The Governor’s Wife

In 1692, near Salem, Massachusetts, young girls began to have fits that they claimed were caused by witches. They accused three local women of witchcraft, and eventually the accusations spread to several others both in the town and in the surrounding colony. In their trials, spectral evidence (a “victim’s” accusation that they had seen an apparition purporting to be the devil in the shape of a local community member cursing them) was initially allowed as evidence. After ridding the communities of the first round of “witches” and “warlocks” (generally the poor, undesirable, and vulnerable), the accusers turned their attention on more prominent members of the colony, including the governor’s own wife. As you would expect, that’s about when the trials and accusations stopped. Maybe we’ve finally reached that point in the game of rampant PED speculation.

Last night, Marcus Hayes of The Philadelphia Daily News made some pretty incredible accusations about Ken Griffey Jr., making it clear he believed that Griffey was on some kind of performance enhancing drug without any evidence. All of this has happened before with other Hall of Fame caliber players. But this isn’t just poor old Jeff Bagwell or Mike Piazza that Hayes is accusing. This is baseball royalty. Ken Griffey had been universally regarded as clean, as far as I know, and was held up both as an example and as someone whose injuries tragically prevented them from reaching the incredible heights we thought they would.

Here are Hayes’s tweets, in all their resplendent glory:

 

 

 

 

 

Instead of being angry (which, don’t worry, I very much am) over this kind of baseless attack at someone’s integrity, and resorting to unpleasant namecalling (which I’m not even the slightest bit above), I think we should all take a moment to point out that Marcus Hayes is not just unfair in accusing Griffey without even the slightest hint of evidence, he is also incredibly, blatantly, unforgivably wrong about Ken Griffey’s career. Like so wrong that it’s hard to believe that Hayes was even paying attention to baseball much past 2002 or so.

First of all, let’s start with Hayes’s assertion that Griffey had diminished power and injuries after the steroid era ended. While it’s hard to know when, exactly, Hayes pinpoints that era ending, let’s assume that he means 2002, before baseball began testing for it in 2003.

But Griffey’s power had been declining long before 2003. Griffey peaked from 1996-1998, hitting homers in 7.8 percent of his plate appearances in those three years. Then, starting in 1999, here’s what happened:

Year

Age

PAs

HR

HR%

HR/FB

SLG

1999

29

706

48

6.8

18.3

.576

2000

30

631

40

6.3

16.8

.556

2001

31

417

22

5.3

13.6

.533

2002

32

232

8

3.5

8.2

.426

 

As you can see, Griffey’s power declines with his health until 2002, when he dislocated his patella tendon (ow), and essentially had a lost season. In 2003, when he was healthy and the Reds moved into the homer-happy Great American Ballpark, he rebounded significantly in the testing era before beginning the slow decline that you would expect from a player in his mid-30s:

2003

33

201

13

6.5

19.1

.566

2004

34

348

20

5.8

14.8

.513

2005

35

555

35

6.3

15

.576

2006

36

472

27

5.7

15.4

.486

2007

37

623

30

4.8

12.7

.496

 

This also illustrates another important point. Griffey did not actually “disappear” after 34, as Hayes suggests. Quite the opposite, in fact. After 34, Griffey had a resurgence thanks to improved health, a smaller ballpark, and the fact that he was still Ken Griffey Jr. and was really good at baseball. In fact, it wasn’t until he was 38 years old that Griffey’s hitting became a liability.

We should also talk about his significant injury history, since Hayes seems to think that’s some kind of smoking gun. Griffey missed time for his first soft-tissue injury in 2001, when he strained his hamstring and missed 40 games. He would re-injure the hamstring in 2002, missing another 25 games. In 2004, he hurt it twice, missing most of the second half of the season, and tearing the muscle so badly that it came off of the bone and had to be surgically reattached with screws (ow). Finally, he missed 26 games in 2006 with another hamstring problem. All of these injuries were to his right hamstring, which makes a great deal of sense, given that hamstring injuries recur at extremely high rates, such that researchers are still aware that “our current understanding of HSI [hamstring strain injuries] and re-injury risk is still incomplete.” Indeed, Griffey didn’t have problems with soft tissue injuries, he had problems with A soft tissue injury that kept reoccurring. His other health issues, including knee, shoulder, and toe dislocations, and a foot surgery, could hardly be blamed on the PEDs Hayes accuses Griffey of taking.

So, look, I have no idea whether Ken Griffey Jr. used performance enhancing drugs or not. I have absolutely no evidence one way or the other. Griffey got hurt in 2001 and kept getting hurt, and then got mostly better and declined like you’d expect a player in their 30s to decline. To my knowledge, this is the first time someone has connected Griffey and PEDs publicly. And they’re doing it by making a wild, unfounded accusation, based on nothing but pure speculation and citing historical facts that are categorically wrong. So believe Marcus Hayes if you want. Me? I’m going to hope someone’s finally gone and accused the governor’s wife and we can be done with this mess.

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