Please stop with the “Great Clean Hope” nonsense

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Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch spends some time talking about A-Rod and then turns his attention to Ken Griffey Jr.

Ken Griffey Jr. was placed in the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame on Saturday night. That was the perfect antidote to whatever A-Rod has wrought.

A lot of people may have forgotten how good Ken Griffey was. Maybe there are kids today who have no memory of his legacy. We can’t allow that to happen. Griffey was someone we can all believe in. I want everyone to remember every one of those 630 home runs Griffey hit, because they are the rare ones that were not fueled by a mad scientist’s illegal brew. Every one of them was hit with nothing more than the strength of Griffey’s pure natural abilities. This was all about his family’s rich baseball DNA.

And Burwell knows this, how exactly?

I don’t think Griffey juiced. I hope he didn’t. But I don’t know. And neither does Burwell. Indeed, as commenter cohnjusack demonstrated in the Albert Pujols defamation thread yesterday, one could make the common bullcrap/innuendo case against Griffey that has been made about all sorts of players over the years:  He hit 50 home runs multiple times in the 1990s and was threatening Roger Maris’ record;  he saw a large, sudden jump in home runs (27 to 45) over the course of a year; he became chronically injured; he got noticeably bigger, going from this to this. All of the pieces fit if you believe the stupid armchair PED “experts.”

The point here, though, is not that Griffey could have juiced — again, I doubt he did — but that it is beyond stupid and naive, at this late date, to play the “Great Clean Hope” card. To say “this one, this guy I loved, at least he never cheated!” game. We did before, after all, with current History’s Greatest Monster Alex Rodriguez. Remember this from the New York Times in 2006?

The cause of Bonds’s physical changes has been endlessly scrutinized; he has repeatedly denied knowingly using steroids, and baseball only began testing for them in 2003. The worst accusation against Rodriguez is that he bragged too much about his workouts in an interview last spring. Whatever people think of him personally, the legitimacy of Rodriguez’s performance has never been questioned … If he continues to avoid injury, the home run record could be his. If Bonds is the man whom Rodriguez is chasing, it is safe to say baseball will be rooting for him.

If we have learned anything in the past decade it’s that talking up ballplayers as ideals of virtue is idiotic. The only reason we do it is to better trash the other guys. And, I suppose, so that we feel morally justified in saying we were “betrayed” when the objects of our idolization later prove to have been fallible after all.

I would be disappointed if, say, we found out Griffey was on that list of 100 players who tested positive during the trial tests back in 2004. But then I’d move on pretty quickly. If you believe what Burwell does — that Griffey was pure despite not knowing that for a fact at all — you are bound to be betrayed and outraged. Why you want to do that to yourself is beyond me. But do realize that your’e doing it to yourself.

Madison Bumgarner apparently hunts bears, too

Madison Bumgarner
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We welcomed “Mason Saunders” into our lives on Sunday, thanks to The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly and Zach Buchanan. Mason Saunders is the alias of Diamondbacks starter Madison Bumgarner when he competes in rodeos, something he’s done as recently as December (when he was still a free agent).

Given that one of Bumgarner’s other extracurricular activities, riding dirt bikes, resulted in a serious injury, many have been wondering how the Diamondbacks would react to the news that the lefty they inked to a five-year contract two months ago is roping steers in his spare time. It seems like the Diamondbacks just accept that that’s who Bumgarner is.

On Tuesday, Baggarly and Buchanan answered some frequently asked questions about the whole Bumgarner-rodeo thing. They mentioned that former Giants manager Bruce Bochy, in a radio interview on KNBR, slipped in that Bumgarner also hunts bears in his off-time. Bochy said, “You think, ‘Madison, you’re looking at signing your biggest contract ever to set yourself up for life and you’re going to risk it on the rodeo?’ But he’s got confidence. I mean there’s some stories I do know that he probably wouldn’t want me to share, with him bear hunting, and the tight situations he’s gotten himself into.”

As Baggarly and Buchanan explained, when Bumgarner — I mean, Saunders — is roping steers, he’s not taking much of a risk. They wrote, “The header and heeler don’t chase the steer around the ring. Each trial is more or less a one-shot deal and it’s over in less than 10 seconds. If the header or heeler misses on the first attempt, then no time is recorded.” Bumgarner has also said he ropes with his non-pitching hand. Hunting bears is an entirely different level of risk, one would imagine. That being said, no one seemed to be surprised that Bumgarner moonlights as a serious rodeo competitor. That’s likely also the case that he, as Bochy puts it, goes “mano a mano” against bears.