Where do PEDs fit in the Hall of Fame debate?

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I’m pretty sure I’ve written a post along these lines before, but a reader asked me about it in the comments to my imaginary Hall of Fame ballot post — and the issue of PEDs and the Hall of Fame are going to come up again as more and more writers reveal their 2011 ballots — so let’s go back into the breach.

The question presented: why did I not include Rafael Palmiero in my imaginary Hall of Fame ballot.  Was it the PED association or was it a performance-based thing?  The answer: Both. As in, I see the issues as intertwined.

My take on PEDs has long been that they should not automatically disqualify a player from Hall of Fame consideration. We don’t know for sure who did them and who didn’t. For those whom we know did them, we don’t know when they started, when they stopped, how much juice they took or what kind of juice it was.  We don’t know whether the hitters or the pitchers were aided more by it. We can’t ignore all of the numbers posted by PED-associated ballplayer because there are other factors in play — ballpark size, strike zone, etc. — that affect them.

So what do we do with guys like Palmiero? My best answer so far — and if you have a better one, I’m open to it — is to determine whether, roughly speaking, we think the guy was a Hall of Famer even if he never used PEDs. Yes, I know that invites its own form of chaos, but I see it preferable to either assuming his entire record was fraudulent or assuming that PEDs had zero impact because we know neither of those things is the case. Put differently: uncertainty is preferable to being certainly wrong.

I look at Palmeiro and I see a guy who was very good for a very long time in some very friendly hitters parks while playing a good bit of DH. I see a guy who, while crossing over the magic 500 home run and 3000 hit barrier, was never considered the absolute best hitter in the league. And then I have to take a couple of mental ticks off because of the PED association.

Putting those things together, I think he’s a close call. I may change my mind on him one day. But he’ll be eligible for a long time yet. In that time, we may come to learn more about his own history of PED use and the history of PED use in baseball in general. That information may make Palmeiro rise in my estimation. It may make him sink. But I feel like I need to take that time in his case due to that uncertainty.  If our information on Palmiero and PEDs in general remained static for the entire time Palmiero was on the ballot, I’d probably err on the side of not voting for him.

In contrast, I don’t believe that Mark McGwire is as close a call under such an analysis, though I think reasonable people can disagree about him.  I certainly don’t think that Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens is a close call given that they’re so far beyond worthy of election based on their performance that even the most harsh PED-discount would drag them below the line.  The only people who should be voting against them are the hardliners who think no PED-user should ever be elected, and like I said, I’m not one of those.

Palmiero may be as close as we get. Kevin Brown is in that boat as well.  Either way, they’re tough cases. Abd if I had the franchise, I’d hold off on them for a bit.

 

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.