Tuesday, April 06, 2004

"We can't remain competitive in terms of being able to sign players. I said it before. I'll say it now. We need a new park."--Steve Schott owner of the Oakland A’s

Oh for the love of Pete. Shut up. This is as bad as Bud Selig whining that the Marlins can’t stay competitive in Joe Robbie stadium despite winning two World Series in seven years. Now Schott--he of the four straight playoff appearances is moaning that the A’s can’t remain competitive in Network Associates Coliseum.

Competitive like whom? Detroit? Texas? Baltimore? Pittsburgh? Milwaukee? Cincinnati? If we’ve learned nothing else from the last stadium boom it’s that extra money doesn’t translate into a contending ball club. Tom Hicks blew a-wad on A-Rod, Chan Ho Park, and any other Boras’ client that Scotty whispered into Hicks’ ear after he removed his tongue; Colorado took dolleros from their moneymaker and threw it at Denny Neagle and Mike Hampton. Teams like the Brewers, Tigers, Reds, and Bucs celebrated their new found “competitiveness" by cutting payroll and sucking more than anything on this side of an F5 tornado.

Both the Marlins and the A’s are doing it in stadiums--to hear them tell it--that are where you end up if you make a wrong turn in hell. A new stadium doesn’t mean jack if the owner is an idiot, the GM reflexively asks “would you like fries with that?" during trade negotiations and your manager thinks that single, stolen base, sac bunt, groundout constitutes the ideal rally and he treats his pitchers like it’s his solemn duty to put Frank Jobe’s kids through college.

So why are they pleading for Oakland/South Florida to hand over $400 million in corporate welfare? Since it's obviously not about competitiveness, it must be about profits.

It's not these region's job to ensure that little Jeffy Loria and Steve Schott-for-brains have profitable enterprises--it's Loria‘s and Schott‘s. If they want a new stadium, let them build it. Shoot their welfare from MLB would cover the mortgage payments (or come pretty darned close).

I can't see Selig telling Schott-Loria to pony up the money themselves. A new stadium to be competitive? Works wonders for the Brewers’ attendance. A good team will draw. The only acceptable solution for the A’s/Marlins “competitive issues" (read: a .500 team, a 20% drop in attendance, and all the luxury boxes/club seats leased out) according to ol' suds-for-brains is for South Florida/Oakland to ante up $400 million (or whatever) so they can compete with Detroit in trying to sign Fernando Vina.

If Bud "I need a laxative to clear mental blocks" Selig feels so badly for Schott-Loria--why not broker a deal with the club and region to go splits of a new stadium? Because the only splits Bud's interested in is telling the taxpayers to split their legs and brace themselves because MLB biggest dick is coming through.


You need a sherpa to climb Mt. Davis in Oakland, there's thin air in Colorado, it's frickin' hot in Texas/St. Louis/KC, it's lonely in Milwaukee, night games were nasty at The Stick and it rains in Florida.

Yet somehow baseball survives.

If Bud Selig were made surgeon general he'd tell us that building him a new office would cure cancer.

Have you noticed that Selig’s stumping for new stadiums is a lot like how a car dealership sells cars? Have you ever heard a car dealership says it’s a bad time to buy a car? It’s always “the perfect time to buy" Before Christmas (it’s the perfect time to buy, it makes a great gift), after Christmas (it’s the perfect time to buy for our Boxing Day Clearout), New Years (it’s the perfect time to buy, start the New Year off right), Halloween (it’s the perfect time to buy, come in for scary savings), Easter (it’s the perfect time to buy, hop on over for our great deal), Valentines Day (it’s the perfect time to buy, you’ll fall in love with our prices), your mother’s death (it’s the perfect time to buy, imagine how proud she’d be driving this beauty behind the hearse), worried about your son’s nose picking habit? (it’s the perfect time to buy, let him blow around in this baby...beep beep), suffering from chronic depression? (it’s the perfect time to buy it’ll cheer you up, take a test drive in our Prozac LS), had your son circumcised? (it’s the perfect time to buy--it’s a cut above) etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum, ad nauseum

Selig’s like that about stadiums. Any reason is good reason to build a new stadium. It’s never a bad time to build a new stadium. Does your team reek? (It’s the perfect time to build a new stadium....if you’re gonna inflict a bad team on your fans at least make them comfy). Is your owner(s) cheap and your GM an imbecile? (It’s the perfect time to build a new stadium....studies show that new stadiums raise the IQ of your average GM 0.0009 %). Did the last stadium built install state-of-the-art gumball machines that your 10 year old stadium lacks? (It’s the perfect time to build a new stadium....before the bubble bursts). Have you totally alienated your fan base and wish to tick off the taxpayers? (It’s the perfect time to build a new stadium....show ‘em that you’ve got a new place they can screw you in). Did the Yankees sign away your third baseman? (It’s the perfect time to build a new stadium....it’ll generate the revenues so you can sign away the Yankees utility infielder. Revenge is sweet MUUUUUHAHAHAHAHAHA). Bad weather? (It’s the perfect time to build a new stadium....suckers tend to melt when exposed to fluids). Cholera outbreak? (It’s the perfect time to build a new stadium....that way your team won’t look so sick). Did the 59-103 team in your division just get new digs (It’s the perfect time to build a new stadium....gotta make sure you can compete with them).


My guess is that Bud Selig thinks “Jesus" is “HOK" in Hebrew because new stadiums can give the blind sight, make the deaf hear, make the lame walk, feed the hungry, heal the sick, and make the dead rise.

Of course it makes Selig and cronies wealthier.

Will it turn your pumpkin into Cinderella?

Hey, it’s a stadium, not a miracle worker.

Look, here’s a message to the taxpayers in Florida and California: here’s what you’ll get if you believe their lies and pony up the corporate welfare--although they‘d never call it that, Bud lied to Congress and do you think he‘ll tell you the truth? This is the guy telling you that the defending World Series champs/toppler of the mighty Yankees and their 200 gazillion dollar payroll....and a team that is 392-255 [with four straight post season appearances] has “competitive issues"--they’re asking for: higher ticket prices, a stadium which caters to the elite, higher taxes, seats further away from the action, $8 beers, and a forthcoming announcement that despite the new revenues, the system is still totally out of whack, so they’ll be cutting payroll and playing the kids. Oh yeah, your best player will be traded to the New York Yankees in an effort to improve themselves over the long haul. Just remember, more money and the same brains with a major league club only translates into $60 million paperweights like Chan Ho Park.

I suppose you want a link now. Do you think the Veterans Committee is a few outs short of an inning? Do you think the Hall-of-Fame has left out some deserving players and inducted some trivia buffs stump questions? Well, there is an alternative: it doesn’t have fancy plaques, or fascinating exhibits, but it’s free and you can let your chair continue it’s rewarding relationship with your butt--best of all, it’s fascinating reading and full of surprises (like personal favourite Robert Lee “Indian Bob" Johnson). So click your way to Baseball Immortals and let the debates begin.

Best Regards


Monday, April 05, 2004

The other day, there was a headline in the Columbus Ledger Enquirer: “Faith in God keeps Braves' Drew optimistic

It reminded me of a lovely Sunday morning last year. The birds were chirping the sun was shining, the Blue Jays were playing later that day.


My lovely wife and two teenaged daughters decided we need a little edification and toddled off to Sunday services. The sermon was enthralling, our souls were overflowing with spiritual joy and suddenly the main doors of the building blew open. Silhouetted by the sun we could only see a large shadowy figure and he appeared to be quite imposing carrying what appeared to be a weapon.

A nervous murmur began in one corner of the hall and quickly spread throughout the congregation. Judgment Day? A cameo by ol' Scratch himself? Carl Everett in a poopy mood? A lost soul seeking redemption? Suddenly he stepped out from the bright sunlight and we could see him clearly ... a man with a baseball bat in one hand and a ball in the other and he, without warning, bellowed: "anybody wanna play ball?!?!?!"

The account is fictitious, I would sincerely hope that nobody would be so, um, crass. Hey, I love baseball that's why I’m blogging instead of studying to be a cardiac surgeon or a nuclear physicist (that and an I.Q. I can count on one hand and still have my thumb left over), however a church service is not the time or place for getting a pick up game of baseball going.

So why on earth do fans and players insist on bringing religion into ballparks? I'm a religious man so don't take the following rantings as evidence of my being a heathen or worse, a sports agent. I mean it's O.K. invoke the Deity if Pedro Martinez buzzes one under your chin or the Tigers have batted around on you three times and the manager is peacefully snoozing in the dugout-- but other than that it doesn't belong. I've seen old paintings depicting various works dealing with Christian subject matter but I've yet to see somebody getting devoured at the old Roman Coliseum with somebody in the stands holding up a "John 3:16" sign.

If you want to proselytize do it somewhere other than a ballpark. Jesus didn't have club seating at the Aeropagus and "Jesus saves" doesn't mean that he did so after St. Peter pitched a scoreless seven and eighth while Scottius Boras XXIV was seeing if anybody would top the Pharisees' offer of 30 pieces of silver for the Carpenter not named Chris.

Enough ragging on the fans but quite frankly if you want to propagate your beliefs the way Jesus and his disciples did; read the Gospels and the Book of Acts. They preached in a great many places but never at a sporting event unless they were playing the Lions in the Roman arena.

On to the players:

If not whether you win or lose it's how you pray the game.

What happens if both a pitcher and a hitter cross themselves at the same time? Does God flip a coin? How 'bout a pregame prayer for victory? Does the Good Lord tally up the sinner to saints ratio on the roster to decide who get the win? Joe Carter thanked God for allowing him to win a World Series so I guess Mitch Williams will be doing laps in the Lake of Fire and sulphur, right? Personally I feel sorry for God, he gets credit for things he doesn't want credit for and gets blamed when anything goes wrong.

God doesn't care whether or not you hit .300, win 20 games, wear a World Series ring or make $10+ million a year. He expects you to treat your fellow man the way you wish to be treated, the way your master treated people. I'm the first to admit I'm more sinner than saint but then again I don't make my show of devotion in front of national television audiences either.

If you want religion go to church if you want baseball, go to the stadium and never the twain shall meet. I don't go into your church to start a ballgame so don't come into my ballpark to show me what a good Christian you are ... and while you're at it [fans], lose the dorky technicolor wig. If anything, you're undermining your point of view. Signs at the ballpark aren't enlightening, they're annoying. I have yet to see someone take their family from the park saying: "Let's go home and see what that scripture has to say!" Those signs haven't turned the masses back to God, so why do it? You're not directing attention to the Almighty, you're drawing attention to yourself. Speaking of which:

"Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have the glory of men."

- St. Matthew 6: 1, 2

The separation of church and stadium -- embrace it. It 2004 resolve to only bring banners that deal with baseball.

Today’s link: Retrosheet. If you want to know who did what and when, if you’re going nuts to remember what happened in the first major league game you attended, or you just want to settle a bet--chances are, you’ll find it here.

Best Regards


Sunday, April 04, 2004

So I took Saturday off--big whoop. It’s not like anybody’s reading this blog yet. Even I’m reluctant to click the link. I mean, after I take a crap, I don’t look into the toilet and admire my work; I flush it and hope I never see it again.

Nevertheless, Opening Day for the rest of us stiffs is upon us. So besides boxscores, we’ll be reading players/managers/coaches comments and as sure as Bud Selig couldn’t pour water out of a glass if the instructions how to do it were on the bottom of the glass, we’ll hear the dreaded cliche. I thought as a public service to absolutely no one in particular I’d give you a handy translation chart so you’ll be able to decipher what folks are saying:

When they say: "He's got great raw stuff."

What they mean is: "He couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, but boy those three digits on the speed gun are fun to look at."

When they say: "He'll add veteran experience to the club."

What they mean is: "He can't hit, he can't throw, he can't field, rigor mortis is about to set in, but he signed for the minimum."

When they say: "We're going to build from within and see what the kids can do."

What they mean is: "Every agent we called either laughed at us or hung up."

When they say: "They're leaving him in to see if he can pitch his way out of this jam."

What they mean is: "I guess the manager read the pitcher's comments in the paper yesterday and he just told him to kiss his ERA goodbye."

When they say: "He's been through a lot to get back to this point."

What they mean is: "He beat his wife, cheated on his taxes, impregnated the eastern seaboard, killed three reporters and singlehandedly put no fewer than 213 drug dealers' kids through college and you're supposed to be all perky at he's hitting .300 on May 1."

When they say: "We have a veteran club this year."

What they mean is: "Tell the trainer to stock up on Polygrip, Depends, Geritol, and prune juice and make sure the guys on our AAA club keep their bags packed."

When they say: "His teammates claim he's great in the clubhouse."

What they mean is: "His teammates are scared stiff that he'll take a fungo bat to their heads if they diss him in the press."

When they say: "He's still got a lot of time to get it together."

What they mean is: "And he won't be doing it here as long as I'm manager."

When they say: "He offers protection to the middle of the lineup."

What they mean is: "He'll whiff 160 times but that keeps him from hitting into inning ending double plays."

When they say: "It's his job to lose."

What they mean is: "My general manager is too #@%#!! cheap!"

When they say: "He has great fundamentals."

What they mean is: "He can't hit, he doesn't walk, he can't field, but he never throws to the wrong base."

When they say: "He eats a lot of innings."

What they mean is: "Which is why his ERA is so huge!!"

When they say: "It looks like he's gonna bring in the second lefty in the 'pen."

What they mean is: "The game's out of reach, and we thought the fans would like to see A-Rod, Giambi and Sheffield go yard."

When they say: "He's a player who values his privacy."

What they mean is: "The media once saw him eat somebody from Sports Illustrated."

When they say: "They don't appreciate me here."

What they mean is: "They gave him a stupid contract, now I want one even stupider."

When they say: "Everybody has a shot, all jobs are open."

What they mean is: "Not only will we suck, we might lose 130 games this year."

When they say: "He's got great raw tools."

What they mean is: "He's talented; dumb as a post, but talented."

When they say: "He's your typical crafty lefty."

What they mean is: "If he ate with his other hand, he'd be saying: 'would you like fries with that?'"

When they say: "He's a speed merchant."

What they mean is: "He's a living, breathing, out machine."

When they say: "He's around the plate a lot."

What they mean is: "Opposing hitters refer to him as the human launching pad."

When they say: "He keeps hitters off balance."

What they mean is: "Hitters know that not even he knows where the pitch is going."

When they say: "He's effectively wild."

What they mean is: "Bases empty, two outs, and Bonds gets it in the middle of the back."

When they say: "Brian Hunter's speed makes him a logical choice to lead off."

What they mean is: "We're a small market team, our number two hitter is due for arbitration and we don't want him to have more than 30 RBI."

When they say: "We're going with a bullpen by committee."

What they mean is: "Y'know, I don't think any of these stiffs can get three outs before they bat around."

When they say: "Remember the name; he's gonna be the next Mickey Mantle."

What they mean is: "Remember the name, in three years he'll be left unprotected in the Rule V Draft."

O.K. Link time: Again, it’s a pretty well known one if you’re a baseball fan. Believe it or not, these yoyos used to run some of my stuff. Once they got rid of me, they felt their content improved enough that they could charge for it. Truly a sound business decision. Baseball Prospectus offers excellent content and stat features that even the most hard core baseball fan will enjoy. Again, I’m biased since I know (and have worked) with a number of their staff. Let’s see, name dropping roll call time (in no particular order): Jonah Keri, Dayn Perry, Joe Sheehan, and Gary Huckabay are all folks I’ve been privileged to work with over the years. If they get too successful, I’ll cash in by telling stories about ‘how I knew them when’ and boy, they’ll have to cough up big to keep me quiet.

P.S. Go Leafs Go.

Best Regards


Friday, April 02, 2004

Day three: I’ve decided that the Yankees/Devil Rays series in Japan isn’t such a hot idea in its current format. Not that I mind major league games being played in Japan or even the first games of the season taking place in the Land of the Rising Sun. It’s the lag between the Japanese games and Opening Day over here. Has the season started or not? We’re reading both regular season and spring training boxscores. If you’re going to start the season--then start the season already.

A minor nitpick to be sure, but I just wanted to get that off my chest before I got into today‘s topic.

I’ll open with a caveat: I am not a stathead. The reason is simple--I reek at math. suffice it to say, for the most part, sabermetrics goes waaaay over my head. I understand the basic principles behind it and agree with them. Folks sometimes disparage sabermetricians as stat geeks but let’s face it--we’re all statheads of one kind or another. People shake their heads at the methods used by Bill James, Baseball Prospectus etc. while forgetting that the biggest difference between they and themselves is the stats they use. They berate the use of VORP, RARP, RCAA, adj. OPS+ etc. and then turn around and start spouting off about Wins, RBI, ERA, and batting average. I just prefer the sabermetrician approach. I thought I’d give a quick overview on why sabermetrics is preferable to conventional evaluations.

To begin with, one of the appeals of traditional stats is that they’re easy to follow and understand. A player crosses home plate and we call it a run. A player, bat in hand gets a hit and the runner on second scores; or maybe a runner on third comes home on a deep fly ball to CF or a ground ball hit deep to short brings him in--we call it an RBI. It’s simple, tangible, and easy to keep track of.

However as Mark Twain once opined, there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. To illustrate one way, let’s look at part of what might be part of the Blue Jays lineup in 2004:

R. Johnson LF

E. Hinske 3B

V. Wells CF

Let’s pose a hypothetical game scenario. Reed Johnson gets on base to start the game via an error, Eric Hinske gets a hit driving Johnson to third, and Vernon Wells brings him home on a ground ball out deep to short.

Next time through, Johnson draws a walk, Hinske again moves him to third on a base hit and Wells hits a deep fly ball to RF to bring him in.

Once again, Johnson gets hit by a pitch, Hinske gets his third single of the night and Johnson makes it to 3B. Wells come up and hits a shallow fly ball into right-center that the second baseman back pedals to catch. Since he cannot plant his feet properly to get off a throw, the speedy Johnson again tags up and scores.

The game ends and it’s high scoring. Each player ends up with six at bats. Stewart and Wells each get a base hit and make outs for the rest of the game; Hinske has to settle for three hits in six AB.

At the end of the ballgame we look at the boxscore. Johnson gets one hit in four official AB (.250), Wells has a hit in three official AB (.333), Hinske has three hits in six AB (.500), yet at the end of game we look at the results and see:

R. Johnson: 1-for-4, 3 runs scored, 0 RBI

E. Hinske: 3-for-6, 0 runs scored, 0 RBI

V. Wells: 1-for-3, 0 runs scored, 3 RBI

Our leadoff hitter has scored three runs (as a leadoff hitter should) and we say Johnson had a great game. We look at our number three hitter (Wells) and see he had a three RBI night. Since he’s a middle-of-the-order hitter, we also conclude that he had a good night. We now turn to Hinske and see he has three hits but no runs or RBI so we assume:

(1) He hit a “soft” .500 in the game

(2) He can’t hit in the clutch

(3) He didn’t make his hits “count.”

However when you look at the sequence we discussed earlier, Hinske had the key AB that produced the runs, but he received no credit for it. Indeed if it happens enough times over the course of a season, Johnson might have a season with over 100 runs scored and Wells has a 100 RBI season, but Hinske, who despite good percentages (say: .290/.395/.500), wasn’t all that productive as “evidenced” by his low Run/RBI totals. So Hinske might have had the best season of the three but “traditional” stats obscured that he was the key cog atop the batting order.

Using a sabermetric measure, such as Runs Created, ((hits+walks)(total
bases)/(AB+BB)) we can discern who the most productive player actually was. That’s why we say that runs and RBI are situational stats. Johnson and Wells garnered those totals, not because of an ability to hit, but because of Hinske’s [ability to hit].

Another reason that traditional triple crown stats (AVG/HR/RBI) can be misleading can be demonstrated thusly. Let’s chart two players from the 1990 NL season:

Barry Bonds PIT .301 33 114

Joe Carter SD .232 24 115

Some might conclude that Carter’s superior RBI totals despite lagging well behind in batting average and HR meant that Carter “made his hits count.” Regardless, one could make the argument that they were equally productive since their RBI totals are almost the same.

However ,let’s focus on those RBI. Not all RBI are created equal. Suppose Bonds and Carter had to go to the RBI store and purchase those RBI. Instead of using dollars to buy those RBI, the medium of purchase is “outs.”

Joe Carter needed to pay 513 “outs” to “buy” his RBI; Barry Bonds paid just 390. Now, if you send two people to the store to buy you the same item and one paid $513 for the item in question and the other bought it for just $390, who would you choose to make your next “purchase”? Conventional stats would make you think that Carter and Bonds had similar seasons however using the Runs Created metric we see that Carter created just 72 runs whereas Bonds weighed in at 120. Bonds superior season becomes obvious using a better measure of production.

Another example: Who would you rather have on your team? Carlos Baerga who in 442 AB hit; .314 19 80 with the 1994 Cleveland Indians.

Or Max Bishop, who in 441 AB hit .252 10 38 with the 1930 Philadelphia Athletics?

Superficially most would pick Baerga. But when you look a little deeper Bishop was far, far more productive. One stat I left off was walks. Bishop drew 128 freebies that year, Baerga just ten.

So, Baerga, who out hit Bishop by 62 points was actually left in the dust by Bishop in OBP by a whopping 93 points! (For the record Baerga's OBP in 1994 was .333, Bishop's in 1930 was .426)

Let's look how this affected run production: Bishop produced more runs (runs+RBI-HR) than Baerga 145 to 142. Baerga barely eclipsed Bishop in OPS .858 to .834, but Bishop hammered Baerga in runs created 88 to 75.

So actually, despite Baerga's numbers being more eye popping, Bishop was actually more productive offensively.

Hence the “lies, damned lies, and statistics.” There’s other ways to determine quality. As recent as a decade ago, 20 HR was a good season, 30 HR would get you MVP votes, 40 HR might win you the award and 50 HR would make you stand up and whistle. Nowadays shortstop Alex Rodriguez has averaged 47 HR over the last six seasons, Sammy Sosa has three 60+ HR campaigns and the seventy mark has been breached not once, but twice. Today, your staff ace might have an ERA of 3.00; in 1968 you would be below average. Sabermetricians try to take these eras into account when comparing players. In short, baseball analysis has moved to the next level of understanding and we should follow along. Of course it doesn’t mean we should become so much into mathematics that we forget about the history of the game and milestones. We should want to see a player get 192 RBI, or hit .400 again. We should enjoy hitting streaks. Just because we understand the importance of OPS, OPS+, adjusted ERA etc. doesn’t mean we should ignore a player hitting .390 in June or a player over 100 RBI at the All-Star break. It’s part of the fun of watching the game. If you want to know the true greats from the illusory greats though, you should study sabermetrics--you can hide a mediocre player with conventional stats but the superstars shine regardless of the measure used.

Along these lines are today’s links (plural). They’re both stat based and a lot of fun. First is Baseball Reference. My best advice for you is this: click the link and go. There’s nothing I could say that would do the site justice--you’ve got to experience it for yourself. The second is admittedly a commercial one. The Sabermetric Encyclopedia is a wonderful tool which combines both traditional and sabermetric stats. I freely admit my bias in that the person that came up with this (Lee Sinins) is a personal friend who helped me a great deal (free of charge) during my tenure as a baseball writer. Having said that--it’s also a quality piece of work. Its “Sort Stats” feature will give you hours of fun and education. For the record, I am not paid to endorse this, I’m just doing it because it’s a great CD and any time I can pay back Lee for all his kindnesses--I jump at the opportunity.

Best Regards


Thursday, April 01, 2004

It’s April Fool’s Day. I thought to do a prank here but I’m pretty sure there’s nobody reading at this point. My clientele clearly has discriminating taste. The only person I can fool today is me and I do that in the mirror every day when I pretend that I’m looking pretty good for a guy pushing 40. So, I thought (beginner‘s luck) I’d do two things--one more than yesterday: First off, for the foreseeable future I thought I’d highlight and comment on great baseball links each day. After all, there’s not enough here to keep one occupied for than a minute or two so at least I should be a gracious enough host to ensure that there was a reason for coming here. Today’s highlighted link is Baseball Primer. I’ve been a denizen of this place for a few years now and despite my presence the quality of it remains high. There’s some great columnists and discussion forums there. Clutch Hits is my usual locale although I do enjoy surfing Game Chatter (great fun during the post season), Transaction Oracle (they don‘t miss a thing), Primate Studies, Sox Therapy (for Red Sox fans who enjoy wearing crowns of thorns and spikes in their wrists and ankles) etc. etc. etc

It’s time well wasted.

One of the hot topics so far in 2004 is Barry Bonds and the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Other than physical appearance, what really raises the red flag on Bonds is this:

What Bonds is doing is unprecedented. Yes, a lot of players have had terrific years late in their careers. However Bonds was well on his way to becoming an inner-circle HOFer. At the end of 1999 he was a member of the 400/400 club; won three MVPs (and was a top 5 finisher four other times); was an eight time all-star and Gold Glover and was .288/.409/.559 lifetime. Now he’s entering what is normally the decline phase of his career and he’s been .334/.513/.780 with 213 HR (from 2000-2003). To put that in a bit of context: Babe Ruth’s four best years (1921-24) he was 26-29 years old (Barry’s four best years came at ages 35-38) and the Bambino was .369/.504/.761 with 181 HR. Ruth enjoyed the following advantages: the best non-white players were excluded, the advent the relief ace was decades away, and he hit in park tailored for swing.

I’d love it if Bonds was doing it minus TGH/HGH/steroids but I can’t imagine an inner-circle HOFer suddenly outdoing the Babe in his prime (i) in a more difficult hitting environment (ii) in what is a typical player’s decline phase. To hit .288 in your career (which includes a normal player’s prime years) and suddenly start hitting at a .334 pace in your mid-to-late 30’s; to have your OBP go from .409 in your career (which includes a normal player’s prime years) and suddenly start posting an OBP of .513 in your mid-to-late 30’s; to slug .559 in your career (which includes a normal player’s prime years) and suddenly start slugging at a .780 clip in your mid-to-late 30’s is so staggering that I cannot explain it within normal athletic parameters (it'd be like Gretzky scoring 500 goals from ages 35-38). Barry Bonds, before he was 35, had an OPS of .968 and improved it by going 1.293 since (about a 25% improvement) Babe
Ruth, before he was 35, had an OPS of 1.183; to improve that 25% during his 35-38 years he would’ve had to post an aggregate OPS of 1.479--a level he never attained in a single season (yet alone over four). The highest single season OPS is 1.3807 (Barry Bonds in 2002)....almost 100 points lower than what the Babe would've had to do to match Bonds.

Was it Carl Sagan who said "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence"? Well, for Bonds to accomplish what he's done since 2000 sans performance-enhancing substances is what I'd call an 'extraordinary claim.'

So, do I believe Bonds is guilty or innocent?


Personally I think Bonds uses, but if I were to cast a vote in a jury I’d vote “not guilty” for several reasons:

  • While the circumstantial and anecdotal evidence as to Bonds usage is strong, it’s still just circumstantial and anecdotal evidence.
  • Bonds isn’t the only player to excel from ages 35-38. Ted Williams was .359/.505/.668 over that part of his career. The training and nutrition available today far outstrips what was available almost 50 years ago.
  • With proper weight training, diet, and legal supplements, it is possible to bulk up with lean muscle mass almost at any age. A couple of years back I saw a body builder from Barbados that won a competition at age 66. He was competing with much younger men. From all accounts he was clean.

So while I find the mounting evidence against Bonds--all the more since his trainer from BALCO (Gary Anderson) was indicted for trafficking in anabolic steroids--to be damning, I think there’s still a reasonable doubt that he’s clean. “Guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” is a wise stance in my opinion. That’s why, while I do personally feel Bonds is guilty, I’ll go on record as saying “not guilty.”

Best Regards