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Did PED users cost Frank Thomas four MVP awards?

Nov 19, 2013, 8:31 AM EDT

Frank Thomas

Frank Thomas is one of the best hitters of my lifetime and that guy should be in the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, no question. He’s also a Hall-of-Fame-level call-out-his-contemporaries-on-their-PED-use-guy. Inner circle. He was at it again the other night at a speaking engagement:

“I was the one player who was hurt the most,” said Thomas, who won back-to-back American League MVP awards in 1993 and ’94. “All those years I finished second, third, fourth behind those guys, I probably could have won four more MVPs.”

Fact check time:

  • Thomas finished third in 1991 behind Cal Ripken and Cecil Fielder;
  • Thomas finished third in 1997 behind Ken Griffey and Tino Martinez;
  • Thomas finished second in 2000 behind Jason Giambi; and
  • Thomas finished fourth in 2006 behind Justin Morneau, Derek Jeter and David Ortiz

I’ll give him 2000 and Jason Giambi, but for Thomas’ claim of four more MVPs to be true, Cal Ripken, Cecil Fieder, Ken Griffey, Tino Martinez, Justin Morneau and Derek Jeter would have to be juicers. Anyone wanting to take up those arguments, be my guest.

Of course, Thomas’ numbers are so ridiculously good that he need not talk about what could’ve been as far as MVP voting goes. Indeed, if one’s only reason for voting Thomas into the Hall of Fame is that he’s some sort of PED casualty, well, you’re simply not understanding baseball very well. The guy was an absolute monster.

I think there’s a better, more logical story about Frank Thomas and PEDs. It goes like this: If we accept — as I do — Frank Thomas’ claim that he never did PEDs, why do we look at all amazing 1990s hitting stats as some phony PED-creation? One clean guy put up those kinds of insane numbers. Ergo, others could have too. And likely did.  The stats aren’t, by necessity, PED-created as many argue.

Could it possibly mean — as I and many others have argued — that the crazy offense of that era had a lot to do with other factors like double expansion, smaller, hitter-friendly ballparks, shrinking strike zones, armor-clad hitters crowding plates with impunity and, possibly, a baseball designed to fly farther? People tend to ignore those things — and ignore guys like Frank Thomas — and blithely chalk up every big number from the 1990s and early 2000s to steroid use, thereby dismissing the accomplishments of those hitters and dismissing the era as a whole.

Frank Thomas did things like hit .353/.487/.729  in a season. And, if we take his word for it, he did it clean. As such, even if Frank Thomas was better than just about everyone else on the planet at what he did, it suggests that others who posted crazy numbers in the 1990s could have done it clean too.  Or that, even if they didn’t, their numbers weren’t necessarily leaps and bounds better than they could have achieved without PEDs. It was in the realm of the possible.

Yet no one ever seems to account for that. Funny.

  1. hep3 - Nov 19, 2013 at 8:41 AM

    Remember when Thomas came up and they made a big deal about his sign in his locker that said “DBTH” which stood for Don’t Believe The HYPE, because he was so humble?

    What happened to that Frank Thomas?

    • bfunk1978 - Nov 19, 2013 at 8:47 AM

      He gone. /Hawk

    • randomdigits - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:09 AM

      He’s older now and trying to get into the Hall of Fame.

  2. flpunx - Nov 19, 2013 at 8:44 AM

    The Big Hurt is my favorite baseball player I have seen play in my lifetime, and I think he should definitely be a first ballot inductee. I do agree though that these allegations are pretty unfounded. I don’t think any one on this site would accuse Ripken, Fielder, Griffey, or Martinez of PED use. I still love you, Frank, but we get it. You didn’t do steroids and McGuire, Sosa, and Bonds did. You’re still my personal favorite, and I know I’m not alone. PEDs aside, you still had a fantastic career and will go into Cooperstown. I will visit your plaque there with my son someday soon.

  3. jshoelessj - Nov 19, 2013 at 8:50 AM

    I believe blaming everything on PEDs gives the writers a quick and easy explanation that allows them to avoiding looking at the issue more in depth. If there is one thing we know about a lot of the writers is that they avoid anything they have to quantify and instead go with the easy narrative route.

  4. straightouttavtown - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:11 AM

    Look I love Big Hurt, but how do we know he’s 100% clean just because he didn’t get busted? Nobody thought A-Rod was on the juice (he doesn’t have the extreme transformation like Bonds and McGwire) until the story broke a few years ago and he came clean. With the way offense is declining across the board, I’m not even sure if anybody was clean, not that I care. I’m not even sure if Fred McGriff, Chipper Jones, Ken Griffey Jr, Randy Johnson, Paul Molitor, and Cal Ripken Jr are clean. And let’s not just focus on the sluggers. Plenty of pitchers and slap hitters were on the juice as well. Heck, Neifi Perez was on it and the guy didn’t have any power to speak of.

    • jdd428 - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:30 PM

      1) No one was more adamant against PED use during his playing days than Thomas. I find it extremely hard to believe, especially with his personality, that he would have been so if he was in fact juicing. Therefore, like most experts, I highly doubt that he was.

      2) If as you suggest that most of the hitters, sluggers and slappers alike, and most of the pitchers were juicing in that era, then who really had an advantage? If everyone (nearly) was doing it, then the playing field was even and the numbers weren’t actually skewed by PED use. I agree with the suggestion that the many other factors listed by Craig played very important roles.

      • grogansheroes - Nov 19, 2013 at 5:38 PM

        So by your logic, if a pitcher throws 92 or 93, but juices and gets it up to 97, hitters still can’t benefit from getting bigger and quicker? It only makes the ball go even further. I also think players that complain the most, are usually trying to deflect attention. Palmeiro swore in front of congress that he never did Peds, as did Clemens.

  5. tanzkommandant - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:12 AM

    It’s never sat right with me that Ripken & Griffey, two very likely candidates, have long gotten a free pass from the media. They are spoken of as if somehow they are above & exempt speculation. “All these other guys in the era did it, but no chance Griffey touched the stuff.”

    Griffey’s injuries, the crystalisation of tendons & connecting materials, are entirely consistent with symptoms of PED usage in that era. Nobody likes to talk about this. Is it because a hero of some sort is needed?

    It’s often been spoken of how Ripken could barely muster the ability to hobble out to the field in pursuit of his selfish achievement. He is worshipped for this willingness to enter battle. Could it be possible that on particularly rough days he received a shot or a rub of something?

    • cohnjusack - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:35 AM

      Griffey’s injuries, the crystalisation of tendons & connecting materials, are entirely consistent with symptoms of PED usage in that era.

      Name me any player in history, I can come up with a variety of reasons why they must have done steroids. If people will continually point to any rise/drop in offense/speed/ or increase/decrease in injury as suspicion of PED use, you can point to virtually anyone in history who played 10 seasons and find that they fit some of those criteria.

      In this case, you literally point to Griffey’s injuries and RIpken’s lack of injuries as suspicion of PED use.

      How about this. A lot of people used. We’ll never know who they all are. The end.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:50 AM

        I’m definitely not one of the PED-witch-hunting crowd, but you have to admit that it’s a bit hypocritical for some writers to point at specific players and apply random side effect of steroid use to say player used PEDs, but not apply them to everyone, right?

        For instance, tendon injuries are a side effect of use, because while you strengthen muscles the tendons don’t get stronger. So we take a player like Griffey, who had a lot of muscle pulls/tendon injuries later in his career and wonder why he doesn’t get the same treatment as others like McGwire and Bagwell? [well we know the reason, everyone loved Griffey, but I digress]

      • ashot - Nov 19, 2013 at 10:01 AM

        “you have to admit that it’s a bit hypocritical for some writers to point at specific players and apply random side effect of steroid use to say player used PEDs, but not apply them to everyone, right?”

        I don’t know that it’s hypocrtical. Perhaps it’s simply ignorance. Regardless, the solution is not to drag more players through the mud as you seem intent on doing. The solution is to call writers out for damaging the reputation of players based on their very non-medical opinion of what a steroid user should look like. Pretty much what cohn did to you above.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 19, 2013 at 10:17 AM

        Regardless, the solution is not to drag more players through the mud as you seem intent on doing.

        How am I doing this? or did you not realize that I’m not the original person cohnjusack was responding to?

      • ashot - Nov 19, 2013 at 11:17 AM

        Sorry about that church. Should have said “some” instead of “you.”

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 19, 2013 at 11:25 AM

        No worries. Was definitely one of those times I re-read my comment multiple times to make sure I wasn’t saying that.

      • chinahand11 - Nov 19, 2013 at 2:37 PM

        “How about this. A lot of people used. We’ll never know who they all are. The end.” Thank you cohnjusak, that sums it up pretty good.

        The thing that always bugged me was the writers. It’s been “well we know Griffey (and Thome, and others) didn’t use PEDs.” Not that I am accusing them, but if the freaking reporters know so much they should have supplied a list of users and non-users to MLB so the PED hunt would already be over.

    • jl9830 - Nov 19, 2013 at 10:27 AM

      Griffey’s injuries are exactly the circumstantial evidence AGAINST him using PED’s. Do you think he’d have missed so much time from injuries if he was using what Pettitte admitted to using to get back on the field in a timely manner?

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 19, 2013 at 10:31 AM

        Pettitte admitted using HGH, not steroids. [note, doesn't mean he didn't take steroids, but he said he took HGH to recover from injuries]

  6. superturtle611 - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:12 AM

    That’s a lousy way of looking at things. So what you are saying is that since Frank Thomas already has two MVPs and his legacy is cemented that he should just suck it up and let it go. No, if he feels he was cheated out of something he has a right to be upset. He worked hard and earned those extra MVP award(s). You are nitpicking the number which is besides the point. Even if it was just one more, it was his one more. I am sure that if you were shorted $50 on your check you wouldn’t accept “well you have enough money” as a suitable response. What world am I living in where Thomas is portrayed as the villain and Giambi is the celebrated hero?

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:36 AM

      Did you read the article? Thomas thought he was screwed out of MVP’s by players using PEDs. Craig showed that all but one year (2000*), Thomas was beat by players with no PED link. Unless Thomas thinks those players took PEDs as well, his whining is just sour grapes.

      *Btw, Pedro should have won the ’00 MVP over everyone else. Look at his ridiculous numbers:

      18-6, 1.74 ERA, 291 ERA+; 217 IP, 284 K, 32 BB; 11.7 rWAR

      and for reference, here’s what Verlander put up in his MVP year:

      24-5; 2.40 ERA; 172 ERA+; 254 IP, 250 K, 57 BB; 8.4 rWAR

      • doctornature - Nov 19, 2013 at 11:35 AM

        Amen. Pedro’s best 3-4 years might have been better than Koufax, which until Pedro I thought might never be equaled. When you look at a skinny kid pitching in Fenway, against the AL East, in the Steroid Heyday, he should probably be a unanimous Hall inductee.

    • ashot - Nov 19, 2013 at 10:02 AM

      “What world am I living in where Thomas is portrayed as the villain and Giambi is the celebrated hero?”

      I don’t know, but it definitely not the same world in which I live.

  7. happytwinsfan - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:17 AM

    the year mcguire hit 70 the high strike wasn’t being called which was his achilles heel as a hitter throughout his career. his chase of the maris / ruth single season records was so hyped and popular that pitchers didn’t dare pitch around him. however much help he was getting from PEDs was probably dwarfed by those factors.

    during bonds amazing final years, he was hitting in the middle of an offensively mediocre giants lineup and was walked around 100 times a year. this probably held down his totals more then the PEDs increased them.

    do we put an asterisk by babe ruth’s totals because the right field fence in yankee stadium was only about 300 feet away and he had lou gehrig hitting behind him. do we put an astrisk next to hank aarons totals because for much of his career he had eddie matthews hitting behind him, or willie mays because had willie mccovey?

  8. hinksonri - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:18 AM

    That’s not what Frank Thomas meant.. If he had taken PED’s and stayed healthy he’d probably have surpassed the numbers of guys who were ahead of him in those 4 seasons where he ranked in the top 5 in MVP balloting..

    1991 – Cal Ripken & Cecil Fielder.. This one’s tough but if Thomas were taking PEDs he’s probably have topped Ripken’s number (even though White played 158 games).

    1997 – Ken Griffey & Tino Martinez.. This one is hard to imagine.. Even on PEDs Thomas would have had to hit another 21HR, score 29 more Runs and drive in 22 more RBI’s.. Thomas hit .347 w/OPS of 1.067 and Griffey hit .304 w/OPS of 1.028.. Those are the categories that Thomas stands out for ’97.. That’s it..

    2000 – Jason Giambi.. More potential here as Giambi has been accused of PED use officially. The Numbers favor Thomas here: Runs 159 to 152, HR tied at 43, RBI’s 143 to 137.. OPS Giambi thumped at 1.123 vs. Thomas’s 1.061..

    2006 – Morneau, Jeter and Ortiz.. Maybe if Thomas played 20 more games (and was fully healty all season on PEDs) he’s have had a chance..

    So after looking at it that way I can somewhat see what he means.. If he was on PEDs his numbers would probably have been astronomical in 2000 and 2001.. Those two he has a chance at being right about.. That’s the way I see it.. But outside of that he does sound like someone crying over spilled milk..

    • paperlions - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:38 AM

      First, Thomas did stay healthy. He had far above average durability and longevity.

      Second, feel free to provide evidence that Thomas dis not take PEDs, including amphetamines, for which there is more evidence that they help hitters than there is for steroids.

      Thirds, feel free to provide evidence that PEDs enhanced hitter production and to quantify the magnitude of that effect.

      Forth, please disentangle the potential effect of PEDs from known changes to the composition of the baseball in the middle of the 1993 season, expansion, the trend to build small ball parks, and the tiny strike zone of the 90s and early 2000s.

      • ashot - Nov 19, 2013 at 10:05 AM

        Fifth, please explain how you know that steroid would have increased Thomas’ longevity rather than decreased it. At least on other poster has claimed steroids shortened Ken Griffey, Jr.’s career.

      • ashot - Nov 19, 2013 at 10:09 AM

        One other thought:

        “If he had taken PED’s and stayed healthy he’d probably have surpassed the numbers of guys who were ahead of him in those 4 seasons where he ranked in the top 5 in MVP balloting..”

        If the hypothetical is that Thomas would have started using PEDs, why wouldn’t the hypothetical also assume Ripken, Fielder, Jeter all would, too. If Thomas’ hypothetical assumes he is the only one who started taking PEDs it becomes an even sillier thought experiment.

      • psousa1 - Nov 19, 2013 at 11:32 AM

        No way. Steroids make you a much better hitter. You are faster through the zone due to quicker reaction time. Greenies and Adderall just keep you from dragging ass. They don’t make you any stronger.

        That being said. Let’s face it – in the 80′s, 90′s and 2000′s guys started working out more than in yesteryear. When you start working out the natural byproduct is “How can I get even stronger?” There is the hardcore drugs and there was the stuff you and I could go purchase right off the shelf, that really worked well, but are now banned but still available for purchase today at the same big box nutrition store. So even guys who have not been linked to anything could have been taking the over the counter supplements that are now banned

        I look at it in two parts – Clemens, Caminitti, Pettite, Giambi, Bonds, McGwire, Sosa were taking hardcore, going out of their way type PED’s. Some of these guys who are getting busted for buying over the counter supplements should not be held with the same contempt (even though it is not an excuse – MLB gives them a list a mile long about what over the counter supplements they can and cannot take).

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 19, 2013 at 12:49 PM

        No way. Steroids make you a much better hitter. You are faster through the zone due to quicker reaction time.

        Exactly, look at guys like Alex Sanchez, Jeremy Giambi and Matt Lawton. All were below average hitters, took ‘roids, and became MVP players because of steroid use. Oh wait, that didn’t happen at all. Maybe steroids aren’t a f’ing cure-all?

        I look at it in two parts – Clemens, Caminitti, Pettite, Giambi, Bonds, McGwire, Sosa were taking hardcore, going out of their way type PED’s

        Pettitte took HGH, which isn’t that hard to get. Only Bonds in that group was involved with BALCO and chemically designed steroids. The rest could have taken any of the usual steroid cocktails which, if you’ve been in a gym the last 30 years, aren’t hard to get.

  9. xmatt0926x - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:24 AM

    I’m willing to chalk some of the explosive performance up to things like expansion, small ballparks, etc., but I don’t think you need to exclude the benefits of PED’s either. Someone would have to explain how guys like Bonds and Clemens performed much better as they aged into their late 30′s and then write that off to expansion and little ballparks.

    You also don’t see that better performance from guys in their mid to late 30′s anymore now that the PED’s are being controlled more. Coincidence? People have said that Bonds was just so great that he was just that good and maybe you can chalk alot of what he did to his greatness, but 60-70 HR’s at the age he did that?

    Let’s not pretend the PED’s wren’t a huge issue.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:40 AM

      Someone would have to explain how guys like Bonds and Clemens performed much better as they aged into their late 30′s and then write that off to expansion and little ballparks.

      Except most great players had little to no aging curves. Look at the numbers for Aaron, Mays, Williams, Ruth, etc. Unless you want to accuse them of PED use as well…

      • chip56 - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:50 AM

        Ruth and Mays did drop off in the latter parts of their careers – of course for them the drop off from where they were in their primes still left them as damned fine ball players.

        What none of them did was improve the way Bonds and Clemens did in the late stages of their careers.

      • florida76 - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:59 AM

        Paper Lions, please cite this mysterious evidence you have about amphetamines helping hitters more than steroids. You’ve made this Never heard how greenies changed the human body, adding bulk, while assisting muscle recovery.

        Church, please cite these other great players where their performance improved to the extent of Bonds in his later years. You can’t, that’s the point of it all.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 19, 2013 at 10:42 AM

        Ruth and Mays did drop off in the latter parts of their careers – of course for them the drop off from where they were in their primes still left them as damned fine ball players.

        Of course, but it’s not like they went from MVP to all-star to average in 2-3 seasons. Ruth still put up a 201 OPS+ at age 37. Mays dropped off a bit faster, but he was also still playing CF some which I’m sure is hellish on an “older” man’s body. Williams put up a 233 OPS+ at age 38.

        What I’m arguing is that the mere presence of a great season post age 35 is not indicative of chemical enhancement because all the great players still tended to be great later in their careers. It’s part of why they were great players.

        Church, please cite these other great players where their performance improved to the extent of Bonds in his later years. You can’t, that’s the point of it all.

        What makes you think Bonds improved so much from his earlier career? He always put up great numbers (hence the 3 MVP’s in 4 years with the Pirates). His rate stats look absurd later in his life because he was walked a ton of times (wonder how much that plate of armor on his right arm helped?).

        Yeah he hit 73 HR one year, but outside that, he never hit 60 HR nor 50 HR. Up until that 73 HR season he hit a career high of 49 HR. That’s just under a 150% increase in HR. Before he hit a career high 61 HR, Maris’s high was 39. That’s a 156% increase in HR. Fluke seasons happen.

        And good lord before someone misreads what I’m writing, obviously Bonds got better after getting on the juice. However, some people almost seem to claim he went from average ball player to The Incredible Hulk, and it’s just not true.

    • paperlions - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:48 AM

      Many many people have looked for the signal of PED use and they can’t find one. The largest effect on power over the last century has ALWAYS been associated with changes in baseball construction that make it fly farther, but making it harder, bouncier, and lighter. In the middle of 1993, power numbers suddenly exploded, which coincided with the introduction of a new ball that had a bouncier core and was made of more synthetic fibers, which absorb less water causing the ball to be lighter and fly farther when hit. Do you think it is more likely that all players suddenly started using PEDs at the same time or that the change in the ball was a primary culprit?

      Based on the evidence there is more evidence that steroids help pitcher than hitters and that pitchers used steroids at least as much as hitters did. When MLB started steroid testing, power numbers did NOT go down. Coincidentally, perhaps, those numbers did go down later when amphetamine testing began (of course, the number of players with ADHD exemptions suddenly doubled that year).

      No one is saying that PEDs had no effect. But no one knows the size of the effect, and the effect must be small compared to other known effects of the time, because power production is not correlated with what we currently know about steroid use in MLB….which was common as by the 1970s and possibly earlier, with players from that time willing to talk about thing admitting that they would take anything they could find…it was just that no one cared.

      PEDs were a huge problem in the Olympics as in the 1960s (and likely before), do you really think that MLB players at that time didn’t think “hey, I wonder what those drugs could do for me”, and use them? Of course they did, and such use was common and documented in the 1960s and 1970s….but again, no one cared about PED use in baseball back then.

      We also can’t pretend like we know things that we don’t or that effects exist that people have looked for and can’t find.

      • cur68 - Nov 19, 2013 at 11:08 AM

        I’m staying out of this one. Got a chapter (the final one) to finish writing. But, I gotta add this to your comment:

        http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/top/news?slug=ycn-11068572

        Its a yahoo sports link, but it cites some decent research and has some baseball specific links in it. Worth putting out there for those that want to know.

      • paperlions - Nov 19, 2013 at 11:41 AM

        Thanks for the link. I’m not engaging in a long back-and forth-on the topic anymore either….just amazes me that people will still post comments that ignore the few things that are known and continue to make a bunch of assumptions for which there is no evidence and that are inconsistent with the evidence that does exist.

      • cur68 - Nov 19, 2013 at 12:36 PM

        Yeah. I’ve gotten pretty tired of pointing out the easily available research. They just shout “But ‘ROIDS!!!!” at you louder. Whatever happened to simply googling your question? There’s so much information on amphetamines and performance that even a cursory reading of the data ought to be causing people to at least temper their stance.

        Anyhow, back to chapter 5….

      • paperlions - Nov 19, 2013 at 12:37 PM

        Chapter 5? Man, I hope that is the “synthesis” chapter.

      • cur68 - Nov 19, 2013 at 12:50 PM

        Yep. Boring as hell, too.

  10. sfm073 - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:27 AM

    So why do we assume he was clean?

    • ptfu - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:36 AM

      Because we should assume innocence, not guilt?

      • happytwinsfan - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:52 AM

        innocent until proven guilty is a legal principle we rightly employee to try and minimize the chance of locking up an innocent person. this isn’t a legal issue, it’s a fan issue where probabilistic estimations are made in order to evaluate the relative achievements of players.

        i don’t think frank thomas used anything, but since i have no way of knowing i don’t assume it. i also don’t care very much and wouldn’t completely condemn him if he did.

      • raysfan1 - Nov 19, 2013 at 11:43 AM

        You’re right, it’s not about the law, so he does not have to be proven guilty. However, we should at least assume innocence in the absence of any evidence to the contrary.

      • happytwinsfan - Nov 19, 2013 at 12:39 PM

        but what counts as “evidence to the contrary”? if a pitcher in his mid – late thirties whose been increasingly struggling with diminishing velocity etc over the previous few years. comes back the next season suddenly throwing like he did in his early twenties, unless there’s a positive test or someone testifying that he saw him take something, is it morally wrong to think he might be taking something. if you were a gm thinking of signing him, wouldn’t you be scratching your head and wondering?

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 19, 2013 at 12:56 PM

        is it morally wrong to think he might be taking something. if you were a gm thinking of signing him, wouldn’t you be scratching your head and wondering?

        Not sure if morals really matters here. However, is it wrong to think the player may be on something? Not at all. But, in the case of many fans/writers, they outright say/accuse the individual of being on something rather than just think it. It’s the accusation that’s wrong.

      • raysfan1 - Nov 19, 2013 at 4:15 PM

        One can wonder, but (as COPO said), there are those who immediately assume anyone having a career year is using PEDs, especially if that player hits a lot of home runs for some team other than their own favorite. There are writers who did not vote for either Craig Biggio or Jeff Bagwell for the Hall of Fame last year essentially only because they were teammates of Ken Caminiti. Chris Davis got accused of PED use this year because he hit more homers than he ever had, never mind that he played more than he did with the Rangers.

        Using your example, if the pitcher had been seemingly healthy during those decline years and then seemingly found the fountain of youth, yes, I’m sure that would raise eyebrows. However, one should also then consider whether his pitch selection changed, his mechanics, his velocity. Is it really how he performed as evidenced by WHIP, FIP, K/9 innings? Is it really that he moved to a team in a more pitcher friendly ball park, had better defense behind him, had more run support and thus more “wins?” Did he really have nagging injuries for a couple years and is finally truly healthy? Is the manager using him differently?

        It’s reasonable to wonder, but there are lots of other things to consider before jumping to the conclusion the fellow must be cheating.

      • happytwinsfan - Nov 19, 2013 at 5:52 PM

        you guys are definitely right that no one should jump to conclusions. for that matter i half believe roger clemens.

        i think there’s 80 or 90 percent probability that joe mauer has been clean his entire career. but the way 2009 was such an outlier for him, and considering that 2009 was in effect a contract year for him because of the new stadium opening and him having the twins over the pr barrel, i don’t consider it impossible that he availed himself of a little something extra preparing for that year. on the other hand it was probably just a matter of the dome being far more hitter friendly then target field and the young man hitting his personal athletic peak. all i really know is that barring a dramatic revelation i’ll never know for sure.

  11. chip56 - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:43 AM

    There’s another point worth making and that is that while there were hitters who were using there were also pitchers who were using.

    That being the case, PEDs should have had an equal impact on run prevention as they did on run creation.

    I also think its wrong to penalize guys like Bagwell, Biggio and (if it happens) Thomas and Junior because they put up video game numbers in a time where people were juicing. I do not think it’s wrong to keep out guys like Bonds, Clemens Alex, Ortiz and Manny who we know were using.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 19, 2013 at 10:29 AM

      Should guys like Bonds and Clemens and McGwire be punished when it wasn’t against the rules though? I can see punishing Manny and Arod as they’ve (apparently) failed tests post ’06, but those other guys didn’t take anything more against MLB rules than the people who played in the 60s and 70s who took greenies.

      • raysfan1 - Nov 19, 2013 at 11:53 AM

        Well, 1970s anyway, since amphetamines have been part of the controlled substances act in 1971. Steroids were added to it in 1991. So the greenies users in the 1970s were breaking the same law in the 1970s that steroid users since 1991 have.

        For myself, I give a pass on anyone using pre-2004.

      • chip56 - Nov 19, 2013 at 2:05 PM

        BBWAA isn’t controlled by MLB so the same rules that govern the game don’t necessarily apply to how they should evaluate players.

        Designated hitter and relief pitcher are both spots recognized by MLB, but there’s a bias against those positions when it comes to hall of fame consideration. I think it’s the same thing with PED usage…what is and is not legal or sanctioned by MLB doesn’t necessarily apply to how the voters vote. I don’t know if it should either.

  12. frank35sox - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:46 AM

    I love the Big Hurt and appreciate someone actually saying that he should get in first ballot in spite of being a DH. However, saying that his accomplishments somehow, in some way, validates steroid users accomplishments baffles me.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:58 AM

      It doesn’t “validate” them in any moral or ethical sense. It shows them to not be terribly out of whack with what can be accomplished without PEDs, putting lie to the notion that PEDs are super-magic-crazy juice which allows for cartoonishly outsized production, as many like to claim they do.

  13. Marty McKee - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:48 AM

    “Or that, even if they didn’t, their numbers weren’t necessarily leaps and bounds better than they could have achieved without PEDs.”

    Rebuttal: 73 HR in a single season.

    • clemente2 - Nov 19, 2013 at 2:29 PM

      Sample size. One-off extraordinary seasons for anything (HRs, doubles, Ks) regularly occur. Bonds had probably five-six seasons while juicing, but has one amazing HR season–I am sure the juicing helped, but the HR total for one season in itself is not evidence of how much.

  14. phillyupperdecker - Nov 19, 2013 at 9:59 AM

    One of a select group of players with .300/.400/.500 and 500 HR. He should be in the HOF.

    • delsj - Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31 PM

      Maybe, but Jeff Jackson had a way higher ceiling.

  15. pastabelly - Nov 19, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    Mike Greenwell finished second in 1988 behind Jose Canseco, who admitted to using steroids that year. It is the same as the Thomas case for 2000 and Giambi. I have no problem with either case, especially Greenwell’s, considering he will never get a sniff of the HOF or any other recognition in his career. He also claims it cost him $millions. Nobody has a problem erasing Lance Armstrong from every title he has won and I don’t know why Baseball treats Canseco any differently. Makes no sense.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=1993112

  16. moogro - Nov 19, 2013 at 12:05 PM

    Occam’s razor, folks. For all the factors Craig listed that inflated power numbers, I would rank PEDs below how ridiculous the juiced ball was at the time, which isn’t controversial and require such speculation. It is consensus. The over-matched pitching and strike zone above PEDs also.

  17. jdd428 - Nov 19, 2013 at 1:36 PM

    Here’s a point to consider. It seems nearly everyone agrees Thomas was one of the best power hitters of all time. That said, how many times did he lead the AL in homers? NONE. Why? Because others who were not as talented as he was were juicing.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 19, 2013 at 2:08 PM

      That said, how many times did he lead the AL in homers? NONE. Why? Because others who were not as talented as he was were juicing.

      93 – Thomas 40; Griffey 45
      94 – Thomas 38; Griffey 40
      97 – Thomas 35; Griffey 56

      Are you saying Griffey juiced, or just pulling stuff out of your butt?

      • jdd428 - Nov 19, 2013 at 2:53 PM

        I’m not saying Griffey definitely juiced, although there has to be more questions about him than any about Frank. Just making an interesting observation that one of the greatest apparently clean hitters never led the league in HR.

      • nbjays - Nov 19, 2013 at 4:49 PM

        Or…. one of the best clean home run hitters ever just happened to out-homer one of the best clean high average hitters for 3 years.

        Nothing to see here folks…

  18. dirtydrew - Nov 19, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    I have been saying there roiders in the hall of fame. Start with Nolan Ryan, and head down to Cal Ripkin. It’s like Lance Armstrong. When everyone in your sport is cheating, the guy who has won 7 times probably cheated as well. With all the cheating in MLB, don’t tell me the guy who never got hurt and hit 400plus hr’s was clean.

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