The Danger of assuming someone is clean

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At the outset of his righteous defense of Frank Thomas’ Hall of Fame credentials, Joe Posnanski launches into discussion of steroids. The interesting part: after dealing with the usual steroid suspects, he wonders whether it’s possible to create a list of clean players, which he refers to as his “Fair Play” list:

Then there is the non-users list. The fair play list. This is a list
of players — and everyone has their own list — who we have to believe,
deep down, did not use performance enhancing drugs. How does someone
get on this list? Well, it’s tricky because just about everyone SAYS
that they did not use PEDs. And as soon as you start to celebrate
someone, someone else writes a book about him.

Still, by consensus, I would say a Fair Play List might look a little bit like this (feel free to add your own players):

– Frank Thomas
– Ken Griffey
– Greg Maddux
– Pedro Martinez
– David Eckstein
– Jamie Moyer
– Every Royals hitter since 1985.*

I love Posnanski because despite the fact that he has covered baseball for years, he always manages to take a fresh look at things, rarely if ever falling into cliche or conventional wisdom.  But in this case I think he’s off base. Not in naming those particular guys as non-users — if I had to bet money one way or the other I’d wager that they didn’t — but in engaging in the very exercise of sorting users from non-users itself.

Part of this is because we simply can’t know who didn’t use. Denials — even strident ones — have proven to mean nothing when it comes to figuring out who used and who didn’t.  Neither have body types or production (Randy Velarde, anyone? Ryan Frankin? Kent Mercker? Fernando Vina?).

But Josh Fisher of The Hardball Times points out a bigger problem than our ignorance:

The truly insidious aspect of assuming certain kinds of players did not
use is that it reinforces inaccurate notions of which players do use. By determining that David Eckstein
is a non-user because he is in danger of being blown away by a strong
wind and cannot ride some roller coasters, we add silent suspicion to
other small players with better physical tools. By identifying Jamie Moyer as a non-user because his fastball is often at no risk of a speeding
ticket, we baselessly affirm that players who throw hard are more
likely to be users. Our perceptions about what players do not use are
as inappropriate as our mental image of a the type of player who does.

While I’ve been called a steroid apologist in the past, that’s simply not true. What I’m against is (a) the demonization of PED users as profoundly evil people; and (b) the perpetuation of lazy and destructive assumptions about steroids, who may or may not use them and what impact they have on the game and the record book.  As Josh so accurately notes, any effort to make a “Fair Play List” from a pool of players who were never subject to steroid testing leads to (b) and, depending on what we write about the people on such a list, gives us cover for a lot more (a).

I see what Posnanski is trying to do here, but I think such an effort has the potential to be more destructive than helpful.  Let’s just work our way through the next decade or so of Hall of Fame votes as best we can, evaluating each player on their own merits the best we can, taking what we know — and only what we know — about their PED use or lack thereof, and leave the list-making out of it.

Yankee Stadium losing 2,100 seats, gaining party decks and stuff in offseason renovation

Yankee Stadium
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The Yankees just released a statement saying that Yankee Stadium will be undergoing “enhancements” this offseason. The enhancements include:

  • The Sunrun Kids Clubhouse, which is basically one of those “kids run around and climb on crap play areas” not unlike those you see in the middle of shopping malls. Except, of course, it’s baseball-themed. Parents of little ones will likely appreciate that. People without kids will likely watch from afar, horrified, and will check their bags for hand sanitizer before getting anywhere near it. As someone who has been on both sides of that interaction, it’s all good. It’s how it should be for all involved;
  • The MasterCard Batter’s Eye Deck which is, not surprisingly, an outdoor gathering space/bar in center field near the batter’s eye;
  • Bullpen landings which are gathering spaces/bars near the bullpens;
  • The AT&T Sports Lounge at Section 134 on the Field Level. It’s a bar with big screen TVs showing the game that is going on just outside the bar; and
  • Budweiser Party Decks at Sections 311 and 328. Which are hopefully explanatory.

Artist’s renderings here.

The park will lose around 2,000 seats to make space for these additions, but will likely make up for that and then some with added revenue from all of the Yankees fans partying on. In decks.

Jon Lester to start Game 1 for the Cubs

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - OCTOBER 07:  Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs pitches in the sixth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field on October 7, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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No surprise here: the Cubs have just named Jon Lester their Game 1 World Series starter.

Lester has allowed two earned runs in 21 innings over three starts this postseason and was the co-MVP in the NLCS. Lester will face off against Indians ace Corey Kluber.

On the season Lester went 19-5 with a 2.44 ERA and notched 197 Ks against 52 walks in 202.2 innings.