Let me start by saying I’m not close-minded to the importance of advanced metrics in evaluating talent. I’m neither old school or new school — I just hate math. Unfortunately, many of the number crunchers seem driven by a conviction that they are more evolved than those who have better things to do with their time.
Smugness is one thing. Hypocrisy is another. For all their obsessing over stats, most have little interest in facts. Like the indisputable fact that greenies and steroids are not interchangeable.
Fortunately, not all stat geeks are wed to this false narrative used by PED enablers eager to dismiss the cloud hanging over the heads of Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, et al. Larry Behrendt of the Yankee Analysts blog tried to keep them honest in a 2011 post that’s worth your time.
Drugs like amphetamines do not behave in ways that make for convenient arguments about who should (and should not) be Hall of Fame inductees.
For the moment, let’s toss the categories out the window, and look at the facts instead. With all of the facts in hand, it becomes impossible to compare amphetamine use to the use of anabolic steroids. These two drugs are not remotely similar. No good can be accomplished by blurring the important distinctions between these two drugs.
Anabolic steroids are drugs that mimic the effects of the male hormone testosterone. They increase protein synthesis within cells, which helps build larger muscles. It’s well accepted that use of anabolic steroids, in combination with adequate diet and high intensity exercise, can result in gains in muscle strength. Whether this increased strength enhances performance in a sport like baseball is an open question – most people assume that it does, but we have no scientific proof. …
While anabolic steroids enhance performance by helping an athlete build muscle, amphetamines (sometimes called “greenies” in baseball circles) affect performance by stimulating the athlete’s central nervous system. Amphetamines trigger increases in the user’s blood pressure, heart rate, cardiac output and breathing rate. As a result, athletes that take amphetamines experience increased alertness and wakefulness, and decreased sensation of muscle fatigue. Studies show that amphetamines can increase reaction time and cognitive function, and improve an athlete’s endurance (at least to the extent that the athlete is willing to work longer and harder without reporting exhaustion).
These are not opinions. But apparently Craig Calcaterra, who mocks the mere suggestion that Jack Morris is Cooperstown-worthy (for the record, he wouldn’t get my vote), knows something science does not. It’s “lunacy” to keep Bonds and Clemens out of the Hall, he writes.
Players who have either admitted to or have been credibly accused of taking (greenies) include Pete Rose, Mike Schmidt, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. And this leaves out all of the drug and/or alcohol users who took things which hindered their performance, which also impacted the competitive nature of the game, albeit adversely to their team’s interests.
Tortured logic aside, none of the legends mentioned by Calcaterra topped his season-best home run record by 24 after his 35th birthday, as Bonds did in 2001. Greenies never caused anyone’s head to literally swell, either.
And they never helped a 34-year-old power pitcher revive his career at age 34 a la Roger Clemens, who rebounded from two mediocre years to strike out 292, a career-best, in 264 innings.
Not that it matters to humorless prigs like Keith Law, who recently tweeted:
Easy calls for me: Raines, Bonds, Maddux, Bagwell, Clemens, Thomas, Piazza, Biggio, Schill, Mussina. Leaves off 5+ worthy names.
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) November 26, 2013
Worthy names like Tom Glavine, who remained effective through his 40th birthday without cheating. But to Law and his acolytes, Clemens is more deserving due to a higher strikeout rate. How he achieved it is apparently irrelevant.