06 January 2011

Day After Presumptions

Jeff Bagwell, a decent minor leaguer with a future in bodybuilding, who eventually hit 449 MLB homers, didnt enter the Hall of Fame on his first try.

Pinch yourselves, sanctimonious moralists! Just to prove it's not all some wonderous dream. Is that wicked bastion of McCarthyism, the Hall of Fame, still standing? Check. Phew.

Is Bagwell still a serious candidate, after garnering 40% of possible votes? He sure is, with more than milligrams to spare.

Pardon the sarcasm, but The Day After exposes the Legal Standards of Proof zealots and Presumption of Innocence crowd as overwrought and misguided. Joe Posnanski never looks foolish, but let's revisit his most quoted and lauded tidbit from last week:

I'd rather a hundred steroid users were mistakenly voted into the Hall of Fame over keeping one non-user out.
I guess the key word here is "keeping". It can imply an ongoing process, finality, or both. Yesterday's tally was the start of an ongoing process. Did it rise to the level of finality? No. It didnt.

Let's ask Mr Posnanski's question again, today. We'll suspend any disbelief for a moment and assume Bagwell was one of these non-users none of us want to "keep out" of the Hall. Would it have been better for the institution, or Mr Posnanski's America, to have enshrined "a hundred PED users" than to endure the moral outrage of yesterday's actual result?

Is forty percent for a "clean" Jeff Bagwell so odious and disgusting? So institution-rattling and beneath societal norms of fairness? Sorry, Joe, but it's empty talk, at least insofar as it applies to yesterday's results, given you condemned those who werent voting for Bags this year, based on what you felt were vague PED suspicions.

Here's a vague suspicion, Mr Posnanski. Your characterization that this amounts to a "rather comprehensive list" of users. Relative to what we knew five or ten years ago, I'd agree it's rather comprehensive, but that's not the relevant yardstick. That should be the scope and nature of, you know, actual PED use, and by that yardstick, I fear your list falls well short of 'comprehensive'.

The truth is voters are collectively buying time to better understand who did what when. Voters, at least the good ones, keep an open mind, and change it from time to time, based on developing circumstances. They need time to wade through the complexity and moral nuance, and cull myths from realities within a secretive society of major league baseball. Maybe you're comfortable with a presumption of innocence toward members of this entrenched society of lying and obfuscation on this very issue. Others arent so comfortable.

***   ****

OK, let's unsuspend disbelief. In two minor league seasons, Jeff Bagwell hit six home runs. In the majors, he hit 449, good for 34th most in history, between Yaz and Dave Kingman. If you remove PED implicated players (ie Manny, Sheff, Arod, Canseco, etc), Bags glides up nearer 25th place all time.

Here's a question for supporters who dont believe he used steroids. What numbers do you think he might've compiled if he had used steroids? How dominant do you think he would've been, over and above what he already was?

Would he have been as dominant as Manny Ramirez? Barry Bonds?Rail thin Barry hit 20 homers in half as many minor league ABs as Jeff Bagwell, and Manny jacked fifty in equivalent plate appearances. Jeff Bagwell was a late fourth round pick, described by one of his minor league coaches as having "no pop". Even then, he did some things well, like hitting for average and drawing walks. But he was an entirely different species from Ramirez or Bonds, who we are just as certain was clean in that era as we are certain he wasnt later.

You're asking others to believe that a 22 year old, six homer dude, legally morphed into one of the greatest sluggers of all time. A man who admitted using andro and creatine and who, after retirement, said he didnt have a problem with players who used PEDs. Yeah right. A fierce competitor who worked tirelessly within the rules, doesnt have an issue with contemporaries who stole an easy, unfair advantage?

I dont know if Jeff is just some monumentally non-judgemental buddhist who happened to fall in love with andro, and in a singular show of moral clarity, decided to stop there, but when it comes to the veracity of his baseball accomplishments, I do feel confident, if not 100% comfortable, with where the current burden of credibility lies.

No comments: