I’ll preface all of this by saying that the author of the piece I am about to link, Jeff Pearlman, is fully aware that he’s throwing something of a bomb here. That said, unlike some others people, I do not believe Pearlman is throwing a bomb for the sake of throwing a bomb. He’s not being cute or coy here and he fully acknowledges the limits of his knowledge. These are simply questions which genuinely occur to him and, whether you agree with him or not, he isn’t afraid to ask them.
He also knows fully well that I and a lot of other people are going to have a problem with this. Indeed, I talked to him online after I read it late this morning and he knows fully well that I’m gonna take issue with it. Indeed, I’ve taken enough issue with Pearlman over the years that he and have come to talk on occasion about these sorts of things, and while they haven’t done much to bridge the pretty large gap we have when it comes to PEDs in baseball, it is enough to give me comfort that he’s not just trolling and that when Pearlman does throw bombs it’s because he believes in what he’s saying, not because he simply wants to create chaos. You can decide for yourself if you think that’s worth anything, but it means at least a little something to me.
With all of that said, let’s get down to brass tacks: Pearlman looks at Josh Hamilton’s 20 pound weight loss this offseason with suspicion:
First, to be clear: I don’t know if Josh Hamilton used PEDs. I’d long assumed he hadn’t, because the idea of an ex-drug addict taking, well, drugs didn’t make much sense to me … And yet …in the modern era of baseball, with all we know and all we’ve seen and all the recent news concerning Alex Rodriguez and Gio Gonzalez and Ryan Braun and numerous others, well … I’m just not so sure we can continue to take reports like this at face value … I don’t know if Hamilton’s using. I really don’t. But one must be skeptical.
Pearlman offers examples of curious weight gain and weight loss — Pudge Rodriguez’s weight loss maybe being the most memorable example for all of us — and my inference from this anyway is that there is suspicion to be had about Josh Hamilton it’s that he lost a lot of weight just as scrutiny and testing is being ratcheted up again.
His ultimate end: for someone to ask Hamilton and others “the hard questions” about such things. I’m not sure what the hard question is. I’m not sure why weight loss is a sufficient predicate for a question and/or accusation of PED use. As we note with silliness all spring, lots of players yo-yo in weight. Are we supposed to ask them all these “hard questions?”
Heck, it’s not even about giving someone the benefit of the doubt. It’s about what in the hell is supposed to create doubt in the first place. In the past people have looked at all sorts of things to create that doubt, and half the time it’s silly. Home run totals, without reference to park size or expansion. Head size, as if we are able to measure such a thing. Back acne as if it can only be caused by steroids. Failure to prove negatives, which is something only baseball writers seem to think is an acceptable expectation. Acting out in anger as if all anger = ‘roid rage. With Pearlman, it’s weight fluctuation. That’s not enough to say anything with certainty, he says. But it’s enough to prompt more questions. We are required he says — we must! — be skeptical.
I simply can’t buy that. At some point you have to assume that the game has a strong testing program and, barring something actually indicative of PED use, take its negative results at face value. Weight loss isn’t doing it for me. I’m not sure who else besides Pearlman it should actually do it for.