Because my personal opinions on the subject seem to be so different than the vast majority of people who talk about baseball in some capacity, whenever we have the latest tri to quad-annual steroid hysteria day, I try to find something else to use as white noise while I'm running errands in the car or washing the dishes or trying to relax in front of the four letter network. Luckily, the subject I'm supposed to be devoted to daily, the matter behind the world's most boring dissertation, the poetry of the late eighteenth century, is always there. That's probably the best thing about the eighteenth century actually: it already happened.
So now that we've all agreed that Arod is a bad bad bad man who has probably killed three high school baseball players already and that before Congress does anything else he needs to testify and that there's nothing at all to be said for the fact that once again, when it comes to the hugely important issue of PEDs that things like promises of confidetiality or sealed testimony before a grand jury or just the plain old issue of irrelevance due to the passage of time simply don't matter. But now that we've all agreed on those clear points, will someone, anyone, with a voice larger than mine, point out the obvious: that this notion that somehow a three-year period is now hugely tainted is one completely lacking in evidence.
As shown endlessly on ESPN yesterday, Rodriguez averaged 52 homers during the period in question, and 39.2 over the rest of his career. So lets be generous, in the noble journalistic spirit of the day, and round up to thirteen home runs. Alex Rodriguez got thirteen extra home runs a year over that period. While, this is steroids hysteria after all, there will certainly be those that now claim that Rodriguez is possibly a lifetime juicer and is probably taking steroids now, this specific argument, namely that this three-year period is now removed from the record for future consideration, needs to be addressed, as it was directly discussed by both Gammons and Buster Olney, men who are now apparently agenda-setters.
The major problems with the 2001-3 are wholly tainted argument are as follows:
- Texas is one of the friendliest hitters parks in the game. It is markedly easier to hit a home run in Arlington than in all but perhaps one or two ballparks in baseball. Sometimes, sports reporters remember that this also destroys our national innocence, and they bitch about that too. Realistically, something like 4-7 of those homers per season need to be accounted for in this way. And yes, these are the only three seasons in which he played in Texas.
- What if those were just his best seasons anyway? Is a player not allowed to have a peak? This isn't a case of an aging player reaching new heights at a shockingly late date. This was the best player in baseball, and one of the best ever, having a strong run between the ages of 25-27, a thoroughly reasonable time to be doing so.
- Given that pitchers were also benefiting from PEDs during this time, doesn't that suggest that, in terms of the "fairness of competition" argument, at least a few of those innocence destroying homers wash out? Arod isn't competing against David Ortiz, he's competing against Mike Timlin, Tim Wakefield, whomever. And by the way, the majority of busted players have been pitchers.
So how many additional homers are we really talking about? Eight? Seven? Five? You're right, this is clearly really important. Important enough to possibly justify how difficult it was to see Kansas-Missouri highlights last night, and little else.
For some reason, steroids in baseball are treated as if baseball were track & field, where extremely marginal, miniscule improvements are the entire difference between being a medalist and a college runner. In the 100 meter dash, that 0.2 of a second matters. Baseball has never been like that. Baseball is defined not by numbers, as the cliche goes, but by the monotony of 162 games, by the sheer mountain of accumulated performance it takes to succeed. The accumulated body of evidence, in this case, roundly suggests that Alex Rodriguez likely gained very little from performance enhancing drugs. So yes, as he says, he was stupid to be doing them at all.
So are we.