Ed Markey

Politician uses steroids in baseball to argue for evidence of climate change

73 Comments

People love to use baseball analogies because baseball is a pretty common and relatable frame of reference. But one thing you can be sure of: nearly 100% of the time someone is using a baseball analogy in politics, they are either mangling the baseball or mangling the politics.

To wit, a senator using it to make a climate change point:

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) used a chart showing that the number of home runs increased when players used steroid, saying it’s the same case with temperatures rising when humans emit greenhouse gases.

“Something very funny happened in baseball because from 1920 all the way through the entire modern baseball history, the average number of players that hit more than 41 home runs in a season was three players,” Markey said Monday night. “All of the sudden 17 players could hit more than 41 home runs. … Then somebody thought, ‘maybe they’re injecting these players with steroids.’”

With the caveat that I am not a climate change denier and that, if anything, I’m sympathetic to the cause of and generally in league with the people who are concerned about climate change, this is bunk on the baseball side and doesn’t help their arguments, be they about baseball or about climate change.

There has been a lot of variation in home run rates and totals throughout history. The context of baseball has changed constantly. And there are many factors, separate and apart from steroids, that have caused it. At the same time, there are many indicators and effects of steroid use that are observable separate and apart from home run rates. People who make intelligent observations about steroids in baseball don’t just point at home runs and say “seeee???!!” Morons do that.

The same goes with climate change. Unlike Senator Markey here, the folks who say intelligent things about it don’t look at cute charts of loose correlation — data that can and often does fit on a bumper sticker — to make their points. There exists a large body of rigorous, peer-reviewed science on the subject, tracking a number of variables. Heck, even those who are not on the same side of the climate change debates as me — if they’re being smart and not just trafficking in easy politics — will point to the research, be it their own or point to flaws in existing studies. It’s only the jerks on either side of the debate who think the topic is simple and make those bumper stickers and political cartoons about it. The people who scream about the end of the world when it’s 95 in June or mock the concept of climate change when it’s -10 in January.

There’s an awful lot of rigorous research about baseball offense too. Most of it will show that there are tons of factors besides PEDs that led to the offensive explosion of the 1990s and 2000s. And that there are tons of factors besides drug testing that has led to the offensive declines of the past several years. Curiously, so much of that is ignored when people go to make points about home runs and offense.

So please: people concerned about climate change, find another analogy. Because the folks who link steroids and home runs as tightly as this fellow does here have way more in common with the climate change science deniers than they do with those who think it’s a real and legitimate issue.

Report: Rays nearing a deal with Shawn Tolleson

ST. LOUIS, MO - JUNE 18: Reliever Shawn Tolleson #37 of the Texas Rangers pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium on June 18, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Update (6:48 PM EST): Topkin reports the contract will be of the major league variety.

*

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays and free agent reliever Shawn Tolleson are close to finalizing a contract.

Tolleson, who turns 29 years old on Thursday, had an ugly 2016 season, finishing with a 7.68 ERA and a 29/10 K/BB ratio in 36 1/3 innings. He was one of the Rangers’ best relievers in the two seasons prior to that, however, which included saving 35 games in 2015.

President Obama pardons Willie McCovey

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 06:  San Francisco Giants legend Willie McCovey  waves to the crowd while seating between Jeff Kent (L) and Willie Mays during a ceremony honoring Buster Posey for winning the 2012 National League MVP before the Giants game against the St. Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park on April 6, 2013 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Getty Images
6 Comments

The big presidential pardon news today concerns the commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence. We’ll leave that aside. For our purposes, know that someone in the world of baseball was pardoned: Willie McCovey.

Yes, Hall of Famer Willie McCovey, who in 1995 pleaded guilty to income tax fraud related to the non-reporting of income received from memorabilia and autograph shows. Duke Snider pleaded guilty alongside McCovey. They were given two years probation and fines of $5,000. Snider died in 2011. McCovey still works with the San Francisco Giants as a senior advisor and goodwill ambassador.

President Obama’s release of McCovey’s pardon was pretty succinct. But it’s enough to scrub the record of one of the greatest sluggers of all time.