Jeff Bagwell’s Hall of Fame candidacy has ushered in the age of steroids McCarthyism

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I railed against Danny Knobler’s exclusion of Jeff Bagwell from his Hall of Fame ballot for being cowardly. He clearly believes Jeff Bagwell took steroids, but he’s afraid to even offer an opinion to that effect.  Dan Graziano of FanHouse is not problematic in that regard. He comes right out and says what he thinks:

I don’t know for sure that Bagwell took steroids or any other performance-enhancing drugs to help him attain his Hall of Fame-caliber numbers. I don’t have evidence, like we do against Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. But I’m suspicious. And this year, that suspicion was enough to make me send back my ballot without the Bagwell box checked … This isn’t about whether I believe what Bagwell says. It’s about suspicions I harbored long before he spoke out on the issue. It’s about where he played and when he played and the teammates with whom he played and a whole bunch of circumstantial evidence that I readily admit wouldn’t hold up in a court of law.

I abhor such reasoning because it’s basically steroids McCarthyism — “I have here in my hand a list of steroids users …” — but at least he’s being honest about his unfairness. He knows he has no hard evidence against Bagwell. He admits the case against him is hearsay and innuendo.  He  just doesn’t care. Compared to Knobler’s ballot, it’s almost refreshing.

But I have to ask: if the hearsay and innuendo is enough to sway Graziano’s opinion on Bagwell, why not share it with us?  Why doesn’t Graziano tell us why he, an insider who is privy to that which the rest of us are not, believes that Jeff Bagwell took steroids and Roberto Alomar did not. Or Jim Thome or Frank Thomas if you prefer power hitters.  Clearly there’s something there that has caused him to believe that Bagwell was a ‘roider. What is it?  It could be useful to all of us if we knew. It would at least help us understand the new standards being applied to future Hall of Fame votes, would it not?  Maybe even some of the other voters would like to know so that they don’t make the mistake of voting for a known-cheater.

But no, Graziano won’t share. Maybe because he fears legal trouble:

People will hate this position, and I understand that. But I offer this in my defense: we writers who covered the game during the Steroid Era are often criticized for not reporting more skeptically based on the suspicions we harbored then. And while much of that criticism is justified, I believe the fact that we and our newspapers could have been subject to legal action for such reporting works in our defense.

Such a belief is flat wrong, of course. No reporter or newspaper could have been successfully sued if they published a truthful steroids story in the 1990s. The media’s unwillingness to report such things in the 1990s was a function of a lack of evidence, a fear of reprisal from the teams and players on which they depended for access, or both.  Indeed, in the eight years since Ken Caminiti and Jose Canseco started talking about steroids in baseball, we have yet to hear from one reporter who said that he had both the information and the desire to report on such things but was prevented from doing so for fear of a lawsuit.  They either didn’t have the goods (for whatever reason) or didn’t have the will, and Graziano is admitting that he doesn’t have as much now:

The withholding of a Hall of Fame vote based on suspicion of illegal activity is not the same as writing a newspaper story accusing someone of illegal activity. I’m not accusing Jeff Bagwell of taking steroids or any other performance-enhancing drug. I’m just saying I’m suspicious.

I don’t have a problem with someone voting their conscience on the Hall of Fame, but let’s not make any mistake here: this is an accusation. Maybe not a legally-actionable one, but Graziano believes Bagwell took steroids and says it as plain as day. Which is fine. But he should at least have the decency to own up to it and explain it.  Home run spikes? Change in physique? Dubious associations? Something he saw in the locker room?  What is it? This isn’t a rhetorical question. Writers have been gone to great lengths to explain how difficult it is to vote for the Hall of Fame in the steroid era. There’s so much uncertainty. Well, in Graziano we have a guy who is a little more certain about Bagwell than others.  Doesn’t he have an obligation to share?

And let me be clear about something. I don’t know what Bagwell did or didn’t do either. I won’t go to the mat for him being clean precisely because I don’t know.  But that doesn’t really matter here.  There were actual communists in the State Department and the Army in the 1950s, but that fact didn’t vindicate Senator McCarthy.  It was his methods and his assumptions that were problematic. The fact that he’d willingly go after people regardless of the evidence he had at hand and in a manner that made it impossible for a target to vindicate themselves.  The creation of a chilling rhetoric that made reasoned debate on the subject damn nigh impossible. We’re seeing that with Bagwell and the Hall of Fame, I think, and I fear that we will continue to see it as more sluggers from the 1990s reach the ballot.

A couple of years ago I got a lot of  mileage off a column the Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker wrote about a blogger who wrote a post observing that Raul Ibanez’s nice start could theoretically be explained by steroids.  I still take issue with Baker’s writing about the specifics of that, but he wasn’t wrong about the principle, expressed thusly:

But when you go all-in, you’ve got to go all in. He didn’t do that. When you write about topics like killers, or Hell’s Angels, or major leaguers and steroids, you can’t pussy foot around. You’ve got to go at it hard, directly, with no b.s. and be able to defend yourself afterwards. This blogger couldn’t because he went in only halfway. He tried to raise the “steroids issue” then claimed he really wasn’t pointing a finger at Ibanez.

Baker had most of the mainstream media on his side in that case.  I wonder how much of the mainstream media is on Graziano’s side here. I wonder if we’re willing to tolerate this kind of pussy footing around Bagwell’s entire professional legacy when we wouldn’t dare tolerate it when it came to Raul Ibanez’s April and May of 2009.

I’m not willing to tolerate it, but I’ll admit I’m a bit of a radical in this regard.  How does everyone else feel?  Specifically, those folks with a BBWAA badge?  Will this “I have my reasons, but I won’t share” line be the new gold standard of Hall of Fame debate for the next 20 years? Or do we — and does the Hall of Fame and those who would deign to enter it — deserve better?

And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Rockies 18, Padres 4: Nolan Arenado hit an RBI single in the first, another RBI single in the second, a solo homer in the fourth, another solo homer in the fifth and a two-run homer in the sixth. He’s the seventh player this season to hit at least three home runs in a game, joining Yoenis CespedesMatt KempAnthony RendonScooter GennettEddie Rosario, and Corey Seager. And my word we’ve had a lot of big blowouts in the past week or so, have we not?

Mets 7, Cardinals 3: Jacob deGrom allowed one run on seven hits in six and two-thirds innings, winning his seventh straight start. He’s about the only bright spot for the Mets this season, so of course there are rumors that he might be traded.

Giants 5, Indians 4: Buster Posey was supposed to have the day off. And he did until the bottom of the eighth when he came off the bench as a pinch-hitter and smacked a two-out, two-run double as part of a three-run rally that inning. The Indians have lost six of seven. Oh, and Bruce Bochy gave his postgame presser in the “Game of Thrones” throne:

Winter is coming. A lot sooner for the 37-59 Giants than a lot of other teams.

Cubs 8, Braves 2: A few days ago everyone was wondering what the heck was wrong with the Cubs. A few days ago at least a few people were looking at the surprisingly frisky Braves and thinking that they could be a stealth Wild Card contender. What a difference a few days makes, eh? The Cubs win their sixth straight and the Braves drop their third in a row. Mike Montgomery allowed one run on two hits in six innings and hit his first career homer to boot. Javier Baez hit a three-run shot. Kris Bryant left in the first inning after hurting his finger and his replacement, Tommy La Stella, hit a homer. That kind of day for Chicago.

Phillies 10, Marlins 3: Philly woke up early for this early game with their hitting shoes on already. They jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first and racked up 10 runs on 20 hits before it was all over. Nick Williams tripled twice and drove in two. Daniel Nava had four hits and Tommy Joseph socked a homer. Giancarlo Stanton hit his 30th homer in the loss, tying him for the major league lead with Aaron Judge. But if you were expecting him to be happy about that, think again. Giancarlo: I just finished a cool book about people who fake their own death and start over again someplace else. Not saying you should read it or anything, but I’m not saying you should not read it, ya know?

Twins 6, Yankees 1: The Twins scored six runs in the game. All came in the second inning and all came with two outs, with Miguel Sano‘s three-run homer the big blow. Meanwhile, the Yankees couldn’t get much of anything off of Jose Berrios. The Yankees lose the series. They’ve lost eight of ten series, in fact. The other two were splits. Mercy.

Mariners 4, Astros 1: Ben Gamel hit a two-run homer and James Paxton allowed one run over seven. Paxton has 20 strikeouts in two wins over the Astros this year. The Mariners have won six of seven.

Athletics 7, Rays 2: Sonny Gray is getting hot at the right time: right before the trade deadlines, when many expect him to change addresses. Gray won his third straight start, striking out six while pitching into the seventh. The A’s avoid a sweep.

Orioles 10, Rangers 2Kevin Gausman pitched six innings of four-hit ball, giving up one runs, striking out eight and walking two. Not sure where this good O’s pitching has come from lately but I suppose there are small miracles happening all around us, always. O’s starters in this series have combined to allow three runs over 18 innings in three games and the O’s have outscored Texas 25-4 in that span.

Red Sox 5, Blue Jays 1: Drew Pomeranz pitched three-hit ball into the seventh inning and Dustin Pedroia drove in three. The Red Sox are 9-3 in Pomeranz’s past 12 starts. Pedroia did commit an error, though, breaking his streak of 114 games without a fielding error, stretching back to last August.

Pirates 3, Brewers 2: Rookie Max Moroff entered the game as a pinch runner in the ninth, scoring the tying run to force extras, then he came to the plate in the 10th and hit a walkoff single. The Pirates have won three games in the ninth or in extras since the All-Star break. They have won 10 of 12 overall.

Reds 4, Diamondbacks 3:  Adam Duvall hit a bases-loaded walkoff single in the 11th inning to give the Reds and to end a frustrating night for the Dbacks. Frustrating in that J.D. Martinez, who had just arrived a few hours before and was playing in his first game, was hit on the hand by a pitch forcing him out. X-rays are negative — it’s just a bruise — but that kind of thing has to feel like a sign from Zeus or something.

Dodgers 9, White Sox 1: Chris Taylor led the game off with a homer, Kiké Hernandez homered in the second and fourth and Corey Seager homered in the fourth as well. That’s 11 straight for the Dodgers, who win this mercifully rain-shortened game. Yoan Moncada went 0-for-2 with a walk in his White Sox debut.

Royals 4, Tigers 3: Detroit trailed 2-1 in the ninth when Mike Mahtook hit a two-run homer to give the Tigers the lead. The Royals answered back in the bottom of the ninth, however, when Brandon Moss doubled in Alcides Escobar to tie it and then hustled to third base on the throw home. Then up came Alex Gordon who hit a sac fly to score Moss for the walkoff win. Moss also homered in the third inning. All of that obscured a pretty decent duel between Justin Verlander (7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 8K) and Jason Hammel (6.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER).

Angels 7, Nationals 0: Bryce Harper took the night off but Mike Trout didn’t, hitting a two-run homer. That was just gravy, though, as the Angels’ bats had built up a 5-0 lead by then and Alex Meyer allowed only one hit over seven shutout innings, striking out seven.

Nolan Arenado goes 5-for-6 with three homers, seven RBI in rout of Padres

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The Rockies trounced the Padres 18-4 on Wednesday afternoon, thanks in large part to third baseman Nolan Arenado‘s three home runs and seven RBI. The Rockies scored in every inning except the eighth.

Arenado kicked things off with an RBI single in the first inning. He added another RBI single in the second, then went on a homer binge. He hit a solo shot in the fourth, the first of four homers the Rockies would hit in that inning. He hit another solo dinger in the fifth and tacked on a two-run blast in the sixth.

Here’s the first of his three homers:

Arenado is the seventh player this season to hit at least three home runs in a game, joining Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Kemp, Anthony Rendon, Scooter Gennett, Eddie Rosario, and Corey Seager. Arenado’s seven RBI are more than all but Gennett and Rendon and his five hits matched him with Gennett and trailed only Rendon’s six.

After his productive afternoon, the three-time All-Star is batting .309/.356/.584 with 21 home runs, 80 RBI, and 63 runs scored in 411 plate appearances.