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Home » Baseball

National Mail-It-In Week

Submitted by on December 27, 2007 – 12:27 PM7 Comments

mcgwirecard.jpg

Or so Max Kellerman dubbed it on his show yesterday; I was listening in the car driving back from Jersey, and what good timing, because he had The Notorious D.A.N. Naulty on the show, answering questions and talking to callers. Naulty’s confessions do smack a bit of 12-steppery, but good for him for getting his life in order, and regardless, his insights are critical, particularly if what he says about marginal players is true — that periphery players would tend to use more than established stars, because that’s the difference between getting/keeping a job in the big show and laboring in Double A for two years and getting cut.

This aspect of the discussion has gotten lost somewhat, in the last year, because we’re all focusing to some extent on the name players right now — understandably, I think, because if you don’t know a player, it’s hard to put his steroid use in a context, and also because…well, think about how many guys bump along in the twenty-third spot on the roster. Second backup catchers, sixth outfielders, middle relievers who were throw-ins on other deals…the guys who go up and down between Columbus and the Bronx all year. Guys like Naulty, whom I didn’t remember at all, and ’99 was not that long ago. Of course, not all of them are going to use, but if Naulty’s contention is that this is a big motivation for that type of player, as it was for him, that’s a lot of players in that demographic.

As I opened this window to post, I happened to get an email from a reader, recommending that I check out her brother’s blog post about the issue. He’s in the minors at the low-A level, and he’s exactly the kind of guy I’m talking about, a guy who’s sort of unorthodox (he’s a submariner, if I’m reading this right) and doesn’t throw hard. And…you know, that was Naulty. Naulty was a tall, skinny dude with B stuff who couldn’t gain weight, and who wasn’t going to get a lot of chances because he’s a righty. Bulking up isn’t really going to help a sidearmer — I guess he could take HGH to get better rebound on injuries, but getting Bonds-ishly big wouldn’t really give a pitcher like that a boost — but the issue becomes whether the hitters he faces are juiced, because if they are, a tricky delivery, relying on the occluded release point or whatever it is that makes guys like that tough to hit, it’s not going to cut it. Juiced guys will have better hand-eye, they’ll be faster putting the bat head through the zone, and you can release the ball behind a brick wall if you want to but if it comes to the plate at 80 mph, they’re going to murder it. And that Terry Leach shit isn’t sexy to scouts from the big club. It should be, because it isn’t. They’re looking for 98 on the radar, and long balls, and if a guy like this can’t deliver either of those, what’s he supposed to do?

Cheat. That’s an option. I mean, it isn’t, really, not for this guy and not for most of us — but MLB pretty much indicated to the entire minor-league system, for years, that they weren’t going to crack down on this, so either you got on a program or you could hang out in the minors for the duration. And a lot of guys probably did what they had to do to keep up, because playing baseball is all they know.

I hope we hear more from actual players — not denials, not naming names either, just testimony about what it’s like and how this happened, because if we don’t know how this happened, we can’t really end it.

On a related note, here’s ESPN.com’s Caple and Crasnick, debating whether McGwire is a Hall of Famer. I’m just throwing this link up here prior to reading it because I have to jump in the shower, but I presume we’re going to see another rendition of “I point you to the character clause” versus “it’s not a Hall of Rectitude.” As I’ve said before, I come down on the latter side of that line, but I think the larger problem is with the structure of the voting for Cooperstown, and that the baseball writers are not necessarily representative, either of the institution or of its constituents, namely the fans.

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7 Comments »

  • k says:

    When it comes to voting on the Hall of Fame, well … I’ve read all the back and forth about this and it still comes down to Keith Law and Rob Neyer are not worthy of being Hall of Fame voters, apparently, according to the BBWAA. And I do think those two are more representative of some large subsection of fans who does love stats and thinks W/L for pitchers is bunk, etc. So, yeah, I completely agree that it is a problem that so many writers are not necessarily representative of us.

  • attica says:

    And they don’t even get to go to Columbus anymore! If they’re shipped outta the Bronx, it’s off to Scranton! (Which has been a punchline of a town since long before Harry Chapin and his 30,000 lbs of bananas.)

  • Sars says:

    @k: Exactly what I’m saying. If Neyer isn’t qualified to address these issues, I’d really like to know who is. Because Murray Chass couldn’t hold Neyer’s jock.

    And players don’t vote either (excepting the Veterans Committee, and Frisch meant perfectly well, I’m sure, but did not do wonders for its reputation in that regard), and I think they should. SI has a front-of-book poll each week where they ask players…well, it’s football right now, so a typical question is “Who’s the most respected QB in the NFL?” or something like that. They did it for baseball as well, and in addition to the percentages/results, they have comments about, say, how many infielders voted for such-and-so. It’s kind of a gimmicky little thing on the face of it, but it gives readers insight into what guys who play the game for a living think of their peers, and that’s valuable. How you incorporate that, I don’t know, but it seems like it should be incorporated somehow into the Cooperstown process.

  • Tony says:

    Nitpick: There’s no link to the Caple/Crasnick conversation.

    I kind of think that as long as you have guys like Cap Anson, Ty Cobb, and Gaylord Perry in the Hall of Fame, well, you’ve gotta let in the steroids guys, too. That’s kind of a simplistic view, and I doubt it’s a view much shared (especially amongst HOF voters, given McGwire’s pathetic total), but there it is.

  • k says:

    One time Keith Law commented in my blog and I didn’t shut up about it for a month. Um, and even after that apparently. I’ve read all about the issues and the idea that Law and Neyer don’t get in because they’re not in the ballpark for their reporting? Wha? Come on. Which isn’t even the case with Keith Law. You’d think at the very least reporters might have some idea how that would APPEAR.

    The various non-BBWAA committees haven’t brought much shine to the Hall, either. Admitting all those Negro League players … and not Buck O’Neill? The recent screwing of Marvin Miller? Oy. I hope the players would be smarter but then I read one of those SI surveys where players thought wins vs losses for a pitcher or some similarly prone to distortion statistic was a good judge of prowess and I get nervous again.

    OTOH, as someone who thinks Barry should be in the Hall (and Roger and Rose), I think the players’ support/understanding of those controversial players generally makes them a better judge of these issues than most baseball writers.

  • Sars says:

    @Tony: Oops. The link is there now. Today’s debate is over Goose Gossage and you can find it here: http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/hof08/news/story?id=3169009&campaign=rss&source=MLBHeadlines (it’s not Caple/Crasnick).

    @k: O’Neil’s absence from the Hall is a joke. Fans love the guy; if only from a bottom-line perspective, I’m thinking they should give the people what they want and put him in. They should have done it while he was alive but I’d settle for “too late” in this case.

  • Lori says:

    During a recent conversation about PED generally, it was suggested that shortening the season back down from 162 games would go a long ways towards resolving the problem. The basis for this suggestion was the assumption that players are using whatever substances will do the trick to allow them to survive the physical demands of the endless summer, and not so much for purposes of accumulating ginormous statistics. I countered with my assumption that however much steroid/hgh ( and whatever else ) use can be attributed to this is most likely minimal, and that the substances are being used in the quest for big numbers. The links you provided in your piece support my contention that players aren’t using just to survive the endless summer. Players and would-be-players are using junk to improve performance all the time, and at every level…either to break in, or stay in. And for some, to make it to the top of the Game. Baseball has to either crap or get off the pot about this. Either it implements a no-nonsense no-notice, random drug testing protocol which will be definitively probative of illegal drug use and then actually implement it on every level, with appropriate consequences for failure to pass the test….or it should just throw its hands up in the air, and admit that it doesn’t give a rat’s ass how the players get there, or how they stay there, so long as they making the owners money by wowing the paying fans and folks at home with 100mph fastballs and 550 foot upper deck home runs. Right now I don’t think baseball has the balls to do either. No pun intended.
    Shortening the season might be enough to weed out some of the usage, maybe…but not enough to quell the tempation to “use” in order to make the most of your time in the spotlight, and wouldn’t have any effect at all on the kids trying to break in. The temptation to use is too great to resist unless the possibility of being found out is great, and the consequences of being caught make it too risky.

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