is no such thing as collective thinking. There's either thinking, or blindly following. You choose the latter.
   311. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: January 14, 2010 at 01:29 PM (#3437367)
Also, MLB and the MLBPA did not come to an agreement on this issue for years. They placed other things higher in priority at the bargaining table. And when they finally did come to an agreement, after being forced to do so, the penalties were so lenient that Congress forced them to make the penalties stiffer.


The premise that the arc of negotiations between these two commercial entities followed and reflected the degree to which they believed steroid use was cheating is unproven and, in my opinion, unwarranted. There's no indication that either entity has materially changed its position on whether steroid use constitutes cheating since the day the Hub fans shouted "steroids" at Canseco.

The MLB owners are essentially amoral and value commercial success over honest competition. The MLB players probably thought -- in the rare occasions they paid such matters thought -- steroids were cheating (which is why confessing still drives a guy like McGwire to tears) but are hypercompetitive people whose drive to compete generally overcomes qualms about gaining an edge. In the absence of a real independent governing body, we're left with baseball writers and commentators to be our Greek chorus.
   312. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: January 14, 2010 at 01:31 PM (#3437369)
I would respond, but I don't see anything resembling an argument there. So instead I'll ask a question to people who have argued with Andy for years: does he jump around and conflate the most basic distinctions out of a desire to annoy people and score cheap internet debate points, or does he sincerely believe the arguments he makes?
Both; he knows he's trolling when he says something like "McGwire wasn't elected, so there" -- he once admitted he says things like that for the purpose of taunting. But he's also incapable of following a chain of logic from start to finish. He gets distracted by shiny objects on the way.
   313. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: January 14, 2010 at 01:38 PM (#3437372)
That's why you can't hang an "unwritten" argument on illegality.

As I clarified earlier, I'm not hanging an "unwritten" argument on illegality. Although I'm not a lawyer, McGwire appears to have violated written laws, as do others who admitted to or were caught using steroids.

If a player announced that he did steroids in a jurisdiction where they were legal, pre-testing, and claimed he therefore had nothing to apologize for, then I wouldn't be morally offended (although some of his peers might be). From an intellectual standpoint, I'd like to understand how steroids impacted his performance, and to be able to put his performance in its proper context.
You're missing my point. In response to the claim that steroid use was cheating, some of us pointed out that there was no rule against it, so by definition it wasn't cheating. You argued, essentially, that there doesn't need to be a written rule against it, since it was illegal, and if it's illegal, then it's implied that it's forbidden. And I'm saying that by using that argument, you're saying that some steroid use was cheating and some wasn't, which doesn't seem like a tenable position.
   314. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 14, 2010 at 01:48 PM (#3437373)
Finding some whimsical distinction between steroid users and one of spitballers and amphetamine users is odd enough, but stating that both of them are different?


They're exactly the same in regard to cheating. What makes PEDs different, however, is their health-related risks. Of course, the majority of people against PEDs only give lip service to the latter (to me, the most important aspect).
   315. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 14, 2010 at 02:00 PM (#3437374)
Why would you ever "consider[] the sentiments of anyone else" in forming your opinion? (Yes, I know that it's a straight line that's going to be taken out of context later and thrown back in my face?) Or, well, let me clarify that: it's certainly reasonable to say, "I think X. But lots of people disagree with me, so I ought to carefully review my position and make sure it's right."

Funny, but ever since I first noticed you on Clutch Hits about 10 years ago, you've never once changed your opinion about anything, or ever conceded a single point of substance.** For the most ideology-driven and closeminded participant in the entire history of BTF*** to lecture anyone on the virtues of modifying one's opinions in the light of newly discovered facts is almost beyond parody.

** I welcome any examples to the contrary, even if it takes you as long to come up with one as it took McGwire to come clean.

*** Tell me that I'm exaggerating here, Srul. You may agree with him on this one topic but you know I speak the truth. There isn't a single subject that's ever been discussed here where you can't predict his entire argument before he posts his first comment.
   316. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: January 14, 2010 at 02:08 PM (#3437377)
See what I mean, Blackadder? Incapable of following a logical discussion. Andy, we're not talking about the virtues of modifying an opinion in the light of newly discovered facts. We're talking about the virtues of forming an opinion based on the facts, rather than based on the opinion of others.
   317. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: January 14, 2010 at 02:17 PM (#3437378)
What I think underlies the difference between the reactions to steroids and other activities is some inchoate sense that steroids, unlike the other things, are somehow "unnatural", and as a result of said unnaturalness qualitatively more objectionable. I don't think that inchoate thought can be fleshed into a coherent argument, but I wish the anti-steroiders would try, rather than throw the kind of sh!t at the wall you see here.

Sure it can. Part of the game's appeal is a humanist one -- watching people confront the limits that their humanness places upon them. To the extent that foreign substances alter those limits(**), people naturally and quite logically recoil. That issue doesn't arise when someone doctors the baseball. It explains why many of us wish McGwire would have taken a crack at 62+ "clean," and why he pretty clearly has the same wish.

The desire many of us have for the game to remain one of natural human limits and capacities, engaged in by people subjected to them is behind much of the steroid criticism, I believe. This line of thought has been derided as merely "aesthetic," but it's more than that.

(**) With respect to steroids, the limits the body's natural capacity and ability to recover places on weight and other training methods. Almost everyone who used them did so for the very purpose of transcending the natural human limits I'm writing about.
   318. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: January 14, 2010 at 02:19 PM (#3437379)
They're exactly the same in regard to cheating.

"Cheating" is your term, which is a useful shorthand for something more profound having more to do with the impact of the drugs on the body. The term doesn't fully explain proper objections to steroid use.
   319. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: January 14, 2010 at 02:31 PM (#3437384)
For one thing, "ordinary intuitions" are considered a powerful argument is much contemporary ethical philosophy. The argument runs that ethical philosophy becomes a useless pile of word games when we try to establish somehow determinative first principles, and what we need to do is create space for discussion of ethical problems based on various, often differing, ordinary intuitions that do drive actual ethical decision-making in the real world. Ordinary intuitions are not determinative, but nothing is determinative in ethical argumentation - we're not going to find mathematic proofs here. They're good evidence, which then need to be reasonably and critically interrogated.

In this case, I'm having a lot of trouble understanding what's "non-sensical" about the "in the open" distinction. Throughout the history of sport, the rules on the field have been understood as something that needed to be enforced by referees on the field. People complain about Kent Hrbek's hip-check or Gaylord Perry's spitball or Michael Jordan's push-off, but these are, and have always been, an accepted and sometimes lauded part of the game. Playing the refs, gaming the refs, hiding your illegal play behind the refs' backs, these are a part of spot.

Now, the question is, are there rules which, if broken, do not fit this category? Certainly, paying off the refs would be a problem - the referees must be reasonably independent for any of the rest of the game to work. What Andy's arguing, and what the treatment of steroids by sports fans suggests, is that violations of the rules which cannot reasonably be detected by referees must be separated from normal, on the field cheating. I think this makes sense - the key with Perry or Hrbek or Jordan is that a referee could, through perfectly normal effort, have identified the rule-breaking and laid down the appropriate punishment. The key here is that the referee can be reasonably expected to police the rule that was broken. If you break the rule and get away with it, you've "gamed" the ref, because you could have been caught if you hadn't been so careful, so sneaky, so skilled at slipping that one infraction under the nose of the referee. Steroids (and amphetamines) are not "on the field" cheating that can be identified by the referee. As such, they form a reasonably separate class of cheating which will be treated and understood differently.

(FWIW, to locate my argument within the various arguments on PEDs on this site, I think that this argument is quite strong, which the claim that greenies and steroids must be deal with in drastically separate ways is deeply flawed, and the "on the field" / "in the open" / "reasonably policed by umpires" argument shows that greenies are of the same family as steroids, as performance-enhancing drugs.)

None of that even begins to approach "nonsensical". I can't claim that this reasoning must be determinative for Nieporent because ethical reasoning doesn't work that way - hopefully he can see that this is one way of dividing up the ethical space that depends on reasons and lays out fair distinctions for practical action.

As I understand Nieporent's argument, he's saying that all forms of cheating should be classed together, and understood by how relatively effective they were. I assume this doesn't hold at certain extremes (paying off the refs, probably), but that's not a useful critique - no system of ethical intuitions and reasons should be expected to work in all times and places and to determine action in advance. That's not how ethics have ever been lived, and the desire for such a system is pie-in-the-sky silliness. Anyway, my point is that I think I have a handle on Nieporent's reasoning, and I don't think there's anything fundamentally in error about it.

I've tried to put forward the "reasonably policed by umpires" argument as clearly as I could to hopefully add to the debate and produce the possibility for dialogue between two somewhat differing sets of ordinary intuition - it seems, for instance, that the ordinary intuitions of a lot of baseball fans who argue about baseball on the internet during the offseason differ from mine and from the ordinary intuitions of a large class of baseball fans which Andy cites.
   320. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: January 14, 2010 at 02:46 PM (#3437397)
Sure it can. Part of the game's appeal is a humanist one -- watching people confront the limits that their humanness places upon them. To the extent that foreign substances alter those limits(**), people naturally and quite logically recoil. That issue doesn't arise when someone doctors the baseball. It explains why many of us wish McGwire would have taken a crack at 62+ "clean," and why he pretty clearly has the same wish.
I think this is a good point. I don't think the notion of hte "natural" can possibly be as clear as you say, though.

First, the desire of sports fans to watch athletes push the boundaries of what our bodies can do does depend on some notion of what is "really" human - no one wants to see robot baseball - but the desire of the fan is precisely to see these limits of the human stretched beyond what they could expect to see. Watching Bonds hit during the 2002 world series was an incredible experience, I've never seen a hitter dominate like that before in my life, and it's reasonably possible I'll never see one do it again. The response of fans to Bonds' chase and to the McGwire/Sosa chases (and, perhaps, also to Pete Rose's career) shows that even when these boundaries are being stretched in ways that almost certainly could not have come from the sort of "normal" training SBB describes, fans eat it the hell up. I did.

So, what constitute the limits of the naturally human, what are the regulations the can be laid upon athletes with the goals of making sure their achievements fit this ideal? I honestly don't know. The history of humanity and of various forms of ethics can be seen, in many ways, as a series of debates over what really constitutes the human, what makes a human life worthy of concern, worthy of responsibility, liable to be grieved. While athletics are a lower-stakes side of this debate, it seems they fit right in - when does athletic achievement cease being about stretching the limits of human ability, and become about something that we don't want to call "human" in the same way? And if we don't call it quite human in the same way, does that make it less of an athletic achievement? What about a pitcher with a pacemaker, a first baseman with some synthetic materials that keep his knee joint working correctly, a hitter with corrective lenses or even corrected eyes? These are exceptionally hard problems - problems that are very much worthy of our time and concern, but not problems that have answers so easily accessed.

I support regulation of steroid use because I think it's wrong that aspiring athletes should so severely pushed toward the use of at least potentially dangerous drugs like steroids and amphetamines, and the structure of athletic competition means that the only ways to protect players are through testing and punishment regimes.

I have to admit that I do understand the desire to believe that the great athletic achievements I'm watching are pushing the boundaries of the human without loading the human body up with drugs that I have trouble seeing as equally human.
   321. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: January 14, 2010 at 02:54 PM (#3437402)
The desire many of us have for the game to remain one of natural human limits and capacities, engaged in by people subjected to them is behind much of the steroid criticism, I believe. This line of thought has been derided as merely "aesthetic," but it's more than that.
Wait, I think I'm the one who labels it aesthetic around here, and I'm not in any way "deriding" it when I do so. It's the same complaint that underlies my opposition to interleague play and the wild card. Baseball is entertainment, and what can be more important than aesthetics in entertainment? What I'm trying to do is put it into perspective, to distinguish these views from the moral judgments that people think they're making. Robot baseball -- to use MCoA's formulation -- is just as unappealing to me as to him/you, but it's not immoral.
   322. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 14, 2010 at 03:05 PM (#3437409)
They're exactly the same in regard to cheating.

"Cheating" is your term, which is a useful shorthand for something more profound having more to do with the impact of the drugs on the body. The term doesn't fully explain proper objections to steroid use.


If you have other objections to PEDs beyond cheating and health risks, SBB, that's fine. However, they deal with either aesthetics or the integrity of baseball records. Those concerns don't bother me personally at all, especially the latter since absolute numbers without context in baseball do not tell nearly the whole story anyway. For example, I don't think of the career wins record as something timeless and sacred, since Cy Young would not have been able to duplicate it in later eras. In context is where his contributions have meaning, as do the contributions of sluggers during the past 20 years.

I support the abolition of PEDs in MLB for health concerns and to reduce cheating. That's it.
   323. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 14, 2010 at 03:13 PM (#3437413)
Andy, we're not talking about the virtues of modifying an opinion in the light of newly discovered facts. We're talking about the virtues of forming an opinion based on the facts, rather than based on the opinion of others.

And since when have I based my own opinion on the opinion of others? I didn't wait for the BBWAA vote in 2007 to express my opinion about McGwire. I've merely said that I consider the weight of that collective judgment to be worthy of respect. Some people can tell the difference between those two positions.

-----------------

And this whole "cheating is cheating" BS is scarcely even worth refuting. Unless you're simply saying something as trite and meaningless as "an apple is an apple" or "a tree is a tree," the statement is absurd on its face. Again, does society not mete out vastly different degrees of punishment for different forms of "cheating"? Or since we're not allowed to cite "society", do any of you out there not recognize the wisdom (or "logic") of treating Bernard Madoff differently than some chump who filched a donut at the 7-11 when the manager wasn't looking?

But if you admit the distinction between a Madoff and a petty shoplifter, then what is your basis for that distinction? Since both of them are "cheaters," by the "logic" I've seen here, there's absolutely no reason to treat them any differently.

But if that's a bit to much to ask, then....

---Is it because you think that we have a greater stake in deterring grand schemes of billion dollar embezzlement and financial fraud than we have in preventing donut thefts at convenience stores? But isn't that a "subjective" judgment? What if everyone started stealing donuts? Where does it end? After all, "lawbreaking is lawbreaking."

---Is it because you have a greater "aesthetic" reaction to Madoff than you do to a donut snatcher? But why is that? Again, aren't they both "lawbreakers"? Why should we view them any differently? What is "rational" about such distinctions, absent considerations of (a) deterrence and (b) the concept that some "crimes" are more important to prevent than others?

And what, may I ask, is so hard about seeing steroids and spitballs in the same light? Do you really think (and if so, on what grounds) that spitballs provide the sort of systematic competitive advantage that McGwire gained with his steroids? Perhaps you do, but isn't that in turn based on your own "subjective" judgment? And how is that judgment anything but "aesthetic"?

At some point you have to recognize that in cases like this, which inevitably involve subjective judgments about sportsmanship, tradition, aesthetics, etc., there is no such thing as a "rational" way of determining how to view (and punish) wildly different forms of broad categories of behavior ("cheating") that are only nominally related.

Of course when you begin with the premise that only your personal opinions are "rational," then it's kind of tough to take it beyond that. But then there's always namecalling and charges of "trolling" to prevent you from ever looking at yourself in the mirror.

And BTW, I'd still like to learn of one (1) instance in the past 10 years when Nieporent has ever modified his opinions on anything, in light of any argument or facts that he might not have previously considered to be of sufficient notice or merit. Of course he'll reframe that premature ossification to make it seem as if this terminal rigidity is merely a matter of "consistency" and "principles." It's a mindset that all ideologues share.
   324. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: January 14, 2010 at 03:16 PM (#3437415)
And BTW, I'd still like to learn of one (1) instance in the past 10 years when Nieporent has ever modified his opinions on anything, in light of any argument or facts that he might not have previously considered to be of sufficient notice or merit.
If I'm remembering the discussions correctly, Nieporent has significantly revised his view of the Bush administration in general and the invasion of Iraq in particular over the last three years or so. He's still a hard-rightist on economics and pretty hard-neoconservative on foreign policy, but he no longer thinks, at least, that the Bush administration did things the way they should have.

And now I'm off to work all day. Cheers, y'all.
   325. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 14, 2010 at 03:44 PM (#3437431)
If I'm remembering the discussions correctly, Nieporent has significantly revised his view of the Bush administration in general and the invasion of Iraq in particular over the last three years or so. He's still a hard-rightist on economics and pretty hard-neoconservative on foreign policy, but he no longer thinks, at least, that the Bush administration did things the way they should have.

Point acknowledged, though this is a bit like the sort of adjustment that Francessa made about A-Rod in light of the 2009 postseason, when A-Rod's performance left a tire track on Francessa's face.
   326. JPWF13 Posted: January 14, 2010 at 04:26 PM (#3437462)
Point acknowledged, though this is a bit like the sort of adjustment that Francessa made about A-Rod in light of the 2009 postseason, when A-Rod's performance left a tire track on Francessa's face.


But it is still an adjustment that not all ideologues make, 2 of the people I work with STILL haven't come around on Bush 2/Iraq etc...
   327. Ray (RDP) Posted: January 14, 2010 at 04:41 PM (#3437473)
And since when have I based my own opinion on the opinion of others?


Since you couldn't articulate a coherent reason for distinguishing steroids from spitballs. But we've been far enough down this road now that it's not worth discussing much more.

And this whole "cheating is cheating" BS is scarcely even worth refuting. Unless you're simply saying something as trite and meaningless as "an apple is an apple" or "a tree is a tree," the statement is absurd on its face. Again, does society not mete out vastly different degrees of punishment for different forms of "cheating"? Or since we're not allowed to cite "society", do any of you out there not recognize the wisdom (or "logic") of treating Bernard Madoff differently than some chump who filched a donut at the 7-11 when the manager wasn't looking?


Madoff stole lots of money; the 7-11 worker "stole" a trivial amount. Madoff committed multiple crimes, had many victims.

If your argument were that spitballing has no impact on baseball performance while steroids do, that would be coherent if it were true; but I don't see that that's true since (for one thing) spitballs do alter the movement of the pitch, which would impact performance.
   328. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 14, 2010 at 05:04 PM (#3437482)
And since when have I based my own opinion on the opinion of others?

Since you couldn't articulate a coherent reason for distinguishing steroids from spitballs. But we've been far enough down this road now that it's not worth discussing much more.


See below. And it's not as if I've never said this before. Hell, I was saying this long before you even joined BTF.

Madoff stole lots of money; the 7-11 worker "stole" a trivial amount. Madoff committed multiple crimes, had many victims.

How much is "trivial"? A donut? A case of donuts? A flat screen TV? A $500.00 embezzlement? A second story job that nets the burglar $10,000 dollars worth of diamonds and pearls? At what point along the way do we bump into Madoff? And at what point do you concede that the art of drawing these lines (say, between $9,999.00 and $10,000) has little to do with pure "rationality", and every bit to do with other factors such as a balancing of public sentiment and practical application? When you keep trying to reduce all "coherent" human judgment to "rational" choices and arguments, my only thought is that somewhere along the way you must have OD'd on Ayn Rand. Unfortunately, the world isn't always quite that neat.

If your argument were that spitballing has no impact on baseball performance while steroids do, that would be coherent if it were true; but I don't see that that's true since (for one thing) spitballs do alter the movement of the pitch, which would impact performance.

Yes, one load of spit can alter the movement of one pitch. And one series of injections combined with weight training can alter the course of hundreds of batted balls. Pure symmetry there, and right, it's completely "irrational" to see the latter in a different category than the former, and worthy of a greater degree of punishment.

Of course this argument isn't "coherent," because....well, because you and David say that it isn't, or because I probably cribbed it from Murray Chass. And once again I'll step back and let you chase your own tail.
   329. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: January 14, 2010 at 05:22 PM (#3437498)
You're missing my point. In response to the claim that steroid use was cheating, some of us pointed out that there was no rule against it, so by definition it wasn't cheating. You argued, essentially, that there doesn't need to be a written rule against it, since it was illegal, and if it's illegal, then it's implied that it's forbidden. And I'm saying that by using that argument, you're saying that some steroid use was cheating and some wasn't, which doesn't seem like a tenable position.

No, I understood your point. I think you're misunderstanding mine a bit, though. The illegality of steroids doesn't imply that steroids are forbidden; it actually forbids them. I concede your technical point--that if you rely solely on the law you could have a situation where some steroid use is cheating and some isn't.

However, I don't see this as an untenable position, since the only people I've seen raise the issue are lawyers on baseball discussion boards. It's clear from the way the players have acted that they viewed what they were doing as "cheating". And considering steroids are illegal in the country where the games are played, it's easy to see why they felt that way. None of them have argued that what they did wasn't cheating since it wasn't illegal in Mexico, or that they had to take steroids to compete with roided up Dominicans who could do the stuff legally.

At this point, those are purely technical and hypothetical arguments, interesting to discuss on a message board but with no real practical significance.
   330. The Good Face Posted: January 14, 2010 at 05:55 PM (#3437518)
Of course this argument isn't "coherent," because....well, because you and David say that it isn't, or because I probably cribbed it from Murray Chass. And once again I'll step back and let you chase your own tail.


Your arguments are incoherent because the majority of people reading them here believe them to be so. By your own stated criteria in this very thread, that makes you wrong. And probably a stupid fan of Ayn Rand.

I'm glad I could sort this out for you, since you really seemed to be struggling on your own.
   331. Lassus Posted: January 14, 2010 at 06:22 PM (#3437535)
And probably a stupid fan of Ayn Rand.

Funny.
   332. Ray (RDP) Posted: January 14, 2010 at 06:39 PM (#3437551)
It's clear from the way the players have acted that they viewed what they were doing as "cheating".


And I don't think that's clear. Not discussing something is not the same as thinking it's cheating, when there are good reasons not to discuss something, the potential illegality (in the U.S., after 1990, depending on the substance) being one of them.

You're applying a 2010 mindset to the 1990s culture. By and large, nobody cared about the issue in the 1990s. Not the media. Not the players. Not the owners. Not the fans. It wasn't a Big Scandal when McGwire was doing it. This is retroactive outrage.

McGwire said "I wish I had never played in the steroids era" and "I wish there was testing; if there was testing we wouldn't be sitting here." He's been mocked for that statement in some circles, since he is blamed for STARTING the "steroids era," but it seems to me that what he is saying is that at the time he didn't really feel like he was doing anything out of place in that culture, where steroids simply wasn't an issue to virtually everyone. People are outraged NOW, but back then when these players were doing it it was virtually a non-issue.

I suspect in the Mark McGwire in 1994 would be completely and utterly shocked if you went back in time and told him that 15 years later he was going to be strung up as a cheater and find himself on national tv trying to justify his actions to an outraged subset of the population. I don't think any of these players could have imagined that. I certainly couldn't have. That seems to be what McGwire means when he said he wished he had never taken them.

The players doing greenies in the '60s and '70s are not strung up in that same way now.
   333. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 14, 2010 at 06:42 PM (#3437553)
Lassus, you would kill to have Ray, Nieporent and Good Face yapping at your heels all in the same thread, and you know it. I can almost feel a WWII bond appeal coming on.
   334. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 14, 2010 at 06:49 PM (#3437561)
If your argument were that spitballing has no impact on baseball performance while steroids do, that would be coherent if it were true; but I don't see that that's true since (for one thing) spitballs do alter the movement of the pitch, which would impact performance.


As somebody mentioned yesterday, Mike Scott won a Cy Young as a scuffball artist. That certainly impacted his performance, since I remembering suffering as Met Fan with his yearly crappy, but honest pitching prior to that.
   335. SoSH U at work Posted: January 14, 2010 at 07:05 PM (#3437579)
As somebody mentioned yesterday, Mike Scott won a Cy Young as a scuffball artist. That certainly impacted his performance, since I remembering suffering as Met Fan with his yearly crappy, but honest pitching prior to that.


OK, I'm genuinely curious here, because I don't know if something came out that I missed, but how does the evidence that Mike Scott was scuffing differ from the evidence that Sammy Sosa used steroids?
   336. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: January 14, 2010 at 07:11 PM (#3437587)
Lupica also doesn't give McGwire full credit since the reporters McGwire spoke to were "hand-picked."
McGwire told a different kind of story, even more nuanced, to the country on Monday, through a series of hand-picked reporters.


Lupica-to-English translation: "Hand-picked" = "not me."

Hmmmm, did Posnanski's views on McGwire carry the day within the recent HoF balloting? I've never once said that the views of the writers were unanimous; what I've said is that their collective judgment, such as it is, is worthy of respect due to the numbers it represents.

I'm envious that your faith in the overriding power of math sustains you. If only I could share it. Tony Gwynn got a higher percentage than Rickey Henderson. Nolan Ryan got a higher percentage than Steve Carlton. Willie Stargell got a higher percentage than Joe Morgan. George Brett got a higher percentage than Mike Schmidt. Brooks Robinson got a higher percentage than Frank Robinson.

The problem is that the collective judgment of baseball on the subject of steroids may be as wise or as "incorrect" as you think it is, but whatever you think it is, that collective opinion carries a hell of a lot more weight than the individual opinions of you, me, or anyone else.

Couldn't this same all-powerful ethical principle of "weight-carrying" be just as pithily phrased as "73 and 762, suck it!"

Hmmmm, what would your reaction be if one of Selig's minions caught A-Rod in flagrante delicto with a needle in the Yankees clubhouse---and then let him flush the evidence down the toilet with an indulgent wink? Would you perhaps infer that this was some sort of a sign that baseball was a bit insincere in its public policy of steroid vigilance?
If so, then what was your reaction to the thousands of instances where a batter or umpire called for the ball to be inspected for saliva----but rather than hand over the unaltered evidence, the pitcher either rolled the ball on the grass to the plate, or tossed it to his catcher, who then wiped the evidence off on his uniform before handing it to the umpire; with the final result being that the umpire shrugged his shoulders as if to say "what can I do?" to the outraged opposing manager?
...perhaps you might open your mind and admit that this nudge-nudge / wink-wink attitude towards Perry & Co., as opposed to its formal rules, reflects baseball's real attitude towards spitballs.


Yeah, and what if A-Rod was a dragon?

There's no need for loopy A-Rod hypotheticals. Baseball's indulgent winking about steroids is well documented. Whether it be a general manager being quoted in the press 15 years ago, or a team discussing the need to trade a player who'd gone off steroids before his performance dropped, or a team bringing in a steroid safety consultant to conduct a player meeting, or a trainer who repeatedly warned MLB management being ignored at the time and omitted from the Mitchell Report, MLB's nudge-nudge-wink-wink-shhhh-shhhh-we-never-knew history is indisputable.

If you're really interested in speculative fiction, here's a free plot you can use. What if Tip O'Neill and Scoop Jackson had concluded they could've scored a political bonus by threatening MLB's antitrust protection at a spitball hearing?

Yes, one load of spit can alter the movement of one pitch. And one series of injections combined with weight training can alter the course of hundreds of batted balls. Pure symmetry there

Well, if you want to play that card, Gaylord Perry beat the Cincinnati Reds on April 22, 1981. By the time of the strike, the Reds were half a game out in the NL West, at which time the standings were reset to zero. Think they'd like to have that game back? Where do the final postseason appearances of Johnny Bench and Tom Seaver and Dave Concepcion-- which never happened-- fit into your lack of "symmetry"?
   337. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 14, 2010 at 07:16 PM (#3437592)
OK, I'm genuinely curious here, because I don't know if something came out that I missed, but how does the evidence that Mike Scott was scuffing differ from the evidence that Sammy Sosa used steroids?


I'm not sure where you're going with this, SoSH. If you are implying that there was no evidence of Scott doctoring the ball, there were quite a few baseballs thrown by him that were shown to be scuffed back then.
   338. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 14, 2010 at 07:23 PM (#3437598)
Well, if you want to play that card, Gaylord Perry beat the Cincinnati Reds on April 22, 1981. At the time of the strike, the Reds were half a game out in the NL West, and which time the standings were reset to zero. Think they'd like to have that game back? Where do the final postseason appearances of Johnny Bench and Tom Seaver and Dave Concepcion-- which never happened-- fit into your lack of "symmetry"?


Besides, just knowing that Perry might throw his illegal pitch at any time during a game had a deleterious effect on each batter's plate appearance. Perry has even admitted this himself.
   339. dlf Posted: January 14, 2010 at 07:25 PM (#3437600)
As somebody mentioned yesterday, Mike Scott won a Cy Young as a scuffball artist


Would Whitey Ford or Don Sutton be in Cooperstown if they hadn't scuffed? You could also add Randy Jones -- the Padres pitcher from the 70s, not the BTF poster from the 'aughts -- as another CYA winner that thrived on doctored balls.
   340. SoSH U at work Posted: January 14, 2010 at 07:28 PM (#3437604)
I'm not sure where you're going with this, SoSH. If you are implying that there was no evidence of Scott doctoring the ball, there were quite a few baseballs thrown by him that were shown to be scuffed back then.


I thought I was pretty clear. I don't know the entire Scott story. What I do know doesn't strike me as terribly more conclusive than Sammy used steroids, and honestly, your anecdote above isn't terribly compelling. But I'm not trying to play any tricks. I'm open to being convinced.

Edit:

This is what I'm talking about.

Randy Jones -- the Padres pitcher from the 70s, not the BTF poster from the 'aughts -- as another CYA winner that thrived on doctored balls.


Is there any evidence that Randy Jones thrived on doctored balls besides the fact that everybody knows that Randy Jones thrived on doctoring balls (which, by the way, I didn't know)?
   341. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 14, 2010 at 07:30 PM (#3437608)
Would Whitey Ford or Don Sutton be in Cooperstown if they hadn't scuffed? You could also add Randy Jones -- the Padres pitcher from the 70s, not the BTF poster from the 'aughts -- as another CYA winner that thrived on doctored balls.


Don't know about Whitey, but my guess is Sutton wouldn't have made it.

I wish Jones had been doctoring the ball when he was with the Mets during the early '80s (or was he?!)
   342. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 14, 2010 at 07:34 PM (#3437617)
I thought I was pretty clear. I don't know the entire Scott story. What I do know doesn't strike me as terribly more conclusive than Sammy used steroids, and honestly, your anecdote above isn't terribly compelling. But I'm not trying to play any tricks. I'm open to being convinced.


Don't know what else I can add to this, other than that I lived through Scott's stellar year of '86 as an adult and saw (not in person :-) baseballs of his that appeared to have been doctored back then. How he was allowed to get away with it is still a mystery to me.
   343. RJ in TO Posted: January 14, 2010 at 07:35 PM (#3437619)
Is there any evidence that Randy Jones thrived on doctored balls besides the fact that everybody knows that Randy Jones thrived on doctoring balls (which, by the way, I didn't know)?


I don't know about Randy Jones, but in the case of Mike Scott, there were stories of opposing managers claiming to have collected balls from his starts, and those balls having oddly consistent scuffing patterns. Not having watched baseball at the time, and not having any awareness of the NL at all, I have no idea of the level of truthiness in these stories.
   344. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 14, 2010 at 07:36 PM (#3437621)
Yes, one load of spit can alter the movement of one pitch. And one series of injections combined with weight training can alter the course of hundreds of batted balls. Pure symmetry there

Well, if you want to play that card, Gaylord Perry beat the Cincinnati Reds on April 22, 1981. At the time of the strike, the Reds were half a game out in the NL West, and which time the standings were reset to zero. Think they'd like to have that game back? Where do the final postseason appearances of Johnny Bench and Tom Seaver and Dave Concepcion-- which never happened-- fit into your lack of "symmetry"?


Actually, Perry's performance against the Reds that year embodied the purest of symmetry: Two wins and two losses. And if his crafty old spitter possibly won him that April 22nd game, it's just as possible that a spitter that slipped up in the zone left the ballpark against that same Reds team just eleven days earlier, costing his team the game.

As for the rest of your post, we've been over this a million times, and we don't really disagree all that much about baseball's complicity in the steroids scandal, only the degree to which we still hold the individual juicers responsible for their own independent actions. The honchos may have been looking the other way and raking in the bucks, but they weren't supplying the juice and the needles. One can acknowledge and condemn the role of the enablers without using that as a reason to honor the players who went ahead on their own.

And as one final aside....

Hmmmm, did Posnanski's views on McGwire carry the day within the recent HoF balloting? I've never once said that the views of the writers were unanimous; what I've said is that their collective judgment, such as it is, is worthy of respect due to the numbers it represents.

I'm envious that your faith in the overriding power of math sustains you. If only I could share it. Tony Gwynn got a higher percentage than Rickey Henderson. Nolan Ryan got a higher percentage than Steve Carlton. Willie Stargell got a higher percentage than Joe Morgan. George Brett got a higher percentage than Mike Schmidt. Brooks Robinson got a higher percentage than Frank Robinson.


.....the difference between the highest and the lowest vote totals of those players you just named is less than half the distance between the vote totals of the lowest of those players and McGwire. I hope you do realize that I wouldn't be citing this consensus if McGwire were hovering anywhere near Blyleven or Alomar territory. It doesn't hinge on a few percentage points one way or the other.
   345. Steve Treder Posted: January 14, 2010 at 07:38 PM (#3437625)
Would Whitey Ford or Don Sutton be in Cooperstown if they hadn't scuffed? You could also add Randy Jones -- the Padres pitcher from the 70s, not the BTF poster from the 'aughts -- as another CYA winner that thrived on doctored balls.

Exactly as with PEDs, it's impossible to know how much spitballing/ball-doctoring improves a pitcher's performance (or, at least, can improve it), but it's a virtual certainty that to at least some extent, it does.

And it's definitely the case that many, many star pitchers over the years have been suspected of engaging in it. Along with those already named, add Don Drysdale, Lew Burdette, and Phil Regan.
   346. DL from MN Posted: January 14, 2010 at 07:39 PM (#3437626)
> argument were that spitballing has no impact on baseball performance while steroids do

I'd say (as mentioned above) that spitballs have much more impact on baseball performance than steroids, at least for a pitcher. A pitcher can't leverage his steroid use. Since hitting is mainly eye-hand coordination and timing altering the break of a pitch is a terrific way to upset a batter. Better yet, a pitcher can leverage the altered pitch for the times it makes the most impact. I don't think Barry Bonds, as good as he was, could go into the clubhouse, take a shot and hit a home run on the next pitch. Steroids alter one aspect of hitting - power. It can't improve pitch selection or ability to make contact and I don't know of any players using it to improve baserunning (not too many juicers running wind sprints instead of lifting). A batter is going to alter his approach when power becomes his best skill - uppercut swing and no shortening up with 2 strikes.
   347. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 14, 2010 at 07:42 PM (#3437629)
Would Whitey Ford or Don Sutton be in Cooperstown if they hadn't scuffed?

Further proof, I suppose, that baseball ever gave a rat's patooie about any of this fluff.

And those dirty, stinking, hypocritical writers---if only BTF had been around to chastise them for their future hypocrisy!
   348. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 14, 2010 at 07:42 PM (#3437630)
I don't know about Randy Jones, but in the case of Mike Scott, there were stories of opposing managers claiming to have collected balls from his starts, and those balls having oddly consistent scuffing patterns. Not having watched baseball at the time, and not having any awareness of the NL at all, I have no idea of the level of truthiness in these stories.


You're right about the stories, Ryan. I don't remember it as much in '85 when he finally became a good pitcher, but '86 was a different story. In fact, it was a big topic of discussion during the NL playoffs that year.
   349. SoSH U at work Posted: January 14, 2010 at 07:44 PM (#3437635)
Don't know what else I can add to this, other than that I lived through Scott's stellar year of '86 as an adult and saw (not in person :-) baseballs of his that appeared to have been doctored back then. How he was allowed to get away with it is still a mystery to me.


I don't know about Randy Jones, but in the case of Mike Scott, there were stories of opposing managers claiming to have collected balls from his starts, and those balls having oddly consistent scuffing patterns. Not having watched baseball at the time, and not having any awareness of the NL at all, I have no idea of the level of truthiness in these stories.

I was around at the time, just like john murphy (but not a Mets fan). And the evidence presented doesn't strike me as very compelling. The evidence appears to be balls collected by OPPOSING MANAGERS that appeared as if they were scuffed, though the umpires consistently came to the opposite conclusion (or simply ignored that evidence).

And what's the evidence against Randy Jones? Is there any?

I'm not trying to play gotcha or make some point about how spitballing was worse/better than steroids. I just find it interesting that for a lot of these guys, the evidence seems to boil down to "everybody knows he was doing it."
   350. Steve Treder Posted: January 14, 2010 at 07:45 PM (#3437638)
How he was allowed to get away with it is still a mystery to me.

The most persuasive explanation I've ever heard came from someone familiar with Roger Craig, and the sensational "split-finger fastball" pitch he taught not only to Mike Scott, but to most every other pitcher Craig coached (with the Tigers, including of course Jack Morris, and with the Giants, notably including Scott Garrelts), which was a hell of a lot of pitchers: don't make a federal case out of Scott doing it, because we don't want someone else to make a federal case out of our pitcher(s) doing it.
   351. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 14, 2010 at 07:46 PM (#3437640)
And it's definitely the case that many, many star pitchers over the years have been suspected of engaging in it. Along with those already named, add Don Drysdale, Lew Burdette, and Phil Regan.

Steve, you're the historian among us. Would you have any idea what the total suspension time has been for all the spitball, scuff ball, corked bat, and superball bat violators in Major League history?

If you do, has that combined suspension time even added up to Manny Ramirez's suspension time from 2009?
   352. Kiko Sakata Posted: January 14, 2010 at 07:47 PM (#3437642)
the difference between the highest and the lowest vote totals of those players you just named is less than half the distance between the vote totals of the lowest of those players and McGwire. I hope you do realize that I wouldn't be citing this consensus if McGwire were hovering anywhere near Blyleven or Alomar territory. It doesn't hinge on a few percentage points one way or the other.


Mark McGwire received more votes from the BBWAA than Alan Trammell (128-121). How does this affect you opinion of the Hall-of-Fame worthiness of Alan Trammell? I honestly don't understand what point you're trying to make by citing BBWAA votes for McGwire beyond pointing out the obvious fact that the majority of this particular group agrees with you on this particular issue. There's a strong consensus among Hall-of-Fame voters that Alan Trammell isn't a Hall-of-Famer. From what I recall, that didn't affect your view in BBTF's mock HOF election here.
   353. RJ in TO Posted: January 14, 2010 at 07:50 PM (#3437649)
don't make a federal case out of Scott doing it, because we don't want someone else to make a federal case out of our pitcher(s) doing it.


On a semi-related note, a sports radio host up here occasionally tells a story about a time where he found himself on a plane, sitting next to someone who (at the time of the 1988 Olympics) was closely associated with Ben Johnson. The host asked the guy why, after Johnson was nailed, why there wasn't more insults and accusations coming from the camps of the other competitors in that final race. The reason he got was "Of the other guys in that race, only one wasn't using something banned, and he finished last."
   354. Steve Treder Posted: January 14, 2010 at 07:53 PM (#3437653)
Would you have any idea what the total suspension time has been for all the spitball, scuff ball, corked bat, and superball bat violators in Major League history?

If you do, has that combined suspension time even added up to Manny Ramirez's suspension time from 2009?


The combined time no doubt exceeds Ramirez's 2009 time, but of course overall you're correct that ball/bat doctoring offenses have historically been dealt with far less punitively than PED offenses have recently become in the current protocol.

To conclude from this, however, anything deeply meaningful about the underlying appropriateness of this differential punishment vis-a-vis moral levels of cheating, isn't an approach I find to be efficacious.
   355. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 14, 2010 at 07:53 PM (#3437654)
The evidence appears to be balls collected by OPPOSING MANAGERS that appeared as if they were scuffed, though the umpires consistently came to the opposite conclusion (or simply ignored that evidence).


Well, I guess Hal Lanier would have been more credible, though I'm pretty sure that he wasn't going to collect any baseballs for examination. ;-)

The most persuasive explanation I've ever heard came from someone familiar with Roger Craig, and the sensational "split-finger fastball" pitch he taught not only to Mike Scott, but to most every other pitcher Craig coached (with the Tigers, including of course Jack Morris, and with the Giants, notably including Scott Garrelts), which was a hell of a lot of pitchers: don't make a federal case out of Scott doing it, because we don't want someone else to make a federal case out of our pitcher(s) doing it.


That makes sense, Steve, though that doesn't excuse the umpires, of course.
   356. RJ in TO Posted: January 14, 2010 at 07:56 PM (#3437657)
That makes sense, Steve, though that doesn't excuse the umpires, of course.


Generally speaking, don't the umps only go through the motions of checking if a player or manager requests it (or if it's exceptionally blatant, to the point of an obvious doctoring agent being visible)?
   357. Tom Nawrocki Posted: January 14, 2010 at 07:56 PM (#3437660)

Steve, you're the historian among us. Would you have any idea what the total suspension time has been for all the spitball, scuff ball, corked bat, and superball bat violators in Major League history?

If you do, has that combined suspension time even added up to Manny Ramirez's suspension time from 2009?


Nels Potter got ten games, Rick Honeycutt got ten games, Joe Niekro got ten games, Brian Moehler got ten games, Gaylord Perry got ten games.

There's Manny's 50 games right there, without getting into the bat violators.
   358. SoSH U at work Posted: January 14, 2010 at 08:01 PM (#3437666)
Well, I guess Hal Lanier would have been more credible, though I'm pretty sure that he wasn't going to collect any baseballs for examination. ;-)


John, just curious, do you think your statement above:

As somebody mentioned yesterday, Mike Scott won a Cy Young as a scuffball artist.

is really something that's even remotely close to being proved?
   359. Steve Treder Posted: January 14, 2010 at 08:02 PM (#3437667)
Generally speaking, don't the umps only go through the motions of checking if a player or manager requests it (or if it's exceptionally blatant, to the point of an obvious doctoring agent being visible)?

I don't know if that's fair. Bear in mind that unless a pitcher actually has vaseline on his uniform or cap, or an emery board in his possession (who was that, Scott or Niekro?) (Niekro was, of course, yet another who blossomed under Craig's coaching), then there's pretty much no evidence for the umps to find.

But it's certainly true that the umps are a part of the larger culture, and the culture for generations regarding ball-doctoring has been essentially as Andy characterizes it: be discreet, and we won't make a big deal about it so long as you don't make a big deal about it.
   360. SoSH U at work Posted: January 14, 2010 at 08:04 PM (#3437671)
Scott or Niekro?)


That was Joe Niekro. He had to keep the nails trimmed.
   361. Steve Treder Posted: January 14, 2010 at 08:04 PM (#3437673)
As somebody mentioned yesterday, Mike Scott won a Cy Young as a scuffball artist.


is really something that's even remotely close to being proved?

There's proof, and there's reasonable conclusion. One doesn't necessarily require the former to arrive at the latter.
   362. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 14, 2010 at 08:05 PM (#3437675)
John, just curious, do you think your statement above:

As somebody mentioned yesterday, Mike Scott won a Cy Young as a scuffball artist.

is really something that's even remotely close to being proved?


I can't prove it in the same way that nobody can prove how much a player benefited from steroids. It is an educated guess, however.
   363. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 14, 2010 at 08:15 PM (#3437694)
Would you have any idea what the total suspension time has been for all the spitball, scuff ball, corked bat, and superball bat violators in Major League history?

If you do, has that combined suspension time even added up to Manny Ramirez's suspension time from 2009?


The combined time no doubt exceeds Ramirez's 2009 time, but of course overall you're correct that ball/bat doctoring offenses have historically been dealt with far less punitively than PED offenses have recently become in the current protocol.


Thanks, but if you could ever come up with an actual total, I'd like to know what it's been.

To conclude from this, however, anything deeply meaningful about the underlying appropriateness of this differential punishment vis-a-vis moral levels of cheating, isn't an approach I find to be efficacious.

I agree that all this shows is what baseball has chosen to emphasize, and is at best only an indirect approach to the argument of what it should have emphasized. Those are two distinct questions, though the former can be cited as a sort of common law defense of the latter.

I do think, however, that the relative wrist slaps for spitballs, combined with the almost comical degree with which they let suspected violators brazenly doctor the evidence ("You want to see the ball, ump? Sure---Hey, roll me that ball, Whitey!"), demonstrates pretty conclusively that baseball saw the positive benefits of having "colorful characters" like Perry and Burdette around as far outweighing whatever moral stigma attached itself to the thought of such "cheating". Whether we view this benign neglect policy as efficacious or not is a whole separate question.
   364. Tom Nawrocki Posted: January 14, 2010 at 08:16 PM (#3437695)

I can't prove it in the same way that nobody can prove how much a player benefited from steroids.


But you can prove someone was a scuffball artist, just as you can prove someone used steroids. The efficacy is not in question here, but simply whether the violation was committed.
   365. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 14, 2010 at 08:22 PM (#3437705)
But you can prove someone was a scuffball artist, just as you can prove someone used steroids. The efficacy is not in question here, but simply whether the violation was committed.


Again, there were baseballs of Scott's shown to have been scuffed in the same exact area. Unless there was a huge conspiracy to bring him down, I'm going with the proposition that Scott was a cheat and that his cheating transformed him from an underachiever into a overachiever on the mound.
   366. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: January 14, 2010 at 08:23 PM (#3437707)
nd BTW, I'd still like to learn of one (1) instance in the past 10 years when Nieporent has ever modified his opinions on anything, in light of any argument or facts that he might not have previously considered to be of sufficient notice or merit.
DMN was pretty staunchly anti-defensive stats at one point. I think he's modified that (that a player's glove could be enough to make up for a weak bat). Of course, that's more like 12 years ago, and predates BTF.
   367. Steve Treder Posted: January 14, 2010 at 08:23 PM (#3437708)
I do think, however, that the relative wrist slaps for spitballs, combined with the almost comical degree with which they let suspected violators brazenly doctor the evidence ("You want to see the ball, ump? Sure---Hey, roll me that ball, Whitey!"), demonstrates pretty conclusively that baseball saw the positive benefits of having "colorful characters" like Perry and Burdette around as far outweighing whatever moral stigma attached itself to the thought of such "cheating". Whether we view this benign neglect policy as efficacious or not is a whole separate question.

It is a separate question. But it's also historically factual to state that until the media sh!tstorm that began when Bonds began breaking records in the early 2000s, and culminated with the Congressional grandstanding, the baseball culture treated PEDs with, if anything, even less punitive seriousness than it treated ball-doctoring. The greatly differential treatment is a very recent phenomenon, and didn't spontaneously spring from within the baseball culture, but was rather imposed upon it.
   368. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: January 14, 2010 at 08:35 PM (#3437719)
I appreciate the attempt to make greenies=spitballs, but that simply isn't true.

Yes, there can be scalar penalties, but one has yet to show there is a distinction between greenies and steroids. Greenies ABSOLUTELY and it has been demonstrated via clinical trials to enhance focus. It takes a bizarre level of ignorance to think amphetamine effects are merely "a cup of coffee". It's a freaking CDS. And Andy is nearly identical to McGwire in this: "Oh, the PEDs I was taking? that didn't enhance my performance." Oh, that only applies to *this* generation. The older generation - amps didn't help their performance. I mean Andy quoted Bouton on this COUNTLESS times, and when Mac says it, well, then it's complete nonsense.
   369. JL Posted: January 14, 2010 at 08:36 PM (#3437720)
The fact that the first suspension is 50 games suggests to me that [steroid use] does not rise to the level of banishing from the HOF

The problem with that, though, is that the third offense brings a lifetime ban. So steroids might be worthy of a banishing from the HoF, but that's why I think one needs to proceed by looking at individual cases. A blanket-ban doesn't work, but ignoring use isn't fair either.

That is a fair point (one raised by Andy as well). But just as clearly, PED usage does not get a first time ban, either (like gambling on baseball does). Interesting that the PED suspensions are somewhat similar to other drug suspension schemes (with a lifetime ban being the final punishment). Not sure what to make of that.
   370. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 14, 2010 at 08:42 PM (#3437726)
But just as clearly, PED usage does not get a first time ban, either (like gambling on baseball does).


As it should be, since gambling is far worse for the game.
   371. Ron Johnson Posted: January 14, 2010 at 08:44 PM (#3437727)
I'm not sure where you're going with this, SoSH. If you are implying that there was no evidence of Scott doctoring the ball, there were quite a few baseballs thrown by him that were shown to be scuffed back then.


And because of Don Sutton's threat of a lawsuit when MLB attempted to discipline him with the same kind of evidence (ie defaced balls), umpires were told they had to be able to show how the balls were being altered before they could do anything.
   372. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 14, 2010 at 08:50 PM (#3437734)
And because of Don Sutton's threat of a lawsuit when MLB attempted to discipline him with the same kind of evidence (ie defaced balls), umpires were told they had to be able to show how the balls were being altered before they could do anything.


Okay, that explains why they didn't do anything about Scott now.
   373. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 14, 2010 at 09:02 PM (#3437749)
I do think, however, that the relative wrist slaps for spitballs, combined with the almost comical degree with which they let suspected violators brazenly doctor the evidence ("You want to see the ball, ump? Sure---Hey, roll me that ball, Whitey!"), demonstrates pretty conclusively that baseball saw the positive benefits of having "colorful characters" like Perry and Burdette around as far outweighing whatever moral stigma attached itself to the thought of such "cheating". Whether we view this benign neglect policy as efficacious or not is a whole separate question.

It is a separate question. But it's also historically factual to state that until the media sh!tstorm that began when Bonds began breaking records in the early 2000s, and culminated with the Congressional grandstanding, the baseball culture treated PEDs with, if anything, even less punitive seriousness than it treated ball-doctoring. The greatly differential treatment is a very recent phenomenon, and didn't spontaneously spring from within the baseball culture, but was rather imposed upon it.


That's one way of looking at it, but you also have to consider the view that "baseball culture" itself has always in part reflected the concerns of the outside world. This goes well back into the 19th century, when baseball acted to stem the influence of gambling. It extended to the crackdown on assaults on umpires in the McGraw era. And most famously, the campaign against spitballs and other "doctored" balls was always framed on an "aesthetic" basis (read the editorials in Baseball Magazine on that point; the operative word was "unsanitary"), and was goosed up in the aftermath of the influenza epidemic of 1918. It was seldom presented as merely a matter of "unfair competitive advantage."

And with that in mind, it's not always so easy to separate "baseball culture" from the outside world. They interact with each other on a daily basis, and are always passing "influences" back and forth. The precise moment that "baseball" passed from a benign neglect of the steroids problem to an active role in combating it may be argued: Was it the general dislike of Bonds, in part fueled by racism? Was it Canseco's loud mouth that forced the game to confront the issue? Was it those congressional hearings, and the embarrassing spectacle of McGwire's less-than-stellar performance? Or was it a combination of all those things, and a general growing sense, both within and without the game, that steroids really did tip the playing field? I'd be inclined to say that it was this combination that did the trick, but in what proportion, it's hard to tell.

But in any case, the "baseball culture" clearly turned on a dime, and now at least is handing out penalties that go way beyond any penalties given out for any offense other than gambling. And for all the publicity about greenies in the Bouton book and other stories, and for all the ensuing "crackdown" by Kuhn, how many players were ever suspended for greenie use prior to very recently? Was there even one such suspension? (Honest question.)

So to call this nothing but an "imposed" shift in the baseball culture may well be accurate, but it kind of begs the point, since "baseball culture" has never really existed outside of the broad parameters of the prevailing societal mores. Why do you think that it's always been promoted as being "family entertainment," etc.?
   374. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: January 14, 2010 at 09:17 PM (#3437766)
And for all the publicity about greenies in the Bouton book and other stories, and for all the ensuing "crackdown" by Kuhn, how many players were ever suspended for greenie use prior to very recently? Was there even one such suspension?
Collective bargaining, Andy. There wasn't one for steroids throughout the 1990s either.
   375. Ray (RDP) Posted: January 14, 2010 at 09:26 PM (#3437778)
As Andy is finding out, it's really hard to justify caring about steroids but not greenies (or spitballs).

But at least Andy has the wisdom of the angry mob on his side.

It's logically consistent to care about both; it's not logically consistent to care about one but not the other.

Steroids of course are not important in the grand scheme of things; but I presume in all important social issues of his lifetime, he simply sided with the crowd.

MLK to Andy half a century ago:

"Join us, Andy."
"Nah, the public disagrees with you. I'm going with them."
   376. Mike Green Posted: January 14, 2010 at 09:27 PM (#3437779)
I wonder if there is any similarity between the discussion now about McGwire's Hall of Fame merits and the discussions that went on when the name of Carl Mays came up. Spitballs, vague evidence of association with gamblers and general unlikeability seem to have been key in his rejection.
   377. RJ in TO Posted: January 14, 2010 at 09:32 PM (#3437782)
I wonder if there is any similarity between the discussion now about McGwire's Hall of Fame merits and the discussions that went on when the name of Carl Mays came up. Spitballs, vague evidence of association with gamblers and general unlikeability seem to have been key in his rejection.


You seem to have forgotten one important detail regarding Mays' on-field performance.
   378. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 14, 2010 at 09:53 PM (#3437793)
And for all the publicity about greenies in the Bouton book and other stories, and for all the ensuing "crackdown" by Kuhn, how many players were ever suspended for greenie use prior to very recently? Was there even one such suspension?

Collective bargaining, Andy. There wasn't one for steroids throughout the 1990s either.


Question: How many attempts were made to suspend greenie users from the 70's through the early 90's, as opposed to the cokeheads?

----------------------------

MLK to Andy half a century ago:

"Join us, Andy."
"Nah, the public disagrees with you. I'm going with them."


Considering that I was arrested for nonviolent civil rights activity half a dozen times in the early 60's,*** and considering the squawkings of libertarians about public accommodations bills during that period, I think that that particular comment might fairly be aimed in another direction. (smile)

*** and in fact was on the SCLC payroll in the Summer of 1965
   379. bads85 Posted: January 14, 2010 at 09:53 PM (#3437795)
Again, does society not mete out vastly different degrees of punishment for different forms of "cheating"?


Cheating is sports is narrowly defined -- we don't have to put quotes around the word and ponder society's position on the acts.

While there certainly are different degrees of punishment for cheating (I don't recall anyone saying there wasn't), punishments for cheating are almost always severe (severe being a relative word), and almost always at least involve disqualification and suspension.

You want to dismiss something like altering the ball as a "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" thing, even though it greatly changes the playing field --- and an level playing field seems your biggest argument against steroids. You cite the BBWA as some sort of voice of baseball on this matter (to loosely paraphrase), and say because they voted for Gaylord Perry, the consensus of baseball meant that sort of cheating was tolerable and accepted in the current baseball community.

However, the baseball community frowns upon that sort of behavior, especially in the year 2010. Altering the ball (let's sick with this form of cheating) results in immediate ejection, suspension without pay, and usually an additional fine. Up until very recently, altering the ball carried the highest suspension outside a gambling offense. Up until very recently, a ten day suspension without pay was considered stiff. Yes, baseball has been slow in adjusting in penalties for the escalating salary structure, but altering the ball certainly isn't treated like speeding ticket.

Unfortunately, MLB has a long history of being slow to police cheating, and the almost complete lack of effective policing altered balls led to decades of a culture of borderline acceptance. However, borderline acceptance doesn't make the cheating any less wrong in terms of a level playing field -- just as the borderline acceptance of steroids in the baseball community up until very recently made didn't make steroids any less wrong. Most importantly, the baseball community's attitude certainly has changed in terms of this type of cheating. Starting in 1987, MLB made a concentrated effort to eliminate cheating pitchers (which led to guys getting caught in the late 80's). In 2007, MLB tightened the rules again.

The culture of baseball has changed in the last twenty years concerning altered balls (and even more so since 1967, when baseball started making a concentrated effort to go after cheating pitchers). Teams react angrily (my favorite being an old Frank Robisnon threatening to kick Mike Sciosia's ass when Scioscia whined about Robsinon busting one of his pitchers), and suspensions for altered balls are way up as compared to decades past. Technology has allowed both umpires and teams to better police the game. Is the situation ideal? Of course not, cheating still exists but there is no denying the culture of baseball has changed in regards to this form of cheating.

All this isn't to say that Perry isn't a worthy HOFer, or should be kicked out. However, to cite BBWA's election of him in 1991 doesn't mean you are channeling the current vibe of the game. The current vibe isn't of acceptance.

BTW, just because someone corrects your mistakes doesn't mean they necessarily disagree with your overall premise. Mistakes weaken everyone's stance who shares that argument, which is why guys like Tommy in CT are so annoying.

>>>And what does that tell you about the 1967 "crackdown" that was so "ah-ha"ingly referred to earlier in this thread?<<<<

There was no "ah-ha" reference -- you were wrong when you made your comment about the altered ball in the forefront/twice in your life, so I corrected you. Erroneous statements like that muddle a discussion -- I made one about Perry's book in this thread, and someone thankfully corrected me. Trying to dismiss baseball effort's to start policing altered balls by going back to Perry's HOF vote illustrates is almost comical, but willful ignorance is not a laughing matter.
   380. Lassus Posted: January 14, 2010 at 09:57 PM (#3437799)
I'm not siding entirely with Andy on this issue mostly because the debate gives me a headache and I can't bother to read the entire thing.

But that was a rather ugly, bitter, and metaphorically pathetic shot, Ray.
   381. bads85 Posted: January 14, 2010 at 09:57 PM (#3437800)
Further proof, I suppose, that baseball ever gave a rat's patooie about any of this fluff.


Is the fact that baseball culture is not static lost upon you?
   382. Steve Treder Posted: January 14, 2010 at 10:02 PM (#3437803)
So to call this nothing but an "imposed" shift in the baseball culture may well be accurate, but it kind of begs the point, since "baseball culture" has never really existed outside of the broad parameters of the prevailing societal mores. Why do you think that it's always been promoted as being "family entertainment," etc.?

Well, every sub-culture exists, not outside the broad parameters of the prevailing social mores, but alongside them. This is true for the baseball subculture, the Hollywood subculture, the WWF subculture, the symphony orchestra subculture, and so on. Certainly, all are influenced by the larger culture (and by each other), and to some extent all exert some manner of influence upon the larger culture (and upon each other).

What's very clear is that until the early 2000s, the baseball subculture was distinctly at odds with, for example, the Olympics subculture with regard to what posture one was supposed to display regarding PEDs: the baseball culture eschewed the moralizing indignance that was manifested by the Olympics subculture. Clearly, when the issue became important to MLB's public relations (with the implication being that it could threaten MLB's economic interest), then MLB performed the "turn on a dime" maneuver that you describe, though how sincerely the change in policy reflects a change in underlying beliefs is an open question.

But none of this dynamic amounts to a reasoned argument as to why MLB and/or its underlying baseball culture should adopt the moralizing indignance posture regarding PEDs in general, or steroids in particular, beyond the obvious economic incentives (which I don't mean for a second to diminish). "Because most everyone else does it" is the furthest thing from a convincing reason on its ethical merits.
   383. Ray (RDP) Posted: January 14, 2010 at 10:12 PM (#3437809)
But that was a rather ugly, bitter, and metaphorically pathetic shot, Ray.


Oh, please. Untwist your panties, Lassus. It was a joke, and I'm sure Andy took it as such. I know full well his record in that area and during that time period.
   384. Lassus Posted: January 14, 2010 at 10:16 PM (#3437814)
I blame Molina and Beltran.
   385. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 14, 2010 at 10:17 PM (#3437815)
Bads85,

Rather than copying your entire post I'll just make two brief comments.

First, as far as assessing the degree of seriousness with which baseball viewed various forms of cheating, the real key is in the enforcement, not the formal penalties. And with that in mind nobody who watched baseball during the Golden Age of modern spitballers and other ball doctoring can conclude anything but that enforcement, relative to the number of violations, was virtually nonexistent. And what do you make of the pitcher's being allowed to roll a challenged ball on the grass from the mound to the umpire? If baseball back then had been even 1% serious about eliminating spitballs, such a response to a challenge would have meant instant expulsion from the game.

Second, I grant your point about the relative morality of spitters as playing field tilters, but at the same time recognizing that this is an inherently subjective call, given the relative indifference showed to it not only by the baseball establishment, but by the writers and the fans. This is one of the many areas where the only proper response is an agreement to disagree.

And on the point you raised about the 1967 crackdown, I said immediately that I'd not remembered that, and I'm glad to know about it. But that doesn't refute the more central point above I'm making about the degree of enforcement, right down to those balls rolling from pitcher to umpire (often with a contributory swipe from the catcher) without any penalty. Those scenarios were more like what you see in professional wrestling, where the referee never seems to notice the finger in the eye. (Not that the finger in the eye is real, but that's another story.)

Further proof, I suppose, that baseball ever gave a rat's patooie about any of this fluff.

Is the fact that baseball culture is not static lost upon you?


I think that my comments on the upcoming Bonds vote(s) are but one of countless acknowledgments I've made to that point.
   386. bads85 Posted: January 14, 2010 at 10:19 PM (#3437817)
It was seldom presented as merely a matter of "unfair competitive advantage."


When the rule change was introduced, the rule wasn't about competitive balance, it was about safety and aesthetics. However, the Powers That Were recognized there would be competitive imbalance if pitchers broke the rule, so they imposed a Draconian penalty on paper, but that penalty couldn't be enforced.

>>>The precise moment that "baseball" passed from a benign neglect of the steroids problem to an active role in combating it may be argued:<<<

Whatever the case, the moment was way, way behind the curve.

>>>Or was it a combination of all those things, and a general growing sense, both within and without the game, that steroids really did tip the playing field?<<<<

I don't think that is the case. By time of the consensus shift, steroids had permeated the game. If anything, there was probably some evening of the playing field.

>>>But in any case, the "baseball culture" clearly turned on a dime,<<<<

It certainly didn't turn on a dime, but yes, there was a radical shift in attitude. I made a very smart ass comment in one of these threads about Bonds saving baseball by becoming a cartoon figure and bombing the baseball back to the Pastoral Age one HR at a time. While my tongue was in my cheek, I think there was a shift with Bonds -- suddenly the perception of the situation was so surreal that no one could look away anymore. This has nothing to do with Bonds' guilt/innocence or how much steroids affected his performance -- the perception was that baseball was now a freak show.
   387. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: January 14, 2010 at 10:21 PM (#3437818)
I'd also like to register my distaste for the MLK line aimed at Andy. Surely a "Your favorite movie must therefore be 'Titanic' would have been cruel and brutal enough.

<><><><><>

Yes, one load of spit can alter the movement of one pitch. And one series of injections combined with weight training can alter the course of hundreds of batted balls. Pure symmetry there

Well, if you want to play that card, Gaylord Perry beat the Cincinnati Reds on April 22, 1981. At the time of the strike, the Reds were half a game out in the NL West, and which time the standings were reset to zero. Think they'd like to have that game back? Where do the final postseason appearances of Johnny Bench and Tom Seaver and Dave Concepcion-- which never happened-- fit into your lack of "symmetry"?

Actually, Perry's performance against the Reds that year embodied the purest of symmetry: Two wins and two losses. And if his crafty old spitter possibly won him that April 22nd game, it's just as possible that a spitter that slipped up in the zone left the ballpark against that same Reds team just eleven days earlier, costing his team the game.


That unresponsive response is unworthy of you, Andy. Even 21st-century Barry Bonds went 0-4 every now and again.

(Incidentally, the Reds didn't beat Gaylord Perry in the earlier game. "It's possible that" the Reds lineup sprang to life that day only because a reliever throwing legitimate baseballs came in.)

Clearly, MLB's systemic tolerance of the earlier injustice (spitballs) set the stage for the larger one (the '81 Reds getting screwed). Ah, if only there were a more current cheating analogy...

But for now, let's let your spitball speculation stand: that just maybe, one errant goo-ball went thisaway instead of that in a particular pitch sequence in 1981 (but hopefully never against the two teams that "beat" the '81 Reds). And that in the end, Perry's explicit rulebreaking backfired enough to even out... somehow.

So, how about Perry's September 1964 win against the Phillies (1 game out, you might have heard about it)? Could that have screwed up anybody's cosmic symmetry? Or his 1-0 shutout of the 1964 Reds (also 1 game out)? Or his two wins against the 1971 Dodgers (1 game out)? Or his three wins against the 1972 Red Sox (0.5 games out), including two complete game wins in September, one being 10 innings?

As you say, "one load of spit can alter the movement of one pitch." And sometimes, it can even alter seasons, careers, and legacies.

Let's be fair, though. Despite the "Cheater X beat Unlucky Team Y during Year Z" examples above, it's never going to be possible to quantify retroactively or evenhandedly. Ah, if only there were a more current cheating analogy...

<><><><><>

.....the difference between the highest and the lowest vote totals of those players you just named is less than half the distance between the vote totals of the lowest of those players and McGwire. I hope you do realize that I wouldn't be citing this consensus if McGwire were hovering anywhere near Blyleven or Alomar territory. It doesn't hinge on a few percentage points one way or the other.

I deliberately chose pairs of players who were elected in close proximity to one another. Rod Carew got a higher percentage of the vote than Tris Speaker, but that tells us nothing about the BBWAA or its supposed numeral-based wisdom.

Second, since all the cited players got elected with 80%+, we're kinda stuck with a limited percentage range, don't you think? The point is that respecting the BBWAA on mathematical grounds is about as good an idea as trusting The 700 Club's seismological expertise.

<><><><><>

The precise moment that "baseball" passed from a benign neglect of the steroids problem to an active role in combating it may be argued: Was it the general dislike of Bonds, in part fueled by racism? Was it Canseco's loud mouth that forced the game to confront the issue? Was it those congressional hearings, and the embarrassing spectacle of McGwire's less-than-stellar performance?

Yes, no, yes, yes, no. (If we're rounding off, anyway.)
   388. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 14, 2010 at 10:23 PM (#3437819)
But that was a rather ugly, bitter, and metaphorically pathetic shot, Ray.


Oh, please. Untwist your panties, Lassus. It was a joke, and I'm sure Andy took it as such. I know full well his record in that area and during that time period.

Well, I did take it as a somewhat misdirected attempt at humor, but I still think with very good reason that it would've been far more appropriately aimed at the libertarians, who actually did (and in many cases still do) oppose the goal of most of those sit-ins of the period---I believe that the word they often use for public accommodations laws is "slavery."

That said, although I appreciated Lassus's comment, I certainly didn't take what Ray said as any sort of a personal dig.
   389. Ray (RDP) Posted: January 14, 2010 at 10:29 PM (#3437824)
Not to get too carried away analyzing a joke, but the whole point was that it didn't apply to Andy and that perhaps the fact that it didn't apply to him would get him to understand the problem I'm having with his wisdom of crowds approach to the (unimportant) steroids issue.
   390. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 14, 2010 at 10:32 PM (#3437828)
It certainly didn't turn on a dime, but yes, there was a radical shift in attitude. I made a very smart ass comment in one of these threads about Bonds saving baseball by becoming a cartoon figure and bombing the baseball back to the Pastoral Age one HR at a time. While my tongue was in my cheek, I think there was a shift with Bonds -- suddenly the perception of the situation was so surreal that no one could look away anymore. This has nothing to do with Bonds' guilt/innocence or how much steroids affected his performance -- the perception was that baseball was now a freak show.

The more I reflect upon this, the more I think that this may be the most perceptive observation of this entire thread. I think to that you might add the near-cartoon look of so many of these sluggers, which unfairly or not, fed the perception that there was something essentially wrong about what had been going on. The fact that this look was briefly glorified by SI and other media outlets muddles this observation somewhat, but it doesn't change its essential truth---and as you yourself noted above, baseball culture is hardly static.

But at this point, I'm going to have to take a break. It's way too nice a day outside for me to waste the last hour of daylight.
   391. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 14, 2010 at 10:36 PM (#3437833)
Ray,

There are times when the wisdom of crowds is relevant and there are times when it isn't. More than you, I think it often applies in baseball, and more often than me, you think it applies to the economy. I hope you can eventually realize that "rational" people can differ on when and how to apply this insight to particular situations.

And with that I really am outta here.
   392. Steve Treder Posted: January 14, 2010 at 10:42 PM (#3437836)
I think there was a shift with Bonds -- suddenly the perception of the situation was so surreal that no one could look away anymore. This has nothing to do with Bonds' guilt/innocence or how much steroids affected his performance -- the perception was that baseball was now a freak show.

To the extent that this is the case, I'd say it stands in fascinating juxtaposition to the media's and the public's perception of the NFL -- which is a far more spectacular freak show than baseball ever approached, and has been for a very long time. The notion that the NFL is anything close to "clean" WRT steroids is something that I don't believe anyone takes seriously, yet neither the media, the public, Congress, or anyone else appears to give the slightest sh!t.

I know, I know all the sociological explanations of why this is, that we view football players as sub-human gladiators, or even robots, while clinging to the fantasy that baseball players are real, normal people. I understand all that. Still, the glaring inconsistency -- one might even say hypocrisy -- of our handling of the same issue in these two side-by-side sports is, to say the least, noteworthy.
   393. bads85 Posted: January 14, 2010 at 11:00 PM (#3437853)
First, as far as assessing the degree of seriousness with which baseball viewed various forms of cheating, the real key is in the enforcement, not the formal penalties.


I am not sure I agree with that 100% because that disallows incompetence in terms of enforcing the rules (such as keeping your fat ass behind the plate instead of walking towards the player get the ball), but let's go with it for now.

>>>And with that in mind nobody who watched baseball during the Golden Age of modern spitballers and other ball doctoring can conclude anything but that enforcement, relative to the number of violations, was virtually nonexistent.<<<<

I have never argued otherwise (if I was unclear previously, I apologize), but that was then, this is now. Then there was a definite apathy words the rule, Now there is not.

>>>And what do you make of the pitcher's being allowed to roll a challenged ball on the grass from the mound to the umpire? If baseball back then had been even 1% serious about eliminating spitballs, such a response to a challenge would have meant instant expulsion from the game.<<<<<

1)It shows how impossible it was for the umps to enforce the rules.
2) It shows just where the umps were on the totem pole because the umps indeed try to enforce the rule -- for some, it became very personal.*
3) It does show the owners were apathetic about the issue, and a Wild West attitude from the teams in regards to doctoring the ball.

* part of the reason why the Lords finally did something in 1967 was because some sportswriters began doing the plight of the umpire thing.

It is also why you now see umpires walk to the mound. Umpires also have more teeth in enforcing the rule now also -- now the foreign substance just has to be found, not actually witnessed being placed on the ball.

>>>but at the same time recognizing that this is an inherently subjective call, given the relative indifference showed to it not only by the baseball establishment, but by the writers and the fans.<<<<

Look, I am not condemning the players who "cheated" by altering the ball in times when it was pretty much accepted (nor am I condoning it -- it was what it was). I am saying we can't judge now by standards from back then. I am not making any judgments on the HOF. I also think there is a moral issue with steroids due to health reasons that doesn't apply to doctored balls. However, that moral issue doesn't belong in a discussion about a level playing field.

>>>But that doesn't refute the more central point above I'm making about the degree of enforcement,<<<

Again, I wasn't saying that things instantly changed in 1967. However, baseball did indeed make a concerted and very public effort to eliminate the cheating. Yes, often it appeared to be more comic relief than an effective policing act and change certainly was slow, but that is where the shift started. In 1987, Ueberroth upped the ante. In 2010, the the degree of enforcement is much different than 1967 (although I suspect there was some apathy early in Selig's tenure).

>>>I think that my comments on the upcoming Bonds vote(s) are but one of countless acknowledgments I've made to that point.<<<<

You have, and I apologize for the crack.
   394. Ray (RDP) Posted: January 14, 2010 at 11:18 PM (#3437872)
Ray,

There are times when the wisdom of crowds is relevant and there are times when it isn't. More than you, I think it often applies in baseball, and more often than me, you think it applies to the economy.


Well, if you're making this analogy, I can point to record attendance levels and such to show that the "crowd" didn't actually care about this issue all along.
   395. bads85 Posted: January 14, 2010 at 11:31 PM (#3437890)
I'd say it stands in fascinating juxtaposition to the media's and the public's perception of the NFL


I've always wondered if it were MLB that went to Congress, not the other way around. No, the Lords weren't nobly seeking help to clean up an out of control problem, but instead, they were willing to take a few PR hits to help slow escalating salaries, plus gain a bargaining chip for the next Collective Bargaining sessions.
   396. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: January 14, 2010 at 11:32 PM (#3437893)
What's very clear is that until the early 2000s, the baseball subculture was distinctly at odds with, for example, the Olympics subculture with regard to what posture one was supposed to display regarding PEDs: the baseball culture eschewed the moralizing indignance that was manifested by the Olympics subculture. Clearly, when the issue became important to MLB's public relations (with the implication being that it could threaten MLB's economic interest), then MLB performed the "turn on a dime" maneuver that you describe, though how sincerely the change in policy reflects a change in underlying beliefs is an open question.

The difference between the Olympics and baseball isn't the "culture," it's the way they're governed. Calling the Olympics' "culture" one of "moralizing indignance" because an independent body dedicated solely to the sports' integrity decided to, long ago, ban steroids strikes me as quite a stretch.

But none of this dynamic amounts to a reasoned argument as to why MLB and/or its underlying baseball culture should adopt the moralizing indignance posture regarding PEDs in general, or steroids in particular, beyond the obvious economic incentives (which I don't mean for a second to diminish). "Because most everyone else does it" is the furthest thing from a convincing reason on its ethical merits.

Because cold, hard facts have made it clear that you can't have a 100 meter dash, or 100 meter butterfly, or hammer throw whose results have integrity if half the field is juiced and half the field isn't, the Olympics have wisely decided not to allow juicers in their events. By the same measure, if baseball results lose integrity if half the players are juiced and half aren't, baseball could bar steroids for reasons having nothing to do with "moralizing indigence." It's really that simple, and it continues to surprise that such an obvious fact continues to get deconstructed and politicized beyond all reason.
   397. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: January 14, 2010 at 11:44 PM (#3437905)
The more I reflect upon this, the more I think that this may be the most perceptive observation of this entire thread. I think to that you might add the near-cartoon look of so many of these sluggers, which unfairly or not, fed the perception that there was something essentially wrong about what had been going on. The fact that this look was briefly glorified by SI and other media outlets muddles this observation somewhat, but it doesn't change its essential truth---and as you yourself noted above, baseball culture is hardly static.

Of course. Bonds's physical appearance was tangible manifestation of steroids sapping part of the humanity from the game. That's the essential "wrong" with steroids, notwithstanding other guises in which that wrong might be dressed.
   398. Steve Treder Posted: January 14, 2010 at 11:45 PM (#3437907)
Calling the Olympics' "culture" one of "moralizing indignance" because an independent body dedicated solely to the sports' integrity decided to, long ago, ban steroids strikes me as quite a stretch.

He proclaimed, with a flourish of moralizing indignance. ;-)
   399. Steve Treder Posted: January 14, 2010 at 11:48 PM (#3437910)
Bonds's physical appearance was tangible manifestation of steroids sapping part of the humanity from the game. That's the essential "wrong" with steroids

No moralizing indignance here, though.
   400. Ray (RDP) Posted: January 14, 2010 at 11:57 PM (#3437918)
Of course. Bonds's physical appearance was tangible manifestation of steroids sapping part of the humanity from the game. That's the essential "wrong" with steroids, notwithstanding other guises in which that wrong might be dressed.


So if steroids resulted in no physical change to the body, you would be ok with baseball players taking them?
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