Roger Clemens speaks

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Roger Clemens doesn’t give too many interviews these days, but he spoke with Jon Pessah of True/Slant recently, and the results are here.

You may or may not be shocked to learn that the Rocket has sympathy for Mark McGwire and Tiger Woods. You probably will be a bit surprised to hear that Clemens’ flushed, lip-licking appearance before Congress — which some pseudo-science peddling body language experts claimed to be evidence of lying* — was due him taking a three mile run that morning. Not saying you’ll believe it, just saying you might be surprised to hear it.

*why we need to resort to pseudo-science to determine that Clemens was lying that day when so much of what he said was manifestly ridiculous is a question for another day.

But nothing Clemens says is terribly provocative. At least not as provocative as something Pessah said in the editorial portion of the interview:

If I’m concerned about how the steroid era played out — and I am — I’m
far more concerned with those in charge who threw Barry Bonds, Clemens
and a handful of others under the bus to save themselves. No one has
profited more from steroids in baseball than Selig, who sold his team
for a fortune just before the steroid bubble burst and rode the
popularity of a game built on PEDs to an $18 million yearly salary.
Then he gave George Mitchell $20 million to pin the blame
for steroids on an angry black man and an arrogant white Texan. Anyone
who believes Selig’s spiel that he’s cleaned up baseball is both naive
and foolish. As Victor Conte continually tells me, drug tests are
little more than IQ tests–you really have to be dumb to flunk one. And
there is still no proven test for HgH.

I was highly critical of the Mitchell Report when it came out and believe to this day that it was designed to create scapegoats and to try and end the steroid conversation as opposed to truly investigating the totality of performance enhancing drugs in baseball.  I don’t think, however, that anyone went out to set up Bonds or Clemens specifically, especially based on some half-baked cultural stereotypes.  If anything, I think Selig and Mitchell wanted to make Kirk Radomski and Brian McNamee the fall guys.  To the extent Clemens has become a pariah it’s largely of his own doing (see, post-report behavior; Mindy McCreedy ugliness, etc.). If anyone set out to make Bonds a fall guy or a poster boy or whatever it was Jeff Novitzsky and whatever supervisors he had who were asleep at the switch.

But there’s some truth in that blockquote, mostly with the notion that everyone in baseball — players, owners, agents, executives, advertisers, lawyers and, yes, people in the media — profited from steroids, and yet only one subset of one class of people — superstar players — get any scorn.  There’s something wrong with that.

MLB’s juiced baseball is juicing Triple-A home run totals too

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There has been considerable evidence amassed over the past year or two that the baseball used by Major League Baseball has a lower aerodynamic profile, leading to less drag, which leads directly to more home runs. If you doubted that at all, get a load of what is happening in Triple-A right now.

The minors have always had different balls than the majors. The MLB ball is made in Costa Rica at a Rawlings facility. The minor league balls are made in China. They use slightly different materials and, by all accounts, the minor league balls do not have the same sort of action and do not travel as far as the big league balls. Before the season, as Baseball America reported, Major League Baseball requested that Triple-A baseball switch to using MLB balls. The reason: uniformity and, one presumes, more accurate analysis of performance at the top level of the minor leagues.

The result, as Baseball America reports today, is a massive uptick in homers in the early going to the Triple-A season:

Last April, Triple-A hitters homered once every 47 plate appearances. As the weather warmed up, so did the home run rate. Over the course of the entire 2018 season, Triple-A hitters homered every 43 plate appearances. So far this year, they are homering every 32 plate appearances. Triple-A hitters are hitting home runs at a rate of 135 percent of last year’s rate.

Again, that’s in the coldest, least-homer friendly month of the season. It’s gonna just get worse. Or better, I guess, if you’re all about the long ball.

Which you had better be, because if they did something to deaden the balls and reduce homers, we’d have the same historically-high strikeout and walk rates but with no homers to provide offense to compensate. At least unless or until hitters changed their approach to become slap hitters or something, but that could take a good while. And may still not be effective given the advances in defense since the last time slap hitting was an important part of the game.

In the meantime, enjoy the dingers, Triple-A fans.