Javy Lopez on steroids: "I'd be stupid enough not to use 'nitro' too"

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Javy Lopez.jpgThe AJC’s Dave O’Brien points us to an extended podcast interview of Former Braves catcher Javy Lopez on Atlanta Baseball Talk last weekend, in which the topic turned to steroids. While the hosts did not explicitly ask Lopez if he personally did steroids, he was pretty candid all the same:

“Well, everybody seen players getting big, hitting the ball harder,
home runs and stuff. All of a sudden – boom — they got the big contract
and everybody’s like, ‘You know what, did that, it worked for him, why
not do it?’ . . . I mean, how can I explain this? It’s like if you’re going to race cars,
if you’re going to race a car and some people are using nitro in the
fuel [Lopez laughed], and you see them winning all the time, and you’re
using regular gas – you know what? If they’re using nitro and they’ve
been winning, well, I’d be stupid enough not to use nitro, too.”

If Lopez’s .328/.378/.687, 43 home run season during a contract year at age 32 in 2003 hadn’t already raised several red flags — and believe me, for most Braves fans it and Javy’s newly-buffed physique did, even at the time — this interview seems to put the matter to rest. But of course Javy Lopez never broke any big records and isn’t in the Hall of Fame discussion, so people won’t go crazy about it.

But I kind of wish they would go a little crazy. Not because I want to see Lopez burned at the stake — as with everyone else I take the “man, I wish he hadn’t done that, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it” approach — but because here he has has put forth the cost/benefit analysis players made regarding steroids in clearer terms than anyone else has to date.  The guys who were trying to beat you and/or take your job were doing it. The powers-that-be didn’t care. The difference between taking the “nitro” or not could be the difference between being unemployed or signing, say, a three-year, $22.5 million contract with Baltimore.

This crystal clear dynamic is why I get so aggravated when the steroid discussion, as it almost always does, revolves around the record book or the fans’ perception that they were cheated or betrayed.  Who cares about the record book or the fans’ subjective, retrospective experience? A system was in place which strongly incentivized players to take potentially harmful substances without a prescription.  Some players — think a borderline major leaguer — no doubt felt that they had to “take the nitro” or lose their jobs.

Players took the steroids, but baseball looked the other way, as did the union and the media, allowing an environment which left many feeling that they had no choice but to juice to grow and persist. Yet it’s the players who take all the heat? Madness.

Phillies to induct Bobby Abreu to Wall of Fame

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The Phillies announced on Wednesday that former outfielder Bobby Abreu will be inducted into the team’s Wall of Fame this summer. The ceremony will take place on Saturday, August 3 as part of the club’s alumni weekend festivities.

Abreu, 45, went to the Phillies in a November 18, 1997 trade with the then-Devil Rays that sent shortstop Kevin Stocker to Tampa. Abreu somehow only made two All-Star teams while in Philly. Overall, he hit .303/.416/.513 with 195 homers, 814 RBI, 891 runs scored, and 254 stolen bases in 1,353 games with the Phillies. Abreu ranks sixth all-time among Phillies in career Wins Above Replacement (47.2), fourth in on-base percentage (.416), seventh in slugging percentage (.513), second in OPS (.928), 10th in runs scored (891), fourth in doubles (348), second in walks (947), and seventh in stolen bases.

Perhaps Abreu’s most noteworthy accomplishment as a Phillie was winning the 2005 Home Run Derby at Comerica Park in Detroit. Abreu hit 24 home runs in the first round and finished with 41 total, both records at the time. That is his most noteworthy accomplishment as, through no fault of his own, the Phillies never made playoffs during his tenure from 1998-06.

Abreu’s tenure came to an end on July 30, 2006, when the club packaged him with pitcher Cory Lidle and sent them to the Yankees in exchange for Matt Smith, Carlos Monasterios, C.J. Henry, and Jesús Sánchez. Obviously, not a trade that worked out well for the Phillies. Abreu played through his age-40 season, spending time with the Angels, Dodgers, and Mets along with the Yankees. He retired with 60 career WAR, per baseball Reference, as well as a .291/.395/.475 batting line, 288 home runs, 1,363 RBI, 1,453 runs scored, and 400 stolen bases.

Phillies fans have always criminally underrated Abreu. He was viewed as lazy and uncaring, in part due to racism and in part due to a perceived aversion to outfield walls. Abreu’s induction into the Phillies’ Wall of Fame is a long time coming, but it will also likely spur a lot of debate on sports talk radio in the months leading up to it.