Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Everyone Played With PEDs Users

By The Common Man

If you're a Hall of Fame voter, you're running out of time but it's not too late to get your ballot in. As we've pointed out...repeatedly... we at The Platoon Advantage ask relatively little from voters. We ask that they be intellectually consistent, that they do research, that they carefully consider their ballots, that they be open and transparent about who they are voting for and why. We also ask that they not engage in speculation and participate in witch hunts that leave deserving candidates on the outside of the Hall of Fame looking in, when there's absolutely no evidence that they have used. As last year, the biggest ommission on various ballots seems to be Jeff Bagwell.

Bagwell is, from an objective standpoint, one of the top ten first basemen in baseball history. If you ask The Common Man, he's more like 4th or 5th all time. Yet Bagwell continues to get no acknowledgement from voters. Bagwell, the argument goes, played with a bunch of PED users. Guys like Ken Caminiti and Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte. And thus we should treat his denial that he ever used PEDs with skepticism, despite the total lack of evidence that he used.

It's true. Jeff Bagwell did play with those guys. Bagwell also played with Gregg Zaun, Ron Villone and Chris Donnels, all of whom were implicated in the infamous Mitchell Report. And, obviously, you can see how PED use dramatically improved their games. But Bagwell wasn't the only one. Nolan Ryan played with Caminiti in Houston.  Andre Dawson also played with Roger Clemens in Boston, as did Jim Rice, Dennis Eckersley, Tom Seaver, and Wade Boggs. Boggs also played with Pettitte in New York.  Tony Gwynn played with Caminiti and Villone in San Diego, as did Rickey Henderson.  Cal Ripken and Roberto Alomar both played with Zaun in Baltimore.

Now, Caminiti claimed to have not started using until joining the Padres years later, but he could conceivably be lying. After all, if he's willing to use PEDs, who knows what other immoral activities he's engaged in? There's no reason he would have to lie about when he started to use, but let's assume he's a dirty liar. Hell, let's assume all steroid and PED users were dirty liars who used PEDs throughout their careers.

But if we do that for the PED users who played with Bagwell, we have to do it for the PED users who played with other players on the ballot this year, and other players who are in the Hall of Fame. And if we assume that the six accused PED users that Bagwell played with influenced him to the point where he started to use, or even worse, that he got them into the shadowy world of PEDs, we have to assume the same of other players on the ballot and other Hall of Famers. What's good for the goose must be good for the gander.

To figure out who we should be actively suspecting, The Common Man used the list of players linked to PED use from Baseball's Steroid Era, and cross-referenced the careers of every player on the list with those of baseball's Hall of Famers.  Here then, is a list of players currently in the Hall of Fame who played with PED users and the number of PED users they played with:

NamePEDs teammates
Rickey Henderson28
Roberto Alomar25
Eddie Murray18
Wade Boggs14
Cal Ripken13
Goose Gossage13
Tony Gwynn13
Nolan Ryan11
Dennis Eckersley10
Andre Dawson8
Dave Winfield8
Paul Molitor7
Ryne Sandberg5
Gary Carter4
Reggie Jackson4
Carlton Fisk3
Kirby Puckett3
Robin Yount3
Bert Blyleven2
Don Sutton2
George Brett2
Jim Rice2
Ozzie Smith2
Carl Yastrzemski1
Fergie Jenkins1
Hank Aaron1
Mike Schmidt1
Orlando Cepeda1
Phil Niekro1
Tom Seaver1

Logically, if we're going to suspect Bagwell of PED use based on who he played with, we also should worry about all of these guys.  Is anyone...besides the excellent Ken Davidoff, that is...ready to throw Hank Aaron out of the Hall of Fame?

And Bagwell isn't even in the Hall of Fame yet. Here's how Bagwell stacks up against his peers on the Hall of Fame ballot who have not been formally accused of or admitted PED use, with a note if the player in question played with Clemens, Pettitte, Caminiti, Donnels, Zaun, and/or Villone, just in case you think one of them is the Pied Piper of PEDs:

NamePED teammatesBagwell teammates
Terry Mulholland39Donnels
Ruben Sierra33Pettitte, Caminiti
Jeromy Burnitz31Villone
Bernie Williams26Villone
Eric Young26
Fred McGriff26
Tony Womack23Zaun, Donnels
Javy Lopez21Caminiti
Phil Nevin18
Tim Salmon18
Vinny Castilla17Villone
Bill Mueller16
Brian Jordan16Caminti
Larry Walker15Villone
Barry Larkin14Villone
Edgar Martinez13Villone
Lee Smith13
Tim Raines13Pettitte
Brad Radke9
Dale Murphy7
Jeff Bagwell6all 6
Don Mattingly4Pettitte
Alan Trammell3
Jack Morris2

That is, by the way, every single player on this year's Hall of Fame ballot, when we include McGwire (who has admitted using PEDs) and Palmeiro (who tested positive). And of those, 14 out of 24 played with one of the six accused PED users who played with Bagwell.

The point of this exercise is obviously not that we should hang the lot of them. It's that trying to play this game of who played with whom and asking whether or not that should make us suspicious is a stupid one, especially when, by The Common Man's count, just 42 clubs out of 408 436 possible teams (bah, I included from 1992-2006, just 10.3 9.6% of clubs, were devoid of players who have thusfar been accused of PED use.  It touched every single franchise in Major League Baseball, and presumably every single player.

By the ridiculous standards used by many of baseball's HOF voters, no one is enough above suspicion to warrant consideration.  Just stop everyone.  Stop.  It was an era of rampant cheating in which relatively few players actually got caught.  We cannot ignore an entire era of baseball history, and we cannot delegitimize the Hall of Fame by refusing to recognize some of the greatest players of all time for nothing other than our own suspicious natures. 

If you want to see the raw data from TCM's study, you're welcome to click here.  The second sheet on that spreadsheet will give you the team-by-team breakdowns.


William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

Perfectly stated. This post is what I've been trying in vain to say for years. This will be the post I use from now on to those who want to keep the best players of an entire generation out of the Hall of Fame. Thank you.

JimCrikket said...

Well said. Personally, I think the BBWAA is a terrible group to allow to be the self-appointed guardians of morality for the HoF (or anything else), so even withholding votes from known/admitted PED users is pretty hypocritical, but those writers who don't vote for Bagwell because of their suspicions are the worst of the worst.

Glancing at your spreadsheet, I'm anxious to see how many writers still withhold their votes from Bagwell while simultaneously jumping on the Bernie Williams bandwagon. Nah, won't happen... because there's never a double standard when it comes to Yankee players.

Brandon said...

Interestingly, Bob Costas addressed the Bagwell issue explicitly on yesterday's "Clubhouse Confidential" on MLB network. I have no idea if Costas has a HOF ballot (I suspect not), but he's at least as much a national opinion leader as most BBWAA guys. Costas said he would not vote for Bagwell because of the "suspicion" issue. His defense was that withholding an honor is much different from suspending someone or taking away their livelihood, so it's OK to wait for absolute proof.

What, precisely, would that even be? I find this figure very doubtful, but baseball-reference and baseball almanac both list Bagwell at 6'0'', 195. I'd have guessed 225-235, but even assuming that number, Cal Ripken is listed at anywhere from 200-230, depending on the year and which source you check. Cal was obviously huge compared to most shortstops, whereas Bagwell isn't that big compared to other noted first basemen.

Short of an accident with a time machine and a contraceptive, I see no way to generate absolute proof, which is a standard which should disqualify everyone on the ballot, and probably everyone in the Hall, from Rabbit Maranville all the way up to Willie Mays.

Adam Darowski said...

Ah ha! But there are more!

You should also disqualify:
Old Hoss Radbourne
Jim O'Rourke
Dan Brouthers
Jake Beckley
Joe Kelley
Ned Hanlon (inducted as manager)
Connie Mack (inducted as manager)

WHY? Because they all played with Pud Galvin.