Where do PEDs fit in the Hall of Fame debate?

26 Comments

I’m pretty sure I’ve written a post along these lines before, but a reader asked me about it in the comments to my imaginary Hall of Fame ballot post — and the issue of PEDs and the Hall of Fame are going to come up again as more and more writers reveal their 2011 ballots — so let’s go back into the breach.

The question presented: why did I not include Rafael Palmiero in my imaginary Hall of Fame ballot.  Was it the PED association or was it a performance-based thing?  The answer: Both. As in, I see the issues as intertwined.

My take on PEDs has long been that they should not automatically disqualify a player from Hall of Fame consideration. We don’t know for sure who did them and who didn’t. For those whom we know did them, we don’t know when they started, when they stopped, how much juice they took or what kind of juice it was.  We don’t know whether the hitters or the pitchers were aided more by it. We can’t ignore all of the numbers posted by PED-associated ballplayer because there are other factors in play — ballpark size, strike zone, etc. — that affect them.

So what do we do with guys like Palmiero? My best answer so far — and if you have a better one, I’m open to it — is to determine whether, roughly speaking, we think the guy was a Hall of Famer even if he never used PEDs. Yes, I know that invites its own form of chaos, but I see it preferable to either assuming his entire record was fraudulent or assuming that PEDs had zero impact because we know neither of those things is the case. Put differently: uncertainty is preferable to being certainly wrong.

I look at Palmeiro and I see a guy who was very good for a very long time in some very friendly hitters parks while playing a good bit of DH. I see a guy who, while crossing over the magic 500 home run and 3000 hit barrier, was never considered the absolute best hitter in the league. And then I have to take a couple of mental ticks off because of the PED association.

Putting those things together, I think he’s a close call. I may change my mind on him one day. But he’ll be eligible for a long time yet. In that time, we may come to learn more about his own history of PED use and the history of PED use in baseball in general. That information may make Palmeiro rise in my estimation. It may make him sink. But I feel like I need to take that time in his case due to that uncertainty.  If our information on Palmiero and PEDs in general remained static for the entire time Palmiero was on the ballot, I’d probably err on the side of not voting for him.

In contrast, I don’t believe that Mark McGwire is as close a call under such an analysis, though I think reasonable people can disagree about him.  I certainly don’t think that Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens is a close call given that they’re so far beyond worthy of election based on their performance that even the most harsh PED-discount would drag them below the line.  The only people who should be voting against them are the hardliners who think no PED-user should ever be elected, and like I said, I’m not one of those.

Palmiero may be as close as we get. Kevin Brown is in that boat as well.  Either way, they’re tough cases. Abd if I had the franchise, I’d hold off on them for a bit.

 

The Red Sox start is ridiculous

Getty Images
1 Comment

The red-hot Red Sox completed a sweep of the previously red-hot Angels last night, outscoring them 27-3 in their three-game series. Last night’s game was, relatively speaking, a close one, with the Sox winning “only” by six runs. They did manage to strike out Shohei Ohtani three times, though, so some style points help make up for the “squeaker.” Also worth noting that they held Mike Trout of all people to a 3-for-11 line in their three-game series. He did not score a single time and drove in no runs.

That series win puts the Sox at 16-2 on the year. They dropped their Opening Day game to the Rays, but then won their next six games against Tampa Bay, which I’d say makes up for it. In between those two series they swept a two-game series from the Marlins and afterwards they took two of three from the Yankees and three in a row from the Orioles. The only thing that even threatened to slow this juggernaut down is the weather, resulting in a postponement of Monday morning’s Patriot’s Day game. Somewhere in here we should notice that they’re doing this with their starting shortstop and starting second baseman on the disabled list.

As we’ve noted many times, their 16-2 record is the best start in the Red Sox’ 118-year history. It’s also the best start for any team since the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers began 17-1 (let us just forget, for the time being, that those Brewers lost 18 of 20 in May of that year). They are the fourth team since 1961 to win 16 of its first 18 games.

The Sox aren’t simply getting lucky here. They’ve scored 116 runs and have allowed only 50, which is a Pythagorean record of 15-3. They lead all of baseball in offense, scoring 6.44 runs a game, leading individually in average, on-base percentage and slugging. They are only three one hundredths of a run behind the Astros from leading all of baseball in pitching, allowing only 2.78 runs a game. They’re winning all of these games because, in the early going, they’ve simply been that dang much better than everyone they’ve played.

No, the Sox are not going to go 144-18, as they are currently on pace to do. Yes, they are going to find a lot more trouble in their schedule once they play the Orioles, Rays and Marlins less, play a healthier Yankees team more and face off against the Astros, the Blue Jays, the Indians, the Twins and some tougher interleague opponents. This is baseball, obviously, and no one makes it through a season without rough patches, long, short and numerous.

Still: this has been one whale of a start for Boston. Those wins are in the bank. It’s been quite the thing to see.