>By The Common Man
As Craig reminds us this morning, in 2009, Jerod Morris wrote an article on fantasy baseball that pondered a fast start by Raul Ibanez, and went through a few of the possible causes for that start. After running through various explanations, Morris wrote,
“It’s time for me to begrudgingly acknowledge the elephant in the room: any aging hitter who puts up numbers this much better than his career averages is going to immediately generate suspicion that the numbers are not natural, that perhaps he is under the influence of some sort of performance enhancer. And since I was not able to draw any absolute parallels between his prodigously improved HR rate and his new ballpark’s hitter-friendliness, it would be foolish to dismiss the possibility that “other” performance enhancers could be part of the equation.
Sorry Raul Ibanez and Major League Baseball, that’s just the era that we are in — testing or no testing.”
Morris was excoriated by the mainstream press. Somehow, his article got picked up by the Philadelphia Inquirer, who called it a “cheap shot,” and took it to Raul Ibanez. Ibanez vehemently denied using PEDs. Geoff Baker (a writer TCM has come to respect though he still believes Baker to be ridiculously pompous and out to lunch in this particular article), wrote about the differences between “basement bloggers” and “real journalists.” And various ESPN talents weighed in on the controversy.
Fast forward to 2011, and John Harper of the New York Daily News, a “real journalist” by Baker’s (and any others’) definition, speculates on the causes for Jose Bautista’s increase in offense and writes,
“Let’s hope he’s clean.
Sorry, but even in this drug-testing era, it’s impossible not to be suspicious when someone suddenly starts hitting the ball to the moon in his late 20s. Unfortunately, steroids forever hardened us to the romance of a late-bloomer like Bautista, especially when baseball still has no test for human growth hormone.”
Now, there’s absolutely no evidence that using HGH helps a baseball player hit a baseball further, but that’s not important to Harper, who’s basically doing the sports writer equivalent of Glenn Beck standing in front of a chalkboard and yelling, “Now, I’m not saying that Barak Hussein Obama and George Soros are working with Moammar Gadhafi to allow him annex Texas’ oilfields in order to promote a New World Order, powered by thought-control helmets that run on solar and wind power (in which Soros has invested kajillions). I’m just asking, are they?”
After explaining the “leg kick theory” that has been extensively documented as being a major part of the reason Bautista is able to generate more power, Harper quotes Buck Martinez about the spectacle surrounding Bautista’s batting practice, and uses that to jump into more speculation:
“’Guys on other teams are coming out early to watch him take BP,” Martinez said. “It’s kind of like when you saw that with Bonds, McGwire, (Jose) Canseco. I hear guys say, “Jeez, he hits the ball so hard.”’
It’s hard not to cringe when you hear that, simply because those names are forever associated with steroids. Of course, the name that personified the phoniness of the numbers during that era was Brady Anderson.
At age 32, presumably with the help of performance-enhancers, the Orioles outfielder hit 50 home runs in 1996, or 26 more than in any other year in his career.
And it wasn’t long before McGwire was hitting 70, Bonds was hitting 73, and we all became numb to the longball.
Now the game needs someone to bring it back, maybe even make a run at 60 again. Bautista is a great story. Let’s just hope he’s legit.”
As you can imagine, The Common Man has a problem with the hypocrisy of journalists who continue to speculate like this (o say nothing of his claim that Anderson “presumably” used PEDs in an era of increased homerun output), as it’s tantamount to slander. Indeed, Jose Bautista has categorically denied using steroids in the past. Yet Harper continues to speculate.
You would think that Bautista’s word should be enough for Harper. After all, Harper believed Mark Teixeira when Tex claimed he had never used because, “In the clubhouse, he oozes such sincerity as to sound the cynic’s alarm. Before he’d unpacked his bag Monday Teixeira made a point of going around to shake the hand of every player in the room at the time and then did the same with each of about 15 reporters who converged on him, promising to memorize all the names within a few days.” (It would be a shame if Teixeira paid Harper to write that.)
Likewise, Harper took former sluggers Jeromy Burnitz and Mo Vaughn at their words back in 2002 because they “don’t fit the description” of muscley homerun hitters, “Not that [Burnitz’s] flabby, but he might be the least muscular-looking home-run hitter in the game today.” Vaughn similarly escaped suspicion because his “lumpy body type has always absolved him of speculation regarding steroid use.” (Is that because Harper is similarly rotund and out of shape? It’s worth investigating.)
And, for Harper, it’s not like all steroid users are bad guys either. He said in 1996 that it would “be a shame if [Lenny] Dykstra doesn’t play again” despite acknowledging that Dykstra was one of the most unrepentant juicers of the early 1990s,
“He has always been injury-prone, and then there is the matter of steroids. Dykstra has made jokes about his remarkable ability to show up every other spring training or so looking like the Incredible Hulk, and it has never become an issue in part because baseball doesn’t even have a policy regarding steroids.”
Where was Harper’s outrage then? Where was his speculation and scorn for a player who was still popular in New York, despite playing for the hated Phillies? (Was Lenny giving Harper stock tips? Maybe. The Common Man is only asking the question.)
So, in John Harper’s world, “sincere” guys like Mark Teixeira and flabby guys like Jeromy Burnitz (or not, actually, he doesn’t look terribly out of shape in the picture to the right) are exempt from suspicion, while guys like Bautista, who have similarly never failed a drug test, who have similarly denied using, and who have an extensively documented and discussed ascension are under suspicion because baseball doesn’t have a test for something that YOU CAN’T ACTUALLY TEST FOR, and that does not help you hit homeruns anyway. Or at least, Bautista should be really white, scrappy, and play for New York teams, which would earn him a free pass from John Harper.