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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Joe Posnanski Blog: Iron Fisk

Is there a soxtologist in the house?! Posnanski’s got a gushing Fiskula and it ain’t pretty!

For instance, there was a player, a really good player, who had never hit more than 26 home runs in a season. He was a good hitter but he was just not a 30-home run guy. And he was also a catcher, which meant that it was likely his body had taken a terrible beating and had worn down.

But this is the point I want to make: When you talk about the three greatest power hitting catchers of all time — Mike Piazza, Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra, right? Well, there’s Josh Gibson, of course, but we don’t have his numbers. When the three power catchers (Piazza, Bench and Berra) were 37 years old, how many home runs do you think they averaged? The three greatest power-hitting catchers of all time averaged 11 home runs at age 37. How many do you think our guy hit? He hit 37!

Of course, our guy is Carlton Fisk. And I am not suggesting that he did anything illegal — I am in fact entirely convinced that he did not do anything illegal and never would. But he had never hit more than 26 homers in his career. And he was a 37-year-old catcher — no 37-year old catcher had ever even hit 20 homers before. And at 37, he hit 37 home runs because, well, baseball isn’t always easy to reduce to a few indignant words.

See, there’s a lot that goes into baseball. Stuff usually isn’t black or white, up or down, left or right. It’s complicated. Carlton Fisk, of all people, should know that. If it makes people feel better to shout “fraud” in a crowded theater, hey, it’s a free country. But it seems to me there’s already enough noise out there.

Repoz Posted: January 20, 2010 at 05:27 AM | 35 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, history, sabermetrics, steroids

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Frisco Cali Posted: January 20, 2010 at 05:50 AM (#3441839)
LOL. Fisk is an insufferable self-righteous prick.
   2. FP Santangelo was underappreciated Posted: January 20, 2010 at 05:59 AM (#3441848)
You can always count on Joe to help you see an issue from a different angle.
   3. Ray (CTL) Posted: January 20, 2010 at 06:03 AM (#3441850)
You can always count on Joe to help you see an issue from a different angle.


He's a good writer, but it's not like this wasn't shooting fish in a barrel.
   4. McCoy Posted: January 20, 2010 at 06:05 AM (#3441851)
Bill James points out that nobody has been caught using a corked bat since the century began, and he thinks there’s a reason for this

Sammy Sosa is really glad Bill James is so observant.
   5. Shock is here live. Shock is not a cat. Posted: January 20, 2010 at 06:34 AM (#3441863)
By "century" he means 2005-2104.
   6. Dale Sams Posted: January 20, 2010 at 06:37 AM (#3441867)
Bill James points out that nobody has been caught using a corked bat since the century began, and he thinks there’s a reason for this


Mythbusters is mandatory MLB viewing now?
   7. McCoy Posted: January 20, 2010 at 06:43 AM (#3441871)
I think that episode happened to be the worst mythbusters episode I have ever seen. Totally botched the myths.
   8. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: January 20, 2010 at 06:54 AM (#3441874)
Right if I remember correctly, they didn't address the issue of reduced weight contributing to bat speed.

Adair's criticism was better stating that any benefits from corking (all involve a lighter bat with the same hitting circumference) could be achieved by legal means. Now I suppose you could use those means AND cork, but since many very good hitters don't use them to begin with it's hard to think that the benefits of corking amount to much anyway.
   9. Shock is here live. Shock is not a cat. Posted: January 20, 2010 at 06:55 AM (#3441875)
Agreed. Really disapointing. They literally ducked Up every one and you don t. Even need to be a hard ode baseball fan to notice
   10. Srul Itza At Home Posted: January 20, 2010 at 07:26 AM (#3441882)
I am in fact entirely convinced that he did not do anything illegal and never would.


I'm not. Who was his manager when Fisk hit 37 home runs and otherwise had his late career renaissance?

Tony LaRussa. Manager of Canseco, McGwire and Giambi.

I'm not saying. I'm just saying.
   11. Tripon Posted: January 20, 2010 at 07:30 AM (#3441884)
Joe Po missed an obvious Kingpin reference. How dare he.
   12. GEB4000 Posted: January 20, 2010 at 08:35 AM (#3441897)
Other than hitting homeruns, Fisk didn't contribute much offensively. He was Dave Kingman for a year.
   13. bumpis hound Posted: January 20, 2010 at 08:46 AM (#3441901)
I'm just glad someone called out Fisk on his BS, as most of the MSM would probably just run with it.
   14. Powderhorn™, arrogant local sailing champion Posted: January 20, 2010 at 08:54 AM (#3441904)
Joe Po missed an obvious Kingpin reference. How dare he."


I spent 10 minutes trying to figure out what the reference might be. (Fisk wishes he was a Big Earner?) But for now I'm tired and my mind has Munsoned.
   15. Tripon Posted: January 20, 2010 at 09:21 AM (#3441908)
The Kingpin's real name is Wilson Fisk.
   16. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: January 20, 2010 at 10:02 AM (#3441912)
They literally ducked Up every one and you don t. Even need to be a hard ode baseball fan to notice


I suspect the above was typed on some sort of cell phone device.
   17. Greg Goosen at 30 Posted: January 20, 2010 at 11:08 AM (#3441914)
One thing to keep in mind about Carlton Fisk is that he was injured for much of his early career (which ironically probably enabled him to play until age 45. 1985, the year he hit 37 HR, was his second highest game total with 153. It would be hard for guy who hit about 25 home runs in a healthy season to hit 37 in years when he played 52, 79, 91, 96 (strike year) or 102 games. Plus Fisk's 1985 year is telling. He has a 977 OPS in April (4 HR) and and 909 May (8 HR). But then he drops to 661, 919, 732 and 756. Perhaps he got into bad habits trying to hit home runs. Dave Winfield once blamed a poor second half in San Diego because of a home run hitting contest the Padres held.


Don't know if Frisco Cali ever met Fisk but one of my co-workers (Big Yankee Fan, detests Red Sox every year except 1986 and detests them for choking) got to talk to Fisk a few years ago. He liked him: polite, answered questions honestly about why he left Boston for Chicago (had a chance to make some money, didn't have much after 8 years with family expenses).
   18. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: January 20, 2010 at 12:33 PM (#3441921)
If it makes people feel better to shout “fraud” in a crowded theater, hey, it’s a free country.


Besides, Oliver Wendell Holmes never ruled against using that word in a crowded theater anyway.
   19. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: January 20, 2010 at 12:34 PM (#3441923)
As one of the commenters at Pos's site pointed out, the Fisk story has been surreptitiously edited to remove Fisk's fabricated statistical claims.
   20. tjm1 Posted: January 20, 2010 at 12:53 PM (#3441929)
Don't know if Frisco Cali ever met Fisk but one of my co-workers (Big Yankee Fan, detests Red Sox every year except 1986 and detests them for choking) got to talk to Fisk a few years ago. He liked him: polite, answered questions honestly about why he left Boston for Chicago (had a chance to make some money, didn't have much after 8 years with family expenses).


I've never met him, but he was my favorite player when I was 5 or 6. I wrote him a letter. Pretty soon after that, I got an autographed photo back, and about a week or two later, I got another one which was personally addressed to me. I'm guessing that the team secretary sent the first one from a pre-signed pile, and he wrote out the second one himself when he got back from a road trip.
   21. rdfc Posted: January 20, 2010 at 03:19 PM (#3442058)
I don't know why JP is convinced Fisk never did anything illegal. I'm not sure there's an adult in this country who has never done anything illegal. And all Fisk had to do is drink from the players coffee pot to take an illegal drug. Unless Fisk doesn't drink coffee, this makes no sense to me.
   22. McCoy Posted: January 20, 2010 at 03:51 PM (#3442093)
One thing to keep in mind about Carlton Fisk is that he was injured for much of his early career (which ironically probably enabled him to play until age 45. 1985, the year he hit 37 HR, was his second highest game total with 153. It would be hard for guy who hit about 25 home runs in a healthy season to hit 37 in years when he played 52, 79, 91, 96 (strike year) or 102 games. Plus Fisk's 1985 year is telling. He has a 977 OPS in April (4 HR) and and 909 May (8 HR). But then he drops to 661, 919, 732 and 756. Perhaps he got into bad habits trying to hit home runs. Dave Winfield once blamed a poor second half in San Diego because of a home run hitting contest the Padres held.

1985 was the first year of hardcore weight training for Fisk.
   23. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: January 20, 2010 at 05:26 PM (#3442210)
McGwire to Fisk: Hey, man, the days of slavery are over.
   24. Honkie Kong Posted: January 20, 2010 at 06:00 PM (#3442252)
I don't know what McGwire's PR firm did, but the best advice they gave him was to give Poz a call, or just even have the luck of Poz weighing down on his side. Best thing that could happen to MM from a PR standpoint.
   25. dlf Posted: January 20, 2010 at 06:07 PM (#3442261)
McGwire to Fisk: Hey, man, the days of slavery are over.


I loved the Sanders incident. A player yelling at an oppenent for not running out a pop-up. Pudge was a 'back in my days' player before he even retired.
   26. FP Santangelo was underappreciated Posted: January 20, 2010 at 08:30 PM (#3442393)
I don't know what McGwire's PR firm did, but the best advice they gave him was to give Poz a call, or just even have the luck of Poz weighing down on his side. Best thing that could happen to MM from a PR standpoint.

Hmm, I just noticed this article is cross-posted on si.com. I wonder if the average baseball fan has heard of Poz though. I certainly don't think his words have the weight of Verducci's or Heyman's.
   27. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: January 20, 2010 at 09:25 PM (#3442448)
Hmm, I just noticed this article is cross-posted on si.com.


Pos writes for SI. He started a few months ago.
   28. Shock is here live. Shock is not a cat. Posted: January 20, 2010 at 09:37 PM (#3442456)

I'm not saying. I'm just saying.


Silly Srul. Everybody knows that PED's didn't exist until 1996.

I suspect the above was typed on some sort of cell phone device.


Guilty.
   29. Dan Szymborski Posted: January 20, 2010 at 09:42 PM (#3442462)
One thing to keep in mind about Carlton Fisk is that he was injured for much of his early career (which ironically probably enabled him to play until age 45.

Or, perhaps, Fisk discovered something with a "restorative" effect that "aids recovery" which allowed him to maintain health. Perhaps these substances could have been obtained by, I don't know, by a teammate Cy Young winner who had access to drugs.
   30. GEB4000 Posted: January 20, 2010 at 10:03 PM (#3442473)
LeMarr Hoyt got Fisk on the juice?
   31. Dan Szymborski Posted: January 20, 2010 at 10:11 PM (#3442485)
LeMarr Hoyt got Fisk on the juice?

I'm just thinking out loud. You would think, however, if that one wanted to use steroids, and nobody in baseball had heard of this 30-year-old drug, a drug user might know where to obtain such things.
   32. WillYoung Posted: January 20, 2010 at 10:19 PM (#3442497)
One thing always cracked me up about Carlton Fisk when I was younger. I wasn't really aware of him until he was in his 40s. Despite clearly being in his 40s, I was always amused that his backup, Ron Karkovice, always looked like he was about 30 years older than Fisk.
   33. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: January 20, 2010 at 10:23 PM (#3442506)
Fisk discovered something with a "restorative" effect that "aids recovery" which allowed him to maintain health. Perhaps these substances could have been obtained by, I don't know, by a teammate Cy Young winner who had access to drugs


Jack McDowell introduced Carlton Fisk to steroids. There. I said it.
   34. My guest will be Jermaine Allensworth Posted: January 20, 2010 at 10:24 PM (#3442507)
I don't know what McGwire's PR firm did, but the best advice they gave him was to give Poz a call, or just even have the luck of Poz weighing down on his side. Best thing that could happen to MM from a PR standpoint.

I dunno, I think most people who seek Poz's opinion already support McGwire, or are at least indifferent to his transgressions.
   35. Ray (CTL) Posted: January 20, 2010 at 10:48 PM (#3442524)
Silly Srul. Everybody knows that PED's didn't exist until 1996.


No, no, no. We know they existed in 1993/1994 now. Because that's when McGwire admitted to using them.

And that's when Jose Canseco began supplying Rafael Palmeiro.

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