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Rick Morrissey knows a non-roider when he sees one

Jan 7, 2010, 8:57 AM EDT

Stellar Hall of Fame reasoning from Rick Morrissey of the Sun-Times:

Dawson, who played 11 years with Montreal and six with the Cubs, was
wiry strong his entire career. He looks very much the same today–the
same ridiculously skinny waist holding up the same solid upper body. He
had one season that popped out–49 home runs and 137 runs batted in to
win the 1987 most valuable player award while a Cub–but never put
together a string of seasons with outrageous power numbers.

I love this. With some players — usually players the writer doesn’t like all that much — we’re told we’re supposed to be skeptical of fluke seasons.  Big spike in his home run total?  ‘Roider!!  Now,
however, when there’s a player the writer likes, we’re supposed to be skeptical
only of sustained power numbers and let the flukes lie. This is nonsense.

Look, I’m not accusing Andre Dawson of taking steroids. I don’t get
in the business of accusing anyone of doing steroids unless and until
there is actual evidence out there. So even if there were whispers about Dawson — which there are not, and to be honest, I highly doubt he ever touched the stuff — I’d ignore them unless and until someone actually put some evidence on the table.

But the point is, Morrissey doesn’t know that Andre Dawson didn’t do steroids, just like he doesn’t know all of the players who have taken PEDs.  There could be a steroid user in the Hall of Fame as we speak. We could elect one next year.  We have, and always will have, imperfect information on the subject, and in my mind, that renders the “well, he never did steroids” argument to support someone’s Hall of Fame candidacy ridiculous. Don’t presume guilt. Don’t presume innocence. Don’t presume at all. Punish the confirmed users if you wish, and stop speculating one way or the other about the personal use (or not) for those for whom we do not have the information. How hard is that?

Not that Morrisey cares about reason or fairness, as evidenced by the sense of dictatorial entitlement with which he views his Hall of Fame vote:

The civil libertarians might argue that without hard proof of
steroid abuse, those players should be allowed into the Hall of Fame.
But that’s the great thing about the Hall: You vote your conscience,
not the preponderance of evidence. And in the public square, we all get to be judge, jury and unfeeling despot. Somebody hand me my riding crop.

If you think this “I know better than the evidence” attitude is limited to steroids, you’re dreaming.  Morrissey and like-minded voters simply know a Hall of Famer when they see one. QED. 

  1. Lawrence From Plattekill - Jan 7, 2010 at 9:14 AM

    My 2 cents:
    Physical body changes ARE evidence. So are sudden increases in power, and so are certain career arcs. They’re not conclusive, but then neither is a drug test.
    Morrisey and a bunch of others are trying to rationalize their own likes and dislikes, and they’re being very irrational, not to mention disingenuous. But refusing to consider anything about steroids unless there’s conclusive proof is no better than refusing to consider UZR unless there’s conclusive proof of fielding ability.

  2. Bear - Jan 7, 2010 at 9:25 AM

    Canseco has said there is already a PED user in the Hall of Fame. He has not named anyone, and might not have conclusive evidence of it. Take what he says with a grain of salt, but he has been proven right before, and might be proven right on this. It really made me wonder when he said this.

  3. Kevin S. - Jan 7, 2010 at 11:02 AM

    Physical body changes ARE evidence. So are sudden increases in power, and so are certain career arcs. They’re not conclusive, but then neither is a drug test.
    Don’t dare hit the weights in the offseason, and pray your power doesn’t fill out late. Otherwise, Lawrence will accuse you of being a user.
    If Hank Aaron played thirty years later and had the *exact same career*, dopes wouldn’t vote him in because they’d be convinced he was on the juice (which is worse than the illegal performance-enhancer he did taker, but nobody wants to talk about that).

  4. Lionel Hutz - Jan 7, 2010 at 11:10 AM

    We’ve plenty of hearsay and conjecture. Those are kinds of evidence.

  5. Lawrence From Plattekill - Jan 7, 2010 at 11:12 AM

    @Kevin S.
    No, I don’t think so. Aaron’s power ramped up at an age when it tends to do so. He didn’t have the physical changes associated with steroids, and his power declined more slowly than steroid users. I’ll say it again–career arc, physical changes, sudden increases and decreases of power ARE evidence. They aren’t proof, but they should be loooked at, and evaluatetd as best as can be. You’re right that they shouldn’t be used indiscriminately to accuse people, but saying that since we can’t prove exactly who did and did not use steroids means that we should thus just ignore all evidence doesn’t seem to me to help much.

  6. Bruce Picton - Jan 7, 2010 at 11:16 AM

    Craig,
    I love your work…you are brutally honest, which I like, you seem to lean toward not allowing “juicers” or “roid” users in the hall, With this I diagree, why;
    1. Hall numbers require a “body of work”, not just the roid era…not any of the guys who were known users would be hall worthy based alone on 4-5 yrs.
    2. Most of the drugs that were used to inhanse performance were legal, at the time they reportedly took them, it stil is legal in several countries, including the Dominican and Canada.
    3. Where is the proof?, Because they got bigger? that is not enough.
    4. If they did juice who cares? Get over it.
    5. The truth is that many people and writers today are hung up on their own righteousnes..some voters did not vote for Alomar because of the spitting incident, nonsense! Others believe that baseball alone has a higher standard than other sports and professions….Baseball is a stat driven game, Baseball and Bud Selig allowed roid use to flourish and to become prevalent, becase of revenue. It’s funny but it may have saved the game. It is cheap shot to suggest that the Hawk was a juicer. Like other players a suggestion is all that it takes to link them to illegal subtances and turn narrow minded writers to exclude them from their ballots…Morality is based on the bible and sinning…..That type of bias has no place in any arena…Would any of the greats be in hall if it were?

  7. Craig Calcaterra - Jan 7, 2010 at 11:16 AM

    For the record, the two biggest reasons Aaron’s home runs totals went up were (a) the team moving from Milwaukee to Atlanta, which at the time was the friendliest hitter’s park in the game (i.e. “the launching pad”); and transitioning out of the larger strike-zone, pitcher-dominated 60s and into the more hitter-friendly, 1969-expansion diluted late 1969-74 period.
    Not that that’s the point. The point is that there are reasons besides steroids — much more compelling reasons, actually — for higher home run totals. It’s accepted that they messed with the ball in 1987. The parks got way, way smaller post-Camden.
    Steroids played a part, but not as big a part as everyone likes to think.

  8. Craig Calcaterra - Jan 7, 2010 at 11:21 AM

    Bruce — I actually think that steroid users should go in. My thing is that you should simply treat steroid-era numbers with a bit of skepticism when comparing players to past eras. Adjust downwards a tad like you would adjust deadball-era hitter up. No disqualification. Just understand that 45 home runs in 1999 was not the same as 45 home runs in 1989.
    I’d vote for Bonds, McGwire, Sosa and many others. Palmiero is a closer call.
    When I say penalize guys for the HoF, I’m simply saying that if writers want to, it’s their choice, but even if they do, at least be fair and consistent about it.

  9. Lawrence From Plattekill - Jan 7, 2010 at 11:24 AM

    @Lionel Hutz: No, they aren’t. All I’m asking for is a little rationality. That means considering the evidence available, andn deciding what it’s worth. No, I wouldn’t be able to say that Dawson never used GHG or steroids. But I’d think that his lack of physical changes would make it less likely.

  10. Lawrence From Plattekill - Jan 7, 2010 at 11:41 AM

    Craig,
    I think Aaron’s power shot up earlier than that, in the late 50s while he was still in Milwaukee. He first four season totals were 13, 27, 28, 44 (1957), and then was mostly around 40 a year for a while.
    But I think your approach is the right one (which is why I read this blog)–keep analyzing, keep trying to figure out just what everything might mean.

  11. Bruce - Jan 7, 2010 at 12:24 PM

    I agree w/ you…The real discussion here…is Bonds….No one is saying it , but thats the main discussion. He is the Poster child for all the roid era…. I am a Giant fan, so my bias is obvious….I do dislike Bonds, not for the use of steriods or PEDs or the use prepation H, I dislike him for his attitude towards the fans…His above the game swagger…My point however is the writers should leave “their” morality out of their votes……the best example would be Cobb. If he were to come up to for election today, how many would not vote for him because he was a racist…Baseball writers are also not better than the game…like Bonds. Thank you for the reply.

  12. Old Gator - Jan 7, 2010 at 1:41 PM

    If Darwin was right – which of course he was; God does have a fondness for beetles – future generations of ballplayers will evolve gland and nerve cells that secretes PEDs like epinephron, dopamine, seritonin and adrenaline. Then what will be the point of pissing into little plastic cups?

  13. JBerardi - Jan 7, 2010 at 2:30 PM

    Craig, have I mentioned that “traditional” sportswriters are (mostly) a bunch of egotistical, self-important little know-knowing-know-it-alls lately?

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