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Politician uses steroids in baseball to argue for evidence of climate change

Mar 11, 2014, 12:03 PM EDT

Ed Markey

People love to use baseball analogies because baseball is a pretty common and relatable frame of reference. But one thing you can be sure of: nearly 100% of the time someone is using a baseball analogy in politics, they are either mangling the baseball or mangling the politics.

To wit, a senator using it to make a climate change point:

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) used a chart showing that the number of home runs increased when players used steroid, saying it’s the same case with temperatures rising when humans emit greenhouse gases.

“Something very funny happened in baseball because from 1920 all the way through the entire modern baseball history, the average number of players that hit more than 41 home runs in a season was three players,” Markey said Monday night. “All of the sudden 17 players could hit more than 41 home runs. … Then somebody thought, ‘maybe they’re injecting these players with steroids.’”

With the caveat that I am not a climate change denier and that, if anything, I’m sympathetic to the cause of and generally in league with the people who are concerned about climate change, this is bunk on the baseball side and doesn’t help their arguments, be they about baseball or about climate change.

There has been a lot of variation in home run rates and totals throughout history. The context of baseball has changed constantly. And there are many factors, separate and apart from steroids, that have caused it. At the same time, there are many indicators and effects of steroid use that are observable separate and apart from home run rates. People who make intelligent observations about steroids in baseball don’t just point at home runs and say “seeee???!!” Morons do that.

The same goes with climate change. Unlike Senator Markey here, the folks who say intelligent things about it don’t look at cute charts of loose correlation — data that can and often does fit on a bumper sticker — to make their points. There exists a large body of rigorous, peer-reviewed science on the subject, tracking a number of variables. Heck, even those who are not on the same side of the climate change debates as me — if they’re being smart and not just trafficking in easy politics — will point to the research, be it their own or point to flaws in existing studies. It’s only the jerks on either side of the debate who think the topic is simple and make those bumper stickers and political cartoons about it. The people who scream about the end of the world when it’s 95 in June or mock the concept of climate change when it’s -10 in January.

There’s an awful lot of rigorous research about baseball offense too. Most of it will show that there are tons of factors besides PEDs that led to the offensive explosion of the 1990s and 2000s. And that there are tons of factors besides drug testing that has led to the offensive declines of the past several years. Curiously, so much of that is ignored when people go to make points about home runs and offense.

So please: people concerned about climate change, find another analogy. Because the folks who link steroids and home runs as tightly as this fellow does here have way more in common with the climate change science deniers than they do with those who think it’s a real and legitimate issue.

  1. kcroyal - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:08 PM

    Climate change? My republican neighbor kindly pointed out that that’s a complete myth one day when it snowed.

    • pilonflats - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:17 PM

      sorry, but emperor al gore is wearing no clothes…

      • Old Gator - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:30 PM

        Sorrier, but peon pilonflats is wearing lead blinkers.

      • unclemosesgreen - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:41 PM

        Climate and weather –
        A question of sample size
        Comprehension fail

      • stlouis1baseball - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:44 PM

        Pilon: Lay off Al Gore right now.
        If you invented the internet you could run around naked too!

      • yahmule - Mar 11, 2014 at 1:04 PM

        Most people use the internet while naked, so this is quite apt.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 11, 2014 at 1:21 PM

        Please cover your webcams! Thank you.

      • pilonflats - Mar 11, 2014 at 1:54 PM

        i know this is nbc, but there cant possibly be this many people that still have their heads in the sand and believe in this nonsense…it doesn’t pass the laugh (or science) test…al gore, lmao…

      • Old Gator - Mar 11, 2014 at 4:03 PM

        Dangerous thing to do, since that seems to be where your brain is.

    • happytwinsfan - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:38 PM

      try telling him that it is happening, it’s bad bad bad, and it’s obama’s fault. see if he can argue with that!

      • paperlions - Mar 11, 2014 at 1:19 PM

        Well, Obama’s administration has certainly not been a part of any solution to pollution problems and their side effects….so, while not totally at fault, he’s contributing to it just like the previous administrations have.

      • happytwinsfan - Mar 11, 2014 at 1:58 PM

        come on paper, if obama had made a serious effort to reduce pollution in his first term he’d be going to conferences with jimmy carter while president romney repeals most of what he did in his first term.

    • Michael - Mar 11, 2014 at 4:16 PM

      Contrary to the echo chamber pilon is apparently only listening to, global warming (aka “climate change”) is a thing that is happening, and the body of evidence is much too large to ignore.

      (And what if all that science is wrong and all we’re left with are great new renewable, non-polluting, self-sustaining all-American resources? Gee, that would suck, wouldn’t it?)

      That said, go Craig. Stupid analogies help no one.

      The Senator is kind of saying “remember when for some reason all those players were hitting home runs, and we said to ourselves, ‘something must be causing all of those players to hit home runs’?” Which is true, but isn’t really an analogy to anything.

      (Students of baseball history remember that back in the 90s we actually thought it was a juiced ball at first, not steroids.)

  2. jkcalhoun - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:09 PM

    What a valuable service to America, leading the way with an unscientific argument that climate change is a concern. After all, there are only so many folks you can convince with the scientific ones.

    • historiophiliac - Mar 11, 2014 at 1:12 PM

      I’d like to remind you that the Democrats are the pro-science ones. smh

      • jkcalhoun - Mar 11, 2014 at 1:58 PM

        Hmm. Did I forget to use the HTML snark tag again?

      • historiophiliac - Mar 11, 2014 at 2:02 PM

        No, I got it. I was joining in. Not a team player?

      • happytwinsfan - Mar 11, 2014 at 2:06 PM

        not when it comes to nuclear power or genetically modified food

      • jkcalhoun - Mar 11, 2014 at 2:12 PM

        Ah, OK, collaborative dissembling. I’m not accustomed to behaving like a member of Congress, but I’m willing to give it a try.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 11, 2014 at 2:42 PM

        You’d think it would come naturally to a “J Calhoun.” :)

      • Reflex - Mar 11, 2014 at 2:38 PM

        happy – That’s the point I make when people tell me how science friendly the Dems are. I spend a LOT of time trying to explain to fellow Democrats why science is a process and if you trust it on climate change and evolution its just as trustworthy on GMO’s and nuclear power.

        Its a frustrating task.

      • jkcalhoun - Mar 11, 2014 at 3:28 PM

        I’m off to try to make an honest living out of strong convictions, spellbinding oratory, and a penetrating stare. I’ll let you know how it goes.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 11, 2014 at 4:54 PM

        Most excellent.

  3. alexo0 - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:12 PM

    Unfortunately, you’re pretty much forced to fit any data onto a bumper sticker if you want people to pay attention to it.

    • historiophiliac - Mar 11, 2014 at 1:12 PM

      IERDA!

  4. nyyankeefanforever - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:12 PM

    If Markey truly believes in that analogy, then he should be calling for better testing of the man-made climate change theory rather than expanding renewable tax credits, which have likewise proven to be an easy system to defraud.

  5. unclemosesgreen - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:20 PM

    Ed Markey was 100% Catholic school educated and thus attained early mastery of nonsensical elliptical arguments for what he believes to be true.

    • Old Gator - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:32 PM

      Bingo! Now let’s see what you’ve won here on your fifth day on Hawaiian Sellout! George – what’s Mr. Green’s heave so far?

    • danrizzle - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:41 PM

      Arguments or snide remarks that could fit on a bumper sticker do no better service to religious discourse than to political discourse.

      • unclemosesgreen - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:48 PM

        My co-pilot Dog
        Disagrees with a loud bark
        Haiku-displayed snark

    • historiophiliac - Mar 11, 2014 at 1:15 PM

      And now all the other kids in Congress are probably going to call him “Ed Malarkey” for like the rest of the term.

      • unclemosesgreen - Mar 11, 2014 at 1:25 PM

        All playground bullies
        Converge at a single point.
        No exception, I.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 11, 2014 at 2:34 PM

        Are you still on the painkillers for your leg?

      • unclemosesgreen - Mar 11, 2014 at 2:47 PM

        I’m totally Hai-ku right now.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 11, 2014 at 2:48 PM

        How unfortunate.

      • unclemosesgreen - Mar 11, 2014 at 2:55 PM

        I’m only high on verse & meter right now. Sadly, I was on no writing-enhancing or hindering drugs today. My urine specimen was mishandled, I tell you!

      • unclemosesgreen - Mar 11, 2014 at 2:57 PM

        I’m drunk on autonomous metonymy.

  6. scoutsaysweitersisabust - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:21 PM

    Craig, why do you have to be such a weather apologist!?

    Seriously though, the thing you are forgetting is that this is Congress and they have to be spoken to like 5 year old boys. Keep things very simple. Very basic. Otherwise their heads will explode, and we can’t have that. Think of all the lobbyists that would go without anyone to bribe!

    • hep3 - Mar 11, 2014 at 1:03 PM

      Sort of like that one congressman that thought Guam would sink if they put too many more Marines on it.

      http://www.snopes.com/politics/quotes/guamtip.asp

      • Old Gator - Mar 11, 2014 at 1:29 PM

        I suspect that many of the native residents of Guam feel that way too. And then there’s the brown tree snakes….

  7. karlkolchak - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:23 PM

    Usually, whenever a politician opens his mouth as wide as in that picture nothing good comes out of it.

  8. sandwiches4ever - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:25 PM

    Steroids? Climate change? This comment thread is going to be a tire fire. I’m outta here.

    • unclemosesgreen - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:27 PM

      How about a dumpster tire fire?

      • karlkolchak - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:59 PM

        Ironically, THAT would probably contribute to climate change.

  9. happytwinsfan - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:28 PM

    since being a climate change believer and being a climate change skeptic, for virtually all of us (myself included) who lack the educational and informational background to come to an informed opinion, seems to be a tribal preference, i’m going to wager that football fans as a group are considerably more likely to be climate change skeptics then are baseball fans. when it comes to political action hockey fans will be the swing vote.

    • Old Gator - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:34 PM

      I had a greatgreatgreatgreatgreatgreatgreatgratgreatgreatgreatgreatgreatgreatgreatgrandfather who once wore himself out arguing that the climate was changing with a skeptical right-wing woolly mammoth at the Pleistocene Pub in Winnipeg.

      • Old Gator - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:36 PM

        PS – the greatgreatgreatgreatgreatgreatgreatgratgreatgreatgreatgreatgreatgreatgreatgrandson of that mammoth is now a designated hitter for the Ringling Brothers’ pachyderm team in Sarasota.

      • happytwinsfan - Mar 11, 2014 at 1:45 PM

        so you suggest that these attitudinal differences derive from more then just familial based cultural predispositions, but also include biological factors, specifically specie traits, as well.

        intriguing. might this overlap with the search for the “conservative gene”?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biology_and_political_orientation

      • Old Gator - Mar 11, 2014 at 4:05 PM

        Of course not. Being conservative, I don’t believe in genes. Man is nothing but antic clay.

      • yahmule - Mar 11, 2014 at 4:17 PM

        “Man is nothing but antic clay.”

        /stealing this

      • Old Gator - Mar 11, 2014 at 11:27 PM

        Credit where due. I stole it myself. It’s from Cormac McCarthy’s epic novel Blood Meridian. The full line is uttered by Judge Holden and it is: “If war is not holy than man is nothing but antic clay.”

      • yahmule - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:25 AM

        I’ll toss it around at my own discretion AKA willy nilly.

  10. spudchukar - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:29 PM

    Professional Educated Doctors of climate agree.

  11. petey1999 - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:30 PM

    Right church, wrong pew.

  12. vanmorrissey - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:30 PM

    Politicians = Bombasitc egotists.

    • Old Gator - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:37 PM

      That’s a hell of an accusation. Where’s your evidence?

    • nbjays - Mar 11, 2014 at 7:15 PM

      That’s one comment where I can safely say…

      (NO CITATION NEEDED)

  13. APBA Guy - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:32 PM

    This reminds me of my late high school years. My dad was a Republican district chairman in Northern Virginia, and we’d have congressman and senators at the house for fundraisers. Like a lot of guys who do one thing well (in this case, politics), their egos would drive them to believe they understood a lot about almost everything, and since they talk constantly, they can say some incredibly stupid things as a result.

    Ed Markey probably means well. Climate change is real, as those of us who live near the coast of California can tell you (drought and sea level rise combined). But it’s a complicated subject once you get past “it’s real.”

    His comment about PEDs and climate change falls into that incredibly stupid category.

    • Old Gator - Mar 11, 2014 at 12:38 PM

      That category is so filled up that even surface tension no longer keeps additional stupid ideas from tumbling out of the dumpster.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 11, 2014 at 1:29 PM

        I thoroughly enjoy it whenever scientists get to experience the same level of politician-stupid that historians do. What’s a bitchy version of cockels I can have warmed by this?

      • unclemosesgreen - Mar 11, 2014 at 3:23 PM

        These comment warmed the spastic Joe Cockers of my heart.

  14. thebadguyswon - Mar 11, 2014 at 1:49 PM

    Why does politics, specifically liberal politics, occasionally get mixed into this blog?

    There are places from that. http://Www.realclearpolitics.com

    • Old Gator - Mar 11, 2014 at 4:07 PM

      Because of the baseball metaphor Markey used. Duh-h-h-h-h-h…..

      • thebadguyswon - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:58 PM

        Why not ignore the story altogether?

    • happytwinsfan - Mar 11, 2014 at 8:25 PM

      it’s what we like to do in between pitches, when the hitter’s adjusting his gloves and the pitcher’s walking around behind the mound muttering to himself, we mutter to ourselves.

  15. deathmonkey41 - Mar 11, 2014 at 2:07 PM

    I wish more people would use Three’s Company analogies. Like comparing a fall in Greenhouse emissions to Jack and Larry striking out with Stewardesses at the Regal Begal.

    • yahmule - Mar 11, 2014 at 4:22 PM

      The way Mr Roper was so easily and routinely duped could represent conservative voters.

  16. cackalackyank - Mar 11, 2014 at 2:22 PM

    Wow. Only 3 more weeks to baseball games that count. Thank the god or gods of your choice or non choice.

  17. cliverush - Mar 11, 2014 at 2:25 PM

    This is a man who has been in the public sector for most of his life. Blowing out hot air is his living. His only job in the dreaded private sector was a a “Mr. Softy” icecream truck man. He has no idea what goes on in the real world and if not for the moonbat liberals would still be hawking his wares on the streets of Malden

    • Old Gator - Mar 11, 2014 at 4:09 PM

      The question is, does the hot air he’s been blowing contain greenhouse gasses? Politicians generally exhale more gasses during a given congressional session than the Deccan Traps volcanoes.

  18. mikhelb - Mar 11, 2014 at 6:04 PM

    It is an error to say “there’s a ton” of factors involved in the homerun explossion of the 90’s. There are various factors:

    – Steroids;
    – Smaller baseball parks;
    – Diluted pitching;
    – Predominant use of fastballs;
    – Parks with wind which is favorable to batters.

    The use of fastballs as one of the factors was easily rebuked since it was proven that batting a curve or an offspeed pitch resulted in longer fly balls while hitting fastballs was easier and thus a higher percentage of pitched fastballs in the usual speeds (80-92 mph) resulted in batted balls in the air opposed to offspeed pitches which resulted in more grounders for example. Fastballs at higher speeds are less likely to be hit.

    Both arguments about baseball parks have showed that park size matters when compared to parks in the early years of baseball… we don’t have parks with 500 ft center fields, for example, but there also existed bandbox parkd ‘back in the day’ (The Green Monster and Pesky’s Pole salute you). A smaller park has contributed to more homeruns in recent years but it doesn’t really explain the homerun explossion since it was happening before changing stadia was in vogue as it is today (i am looking at you Atlanta Braves) because the ‘homerun explossion’ in reality began in the mid 1990s after MLB was told by Donald Fehr and the MLBPA that they would be sued IF anybody was tested for anything, this after the Cocaine cases in 1985 involving relevant figures of baseball.

    There also existed the hypotesis that MLB used different baseballs but it was proven to be a lie.

    So… we are left with just a couple of viable factors that have contributed in the homerun explossion and only one of those has been present since it began: steroids. You know rñthat whole Occams razor thing, right?

    PS
    Here in the west coast, specially in California we know that climate change is real because geological registres show that large portions of California were once underwater from 30 to 300 feet depending on the region. What is sincerely laughable is to yell that it is something new and it has not happened before, when in the 70s and 80s we had much more rain than today and from the 50s to the 60s we had dry years like we’ve been having in recent years. Its all a cycle. Sure gasses have increased with an important antropogenic factor but it is not the sole variable in question. We are headed to another mini glacial era as we’ve known about that since… puffff years ago (i reviewed data we have been collecting in oceanographic institutes and really people…. most of ‘climatechangeologists’ are people who are easily scared and dont care to look at the bigger picture… others like Al Gore all they want is to sell books and carbon credits).

    • Reflex - Mar 13, 2014 at 2:58 PM

      Wow, why am I not surprised that your reasoning on both topics is so laughably off base?

      Can you cite some proof for all the ‘disproven’ theories as to the offensive explosion? I don’t agree with Paperlions’ conclusions about the ball being changed, but he actually can cite a page that to the best of my knowledge has not been debunked even if it does not answer all the questions I and others have about their methods. The fact that there were bandbox ballparks in the past is irrelevant, the point is that in the 90’s most parks built were bandboxes, and in the 2000’s most parks built were pitchers parks. Pretending that does not have an impact is willful ignorance. You also oddly dismiss the diluted pitching point, I don’t really see why you dismiss it, you don’t give any real reason.

      As for steroids, little evidence exists that they could have shifted the game this dramatically, and their in-game impact is certainly lower than amphetamines which have been used by players for decades.

      As for climate change, your argument is against a straw man that no one is arguing. No one denies that climate has always changed. No one denies that there are cycles. The point they are making is that humans are having an impact on that cycle. Nothing you said refutes that fact.

  19. anxovies - Mar 12, 2014 at 12:53 AM

    Yeah, there is no correlation between the number of admitted and caught steroid users during the turn of the century and the fact that players hitting 40, 50 and more homers were as common as bubble gum in the dugout. And when MLB got serious about PEDs testing, the fact that the numbers drifted back to normal is just a coincidence.

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