It's Not All in the Hips, It's All in the Numbers

Chris Murphy@@SeeMurphsTweetsAnalyst IJune 18, 2009

7 Sep 1998:  Mark McGwire #25 of the St. Louis Cardinals and Sammy Sosa #21 of the Chicago Cubs share a laugh following McGwire''s 61st home run of the year press conference at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. The Cardinals defeated the Cubs 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Laforet  /Allsport

Steroid users are not hard to locate. There is no need for MapQuest because the yellow brick road will always lead you to the numbers. 

WebMD descriptions of a steroid user: ginormous head, a back that looks like a pubescent face, bicep veins that resemble zippers, breaking bats over one's leg after every at-bat solely to release rage, and of course, what every man knows about—improvement in strength.

You thought I meant shrinkage of testicles, didn't you? Grow up and get your head out of the gutter (Tiny balls...hilarious). 

It is the perfect deal with the devil. Gain strength to hit balls, but lose your own.

Aside from these obvious symptoms, the steroid user is very easy to spot by just pushing up one's glasses and nerding things up. 

Look at the numbers. 

For numbers do not lie unless it is regarding players like Alfonso Soriano or Matt Holliday.  Those numbers are conniving little bastards because they fail to mention things like Holliday's numbers away from Coors Field or who Soriano is actually getting hits off of or his utter failure to ever work counts. These numbers are mean and should not be listened to. 

Most of the time, however, numbers are our trustworthy friends. They sit there, look you dead in the eye and either say, "You are right about me," or, "You were dead wrong about me." 

These are the answers you receive to the questions of whether a player is good or, in the latest case, whether a player has taken steroids.

I give you the truth.

Sammy Sosa

1997 - .251 BA, 36 HR, 119 RBI, 90 R, 22 SB
1998 - .308 BA, 66 HR, 158 RBI, 134 R, 18 SB
1999 - .288 BA, 63 HR, 141 RBI, 114 R, 7 SB
2000 - .320 BA, 50 HR, 138 RBI, 106 R, 7 SB
2001 - .328 BA, 64 HR, 160 RBI, 146 R, 0 SB
2002 - .288 BA, 49 HR, 108 RBI, 122 R, 2 SB

What Do We See?

These numbers are not human. A jump of 30 home runs and 57 points in batting average in three less at bats is simply unheard of, especially with no change in scenery or lineup. With that alone, there should have been a public outcry, but we were too focused on balls flying over walls while others shrank. 

Taking a closer look, we see Sosa's stolen bases decreasing. In fact, from 1999 to 2005, Sosa would only steal 17 bases. Age could have been a factor, but going from 34 stolen bases in 144 games to 18 in 124 games to 22 in 162 games to 18 in 159 games to 14 combined the next two years (318 games) seems odd. Steroids add muscle to your upper thighs, which of course help power to drive, but doesn't help speed. 

Sosa was clearly a base-stealer who suddenly stopped stealing bases altogether. 

Finally, the simple question is who hits 49 home runs at the age of 33, 40 home runs at the age of 34 in 137 games and 35 home runs at the age of 35 in 137 games? That does not happen.
How could he have completely lost his speed, but held on to all his power?

Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs at the age of 34, 65 home runs at the age of 35, 32 home runs in 89 games at the age of 36 and 29 home runs in 97 games at the age of 37.  

Besides the age factor coming into play, McGwire was batting .187 the year he hit 29 home runs in 97 games. 

He was batting below the Mendoza line, but was still able to line it up enough to hit home runs in 10 percent of his at bats? That is not right.

Ken Griffey Jr. hit 30 home runs in 144 games at the age of 37 and 18 in 143 games at the age of 38. Frank Thomas hit 39 home runs in 137 games at the age of 38 and 26 home runs in 155 games at the age of 39.

These are two of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball aging normally.     

Roger Maris hit 61 home runs at the age of 26. Twenty-seven is the average breakout age for a baseball player.   

It is simple logic. If something seems wrong, then it usually is.   

To have the assumption Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were above the laws of baseball and aging is just foolish. They were clearly not talented enough. 

Roger Clemens was an unfortunate case because he had the talent to bend the laws of baseball, which is essentially why we believed he was clean. But looking back, he is just another case of not making sense. 

After going 20-18 with ERAs of 4.18 and 3.63 while striking out 389 in his last two seasons with the Red Sox, Clemens, at the age of 34 and 35, went 41-13 with ERAs of 2.05 and 2.65 while striking out 563 batters in his two season with the Blue Jays.

Barry Bonds was another unfortunate case because he too had the talent to possibly change the laws of baseball and may have went down as the best ever. But his ego and need for attention got the best of him and his increase by 24 home runs at the age of 36 was a clear case of steroid fever. 

Barry, you do not hit 45 home runs at the age of 39. If his head wasn't being mistaken for a boulder, then I would have believed him. 

Had he continued on his career without steroids, we may have bought the fact he was still playing well at the age of 39. But unfortunately, we could not.       

We were all dooped while they were doped.

The problem with following this number logic are the players who were "smarter" with their drugs instead of just exploding their bodies and numbers the way McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds did. 

Players like Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez, who have been steadily great their entire careers, are impossible to figure out. 

Their more impressive seasons can even be based on their changes of venue—Ramirez going to Boston and Rodriguez going to Texas and then New York. All three are places to hit a lot of home runs. With their talent and age, it seemed feasible.

This is why I do not blame people for looking at Raul Ibanez and thinking steroids, due to what we have been through the last two decades. Based on logic, it makes perfect sense. 

Why should we think otherwise? 

This is why, until we go ten years steroid-free, my generation and I will trust no one and be sure to tell our kids to not look to baseball for their heroes.  

I hope baseball one day proves us wrong.        


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