Friday, December 03, 2004

What to make of the Bonds situation

Not sure exactly where to start here, but I find the Bonds revelation, while not surprising, to be very upsetting. The two points I don't see any need to go over are:

1) Did he know it was steriods? The excuses are so ridiculously thin, I would put him not knowing up there with O.J. finding the "real" killers. I think for my question below, you have to assume he knew.

2) How absolutely outrageous his stats are--you can look here and pull any number of stats out to show just how phenomenal he has been the last few years.

The question I have--and as opinionated as I can be, I have no real conviction on this--is how this affects our view of what he has done; do the records need asterisks?

The case for Barry I suppose is twofold: a) you still have to hit the ball to get averages as high as his have been the past few years and OBPs as high as his have been. Plus, how much can the steroids really do? Maybe his shots that cleared the wall by 100 feet would have only cleared them by 40 feet, but would still have been homers. b) He still got a couple of MVPs steriod-free (we think), so he is no doubt a dominant player. And, if lots of others are taking steriods, why isn't there anyone at all in Barry's league? (By the way, to me, this may be the saddest part--without the steriods, I'm pretty sure Barry was still in the top 10 player category. I like rooting for guys who have shown themselves to be so far above the league, they are in a class of their own--now, there will always be doubt as to how much the steriods did and didn't do, which will take away from the fact that he was probably truly great without them, even if not AS great).

The strongest case against Barry in my opinion is that this is all a vicious and connected cycle. You can make a pretty cogent argument that if the steriods caused even just an extra 20 homers in just one year (the 2001, 73 HR season), that pushed everything in motion (you might even be able to start this argument in his great 2000 year). He starts getting walked an outrageous amount, raising his OBP through the roof. Knowing he is getting balls on 4 out of 5 pitches (or something like that), he can completely zone in on one type of pitch in one type of zone. If he doesn't get that pitch, he walks (raising OBP), and if he does, he hits it out of the park (raising BA and SLG as well as padding that HR total). This just feeds him getting even more pitches out of the strike zone, enabling him to focus in even more and so on and so on. Plus, add in the fear of your average major league young pitcher and the cycle gets worse and worse. Now, again, he still has to hit the ball, and it's not like he can refuse the walks, but I think this argument can be made, and right or wrong, it will be believed by a decent portion of the public.

I guess this leads to the questions: does Barry retire sooner because of this? And does baseball do anything about it a) globally/systemically or b) regarding the records. I'd say lukewarm on (a) and no on (b).


At 11:31 AM, Blogger El Gran Color Naranja said...

I've always felt the "cycle" argument was true. If teams would actually pitch to Bonds he may hit 70 HR a year, but his average would drop precipitously and those other crazy records (SLG, OBP, walks) would never be. Players can develop power, they can focus on hitting homeruns, but aging .300 hitters (if that) don't just suddenly become .370 hitters overnight. In 2001 he actually hit .240 in March and April, but hit 11 HR, so people started walking him and then...well things went crazy.

But I don't blame steroids, I blame gutless managers.

At 11:32 AM, Blogger DM said...

Hey Dexys, when you say "Bonds revelation", how about linking to a story with some background so we can know exactly what has happened? And, of course, don't stop with the other links.

As for your post, I think your second to last paragraph hits it exactly right. The batter/pitcher confrontation in baseball is very dynamic, and can be influenced by small changes. Bonds is a great hitter without steriods. But if the steroids turn more of his doubles into homers, then that gets in the head of every pitcher and manager, which prompts the spiral you mention.


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