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January 9, 2012

BP Unfiltered

Suspicious Minds

by Colin Wyers

Rob Neyer wrote an article about keeping an open mind during Hall of Fame voting season, about putting process ahead of results, about how being thoughtful is more important than coming up with the right answer. I should be supportive of these sentiments, I know. But these sentiments are being deployed alongside a rather poor example of being thoughtful. Neyer writes in the comments, in response to a reader saying there's no more evidence Jeff Bagwell used PEDs than Barry Larkin:

Really? None at all?

Let me suggest a thought experiment, AstroB.

I would like you to assign numbers to two players, representing the likelihood that they used steroids at some point in their careers.

The players are Derek Jeter and Edgar Martinez. Go.

Did anything happen in your mind at all? Did you arrive at identical numbers for each player?

My guess is that you did not. My guess is that you came up with a higher number for Martinez than for Jeter.

That’s because of evidence. And it’s there for Larkin and Bagwell, whether you like it or not.

Neyer refers to "evidence," but I don't think a thought experiment rises to the level of evidence. So let's look at the record and see what it says.

Because if we look at players who have actually been identified as taking steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs—either through the Mitchell report or suspension by MLB—they aren't any bigger than the average player. The average PED user was 73 inches tall and 193 pounds. The average MLB player over the same time span was 74 inches, 195 pounds. If you cherry-pick a handful of examples (Barry Bonds, for instance), you can get an impression that PED users are larger than the typical MLB player. But considering the entirety of the available evidence, there's no support for the idea that larger players use PEDs at a higher rate than smaller players. Players that used banned substances during the "steroids era" came in all shapes and sizes.

What if Neyer wasn't referring to body type, but position? Designated hitter has different offensive requirements than shortstop and no counterweighting defensive responsibilities. But let's look at changes in home runs per plate appearance between the two positions in the pre- and post-"steroids" era:

  SS_HR_PA DH_HR_PA
1980-1992 0.011 0.031
1993-2011 0.017 0.038
Difference 0.007 0.007

That's right, folks—the increase in home run rates for shortstops and designated hitters was essentially identical. DHs do hit more home runs than shortstops, but that's always been the case. This suggests one of two things:

  • That shortstops took steroids at similar rates to designated hitters, or
  • That steroids were not the primary cause of increased home run rates.

Of course, both could be true - they're not mutually exclusive.

So I agree with Rob Neyer when he says everyone should be be thoughtful and consider all the available evidence when approaching these issues. I just wish he'd lead by example and do those things, too. Most people would tell you that someone like Edgar Martinez is more likely to have used performance enhancing drugs than someone like Derek Jeter. But that popular supposition isn't evidence of steroid use by Edgar (or any other big damn slugger), it's evidence of a preconception that distorts our perspective on baseball history during the past decade or so. Proponents of a "clean Hall" are truly proponents of a Hall without the defining power hitters of an age, while pitchers and players at defense-first positions are largely free from scrutiny. But the evidence we have at hand tells us that players of all stripes - pitchers and pinch-runners as well as power hitters - were guilty of the same crimes. Continuing to paint sluggers with a different brush than everybody else makes it easier for Hall voters to label players as "clean" or "dirty" but it does so at the expense of telling the truth about an entire generation of players.

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

Related Content:  Rob Neyer

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

BP Comment Quick Links

Adrian

Thank you for writing this, Colin - I'm normally a big Rob Neyer fan and have read his work for a decade and a half, but I was left shaking my head after reading the article you're referring to. Perhaps we're misinterpreting his sentiment, but it sounds very much like he's saying that it's okay to form conclusions and opinions without evidence, and I find that is just lazy thinking, whether we're talking about baseball or any other subject. I think it's far better to assume an initial state of ignorance and then go searching for evidence and answers. And if you can't find evidence or answers for one side or another? Then you table the issue until you can.

Jan 08, 2012 21:15 PM
rating: 6
 
myshkin

Arguably, SS increased much more than DH from one period to the other, if one considers ratio instead of difference. What's the position distribution of the players in your PED user set?

Jan 08, 2012 21:31 PM
rating: 0
 
rneyer

I am perfectly aware that shortstops and DH's both used steroids. I didn't ask the reader to imagine "a generic shortstop" and "a generic Designated Hitter".

I asked the reader to imagine Derek Jeter and Edgar Martinez. I did that for a reason.

If you imagined Derek Jeter and Edgar Martinez and found not even a scintilla of difference between the likelihood that each used steroids during their careers, then I applaud you. And I submit you are extraordinarily uncommon.

Jan 08, 2012 21:39 PM
rating: -3
 
Pat Folz

Honestly, I didn't. I agree that this is probably uncommon.

I guess I don't get your point. You say "My guess is that you did not. My guess is that you came up with a higher number for Martinez than for Jeter. That’s because of evidence." How so? The evidence says that steroid users weren't any bigger. The evidence says that more pitchers than position players used steroids. The evidence says that the first player caught under MLB's testing policy was Alex Fucking Sanchez. Though I don't disagree that it's probably true that more people would suspect Martinez, I think it flies completely in the face of the evidence. What am I missing?

Jan 08, 2012 21:59 PM
rating: 21
 
touchstone033

Have to say when I imagined the two, there wasn't a difference in suspicion for either. Is there evidence for Martinez taking PEDs? I've never heard even rumors for either.

By the way, suspicion of Bagwell taking steroids doesn't count as "evidence" or even "circumstantial evidence." Thinking that something is so doesn't supply proof that it is.

Jan 08, 2012 22:19 PM
rating: 12
 
jrmayne

Let's define our terms. "Evidence" is some indication that something is more or less likely to be true.

Low-value evidence is still evidence. I had no opinion on the steroid use of either Edgar or Derek before this discussion. Because Rob Neyer suspects Edgar more than Derek, and Rob Neyer is more likely to know something I don't know, I now ascribe a higher likelihood to Edgar than Derek as a potential steroid-taker.

Now, that evidence is very weak, to be sure. But it is some evidence.

On other issues: I believe the weights used to say that steroid users didn't get bigger are worthless; those are their listed weights and they did not rise with muscle gain.

I assume the subtraction difference in shortstop HR/PA is due to rounding. It certainly appears that the home run rate relative to baseline was much greater for shortstops.

As a general rule. I believe that Rob's making differentiations or proposing people should care about a "scintilla" of difference is misguided; if we say that Jeter had a 6.3% chance of taking steroids and Edgar had a 6.4% chance, that doesn't support making differentiations in treatment except at the most severe margins. There's also a good argument that we should not use such wispy evidence against people when they have no control over such evidence.

In short, I think Rob's use of the term "evidence" appears adequate, if not particularly helpful. The fact that I went to business school is some evidence tending to show I am more likely to be an accountant than the average human. I am not an accountant; my assertion of that (alleged) fact is quite a bit stronger evidence against the theory that I am an accountant.

Jan 08, 2012 22:53 PM
rating: -2
 
Dave Holgado

Rob Neyer saying that he suspects Edgar more than Jeter is not low value evidence, it is not evidence at all. It's the steroid discussion equivalent of hearsay. This being said, I agree with Rob's point later in the comments that comparing the performance changes of players at the two positions during somewhat imprecise date ranges isn't especially enlightening to a discussion about two specific players, nor is citing how the average PED user (or at least the avg one who was *caught*) stacks up size wise to the average player. Still, what Rob should be citing (if he can) is the specific differences in performance and changes in body mass for Edgar and Jeter over their playing careers, and whether and to what degree they may fall out of line with normal "career arc" expectations. The problem there is that Edgar's career arc looks like a normal one, with a peak in the middle that he both ramped up to and down from. It seems hardly fair to hold it against him that those peak seasons happened to fall during the so-called steroid era. Jeter, on the other hand, has had a fairly similar (and normal) arc, and a non-steroid era peak only because his career started 8 years later than E-Mart's. Right off the bat that makes the comparison a somewhat unfair one. The same could be said for Bagwell, whose arc looks perfectly normal. Whereas Rafael Palmeiro's arc, and Bonds' and Clemens' of course, are far more suspicious.

Jan 08, 2012 23:25 PM
rating: 5
 
Adrian

"Low-value evidence is still evidence. I had no opinion on the steroid use of either Edgar or Derek before this discussion. Because Rob Neyer suspects Edgar more than Derek, and Rob Neyer is more likely to know something I don't know, I now ascribe a higher likelihood to Edgar than Derek as a potential steroid-taker."

Actually, this is not evidence - this is the fallacy of arguing from authority. Just because someone intelligent and well-known says that something is true or likely to be true or more likely to be true (etc) doesn't make it true or provide evidence that it is - it still has to be proven.

Jan 09, 2012 03:26 AM
rating: 7
 
jrmayne

I think you're mistaken on this. Argument from authority may be weak evidence, but it often is evidence. (To be sure, it also used fallaciously.)

On another forum, I argued about what California's Three Strikes law actually is. By any definition, I am an expert in this field. You should take my word as having more value than a New York lawyer's, or a California lawyer without expertise in criminal law, because I have actual expertise in this subject.

If we are talking about the relative values of Ron Santo and Ron Cey in this forum, the argument from authority would be somewhere close to worthless; most of us have some expertise. But if we're talking about actuarial studies, I'd take the word of an actuary.

I know very little about Edgar Martinez personally. Someone who knows almost anything about him knows more than I do. I assume that Rob Neyer does.

Jan 09, 2012 07:24 AM
rating: 0
 
lmarighi

In your legal example, I guess I still wouldn't accept what you say as evidence because you told me "I say so". Now, if you were to say "well, the California Supreme Court has said in 3 of its decisions that. . .", I would be more likely to believe you, because you are likely to know these things, but I would still want you to cite actual evidence, and not just your authority.

Jan 09, 2012 07:37 AM
rating: 6
 
mikebuetow

I see what you are trying to say, but it's a very weak foundation for argument. You are tacitly assuming Rob Neyer has greater knowledge than you that Edgar Martinez used PEDs. That suggests Neyer -- who spent 15 years writing on baseball for ESPN -- knew Martinez used PEDs and isn't saying anything. I'd argue there's no evidence of that.

Jan 09, 2012 17:15 PM
rating: 1
 
CRP13

By your argument, Obama should not be president (yes I'm going somewhere with this).

Without getting into a political debate, the cases are very similar, using your definition of what is evidence and what isn't. If general suspicion that Bagwell took steroids based on some thoughtless comments that he made and the fact he was a big dude that hit home runs is enough to keep him out of the hall of fame, then by your argument, general suspicion that Barack Obama was not actually born in America based on the fact that he took years to produce a birth certificate, changed his name, and had a Kenyan non-national father should be enough to keep him out of office. By your definition, both of their cases are rife with what you call "low-value evidence".

Note: I am not a "birther", I'm just saying it's the same argument.

Obviously, by fact that Obama is president, the general public has discarded that "low-value evidence" as value-less or at least inconclusive, and decided it wasn't enough of a concern to deter electing him.

By the same token, using the "low-value evidence" of Bagwell's PED usage (which amounts to speculation only), to keep him out of the hall of fame is hypocritical and pretty silly to boot.

Jan 09, 2012 09:59 AM
rating: 0
 
jrmayne

Either you misread my argument, or I miswrote it.

The net evidence for Bagwell being on steroids is much greater (and less susceptible to proof otherwise) than the totality of the evidence that Obama is not a natural-born citizen. The speculation based on the initial lack of a long-form birth certificate is some evidence. There is lots of evidence regarding the birther claim, and the evidence that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii is overwhelming. This does not mean there is not contrary evidence.

Bagwell (or Martinez or Jeter) cannot generate that kind of evidence of non-steroid use. These situations aren't comparable in that way. But even if they were, I didn't say what you ascribe to me. (I think it's me, anyway. If I've misfollowed the track of this conversation, I'm sorry for that.)

I never, ever said Bagwell should be out of the Hall based on that evidence, and observed that using such sorts of evidence to make decisions about what should happen to people creates some fairly serious issues. The conclusion that I did say that, I'd submit, seems based on a theory that anyone who says such speculation is evidence must necessarily be a steroid hawk; this theory is mistaken. (I would vote for Jeff Bagwell for the HoF; I do believe Bagwell likely took steroids, and I do not believe it likely that Edgar did, but my estimates are soft.)

Jan 09, 2012 13:05 PM
rating: -1
 
CRP13

I understand your argument, I just completely disagree with it. In my eyes (and obviously not in yours, but I can only speak for myself), this is the statement I have a problem with:

"The net evidence for Bagwell being on steroids is much greater (and less susceptible to proof otherwise) than the totality of the evidence that Obama is not a natural-born citizen."

I don't believe there's very much evidence re Obama. But I believe the evidence against Bagwell is just as, if not more circumstantial. The difference between what I said and what you said is the "I believe" that I added. You are starting from an assumption of fact, one that I happen to not agree with, and it flaws your point. I am presenting an opinion of mine as an opinion, and my conclusions are drawn from that. I'm not claiming that what I say IS true, I am saying that I believe it to be true. lmarighi says this in his/her comment as well, and it's a valid point that presenting opinion as fact is not helping me agree with you.

Glad to read you would vote for Bagwell, but the same argument you presented above is the one being used by sportswriters who say they WON'T vote for Bagwell, and that's where I have problems.

Guilt by association is not guilt, it's just a cliché. Three hundred years ago, some white dudes lynched some black dudes, and were bastards for doing so. I am white, but that does not mean that I am a murderous racist, nor does it increase the likelihood that I am. Bagwell was a home run hitter during the so-called "steroid era" of baseball. Others can claim that increases his likelihood of having used steroids, but that can never be used to definitely say one way or the other without some tangible evidence, as each individual is an individual. Just because there were more individuals who chose to use PED's during that time period, it does not imply one way or another whether Jeff Bagwell or any other individual is more or less likely to be one of those people. Arbitrarily, people seem to have decided Bagwell was a user, and that Roberto Alomar was not. Why?

Getting back to the point, my whole problem with the concept of "low-value evidence" as you presented it is that it seems completely arbitrary and assignable based on the whims, opinions, and suspicions of people that have no factual or tangible evidence otherwise. Just as such nonsensical sixth-sense claptrap would be inadmissible in a court, it seems absurd to apply it to something that will affect Bagwell's life in a very real way.

I will save my second point for another post...this one's too long as is.

Jan 09, 2012 13:25 PM
rating: 1
 
CRP13

Secondly, I take issue with this:

"Bagwell (or Martinez or Jeter) cannot generate that kind of evidence of non-steroid use."

I disagree with your implication that it is beholden on Bagwell, Martinez, or Jeter to prove their own innocence in the face of accusations that are based only on suspicion. I'll even call it ridiculous. If you and others think Bagwell was a steroid user, then prove it. It is not his responsibility, it's yours. Particularly if you happen to wield the ability to keep him out of the Hall of Fame, a decision that will impact the life of a real man in a very large way.

From the5th Amendment of the US Constitution (sorry if you're Canadian...I'm going to use this source because Bagwell is a US Citizen):

"No person...shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law..."

This isn't a criminal charge, but by assuming guilt based on circumstantial evidence and putting the onus on Bagwell and others to prove their own innocence, writers with HOF votes are denying Bagwell the benefits, prestige, and historical context that will benefit him and his family for generations. I don't think I'm being dramatic either, as HOF'ers are given increased career opportunities post-baseball compared to other retired players. In legal contexts, the 5th amendment was written to prevent just this sort of thing. Just because this isn't legal (and therefore doesn't violate the 5th Amendment), doesn't mean that such an accusation and expectation doesn't violate the moral spirit of the rule.

I think the whole concept of putting the burden on those guys to prove their innocence against suspicion is reprehensible, when their future is what's at stake, not the futures of writers hiding behind a keyboard without fear of reproach.

Jan 09, 2012 13:37 PM
rating: 1
 
CRP13

And by the way, I wasn't the person who minused you. I like a good debate and I don't mind people disagreeing with me.

Jan 09, 2012 13:40 PM
rating: 3
 
brucegilsen
(999)

So you're saying that Obama used steriods? :-)

Jan 15, 2012 13:16 PM
rating: 0
 
brucegilsen
(999)

oops, I should have taken some typing steroids before I entered that post.

Jan 15, 2012 13:17 PM
rating: 0
 
heyblue

Isn't it much more likely that Derek Jeter used PEDs? He was teammates with some of the most notorious PED users of the era. Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, David Justice, Kevin Brown, Chuck Knoblauch, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and even Jose Canseco himself.

When you say you expect readers would think Edgar Martinez would be more likely to have taken PEDs, do you mean because he has a higher career slugging percentage? Because as far as I can tell that is your bit of evidence. Or is it because he's from Puerto Rico and a high percentage of those that have been caught using PEDs are of latin origin? Notice I didn't say a high percentage of those that used, I said a high percentage of those who have been caught.

Jan 08, 2012 22:46 PM
rating: 14
 
AdamSt

Likewise. I imagine Rob is going basically by physique and Edgar is a bigger guy or more powerful hitter.

But looking at character/personality, teammates, and career arc, I put the chances of Jeter having done PEDs much, much higher than Martinez. I'd say 15% for Jeter and 2% for Martinez.

Jan 09, 2012 22:31 PM
rating: 1
 
alangreene

It's funny. I think there's a much higher chance that Jeter did than Edgar.

But this is really a discussion about the connotation of the word "evidence," isn't it? I don't doubt the denotation of the word works for what you were saying, but the connotation feels very strong to me -- it feels like somewhat unassailable, like videotape of a murder in a trial rather than "he's bigger."

Jan 09, 2012 09:43 AM
rating: 2
 
saigonsam

I did the exercise and thought Jeter was more likely. Edgar had constant injury problems that he healed slowly from, and his peak was shorter with a qucker drop off than you'd expect from a PED user. Jeter has been fairly healthy for a long time despite a more demanding position, and his team mates include ARod, Clemens, Petitte, Giambi,and Canseco (just to name a few off the top my head).

Jan 09, 2012 20:35 PM
rating: 2
 
Aramgh

I think that because for every Palmeiro who tests positive, there's an Alex Sanchez, we need to train ourselves to not think in terms of stereotypes. It does a disservice to the players, who still seem to take induction extremely seriously, to distinguish users from non-users based on things that just haven't been shown to be true anywhere except our minds.

Jan 08, 2012 21:54 PM
rating: 8
 
rneyer

Okay. My point, or at least one of them: Instead of simply mocking every writer who looks at a player like Jeff Bagwell or Edgar Martinez, we might want to engage the argument.

Colin has done this, but I do think he's stopped short of real analysis by lumping all the shortstops together and all the DH's together. If only because that's not how Hall of Fame voters think about this issue. They are thinking about Jeff Bagwell specifically and Edgar Martinez specifically.

Jan 08, 2012 22:20 PM
rating: 0
 
touchstone033

It depends, doesn't it? I mean, why is Bagwell getting singled out here? There's no evidence he did PEDs, is there? His name hasn't been on any lists. So...if someone isn't voting him because he LOOKS like he's a roid-user, don't they deserve being mocked? That's just stupid.

For the guys who did do steroids -- Bonds and Clemens, say -- I think it's reasonable to present a reasonable argument about their candidacy for the HoF.

But this discussion is moot, imho. I mean, who cares if we mock? It's not like those that vote against Bagwell based on his looks are actually listening...

Jan 08, 2012 22:31 PM
rating: 4
 
CRP13

Last year I wrote an article showing that there is at least as much circumstantial evidence that Roberto Alomar used PEDs as their is for Jeff Bagwell.

Alomar is in the hall.

I think the point Neyer is sort of making is that perception is hurting Bagwell more than anything else. Nobody thinks of shorstops as sluggers, and slugging in the 90's is associated with PEDs, therefore somebody is more likely to think a slugger used than a shortstop.

I don't agree with the conclusion that such a factually baseless perspective is good reason to keep Bagwell out of the hall while players such as Alomar (who had a huge spike in Home Runs in the middle of the steroid era) make it in.

Jan 09, 2012 10:04 AM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Eh, I'm not even sure if the voting body as a whole really looks at a particular player all that hard. Sure, some individual voters do, but just like the guy who didn't vote for Rickey Henderson because he didn't have many home runs, there are many voters who just vote for whom others tell them to vote for.

It's not like there's some new stat that all of a sudden will make a Larkin a Hall of Famer, or a new stat that prevented people from voting for Dale Murphy. Look at the inertia that kept Bert Blyleven out of the Hall of Fame.. it's not like he magically gained wins or strikeouts or received a retroactive Cy Young Award. People voted for him because "everyone else was". Similarly, I think most voters are not voting for steroid users because "everyone else isn't". Whoever has the loudest voice ends up swaying the opinion one direction or another.

Jan 09, 2012 09:20 AM
rating: 4
 
alangreene

I have to admit I'm confused.

If you're going down that road -- Jeff Bagwell specifically -- how do you 'prove' he didn't use steroids?

You can't -- just like they can't prove he did. All you can hope to practically do is prove that their assumptions about why they think he did steroids (he was good, he had muscles, he didn't look like a traditionally good player) are wrong. Which is what Colin was doing.

When you say this, what's the piece of evidence that is convincing? Are we dividing 1B into hulking (Frank Thomas) and non-hulking (Wally Joyner, another "obvious" 'roid user)?

I agree that engagement is a good route, but the targets tend to move when people do not verify that the "evidence" they are using has no value.

Jan 09, 2012 10:06 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

The funniest thing about all this is I can't turn on the radio for 30 minutes anymore here in Denver without hearing an advertisement for testosterone.

Jan 09, 2012 10:35 AM
rating: 0
 
Rob Moore

There are other things besides size and position that might make us suspect some players more than others. I have the impression (possibly wrong) that Latin American players used PEDs at a higher than average rate. That could have something to do with easier availability in their home countries, or a broader acceptance for use, culturally - not really sure but I have that perception. Not sure if that rises to the level of evidence either.

Also, considering Bagwell v. Larkin, I tend to suspect Bagwell more because he played with Caminiti, and I have the suspicion (again, not really evidence) that teammates influenced one another in PED use - that there were certain teams with a culture of use.

All that is to address the "gut feeling" question posed by Neyer. I don't really care that players used and I tend to assume that many current players still use PEDs. I also believe it's widespread in every competitive sport.

Jan 08, 2012 22:27 PM
rating: 2
 
rneyer

Agreed. And I suspect there is a correlation between teammates, though of course it would pretty hard to find a "clean" team, if we had perfect knowledge.

Jan 08, 2012 22:43 PM
rating: 0
 
Behemoth

Indeed, Derek Jeter has shared a clubhouse with several known steroid users. Are you sure this isn't just so and so is seen as being a good guy fundamentally, and thus could never have used, or is thus significantly less likely to have used?

Jan 09, 2012 02:21 AM
rating: 2
 
heyblue

I think that Latin American players did not use at a higher rate, I believe they were just more likely to be caught. Maybe due to lesser quality drugs or something to do with testing and the language barrier - or maybe, enter sinister conspiracy theory music here - maybe MLB disproportionately tested Latin players.

Jan 08, 2012 22:50 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

If we want to play guilt by association, the Mariners had some infamous amphetamine parties and had two players (Franklin and Segui) linked to PEDs.

I think pretty much every team had one person or another using. The only team that seemed actively against it was the White Sox and even that wasn't a unanimous voice.

Jan 09, 2012 09:22 AM
rating: 0
 
myshkin

Kinds of evidence we might consider, and remember Bayes (the probability that player X used PEDs given evidence Y is linked to the probability that we will observe evidence Y for a random PED user, but the two probabilities are not necessarily identical):

Strength-related (ISO, HR/FB, homer distances, spray charts, batted ball speeds, fastball velocity, bench press reports)
Health-related (games played per season, career longevity, average days lost per injury relative to norms for those injuries, post-injury performance)
Body-related (weight, body fat, body part measurements, acne)
Other (affiliation with known users, affiliation with suspicious labs/doctors/trainers, incidents of overt anger or violence, test results, accusations from others)

Did I miss anything? Obviously some of these are far more shaky pieces of evidence than others.

Jan 08, 2012 22:47 PM
rating: 0
 
Drungo

Is health a positive indicator or a negative one? I've seen steroids or PEDs used as an explanation both for long, productive careers and injury-riddled ones.

Jan 09, 2012 05:21 AM
rating: 2
 
wilsonc

One of the things about trying to find evidence from circumstantial factors in this type of situation is that in a lot of cases, you could look at the same traits and speculate that it either increases or decreases the likelihood of a player using.

- Strength: A powerful player may have achieved power through chemical means, or player who's already naturally powerful may have less motivation to use than a player who thinks he could add power to his game through PED use.

- Health: Is a player's durability linked to artificial means of boosting his endurance, or is an injury-prone player more likely to try a PED to stay on the field?

- Other: Does an affiliation with a known user mean a player's more likely to have used, or is it more accurate to say that almost all players played with users. It could also be that there's an inverse relationship here - does having had Canseco as a teammate make someone more likely to have used, or are the users who played with him simply more likely to have been implicated already, leading to a lower chance of another random teammate of his (who hasn't been implicated) having used?

That's one of the issues with the approach many take: the "evidence" is based on conforming to the narrative, but that narrative was written without even trying to understand whether that "evidence" increases or decreases the probability that someone used, or whether it can give us any insight at all.

Jan 09, 2012 07:18 AM
rating: 3
 
Rob Moore

Also, Larkin benefits from the "injury prone" bias. It seems that certain guys, like Vlad, Griffey Jr., Larkin, are perceived as guys who's bodies broke down in a "normal" way. Again, this is an unanalyzed impression and doesn't really rise to the level of evidence, but I can't see why else Vlad and Griffey are seen as clean.

Jan 08, 2012 22:54 PM
rating: 2
 
Behemoth

Maybe, if Rob thinks that there is evidence that Edgar Martinez is more likely to be a steroid user than Derek Jeter, he could lay out what that evidence is. Otherwise, I suspect it's nothing more than hearsay/people's personal dislikes and biases, and, in my view, to treat people differently on that basis is pretty contemptible.

Jan 09, 2012 02:25 AM
rating: 6
 
Rob Moore

Actually, I bet the strongest single factor in how guys are perceived is clubhouse rumor and stuff beat writers have heard that they then repeat but don't publish (because the evidence is too weak to meet journo standards) .

Jan 09, 2012 07:32 AM
rating: 1
 
PeterBNYC

"Journo standards"? What are those? You mean the standards of the San Francisco press who built their reputations by serving as conduits for leaks from the Federal prosecutors, who acted out of fear that they could not prove their case against Bonds in court? [The case that eventually would up criminalizing a careless answer to a prosecutor's question before the grand jury.] Those standards? What burns me is that "sportswriters" from the very same newspapers that editorialize stridently about deprivations of the rights of accused felons are themselves the first to throw overboard the presumption of innocence and to use leaks to keep a story alive. "Hypocrisy", said La Rochefoucauld, "is the tribute that vice pays to virtue." Pretty tough to see any virtue around here.

THOSE "journo standards", indeed.

Jan 09, 2012 12:33 PM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

I do find it funny that the same writers who are voting in the BBWAA are the same ones who wink-wink,nudge-nudged through the steroid era just so they could get interviews.

Jan 09, 2012 14:14 PM
rating: 4
 
lmarighi

I usually hate to pile on, but I can't help myself. Everyone take a deep breath, and repeat after me: "A gut feeling is not evidence." Evidence refers to facts or information, not to looking at a guy and saying "whoa, he hit hella dingerz, he must be a 'roider!"
And just to echo earlier posters, I also thought of the identical number for the likelihood of Jeter and Edgar being users (0, although that number could be totally wrong for one or both). Seriously, I like Rob Neyer, but I'm pretty disappointed in his apparently unwillingness to talk about evidence and to just imply that if you want actual evidence you are just dumb.

Jan 09, 2012 07:43 AM
rating: 8
 
Lloyd Cole

We should just compare players from the "steroid era" against other players from the "steroid era", just as we compare players from the "greenie era" against other players from that era. There's no way to know which players from either era abused the drugs, so we don't know the universe against which we should compare any players. So, just let induct the best ones from each era. Bonds. Clemens. Whomever.

Jan 09, 2012 11:02 AM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

The only way to decide Hall of Fame players is to compare them against other Hall of Fame players.. or else you end up with things like Mark Grace getting in because he had the most base hits in the 1990s. Nor can you say exactly when the steroid era began.

Jan 09, 2012 11:33 AM
rating: 1
 
mikebuetow

When does one era end and the next begin? And who decides that?

Jan 09, 2012 17:16 PM
rating: 1
 
Matt

What is ironic in all this is that Neyer's column is in response to Lynn Henning's comments on his own ballot, where he has trouble voting for Bagwell due to "timing and lack of evidence". How is lack of evidence a problem? Lack of evidence of being clean? That same lack of evidence applies to almost every player pre-testing.

More: "It's a matter of discussing, researching, thinking." Researching? How is Lynn Henning, or Rob Neyer, or anybody going to research the evidence regarding whether Bagwell used? Are you going to look at his medical records? Or just ask people what they think? What part of this process is going to give us fruitful knowledge, and what's the point?

Jan 09, 2012 11:06 AM
rating: 5
 
Richie

'Listed weights' as evidence of anything?? Now that's worth one heck of a good laugh.

Jan 09, 2012 13:34 PM
rating: 5
 
Richie

Myself, I find it funny that the same writers we lambaste for not telling us in the 90s what they certainly knew but couldn't prove, we now lambaste for telling us things they know but can't prove. Not all that hilarious, tho'.

Jan 09, 2012 14:57 PM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

Funny, I found it funny too.

Jan 09, 2012 15:16 PM
rating: 0
 
Noel Steere
(965)

So Rob, none of your responses here or at sbnation detail why we should think Edgar Martinez, specifically, is more likely to have taken steriods than Derek Jeter, specifically. In fact, there have been pretty good arguments why speculation should be more on Jeter than Martinez. Neither was there any explanation in the thread with AstroB (other than a vague "both those things" to "size and production", which doesn't make sense; Edgar was a born DH from the get-go, and it's not hard to believe that not playing the field could help avoid wear and tear, allowing his production to stay at a high level into his late 30s)

So any time you'd like to explain yourself, please feel free.

Jan 11, 2012 20:44 PM
rating: 6
 
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