View From The Bleachers

February 9, 2011

Chet’s Corner: PED’s, KY Jelly, and Greenies

Filed under: Featured,General — Chet West @ 5:00 am

In celebration of the coming 2011 season, I decided to add a few things to my to-do list for the month of February:

1) Read Ball Four by Jim Bouton

2) Watch all 10 innings of Baseball by Ken Burns

A few years back I watched Baseball, or at least the first five innings.  Not sure what happened but I never got around to the next four innings (up until this past year there were only nine total innings.)

Ball Four is a book that I seemed to ignore for as long as I can remember.  For a while my excuse for abstaining was its relevance to the present game.  I mean, how can a book exposing the “truth” of baseball during the 1969 season captivate a present day fan?

Well, if the first 100 pages are any indication, I will not only love the book, but quite possibly get an education into Baseball’s past and present.  It seems many of the problems plaguing the game then, still exist in one form or another now.

Anyhow, I will leave the book reviews to Cubbiedude and get to the real point of  today’s Chet’s Corner.

One can’t wander far in the baseball world without stumbling on a debate regarding PED’s or the comparison of players via HSA (Hyper Statistical Analysis….yah, I made it up).  God forbid we throw the Hall of Fame into the discussion as all hell will break loose.

As I read through the pages of Ball Four and absorb Bouton’s tales of woe at the Major League level,  I keep asking myself the same question:

What is worse; a player who staggers to the plate hungover or even drunk, a player who uses PED’s (these include greenies, HGH, Steroids) to enhance his ability, or a player who uses foreign substances to doctor a baseball or bat thus giving him an advantage?

The Hall is home to all of the above except the HGH/Steroid users, which it may actually have, we just have yet to get a current Hall of Fame player to admit it.

I wonder if some of the past inductees would get voted in by today’s writers armed with the knowledge that we now have. I wonder if Gaylord Perry and his famous spitball, which he admittedly lubed up with everything from lard to KY Jelly, would have been voted in by the same group of writer’s that appears to refuse Mark McGwire for steroid use?  If all “cheating” is equal then Perry is no Hall of Famer.

I wonder if the current writer’s would see Whitey Ford, who was nicknamed “Black and Decker” because he used an arsenal of tools on the mound to doctor the ball (including his wedding ring),   in the same light as say Rafael Palmiero and his steroid use?  If all “cheating”  is equal then Whitey is no Hall of Famer.

I wonder if players using amphetamines, or greenies as they were called back in Bouton’s days, would get the same black eye as the HGH users do in today’s game?  They should, right?  Both are drugs used to enhance your performance on the field!  Yet, the hall houses plaques with those who popped a little green pill in order to get that edge,  just ask Mike Schmidt (better yet, read his biography “Clearing the Bases”.)

How can any writer, without bias, vote in Schmidt, Ford, or Perry (or any of the other guilty subjects) without also giving a vote to today’s admitted HGH/Steroid users?

Better yet, how do you feel about players being massively hungover or just plain drunk and taking the field?  For my money, this is almost worse then steroids.  Yah, I have plopped myself down at my desk hungover on many occasion.  I have probably been a little too beat up to do my best work.  The difference……thousands of people aren’t forking over hundreds of dollars to watch me do my job.  I guess that’s the burden of playing a game for a living and getting paid well in the process.

That brings another question,  Are you more likely to cheer for a player who pops a pill that helps him perform, or would you cheer for the guy who lacks respect for the game and shows up hungover to his day of work at the ballpark in turn downgrading his level of play?

Maybe we should start over in regards to history.  Can you imagine pulling all of the plaques and re-voting back to the first Hall class with today’s crop of writers?  Oh, and by the way, don’t tell me today’s writer’s can’t possibly fathom the greatness of Babe Ruth or Robin Roberts.  They don’ need to actually see them play anymore.  We have a much more sophisticated way of analyzing players these days.  You don’t have to witness a player on the diamond to judge his level of play anymore, we can just calculate his WAR, or VORP, or is it WARP?!

*the above sentence or two is laced with a massive mound of sarcasm

After the HSA (remember, its Hyper Statistical Analysis) is completed we will dig up all the dirt on each player.  We will dig up anything dating back to when they played the game, from the locker room to the bedroom,  and take that into consideration before considering what they actually did on the diamond.  Let’s be real,  a players entry  into today’s hall is effected by his behavior off the field as well as on.

After all the information is compiled, and the votes of today’s writers are counted, I would be curious to see what we are left with in the temple of baseball.

I have a feeling it would be an empty boring place.

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Chet West is an IT professional living in Minneapolis, MN with his wife and two daughters. He has a pug named Banks and loves photography. Follow him on Twitter @chetwest19

  • Chuck

    I am probably in the minority in that I cut athletes some slack on the whole PED issue from before the ban and testing. 99% of us will probably never understand the pressures that a professional athlete faces. When I retire 25 years or so from now I will have been working for at least 50 years of my life. A pro athlete has, maybe, 5 years of time to make a career. Another major difference is that I don’t have some young whipper-snapper breathing down my neck waiting to take my job. It takes years of experience and training to do my job as efficiently as I do it. So I really don’t have to worry too much about finding work in my profession. It would take either gross incompetence or a massive economic downturn for me to get overly worried. For a pro athlete, once you are done, you are done. There is no going back
    With all that said if I was a guy like Thomas Diamond who is a borderline MLB player and it was 1995 I would probably have taken anything my trainer gave me if it gave me a better shot at sticking with a club. No doubts. What would you do if your trainer said “Take this ‘milkshake’ twice a day when you are working out and you will add 5 mph to your fastball.”? There was no testing, lots of other players were doing the same thing and you were in danger of losing your dream job. I probably would not ask too many questions and do it and hope for the best.
    Today is a whole new animal because there is testing and clear rules about what is and is not allowed so I have a lot less sympathy.
    So Chet, am I a HAS person? I consider myself a MAS (Medium Statistical Analysis) person.

  • Chuck

    As an addendum, here is how I rank the “sins” of pro ball:

    Drunk > Hungover > PED/Drugs > doctored balls > corked bats

    Corked bats get ranked last because most of the data I have seen indicate that a corked bat does nothing to aid in hitting that a lighter bat would not do.

  • Doc Raker

    I recently read Ball Four and loved it. A great read and some great insight into the game pre free agency.

  • Doc Raker

    I think HGH and steroids distort the player, his performance and his health for the rest of his life. Greenies, drinking and KY Jelly alter the players temporarily. I think that is a big distinction. My question has always been: Where is the union in protecting the players from the health hazards of HGH and steroids? The union protects drug addicts and alcoholics with rehab programs, but the union is a passive advocate of steroid use by limiting the policing of HGH and steroids. The boom in player production due to steroids has been a boom for player salary’s and therefore the union has no interest in stopping the players from using. I contend the number one responsibility of the players union is player safety, not player payroll, and the union is failing in protecting players from HGH and steroids. The owners and fans like the increased production that HGH and steroids brings to the game but it is the health hazards to the players that the union should be concerned about. But like the owners the union likes the increased production, increased fan interests and increased money coming into the game. Why should fans care if a ballplayer is willing to kill himself in an effort to entertain the fans? The union should care.

  • Randy

    Sosa and McGwire saved baseball in 1998. It doesn’t matter if they were juiced or if they were aliens from outer space, they sold tickets and got America interested again. I think it’s a crime that these players are being blamed today for wrecking a game they actually saved. If we put admitted cheaters in the Hall, but reject players who didn’t actually break any rules then we’re hypocrites.

  • Terrelle Pryor 2

    Steriods have technically been banned since 1971 when MLB said any substance that the U.S. government declares illegal is banned in MLB too, which is when steroids were made illegal.

    As for corked bats, as far as I’m concerned you’re an idiot if you have one. It doesn’t help you in fact it hurts you. The bat and ball are only in contact for .001 seconds, which is not enough time to transfer the energy from a faster swing from the bat to the ball.

  • Seymour Butts

    I agree with Chuck on the order of offensiveness of various forms of cheating. Several decades from now we can decide where to put genetic engineering on the list. There will always be cheating in baseball because if you are not cheating, you are not trying.
    PED users have no less legitimate claim for the HOF than prior cheaters do. What is new is the hypocritical sanctimony of the writers, who are inexplicably the gate keepers. Look at the recent Football HOF elections. There were guys elected that had similar careers to Moises Alou Manny Sanguien, and the like. I’m not sure letting everyone in is the answer, but I’m damn sure letting the writers decide is not the answer. They write about it because they were failures as athletes. It’s similar to letting a personal injury lawyer replace your heart valve, not a wise choice.

  • Chet

    Something I left out but could have delved into is the relationship between journalists and athletes today versus yesterday. Yesterday they were more inclined to defend an athlete and cover for them whereas today they almost look expose them.

  • walterj

    i’m probably alone in this thinking , but atleast i may be heard …i have to teach my kids the difference between right and wrong , from being honest and a liar , from being one who tries hard and someone who just goes through the motions . i teach my kids that win or lose it doesn’t matter that i will be proud either way as long as it’s honest and they try hard . so taking drugs or steroids is wrong plain and simple , becuase they HID behind them and lied about taking them . i would rather my kids bring home a B- and tried hard on a test than be the top of their class and make an A . i compare life to baseball , i’ll be damned if i teach my kids or anyone else that cheating or hiding behind something to succeed is the way to go .

  • walterj

    as far as the hall of fame , it should no longer be decided by the writers .i feel the players in the hall of fame should be the ones who decide who goes in . they are the elite ones who know how the game should be played . if they decide a cheater deserves to be voted in , they are then degrating themselves by putting themselves in the same class as the cheaters .

  • Chuck

    Walterj: I completely agree that nobody should encourage kids to cheat or play dirty. However, as adults we do things that are in that murky gray area of right and wrong. People use setoids and HGH every day for very valid medical reasons. Ditto for ADHD. What about laser eye surgey? I still find it hard to condemn player on hearsay. I liken PED use in prior to testing to posting a speed limit of 55 mph on a straight road in the middle of nowhere while also posting a sign that the road will never ever be subject to speed traps. Will some do 55? Sure, but most will do what they are comfortable with.
    To me the HOF is a mess. I don’t really have a problem with the writers doing the voting (somebody besides the general public has to) but some reforms have to be made. The first and biggest one should be only ACTIVE writers get to vote. Also, the whole veterans comittie thing is just crap.
    I am a small hall guy who thinks far too many marginal HOF guys get in anyway.

  • Terrelle Pryor 2

    I drive to school every day on 90/94 the speed limit is 55 but when there is no traffic I do 70. Why? Because everyone else is doing 70 and I don’t want to die. Going too slow can be just as dangerous as going too fast.

  • Seymour Butts

    Interesting analogy. I agree with TP2 that driving 55 on most interstates makes you a traffic hazard. Can you extend that logic to PEDs? I’m not sure the clean player is a hazard, but they are certainly less numerous than those “driving 70”.
    I also agree with Walterj about honesty, but baseball has been about bending the rules since it’s inception, it’s never been reality based.

  • Terrelle Pryor 2

    @Seymour – There is a part of the Mitchell Report where he says that some players are faced with taking steroids because everyone else is, and the guy who dopes will take away the job from the guy who wants to be clean.

    As for driving 70, 90/94 is the only interstate I’ve seen where the limit is 55. I probably have the worst stretch of it. From my house to Montrose, I can usually fly, then it’s a bottleneck from Montrose to the Taylor/Roosevelt exit. Everywhere else I’ve been, I see you can gun it at 70. I was driving with a group to Florida, we got pulled over in Georgia because our driver (not me) was doing 89, even though everyone else was flying, and we were getting passed by semis.

  • Terrelle Pryor 2

    But as we learned from the Mitchell Report, steroids don’t automatically make you great. If they did, Neifi Perez would be a Hall of Famer. Although, I should point out, he has more career hits than Roger Maris.

  • Buddy

    That’s because Maris was actually willing to lay off bad pitches and take a walk.

  • Terrelle Pryor 2

    But if Neifi is always hacking, wouldn’t that just mean he’s making more outs? Because the only guy who can turn a pitch 2 feet outside into a hit is Randall Simon.

  • Buddy

    Neifi did in fact make plenty of outs. Lots and lots and lots of ’em.

  • Terrelle Pryor 2

    But how does Maris’ patience compared with Neifi’s wild swinging lead to more hits by Neifi? If anything it should lead to more hits from Maris, because his patience can extend the AB to a point where he gets a pitch that he can knock for a hit. If you think about it, wild swingers like Sosa and Soriano are only employed because of their power. If they had no power, they would be like Neifi.

  • cap’n obvious

    Neifi sucked….there’s no way to ease into that fact when speaking of him. Here’s why I respected the guy. When I watch baseball, I don’t watch the way regular folks do…I rarely watch the ball, but look at the little things like positioning, signs, play calls, etc. The average MLB broadcast these days makes it very difficult to be a fan like me, which is why I find myself at a great many D1 college games here in socal. I miss Arne Harris terribly. I digress.

    Neifi, as shitty as he was, had some gamesmanship. In addition to the medicinal advantages he procured, Neifi was, what we call in baseball circles, a peeker.

    Almost every pitch, but certainly with no baserunners or early in the count, old Neifi would do the old stare at the bat barrel while taking his warmup swings waiting for the pitcher to come set. His eyes would then follow the barrel back to the point where he would look down between the catchers legs and attempt to grab the sign from catcher to pitcher. There are 2 things I absolutely love about this. First, it takes tremendous brass ones to try to pull this off at the big league level. You need to be very discreet, a great actor, and often wear mirrored shades under your helmet while hitting (remember?). He’d even wear the shades well after dark in night games. Second, the fact that he did this and STILL was shitty lends credence to the fact that he was likely an even shittier hitter than we think, yet yanked a big league paycheck for a solid number of years based on his ability to pluck signs and mix in a few hits. He KNEW he sucked, and knew he had to pick signs to avoid Mendoza jokes…and big league opponents were too stupid to know he was doing it. I LOVE THAT. Sure, the ‘roids are cheating, but there are dozens of other ways to “cheat” that aren’t really cheating.

    All the talk about cheaters yesterday and today got me thinking about the great peekers of my generation…George Brett was awesome at it. Mattingly and McGwire too. They are hall of fame guys, and no reputable baseball writer would dare speak of them doing something so untoward. Why? Because they don’t know it happens. Watch footage of them and it is there, plain as day. Bill Mueller peeked his way to a batting title before he was found out. There is an amazing game within the game of you know what to look for.

  • http://van Buddy

    Because most of the time, Neifi “swung” his way into of outs, not hits. Since he never walked, he racked up a disgusting .297 career on-base percentage. That’s playing most of his career in Colorado too. Simply awful.

  • Chet

    Neifi was one of those “Oh No” players. He ranks right up there with Lenny Harris and Unsteady Freddy Bynum.

  • TP2

    Neifi played less games than Roger Maris and had more hits than him. Neifi was a god awful player, but I still find it hilarious. Neifi is someone who is good for giving a guy a day off and for late-innings defense, not a toy to be played with every day like the Dust Bag did. But Neifi’s .297 OBP is useful to the Dust Bag because he’s not taking walks, because those clog the bases for guys who can run. But despite all the Neifi hate, he helped us make the playoffs in 1998. I remember this, and I was 10 years old. The Astros beat us the last SCHEDULED game of the regular season on a walk-off sac fly. We were tied with the Giants going into the last day. Right after the Astros won, Neifi hit a walk-off HR to beat SF, and forced a playoff between us and SF, and the rest is history.

  • TP2

    @Buddy – But that wouldn’t explain why Neifi has more hits than Maris. Your 2 arguments contradict each other.

  • Buddy

    In the same number of seasons and almost the same number of games Neifi got on base 1601 times, while Maris got on base 1977 times. As a hitter, you can basically do two things. Get on base, or make an out. I like the guys who get on base. Of course, that’s not even talking about hitting for power, which Neifi obviously didn’t (.375 career slugging percentage, playing most of his career in perhaps the best hitters park in the history of baseball). Another comparison, just for fun, Dave Winfield and Barry Bonds. They both played 22 seasons and almost the same number of games. Winfield has more hits, but Bonds got on base LOTS more, which of course means Big Dave made more outs.

  • TP2

    Buddy – I agree with you, I want the guy who gets on base, but your posts are contradictory. You said Neifi has more hits than Roger Maris because he is a wild swinger, but he also made a lot of outs because of his lack of discipline. I disagree that his wild swinging caused more hits because Neifi isn’t getting hits off those hacks, if he was disciplined, he would just have more walks. Roger Maris’ discipline is not the reason why Neifi has more hits than him.

  • jswanson

    I got pulled over yesterday…got a warning for doing 87. I shit you not. I didn’t even have my current insurance card in my pickup. Had a great time in San Diego, but there are some things about Montana that I take for granted. Can’t wait until my wife and I can do the snowbird thing.

  • chris in Illinois

    Neifi was a full time hacker….he hacked at the ball in 100% of his ab’s.

    I don’t understand how Buddy’s posts are confusing you. If you are a disciplined hitter a certain percentage of your plate appearances will be walks with zero chance of a hit. A hacker supreme like Neifi will still swing his way through those PA’s racking up a few extra hits, but mostly making piles of outs.

    Neifi had two seasons where he had more hits (193, 187) than Barry Bonds ever had in his career. Whoopee!

    Neifi, despite getting more hits in 1999 than Barry ever did posted a putrid 64 OPS+. Basically, adjusting for park and league, Neifi was 36% worse than your average player (average =100). Neifi is historically bad. Really, really bad. I, for one, am thrilled that I’ll never have to watch him “hit” ever again.

    Neifi is quite possibly the worst hitter in the history of all MLB to get 5000+ plate appearances. The fact that he played so frequently and so obviously poorly shows a complete lack of imagination on the part of the clubs who employed him. It also shows that some teams were (and are) mesmerized by the number of hits a player can manage to muster, disregarding completely the vast number of outs required to compile them.

    Baseball Rule #1: Outs suck.

  • Buddy

    Thank you Chris in Illinois! That was exactly the point I was trying to make.

  • Chet

    and now for some HAS (Hyper Analytical Stats)

    Neifi WAR = 0.0

    Maris WAR = 31.7

    WAR stands for Wins Above Replacement…….for whats its worth.

  • Chet

    For a frame of reference….

    Lenny Harris WAR = -0.9

    Derek Jeter = 67

    Mickey Mantle = 120

  • chris in Illinois

    Well said Chet….his glove must have been better than I thought to get him all the way up to 0.0.

    (…and I never had an issue with his glove)

  • Buddy

    My only issue with his glove is that it actually got him on the field, which put him in the position to make a zillion outs as a hitter.

  • Terrelle Pryor 2

    It wouldn’t be bad if he was being used to give a guy a day off. Or if he was hitting 9th, below the pitcher in NL parks. Neifi did get off to a hot start when we got him in 2004 though, and the Cubs put Ramon Martinez on the DL that year so Neigi could have been on tha playoff roster had we made it.

  • Terrelle Pryor 2

    As for the argument that hacking will cause a few extra hits, wouldn’t patience also cause a few extra hits by prolonging at-bats to the point where you can get a hit?

  • Chris in illinois

    TP2….in an individual ab, I believe you are right. Over the course of a season plate discipline invariably results in more walks and less hits. It’s just math.

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