What did the press know about PEDs and when did they know it?

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There’s a great piece over at Grantland. In it Bryan Curtis tracks the history of the media’s awareness and investigation of steroids in baseball from the 1980s onward. How generalized but unreportable knowledge became actual news. It’s must-click, must-read stuff.

It’s great because the guys who were there — Rosenthal, Olney, Justice, others — talk about what the culture was at the time and the challenges they faced in convincing editors to let them run steroids stories. There’s this idea that float around PED stories today that the media ignored it all back in the 80s and 90s. I agree some did and some — as detailed in the story — even worked hard to beat back PED stories that emerged.  But overall I think that’s an unfair assessment of what went on.

Reporters knew and often wanted to write about steroids, but the culture and conventions of print journalism were and continue to be such that, unless you got multiple people going on the record, editors are going to kill your story. Whether that’s good or not is another conversation — I think it’s bad in many cases as gossip and muckraking have its place — but it’s not accurate to say that all or even most reporters turned a blind eye. They were limited by journalistic convention.

But I also think that the struggle it took for these guys to get these stories to print and the “I-Team,” big-time investigative reporting culture that eventually got this stuff to the surface is why the media is so messed up in the way they pass judgment on the Steroids Era now.

When a reporter is working hard to break something — when that one story becomes their only job for months on end, as deep-digging investigative work requires it to be — the story ends up assuming an outsized importance. It’s their whole life so it’s obviously huge to them, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the biggest thing on the planet. Or the most important thing in baseball. If you’re looking at only one thing, perspective is lost.

I feel like, because PEDs became — as Curtis deftly describes — THE BIG GET of the baseball media for a number of years, it managed to be taken as bigger than it is in terms of baseball impact by many in the media. It became the way a reporter could place his own personal stamp on baseball because, eventually, he knew that world very well and it became the media’s value proposition in baseball analysis to play up that side when people in the game would not. When the most important and most unique thing you have to say about Barry Bonds, for example, comes from the media’s reams of scoops and stories, the baseball realities of Barry Bonds — that he was nonetheless an amazing, amazing ballplayer — is lost to some degree and the PED side is oversold.

That’s just a theory, of course. And it’s obviously not a uniform one. On the one hand, someone like Selena Roberts can only see A-Rod as a PED-using awful person because she has spent years reporting and writing that story. On the other hand better reporters, like, say, Buster Olney, are able to put this stuff in perspective. But I do think it’s a case where many in the media are keen to latch on to the media’s most proprietary angle re: baseball and inflate its importance.

Anyway, take some time from your schedule today and read Curtis’ story. You won’t be sorry.

It’s the tenth anniversary of the biggest rout in baseball history

Associated Press
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Ten years ago today the Rangers and the Orioles squared off at Camden Yards. The Orioles built a 3-0 lead after three innings and then all hell broke loose.

The Rangers scored thirty (30!) unanswered runs via a five-spot in the fourth, a nine-spot in the sixth, a ten-spot in the eighth and a six-spot in the ninth. That was . . . a lot of spots.

Two Rangers players — Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ramon Vazquez — hit two homers and drove in seven runs a piece. The best part: they were the eighth and ninth hitters in the lineup. There was plenty of offense to go around, however as David Murphy went 5-for-7 and scored five times. Travis Metcalf hit a pinch-hit grand slam. Marlon Byrd drove in four. It was a bloodbath, with Texas rattling out 29 hits and walking eight times.

On the Orioles side of things, Daniel Cabrera took the loss, giving up six runs on nine hits in five innings. That’s not a terribly unusual line for a bad day at the office for a pitcher — someone will probably get beat up like that in the next week or so — but the Orioles’ relievers really added to the party. Brian Burres was the first victim, allowing eight runs on eight hits in only two-thirds of an inning. Rob Bell gave up seven in an inning and a third. Paul Shuey wore the rest of it, allowing nine runs on seven hits over the final two.

The best part of the insanely busy box score, however, was not from any of the Orioles pitchers or any of the Rangers hitters. Nope, it was from a Rangers relief pitcher named Wes Littleton. You probably don’t remember him, as he only pitched in 80 games and never appeared in the big leagues after 2008. But on this day — the day of the biggest blowout in baseball history — Wes Littleton notched a save. From Baseball-Reference.com:

Three innings and 43 pitches is a lot of work for a reliever and, per the rules, it’s a save, regardless of the margin when he entered the game. Still, this was not exactly a game that was ever in jeopardy.

When it went down, way back on August 22, 2007, it inspired me to write a post at my old, defunct independent baseball blog, Shysterball, arguing about how to change the save rule. Read it if you want, but know that (1) no one has ever paid attention to such proposals in baseball, even if such proposals are frequently offered; and (2) the hypothetical examples I use to illustrate the point involve an effective Joba Chamberlain and Joe Torre’s said use of him, which tells you just how long ago this really was.

Oh, one final bit: this massacre — the kind of game that the Orioles likely wanted to leave, go back home and go to sleep afterward — was only the first game of a doubleheader. Yep, they had to strap it on and play again, with the game starting at 9PM Eastern time. Baltimore lost that one too, 9-7, concluding what must have been one of the longest days any of the players involved had ever had at the office, both figuratively and literally.

Hall of Fame baseball announcer Rafael ‘Felo’ Ramirez dies

Associated Press
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MIAMI (AP) Rafael “Felo” Ramirez, a Hall of Fame baseball radio broadcaster who was the signature voice for millions of Spanish-speaking sports fans over three decades, has died. He was 94.

The Miami Marlins announced Ramirez’ death Tuesday.

Ramirez, who died Monday night, began his broadcasting career in Cuba in 1945 before calling 31 All-Star games and World Series in Spanish. He was the Marlins Spanish-language announcer since their inaugural season in 1993 and was inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2001.

He was known for an expressive, yet low-key style and his signature strike call of “Essstrike.”

Several Spanish-language broadcasters, including Amury Pi-Gonzanez of the Seattle Mariners and San Francisco Giants, have admitted to emulating his style.