Facepalm

Mark Knudson, former Major League pitcher. Career 84 ERA+.

Mark Knudson, current columnist for the Coloradoan. Here’s his current article.

Which version of Mark is worse? I’m going to go with the columnist. His latest article is about the steroid era in baseball, and what to do about all the statistics. Got your beekeeper suit on? Gas mask? Rubber gloves? Let’s go.

It’s virtually impossible right now to talk about baseball without steroids creeping into the conversation.

No, it’s not. I haven’t thought about steroids for a while. When I do think about it, it’s because I’m reading an article or watching something on TV about it.

If you can’t stop thinking about steroids, I’d take a long, hard look at my priorities. I’m looking at you, Jose Canseco. And Carrot Top.

It’s not that hard to avoid the steroid talk. Stop watching ESPN, and stop going to ESPN’s website. It seems like they’re the only ones who keep on bringing the subject up, but they have good reason to: it’s a hot-button issue that will attract larger audiences. I watch a minimum of ESPN programming and I never visit the website, so I often avoid the non-stop chatter about performance-enhancing drugs.

The World Baseball Classic? It’s about A-Rod and his cousin not being there.

Really? I hadn’t noticed. I just heard a lot about the epic upset the Netherlands pulled by advancing to the next round. And I’m sure we’ll be hearing about the drubbing the U.S. took yesterday when the mercy rule was invoked after the seventh inning against Puerto Rico.

Note to self: To make an issue seem important, exaggerate how much the issue is being brought up.

What do we need to do to get the conversation back on the game itself?

We need media people — you included, Knudson — to stop yapping about it because it’s really not a big deal.

How about a way to penalize those proved to have used illegal drugs?

This is going to “get the conversation back on the game itself” how?

We already have penalties for those who have tested positive for using PED’s. I guess what Knudson is alluding to is that anyone who used before the rules were enforced (pre-2003) can’t be punished. Do we really want to go back and punish players ex post facto? That sets up an awful precedent.

Imagine Facebooking is made illegal today. Would it be fair to go back and arrest anyone who used Facebook before the law was made? Of course not.

How about they get caught (or confess), the penalty is imposed and we move on. Do you think that would help?

Isn’t this the current system?

There is a way to settle all this record-book, stats stuff once and for all.

Yes, there is: by not doing anything, right?

Just put a plan in place to ad-just rather than remove or put an asterisk on the stats of those proved to have used illegal substances.

Oh.

Facepalm.

Since when was the word “adjust” hyphenated?

The idea would be for MLB to make adjustments to baseball’s statistics (and record books) when cheating can be proven. Other sports like track and field have removed steroids-aided num-bers from their records, like Ben Johnson’s 100-meter dash record from the 1988 Olympics that was erased when he tested positive for steroids. No one erased Johnson or pretended he never competed; they just took that artificially enhanced stat and wiped it away. Baseball can treat the numbers from the steroid era the same way.

Erasing statistics precisely is pretending that the athlete never existed. Statistics are objective logs of events. If an athlete doesn’t have a log of events — statistics — then he was never a professional athlete in that particular group (i.e. MLB, NFL, etc.).

Adjusting numbers is an extremely messy process and it wouldn’t be worth it all, considering how many people would have to be hired and compensated to do the job.

I bet Knudson wouldn’t volunteer to be one of the guys who has to adjust the numbers of the PED-users — it’s mind-numbing stuff.

It’s not just about adjusting the users’ numbers either — any hitters, pitchers, and/or fielders the PED user in question faced, their numbers would have to be adjusted as well.

For instance, Barry Bonds hits a home run off of Jon Lieber. If you say that that home run doesn’t count since it was during the steroid era, then you have to adjust not only Bonds’ plate appearances, at-bats, hits, home runs, RBI, total bases, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, etc., you also have to adjust Lieber’s innings pitched, earned runs allowed, hits allowed, WHIP, etc. And let’s say Bonds hit a steroid-aided double off of Lieber and it was fielded by Shane Victorino. You have to adjust Victorino’s defensive metrics as well.

Imagine doing this for every single PED-aided event that has ever happened in the steroid era.

That’s why the idea of making statistical adjustments is illogical. We haven’t even touched upon the fact that it’s hypocritical.

Should we erase/adjust Gaylord Perry’s numbers for using a Vaseline ball? Bat-corkers’ numbers for corking bats? Ball-scuffers’ numbers for scuffing the baseball? We can’t just single out the steroid era and make adjustments; we have to do it for every era in which there was cheating. Cheating has been around forever.

Here’s how:

Start with the case of Bonds. There’s enough strong evidence out there now for baseball to take action on his inflated statistics.

No, there is not enough strong evidence out there. For someone who complained about Bonds always being in the news, Knudson must have missed that the federal government’s case is so weak that they’ve intentionally delayed the trial to attempt to strengthen their case.

That evidence points to Bonds starting to use steroids and HGH in 1999, his 14th season in the big leagues. He was 35 at the time. So starting with that season, Bonds hitting stats would be revamped to reflect no more than his career averages from 1985-1998.

This is hilarious. Bonds wasn’t in the Majors in 1985, first of all, and why would we take the averages of Bonds’ age 21-33 seasons when adjusting statistics for Bonds’ 34-42 seasons?

It ignores the possibility that Bonds may have been better than his ’86-’98 average with or without steroids; it flatly assumes that anything about that average is steroid-enhanced.

No one has, or ever will, quantify the effect steroids have on a player’s performance. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad. Ask Alex Sanchez if you’re skeptical.

Because steroids are basically a “fountain of youth” we would also have to adjust careers to reflect a maximum of 20 years of playing, meaning Bonds would get credit in the record book for playing through the 2005 season.

If steroids are a “fountain of youth,” I don’t know why they’re not distributed like candy at senior retirement facilities.

Jamie Moyer is 46. Did he use steroids to pitch this long? Phil Niekro pitched until he was 48. Julio Franco was 48 in 2007, his last season in the Majors. Steroids?

The method to supposedly enhancing the objectivity and reality of statistics is not brought about by making baseless assumptions about athletes’ ceilings and the effects of PED’s.

So, if you take his career average of 37 home runs per season from 1986–1998, a total of 411 homers, and give him credit for 37 per year for the next seven seasons, his adjusted career total is 670 and Hank Aaron is still the rightful owner of the career home run record.

Are you going to adjust Hank Aaron’s home run totals because he used amphetamines? Make sure you get Willie Mays and Mike Schmidt, too, while you’re at it.

Since we’re adjusting, you might want to see the math I did a long time ago where I come up with 951 career home runs for Bonds. 762 – 670 = 92. 951 – 92 = 859. If we assume both of our adjustments are legitimate (and they certainly are not), then Bonds is still the HR king by a wide margin. QED.

Knudson repeats this process for Clemens, but it’s hilariously wrong for reasons just stated.

The penalty for Alex Rodriguez would be similar, but different, since he is still playing and the subject of drug testing. His admission about taking steroids from 2001–2003 would cost him some 75 home runs and his 2003 American League MVP award, however.

Since you’re taking A-Rod’s MVP away, you’re going to have to change the results of the BBWAA’s balloting as well. How are you going to distribute A-Rod’s votes? Who gets bumped into the back of the list?

I’m sure Knudson has thought this through.

From 1994–2000, Rodriguez averaged 27 home runs per season for Seattle.

A-Rod had a grand total of 196 at-bats in 1994 and ’95. If we pro-rate A-Rod’s home runs from 1994-2000 to a scale of 600 at-bats, we’ll see he had 189 HR in 3,126 at-bats for a rate of 36 HR per 600 AB.

That’s a more accurate measure of adjustment, something I’m sure Knudson will be quick to utilize.

If you credit him with 27 home runs for the three seasons in question, he gets 81 homers instead of 156, a loss of 75 career home runs.

Just for completeness, I fixed that:

If you credit him with 36 home runs for the three seasons in question, he gets 108 homers instead of 156, a loss of 48 career home runs.

Since joining the Yankees, he has 208 home runs, meaning his career total should stand at 478 rather than 553. Still a lot of work to do to catch Hammerin’ Hank.

Not after you adjust for Aaron’s use of greenies, which I’m sure you were planning on doing, right?

The best part of this plan is that after the numbers are adjusted to reflect the player’s non-using sea-sons, the stats of Bonds and Clemens would still be good enough to earn them their rightful place in the Hall of Fame.

Another weird hyphenation. Sea-son? Is that like sea-men?

Don’t you love it when someone comes up with an hilariously illogical plan and they pat themselves on the back for it? It’s like an ugly person looking in the mirror and telling himself he’s beautiful.

(Full disclosure: That was from personal experience.)

Face it, had neither player ever touched a steroid, and retired in a normal time frame, each would already be in the Hall.

What does a steroid — steroid, singular — look like, and how can you touch it? It’s a hormone, which means it’s liquidy, right? So if you touch the liquid, you’re technically talking about steroids.

^ I thought about that too much.

This plan isn’t perfect. It needs to be refined by someone smarter than I am.

Oh snap.

The better idea is to completely scrap it and let the numbers stand, as they are objective accounts of stuff that actually happened. When we start putting our dirty mitts on the stats, they lose their objectivity. You know how people always criticize stats for being used to skew the truth? It’s because they’re used by people like Knudson.

But putting something like this into place would be a great step to right these players’ wrongs and get the focus back on the field of play.

You can put the focus back on the field of play. Stop worrying about the steroid era and the statistics! It’s that simple.

Knudson’s column should be posted at Failblog.

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1 comment

  1. jay ballz

    March 15, 2009 02:09 PM

    Great stuff!

    There are certainly some people in the media and some media outlets that won’t shut up about the issue.

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