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May 7, 2009

Prospectus Today

Manny's Return

by Joe Sheehan

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I very rarely leave a baseball game before it ends, but last night at Camden Yards was an exception. My friend and I bailed during the third rain delay at around 10 p.m., and as it turns out, we missed two very wet innings of baseball played over the subsequent three hours. I really like the ballpark, which must have seemed so incredibly different when it opened in 2002. So many parks are clones of Camden Yards that it isn't unique any longer, but the impact of this place on folks who were used to attending Memorial Stadium had to be something else.

We'll try again tonight, and I'll write about it, as well as the Orioles and Twins, in Friday's column. As it turns out, I have something else to write about today.

Manny Ramirez has been suspended for 50 games by Major League Baseball for violating the Joint Drug Agreement. Note that the wording is specific. He wasn't suspended for cheating, for setting a bad example for kids, for violating the sanctity of statistics. He was suspended for testing positive for a substance banned under the agreement.

Ramirez released a statement in which he took responsibility, sort of, passing some of the blame to the doctor that prescribed the drug. This afternoon, ESPN.com is reporting that Ramirez tested positive for HCG, a substance that is used to promote testosterone production in men. A dip in the natural production of testosterone is a side effect of steroid use, which is why HCG finds itself on the banned list-it can be used to counter the negative effects of steroid use. Players who have a medical need for this, a natural one, can apply for waivers; Ramirez did not have a waiver.

I'm not an expert-that's Will's area-but this doesn't appear to be an Olympian getting flagged because he used Claritin or something. HCG's purpose is to aid in the production of testosterone, and the reasons for a testosterone deficit in a 36-year-old man can be narrowed to a fairly small range. That Ramirez is not being suspended specifically for the use of a steroid, but rather for a drug that is associated with steroid use, is a detail, and a seemingly small one.

This suspension will have a negative effect on the Dodgers, who now end up where they were 10 weeks ago, with Juan Pierre playing left field most of the time. As Jay Jaffe notes, there are other, potentially more palatable options available to Joe Torre should he choose to get creative. Jay's analysis indicates that in spite of the suspension, the Dodgers are still the favorites in the division, thanks to a lineup that runs seven deep for the next 50 games, and a good back of the bullpen and front of the rotation. The depth issues that are their main problem remain so, but we'll see the return of Ramirez before we see any attempts to shore up the back of the roster. Fortunately for the Dodgers, the NL West lacks a team that is likely to push past 90 wins, or perhaps even 85. Losing a few wins to Ramirez's suspension may keep them from home-field advantage, but it shouldn't kill their playoff hopes.

For me, well, this time it counts. I'm talking about the All-Star Game voting. Manny Ramirez has been elected to start the All-Star Game in nine of the past 10 seasons, every year except 2006. He has been qualified by ability and by stardom, and his popularity in his home cities has been very strong. Now, Ramirez will serve a suspension for almost the entirety of the voting period, and will begin playing again on July 3, just 11 days before the All-Star Game in St. Louis, and two days before the All-Star teams are announced.

We are about to find out how much the fans truly care about this issue. Remember, fans have voted players onto the All-Star team who were having lousy seasons, who were injured and missing large parts of the current season, or who had been in decline for years. During the period of time in which Barry Bonds, villain, was accused of steroid use, he was voted onto the All-Star team in every season. It wasn't until he missed most of 2005 with a knee injury that he missed the All-Star Game, and when he was once again healthy enough to play, he made the team-he was elected to the team by the fans-in 2007. For me, this was strong evidence that the fans didn't care about purported steroid use.

Well, this year is a better test of that idea. Baseball fans around the world are going to get to vote, up or down, on whether Manny Ramirez should be an All-Star. In doing so they get to vote, up or down, on how they feel about a player suspended for using a substance he shouldn't have been using. No one boos Ryan Franklin, no one throws syringes at Juan Rincon, and no one argues that the home runs hit by Alex Sanchez should be stricken from the record book. Fine. Now, though, there's a ballot with a name next to a chad, and there's a website with a list of options, and a player who is clearly an All-Star based on every other criterion up for election. What are baseball fans going to do?

The 2009 National League All-Star voting is going to be the best information we yet have about how fans really feel about players suspected of using steroids. The potential for Ramirez to be voted onto the All-Star team while serving a PED suspension is easily the most interesting thing about his suspension today.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

Related Content:  Manny Ramirez,  The Who

66 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

cdt719

There's a typo in there, Camden Yards opened in 1992, not 2002.

May 07, 2009 15:34 PM
rating: 5
 
Joe

How will he be "clearly an All-Star based on every other criterion"? Contrary to what I know you've argued sometimes, Joe - that we should vote based on history of performance, rather than a player "going supernova" for half a season - an awful lot of people DO make their All-Star picks for a given season based either solely or largely on players' performance from that particular season.

Obviously you can make arguments for or against doing this, but what if voters just waited until June 15th and then all voted for the players at each position who had achieved the highest WARP in 2009? Might not be the perfect formula, but it makes a hell of a lot more sense than what we, collectively, do now. And because he'll end up missing the majority of the games during the relevant period, under that formula, Manny won't qualify, just as he wouldn't qualify if he were missing 50 games with a broken leg.

That's not really to say he is or he isn't deserving. But to say he's "clearly an All-Star based on every other criterion" is a significant overstatement.

May 07, 2009 15:38 PM
rating: 5
 
Lou Doench

"and no one argues that the home runs hit by Alex Sanchez should be stricken from the record book. "

What, BOTH of them?

May 07, 2009 15:40 PM
rating: 6
 
gluckschmerz

Re: Manny

Disappointed. Not surprised.

All of us, right?

May 07, 2009 15:48 PM
rating: -3
 
soBC

If we are looking at fans who've voted for "players...who were having lousy seasons, who were injured and missing large parts of the current season, or who had been in decline for years", doesn't that give them less credibility amongst more informed baseball fans? It sounds like that's what BP is insinuating here. If so, what exactly is to be gained on seeing how those same uninformed fans vote for a player who's been suspended for violating the JDA?

If we want to know how much baseball fans care about the steroid issue, I would think there are 10,000 blogs that will already tell you that. Hello, Internet. I think that MannyGate will show how much All-Star voters care about voting for suspended players, but not how "the fans" feel about the issue.

I don't think any one thing can capture what baseball fans think about the steroid issue, short of asking every fan to take a vote. Steroid use in baseball is obviously a complex subject, and there are millions upon millions of baseball fans. I can't agree that those who vote for the All-Star game are necessarily a cross-section of all those fans, not without doing a little more research to validate that hypothesis.

Lastly, I am a little curious as to whether or not Manny will be on Joe's ballot come July...



May 07, 2009 16:04 PM
rating: 3
 
Dan

You think those writing and commenting on blogs are more representative of "Joe Fan" than those voting for the All-Star Game? I really don't think so.

People on baseball blogs, I would imagine, are much more die-hard fans than average, and probably a good bit younger than average too.

All-Star voting can still be done the old-school way, with that paper ballot in a stadium. In my opinion, that's going to capture the "Joe Fan" sentiment more than blogs will.

I think Joe's point is a good one - I hadn't thought of it this way.

May 07, 2009 16:18 PM
rating: 2
 
soBC

I think Joe makes a good point, I just don't think that the All-Star vote will necessarily show how all fans feel about the steroid issue. Going to baseball games is largely dependent on how close a fan is to a ballpark. Assuming most votes are done with a paper ballot at the ballpark (which may not be true anymore), the Manny story will show how they feel but not necessarily all the fans.

Im not sure there is a Joe Fan anymore, if such a thing can be defined. In times past, it probably was easier to identify the average baseball fan because they had to work harder to follow baseball. But with things like technology, the Internet, MLB.tv, people can follow baseball without the effort required from previous generations. And more casual fans brings casual observations with it, which I why I say Thank God for BP. Its about the one place where you can get black-tie analysis while everyone else in the media is running around in shorts and sandals.

May 08, 2009 13:05 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

I thought about that last night. I actually hadn't when I wrote the piece, but I picked up my ballot at the game last night.

I really don't know. Missing 60% of the first half is a hard thing to overcome, but it may be hard to find three NL outfielders that much better than him based on the criteria I typically use.

May 08, 2009 08:56 AM
 
Chad

You write: "He was suspended for testing positive for a substance banned under the agreement."

But Will writes in today's Unfiltered: "Ramirez was suspended under section 8.G.2 of the Joint Drug Agreement, which is “other.” In his statement, there’s no clear statement that Ramirez ever tested positive."

My understanding was that it was a Jordan Schafer situation; no positive test. Which is it?

May 07, 2009 16:07 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

Both actually. Go to the tail end of the Ramirez Unfiltered thread.

May 07, 2009 20:41 PM
 
barrysanders
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Not knowing when camden yard opened strains any credibility from this article. Hell, I can remember Junior Griffey trying to hit the warehouse in the 1993 home run derby.

May 07, 2009 16:10 PM
rating: -29
 
Dan

Oh, come on, I'm sure it's a typo and not something he really thought was true.

May 07, 2009 16:18 PM
rating: 6
 
Evan
(47)

Thanks, Joe.

You just inspired me to go vote for Manny 25 times.

May 07, 2009 16:18 PM
rating: 3
 
Dan

First thing that came to my mind about this: Between Manny and Brett Favre, SportsCenter is going to be completely unwatchable for at least the next week!

May 07, 2009 16:19 PM
rating: 6
 
Lou Doench

SportsCenter? Whats that?

May 07, 2009 16:25 PM
rating: 2
 
Joe D.

Ah, so nothing has changed and all is right with the world.

May 08, 2009 00:04 AM
rating: 2
 
lpiklor

Wait... someone still watches ESPN?

May 08, 2009 08:08 AM
rating: 2
 
nsacpi

I think it will be at least as interesting to see who the third baseman is for the American League in the All-Star game.

May 07, 2009 16:29 PM
rating: 2
 
Bogomil

You're not the only one who left Camden early: http://www.realclearsports.com/articles/2009/05/david-steele-fired-baltimore-sun-press-box.html

May 07, 2009 16:42 PM
rating: 0
 
jrwatts

Mmmm, Joe makes a good point. I seriously doubt that Manny will get voted in, in light of this, but I guess we'll see.

Whether or not the fans care about PED use is one thing, but whether it is *important* is another matter entirely. I'm not saying that Joe is asserting that PED use isn't important (although honestly, I think his past writing shows that this is his belief), but I think it's crucial to keep the matters separate. Personally, I *do* think it is important to try to keep dangerous PEDs like anabolic steroids out of professional sports, and my opinion will not be influenced at all by how many all-star votes Manny picks up.

May 07, 2009 17:14 PM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

I'm not sure I've ever actually written what I think about steroid use. (I'm trying to get away from "performance-enhancing drugs" as the term, given the lack of established connection between use and performance enhancement w/r/t baseball.)

My overall sense, from what I've read, is that these drugs are dangerous in part because they're illegal. What I mean is that if you used steroids under a qualified doctor's care, in reasonable doses, you could get the benefits of enhanced strength safely, or as close to safely as is practicable. (And remember, we do ask our athletes to partake in a lot of unsafe behavior as is.) Because the government classified anabolic steroids a certain way, however, the above sequence is hard to recreate. The illegality drives the lack of safety, to some extent.

U.S. drug laws are not so rational--in fact, they're a hot mess--that they should drive the discussion. Nor should some ridiculous notion of "protecting children," perhaps the biggest bit of nonsense in this entire matter. If that's the main goal, then let me put this out there: what program would have the greater positive effect on the children of America: mandatory drug-testing for professional athletes, or mandatory drug-testing for parents? What would have the bigger impact on kids today and into the future: the complete elimination of steroids, or the complete elimination of tobacco?

"The children" are a rhetorical device.

My focus has largely been on the hypocrisy and the process. In baseball, players who played in the "steroid era" or who have been proven to use have been treated much differently than those who played in the "amphetamine era." That doesn't make much sense to me. Baseball as been put under the microscope on this issue in a way that football hasn't. That doesn't make much sense to me. Individuals have been treated in wildly disparate fashions largely depending on their levels of fame, accomplishment or cuddliness prior to the discovery of their connection to steroids. This legitimately angers me. If this is a crime against the game, it's a crime by everyone.

The industry has acted hypocritically. Like it or not, this issue *has* been put front and center by the game's administration largely to gain leverage over the MLBPA over a period of years, to put the players on the defensive, to enhance the image of cheating, privileged players so as to make economic gains over them as a group. It is in no way a coincidence--it is, in fact, an effect--that management's most successful attempts at limiting the free market for player talent have come during the time when steroid use by players has been highly publicized.

I have tried to write about issues, like the ones above, that are not being written about elsewhere. If you want to read that steroids are bad, you can do that in a million places. I'm going to try to shine a light on the other stuff. Even here at BP, Jay Jaffe and Will Carroll have covered other angles with great care, with intelligence and wit, and without the breast-beating and purple prose that has marked the mainstream's coverage.

Players shouldn't use illegal drugs. But you know, I can throw a hell of a lot of nouns, verbs and objects into a sentence with "shouldn't" and make sense. The entire discussion is much more complicated that that.

May 08, 2009 09:17 AM
 
eighteen

Amen, Joe.

May 08, 2009 15:56 PM
rating: 0
 
zstine1
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manny is a little young to be fighting off manopause.

May 07, 2009 17:22 PM
rating: -7
 
Richard Bergstrom

Personally, I wouldn't vote for him because he pushed around a 60 year old man. That's a more important issue to me than a PED suspension.

Didn't stop Manny from getting a new contract though.

May 07, 2009 17:38 PM
rating: -3
 
Screamingliner

A significant number of the All-Star voters make decisions based on how somebody played the first 10 weeks of the season. That won't ever change.

May 07, 2009 17:43 PM
rating: 2
 
jayman4

I guess comparing the votes that Manny gets vs. what we could expect had he missed 50 or so games from injury would be a useful comparison, though not sure how many data points on that.

I hate the whole PED issue, and favor implementing the most stringent, useful (hopefully those are correlated) testing. Given the potential, real or perceived, gains in taking PED's, really thorough testing is needed. If you don't it places players with unconscionable decisions: cheat and maybe make marginal millions or stay clean but probably earn less. I would not want that choice.

Further, I am deeply suspicious of the argument that PED's have minor impact. Look at Bond's HR's:

http://www.stokes-analysis.com/BondsCheater7.html

Also, why would players keep taking them if they did not have a significant impact?

I am sorry for the players, Manny included, who have to make this choice. MLB and the MLBPA need to clean this up. Not a bargaining chip, but clean it up. No moral posturing, just clean it up.

May 07, 2009 18:08 PM
rating: -3
 
drawbb

"Also, why would players keep taking them if they did not have a significant impact?"

I hear this red herring proferred all the time. The answer is the placebo effect.

To put it another way, "why does the American public keep taking diet pills and penis-enlargement pills if they do not have a significant impact?"

May 08, 2009 10:18 AM
rating: 0
 
jayman4

But taking a diet pill and penis enlargement generally don't have either clear, negative health consequences or the risk of losing a significant amount of money.

Ball players making this choice are taking on clear risks, especially now with better testing.

All that for placebo?

May 08, 2009 10:26 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Penis enlargement pills don't have consequences? Listen to the last 15 seconds of a Cialis ad and all the disclaimers about potential side effects and warnings.

As far as diet pills, look at ephedra and hydroxycut among others.

Those are just some of the examples of clear, negative health consequences.

May 08, 2009 13:03 PM
rating: 0
 
jayman4

I don't want to get in a pissing match here, and I am sure there are some placebo effects in that players fear that they are at a disadvantage so take them even if they are not sure they work or not. I am positive that accounts for some of the use. Point taken.

But you are blending drugs that are known to work, like Cialis, that have consequences. So the user is trading known benefits vs. uncertain but tangible risks. I was thinking more of the takers of the penis enlargement, which you stated, where nothing is known to work, but I don't think the pills offered are a health risk.

And you see drug use in other sports with much more stringent testing, like cycling and the Olympics, so have a hard time believing the use is so wide spread simply because they believe it has value but does not actually. Given the level of preparation and effort and care they expend to compete, to potentially toss it away on something that they are not pretty sure has benefit strikes me as extreme behavior.

I don't know as much about diet pills, but so do not know whether the ones you cite were useful or not. But I would still argue that the downside is greater for athletes than regular consumers.

May 08, 2009 14:00 PM
rating: 0
 
drawbb

Exactly my point. While the downside is greater for athletes as compared to normal citizens, so is the upside. In that respect, it is probably no different than the early versions of "horse pills" and "weight gainers"...some of which quite likely had no beneficial effects at all.

Facts and common sense have never stopped people from wanting to believe, though. The general public has ALWAYS been willing to invest hope in "magic" potions carried by snake-oil salesmen. These may simply be the latest variation on an eternal theme. There's actually some slight evidentiary basis for that statement, considering one of the original charges in the BALCO trial was for mislabelling the products in an attempt to defraud their customers.

May 08, 2009 17:24 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Um, but steroids are known to work. Just like Cialis, they have definable affects on the body. Steroids increase muscle mass, and some argue aid in the recovery from injury and fatigue... but do they make a person a better baseball player? Does taking a specific steroid or PED increase someone's power by 10%? Does it turn a 15 home run hitter into a 20 home run hitter? I don't know if we can say that. As an analogy, a diet pill might make a person thinner but it might not help a person be attractive.

I also acknowledge that players put a lot of preparation and effort into their sport, but that doesn't mean they are correct. Baseball players used to smoke cigarettes to help wake them up for the game. At one time, they used cocaine as a performance enhancer. Baseball players are competitors and will try anything, even if they aren't positive if it works or not, if they _think_ it gives them an edge. That does not mean the edge actually exists.

The main point I am trying to make, though is that just because a lot of people use something does not mean it works.

I haven't heard much about hydroxycut in relation to athletes, but ephedra was cited as the cause of Steve Bechler's death, an Orioles pitcher who died during spring training in 2002. (http://baltimore.orioles.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20030218&content_id=201625&vkey=spt2003news&fext=.jsp&c_id=bal). It was also a prime ingredient in products like Metabolife.


I would disagree, though, that athletes have a greater downside than regular consumers. Not many people have been completely shut out from baseball once they were caught with steroids or other PEDs. Even if it does happen, the worse that happens is that they go to a regular life and a regular consumer. However, the upside in making the majors or getting a high-paying contract is considerable.

May 08, 2009 21:28 PM
rating: 0
 
jayman4

Got it. I thought you were saying placebo effect in that they did not really do much. Placebos, strictly speaking, have no effect whatsoever. Sugar pills, etc.

You are saying they do work as advertised, so not a placebo in that sense, but the physical changes they ellicit do not necessarily improve performance.

That may be true but is not obviously true. I can envision athletes testing the drugs and seeing if they indeed improve performance. Maybe the mind bends and they think they see performance improved performance when there is none, but I would argue the case that they take the drugs, the body reacts, performance improves to some degree, and they then keep going, and testing. This seems plausible.

Your argument is that they take them, body changes, but performance does not change or is hard to assess, and they keep taking them just in case, or move on to a new drug seeking results, etc. Possible, and I cannot say "no way", but I think my version makes more sense, but don't necessarily expect others to agree.

May 08, 2009 22:13 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Eh it's all a mess... I agree what I say is not obviously or definitively true. All I can really say is I don't know, one way or another. We can't even evaluate defense properly. Who knows what PEDs do or don't do?

May 09, 2009 01:46 AM
rating: 0
 
ruben398

I think this is the "laymen" argument most of us try to have. Personally, even an a recreational baseball player, I just don't see any way I don't become a "better" baseball player if I was stronger than I am now. If simply lifting weights helps someone become a better baseball player by making hem stronger (which I don't think is too controversial a statement), I don't see how taking steroids doesn't.

That's not to say, of course, that benching 400 pounds=MLB stud. But two equivalent 5 tool players, with one who never touches a weight during his development and one who works out like a maniac+ steroids? I think player #2 will be better.

May 10, 2009 00:35 AM
rating: 0
 
fonduewheelinit

Good luck; it would appear that Manny will need to be a write-in because he just got yanked from the regular ballot. So much for hearing what the fans think...

May 07, 2009 20:01 PM
rating: 2
 
Tuck
(667)

Defining baseball story of the year and we get "let's see what the All-Star ballots look like?" That's it?

May 07, 2009 20:22 PM
rating: 2
 
HugeShoulderpad

What else did you expect?

Let me emphasize that I absolutely love reading Joe Sheehan regarding almost any issue in baseball (or basketball, for that matter), and this is what makes his attitude toward PED's that much harder for me to swallow. He works hard to ignore the issue and suggest it's irrelevant at every opportunity. The fact that he's resorted to this tack here indicates how unavoidable the issue is.




May 08, 2009 08:27 AM
rating: -1
 
BillJohnson

I think it's a bit unfair to equate Ryan Franklin, and Manny for that matter, to Bonds. Franklin, and to a considerable extent Manny, owned up to having done something wrong. That goes a long way in gaining forgiveness from the public.

There's nothing new about that. From my too-distant childhood, I remember a pro football scandal (imagine...) involving Paul Hornung and Alex Karras, both of whom were implicated in gambling and associating with organized-crime figures or other "undesirables." Hornung fessed up and apologized right away, served a one-year(!) suspension, and went back to work. Karras threw a hissy-fit, and only when it was made clear that he was in danger of a real lifetime ban (it was in fact decreed) did he confess and recant, getting out of the whole thing with a one-year break like Hornung's. Guess which one of the two emerged with the less tarnished reputation?

It'll be interesting to see exactly how the fans do take to Manny's acceptance of responsibility, such as it was.

May 07, 2009 21:09 PM
rating: 1
 
tlitton1

You lost me on this one. He's been a great player and will likely have had a great 1/5th of a season, but nobody thinks about extrapolating those stats over the first half of a season-plus that compiles a player's All-Star stats so he simply won't get a lot of votes.

Help me here, though, please. Is it really too much to require players who get paid a minimum of $390,000/year (in 2008) to piss in a cup once a week and/or provide a hair to be tested? In fact, that seems not only like a reasonable job requirement, but also a necessary one considering the disadvantage that players who don't cheat face when they compete for jobs with players on their own team, or on the field against players on other teams, who do cheat.

Does anyone know how much would it cost to test 40 players a week (the active roster) on 30 teams for 52 weeks (a total of 62,400 drug tests)? I'm sure they could get a discount rate for so many tests on a regular basis (ask Uncle Drayton to talk with his friends at WMT). At a $100 a pop, that would be $6.24mm, not chump change, but likely under 0.005% of the total salaries at stake. If I'm a player competing for the big leagues (and the big bucks), it seems like an incredibly reasonable investment to make to insure that no one I'm competing against is gaming the system and essentially stealing from another teammate of competitor.

Would you have to test more than once a week, I don't know, but you get the picture.

May 07, 2009 21:57 PM
rating: 0
 
Matt Hunter

But I don't care anything about the steroids issue, and I like to vote for the people having the best season (meaning I probably would have voted for him if he played). I think there might be a lot of people in the same boat.

Spuriousness is the first thought in my mind when it comes to the All-Star Voting. A causal relationship will be hard to prove.

May 07, 2009 23:17 PM
rating: 2
 
saigonsam

Manny being on the All-Star team will be a telling indication that fans don't care about PED's. Manny being off the All-Star team could be attributed to several different reasons, including not playing for 50 games.

May 08, 2009 01:40 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Yes. I should have made that clear: had Manny Ramirez been voted onto the team, it would have been an incredibly strong statement about fans' level of interest in this issue. Him not being voted onto the team will not, however, necessarily be the same.

If what's said elsewhere in this thread about Ramirez not being on the online ballot is true, I'll have an Unfiltered on that later today.

May 08, 2009 09:23 AM
 
achase

in other words: "if things go the way I hope they will, then my variable proves my argument. if things don't go the way I hope they will, then the variable I identified will be irrelevant to my argument."

sheehan's arguments on PEDs (including the attempt in this article to use "steroids" rather than "PEDs" in an attempt to pretend this issue is disconnected from performance enhancement) have been consistently characterized by illogic and irrationality. the use of all-star voting as a variable here is simply silly -- no serious analyst has ever taken all-star voting any more seriously than an internet poll. the further proviso that, if the all-star voting doesn't show what Sheehan obviously wants it to show, then it'll no longer be relevant just goes to show how laughable in a quantitative and qualitiative sense this test is.

it does show, however, just how skewed arguments on BP (and by sheehan specifcally) are on this issue.

by the way, for something that is insightful on the topic, Doug Glanville wrote a superior Mother's Day article on the topic in the Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/10/opinion/10glanville-manny.html


May 11, 2009 07:33 AM
rating: -2
 
sbnirish77

"but also a necessary one considering the disadvantage that players who don't cheat face when they compete for jobs with players on their own team, or on the field against players on other teams, who do cheat."

This is the REAL educaton that needs to take place.

The clean players need to realize more damage is being done to them by the union protecting cheaters than any loss of personal privacy.

The clean player is better served, not harmed, by the full disclosure of the 103 names.

May 08, 2009 04:45 AM
rating: 0
 
krissbeth

How's the union protecting the cheaters now? They agreed to an emergency change to the collective bargaining agreement. They tried to protect information that was supposed to be confidential in the first place.

May 08, 2009 08:06 AM
rating: 1
 
BrewersTT

jrwatts wrote: "Whether or not the fans care about PED use is one thing, but whether it is *important* is another matter entirely. I'm not saying that Joe is asserting that PED use isn't important (although honestly, I think his past writing shows that this is his belief), but I think it's crucial to keep the matters separate."

This is an excellent and important point. BP writers often point out that fans don't care about the PED issue. Fans don't care about VORP, either. Why should we ask the fans and then stop there?

I say the following as a long-time friend and vocal supporter of BP: I've been disappointed so far by its approach to the PED question. BP is uniquely situated to take a rigorous look at the effects of PED use on performance, short term durability and long term durability, and it is one of the most important performance issues of this era. Maybe I somehow missed the whole discussion, but I haven't seen much of this here. There may not be enough data or enough certainty about who used what when to say much, but that issue itself could at least be discussed with some scientific rigor.

Columnists here certainly can hold and state personal opinions, but in my opinion, constant snarky asides and dismissiveness towards the issue undermine BP's authority on the subject, while a serious study would ensure it. BP is brilliant at moving us past easy assumptions, taking the lead and advancing our understanding. Here's a big chance to do that.

May 08, 2009 05:48 AM
rating: 5
 
R.A.Wagman

Part of the problem, and hence, the difficulty in being analytical on the subject, is that not all PEDs have the same effect, and in not knowing anything quantitative or qualitative about who used and what they used and for how long and for when, any analysis is simply hot air typed.

May 08, 2009 06:33 AM
rating: 2
 
R.A.Wagman

And we have ESPN for that

May 08, 2009 06:33 AM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Nate Silver has done a study and other BP authors have done it on occasion. Will Carroll has made mentions of it as well in his injury reports. I think the current hypothesis is, whatever has gone on in the steroid era can be more attributed to a juiced ball or juiced bats than to juiced ballplayers.

May 08, 2009 07:14 AM
rating: 0
 
jayman4
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Not trying to push self-promotion, and Nate Silver is a lot smarter than I am, but even casual analysis can reveal things. Bonds:

http://www.stokes-analysis.com/BondsCheater7.html

Huge uptick in HR rate late in his career, off the charts compared to other 500+ HR hitters.

Given that they seem to work (again, why do athletes keep taking them) and the economic incentives to take them, you have horrible incentives for a clean game. So, you have to regulate the heck out of it if you want it clean.

As BrewersTT wrote, I am deeply disappointed with BP's approach to this. As far as I can tell, it seems something like:

Testing started as a player vs. owner thing
MLBPA was anti-testing, and has resisted more invasive testing
BP has a strong (understandably) affinity for players vs. rich owners
So the whole PED thing, as the data bled out, makes the MLBPA and players look worse relative to the owners, so they don't like talking about it.

I have seen a similar bias in discussing the impact of payroll discrepancies on team performance.

May 08, 2009 07:34 AM
rating: -4
 
Richard Bergstrom

Athletes also refuse to change their socks so it doesn't interfere with their streaks... it doesn't mean that changing socks has anything to do with hitting or pitching ability. Wade Boggs believed in eating chicken, Turk Wendell brushed his teeth between innings, Nomar Garciaparra adjusts his batting gloves... the point is, people will do what they believe works, even if it is uncertain such a thing actually works.

A lot of people had their HR rates spike. Though Bonds is an example, you also need to consider the number of middle infielders who were regularly bopping 20 HR. Some say it has to do with juiced balls or bats. There's also the argument for expansion and for new stadiums.

I also can't quite follow your chain of "seeming" or your assumptions on how testing started as a player vs owner thing or that BP has some strong affinity or bias in favor of players versus the owners... if BP has any affinity, it isn't "for" rich owners, but against stupidly run organizations...

May 08, 2009 08:36 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Casual analysis is how we end up where we are. It's the taking of outlying data points and making them the entirety of the argument that degrades the entire discussion. It's avowing certainty when no such thing exists that drags everyone down.

BP has done the study, in Baseball Between the Numbers. That its conclusions didn't fit your position is no reason to disregard it.

For those of you unhappy with my angle, you should note that we ran a suite of Manny Ramirez pieces Thursday. This column was part of team coverage, and in no way designed to be comprehensive.

I'll take Prospectus' coverage of steroids over any other entity's. You're welcome to disagree, but our ability to stay out of the morass, to not write the innumerate, illogical, indefensible crap that has been 99% of the coverage is one of the things I am most proud of.

May 08, 2009 08:54 AM
 
Richard Bergstrom

I think jayman wants BP to interview a bunch of baseball players about how shocked they are on Manny's suspension to show that BP doesn't have a bias towards the players...

All that being said though, the coverage of this suspension seems to have been more comprehensive, detailed, and insightful than normal... this is the first time I've seen details indicating the sequence of events and MLB's rationale for invoking the "just cause" clause... so I would disagree that 99% of the coverage through other media outlets have been crap.

May 08, 2009 09:11 AM
rating: 1
 
blaseta

"but even a casual analysis can reveal thing." As long as by things you mean that the analysis can reveal that one player had a late career home run spike that while abnormal when compared to the typical aging curve, is in no ways definitive proof of anything. Bonds hitting a lot of home runs is no way more proof that steriods "work" than Neifi Perez not hitting a lot of home runs is proof that steriods "don't work".

jayman4 is right about one thing, the incentives are there to pursue an edge. I think where the real culpibility lies is with the rulemakers that allowed these incentives to remain so strong for such a long time. While in an ideal world you may hope that the citizens of a country would abstain from theft, rape, and murder on their own accord, what would any of us think about a government that had no effective punishment or deterrent for these behaviours in its laws? (I am not comparing taking PEDs to theft, rape, or murder in magnitude, just in directionality) The reason you go to jail for robbing a bank is the same as the reason that players aren't expect to call balls and strikes on themselves, you cannot expect someone to act against their best interest. You must influence the incentives behind actions not criticize the incentivized for pursuing the path of greatest reward.

May 08, 2009 09:10 AM
rating: 0
 
Llarry

I looked at that link. That's not analysis, that's mainstream-media-level crap.

Correlation does not equal causality, and in this case, all you've got is a *lack* of correlation in one part of the "curve".

Leaving out the historical precedents for a player having a single outlier season at some point in their career, should we really be surprised that Bonds (and Palmeiro, for that matter) could be more productive in their declines considering they have access to (incomplete list):

Better (legal) drugs (painkillers, allergy medicines, etc)
Better dietary programs including better vitamin supplements
5th starters
Expansion teams
Smaller ballparks
Maple bats
Video analysis
Better travel arrangements (and fewer doubleheaders)
Juiced balls (potentially)
and, with more pitcher days off, and more fresh relievers entering the games, likely a higher average pitch speed seen, whereby the pitcher contributes significantly to the energy of the batted ball, making it fly farther.

May 08, 2009 16:31 PM
rating: 2
 
sanott

will this episode give the teams more clout in putting language in their contracts allowing them to void contracts for failures of the drug agreement? or does the agreement prevent that form of seconary punishment? this isn't a-rod being outted after the fact. manny waited late into the off-season to sign his contract, and one could assume that if the HCG was to compensate for past steroid use, that he was hurrying to get into game shape to get ready late. he just signed a huge contract and now tests positive. if i'm the dodgers i look for a way out, and if not push the union to allow changing contracts. that may be a bigger deterent than missing games, given the guaranteed money that performance gets an athlete.

May 08, 2009 07:20 AM
rating: 0
 
rrvwmr

The fact Bonds will remain unsigned, even in light of this suspension, is a joke. He'd look sick in dodger blue!

May 08, 2009 09:09 AM
rating: 3
 
cdamon

A-Rod on the ballot is another (and perhaps more appropriate) fan vote on steroids. A-Rod will have played comparably to many people who are voted in. Very few players are voted in who miss 50 games in the first half. He, like Manny, is a presumptive all-star without the steroids story.

May 08, 2009 15:36 PM
rating: 1
 
wonkothesane1

No one boos Ryan Franklin? I do, every time I see him pitch. I've booed Mike Morse and Jorge Piedra. I'm pretty sure I've booed Alex Sanchez and I'm darn sure I've booed Juan Rincon. I'm not even that upset about their usage. If it wasn't against the rules I wouldn't even care. But, if there is going to be outrage over the issue and such contempt held for the Clemens' and Bonds' and Palmeiro's over the world, then these guys deserve to hear it too. So I give it to them.

May 08, 2009 16:28 PM
rating: 0
 
sbnirish77


"I've been disappointed so far by its approach to the PED question. BP is uniquely situated to take a rigorous look at the effects of PED use on performance, short term durability and long term durability, and it is one of the most important performance issues of this era. Maybe I somehow missed the whole discussion, but I haven't seen much of this here."

BINGO +1000

It is in BP's interest to ignore the problem. BP's entire analysis is built on accepting the numbers at face value. If the numbers are suspect, subsequent analysis is built on a 'house of cards'.

I've asked Nate twice in these posts at what point would PED use (10% 20% 50%) affect PECOTA but he has chosen to be mum on the subject?

I really think that they thought PEDs had no effect on performance or their use was too small to be important.

But no we see examples where the numbers are becoming overwhelming (6 of top 10 HR hitters since mid 80s, 40% of the mid 90s Indians roster, ... more to come).

Much easier to say 'turn the page' or ridicule the very sources (SF writers, feds, Congress, Mitchell report) that have identified the scope of the problem.

May 09, 2009 10:37 AM
rating: -3
 
Richard Bergstrom

How would numbers help you out? You have blatantly assumed that 40% of the mid 90s Indians roster used PEDs without any "proof" behind someone's unsubstantiated comment on a differetn BP post that provided a list of players.

Much easier to say that you won't agree with any analysis provided unless that analysis happens to agree with your personal opinion.

May 09, 2009 19:37 PM
rating: 0
 
sbnirish77

I'd settle for an acknowledgement for someone at BP that PEDs at some level of participation would have some effect on PECOTA comps and then we could go from there ,,,,

The sources BP has ridiculed have contributed much more to the understanding of steroids than they have. BP has some great analysis, but they have long lost all credibilty on the steroid issue by pretending it doesn't affect performance.

May 10, 2009 12:05 PM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Ok, let's try this the other way. Since you are certain that PEDs affect performance and thus, affect PECOTA, why don't you prove the effect that PEDs have. How much ISO can be attributed to a PED? After all, you understand PEDs so well based on the research you have read at other sites, right?

May 10, 2009 16:10 PM
rating: 0
 
sbnirish77

I know if I had chosen to make sabermetrics my career, I'd want to consider as much information from as many sources as possible rather than ridiculing them.

As someone trying to understand the sabermetric implication of PEDs, I'd want that list of 103 users to be published and leave all the excuses to labor reps, lawyers, and those complicit in the MLB offices.

BPs position should not be to represent the positon of those groups but should rather be to accept information from as many sources as possible rather than advocating 'turning the page.'

The identification of users and the time they started using is the first step. If Debbie Clemens can help on that, I'm going to accept it. If a leak of 103 names does it, more data to work with.

One can project Barry Bonds HR rates from his younger days and find he hit probably over 100 extra HRs.

I'm not sure why Nate couldn't take a PECOTA projection for Bonds from the time he started taking steroids and determine how many HRs he hit beyond that projection (probably a lot more than 100 HRs).

The major point is that from the standpoint of SCIENTIFIC CURIOSITY BP should be at the forefront of 'wanting to know' but instead they spent more effort ridiculing various sources, defending players rights, and denying the effect of PEDs despite growing numbers.

That they choose to do so questions their motives in the sense that they have a vested interest in accepting the numbers at face value.

May 11, 2009 16:39 PM
rating: -1
 
achase

You know, I'd always assumed that BP's position is just a result of massive groupthink, but that was silly of me. You are, of course, right, that since the impact of PEDs is not quantifiable, it's in BP's interest to exclude them as irrelevant. That explains a lot, in particular the irrational vehemence of much of the writing here on the topic.

Still, it seems to me one of the big challenges of good quantitative work is to accept the impact of (currently, at least) unknowable factors and not pretend they don't exist. That should hold on PEDs, as well as on other factors.

May 11, 2009 07:42 AM
rating: 1
 
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