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Great debate between Neyer, Stark, and Caple on Hr record among other things


mweb

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Very long, but worth the read imo.

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=2949329

Some of the many interesting quotes:

Neyer: "Similarly, Pete Rose might be the "Hit King," but that doesn't make him the king of hitting. Not in my book. So while Barry Bonds obviously owns the record, it's up to each of us to decide what that record means, because without meaning, a record is just a number in a book, little different from all the rest of the numbers."

Stark: "The difference is that the public is clamoring for us to stamp a scarlet letter on any great player generally assumed to have "cheated" -- as if none of what those players did should even count when we assess the historical significance of their careers. You don't hear that about the "other side of the story" context in Ruth's era or Aaron's."

Stark on Bonds: "He played the first seven years of his career (1986-92) before The Home Run Era erupted -- and the only two National Leaguers who hit more home runs than he did in that time period were Darryl Strawberry and Andre Dawson."...."The only National Leaguer with more homers than him in those years(93-98) was Sammy Sosa -- by one homer (236-235)! And the only players in the whole sport with a better home-run ratio than Barry were Mark McGwire and Junior Griffey. And that, remember, was in a period before Barry even got all that interested in hitting home runs."...."So that's not that different than Aaron during his own peak power years (1957-73), is it? Harmon Killebrew, Willie McCovey and Mickey Mantle all topped Hank in home-run ratio in that era, even though Hank out-totaled them."

Caple: "Well put, Rob. Barry is getting negative coverage in some part because he's been such a jerk for much of his career. Had he been like Tony Gwynn, he'd be getting better play. I'm not saying that's right -- in fact, it is not right -- but it is the way it is. Race isn't the issue; but relationship with the media is one of them. But an even bigger issue is the national hysteria over the "evils" of steroids."

Stark: "I still believe that the only kind of substance abuse in sports that people care about is abuse that might cause somebody to break a home run record. Why is that anyway?

The best defensive player in the entire NFL tested positive for steroid use last year. I'm still waiting for the national uproar. Why wasn't it just as loud and ferocious as the outrage over Barry? Explain it to me, OK?"

Caple: "You are right on the mark there, and the reason is no one cares whether or not it is harmful to players (and I really mean whether or not) or whether it is cheating. They just want 714 and 755 to mean the same thing that they have for the past 30-70 years."

Caple: "Remember, when McGwire broke Maris' record in 1998, we knew all about his use of andro and we suspected he was on something stronger, and no one cared."

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Caple: "You are right on the mark there, and the reason is no one cares whether or not it is harmful to players (and I really mean whether or not) or whether it is cheating. They just want 714 and 755 to mean the same thing that they have for the past 30-70 years."

There's an awful lot of truth there. Every time SABR or Retrosheet or somebody discovers an error in the historical record someone churns out a column making an impassioned plea to keep the old records even though they're factually wrong. They want the RBI record to be 190, whether or not Hack Wilson really had 191 RBI. When the MacMillian Encyclopedia came out in '69, then was updated a few years later people were really mad, I mean spittin' mad that their hero's numbers weren't quite what they thought. Whatta' ya mean Willie Keeler really hit .424 in 1897? For 80 years everyone knew he hit .432!

Baseball is the only sport I know of, with the possible exception of some magic numbers in track and field or basketball, that treats numbers as sacred, almost holy. And I'm not sure we're any better for it. In fact, I'm pretty sure we're not, since every one of those numbers was compiled in a different context yet they're always compared in the abscence of any context.

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Stark: "I still believe that the only kind of substance abuse in sports that people care about is abuse that might cause somebody to break a home run record. Why is that anyway?

Ridiculous comment so soon after Palmeiro's cheating ended his career. What home run record was he going to break? People overwhelmingly wanted McGwire kept from being inducted into the Hall of Fame. What home run record was he in line to break?

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Stark: "I still believe that the only kind of substance abuse in sports that people care about is abuse that might cause somebody to break a home run record. Why is that anyway?

The best defensive player in the entire NFL tested positive for steroid use last year. I'm still waiting for the national uproar. Why wasn't it just as loud and ferocious as the outrage over Barry? Explain it to me, OK?"

That first quote is almost exactly what Orioles119 said on the 756 thread. The crime is worse because Bonds is so good.

And the second...totally spot-on. With our national obsession with football, I wonder how many hardcore football fans are currently spitting on Barry Bonds as though he's done anything appreciably different than what is, in my opinion, a majority of football players. The NFL's ability to bury the steroid issue is truly impressive.

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Ridiculous comment so soon after Palmeiro's cheating ended his career. What home run record was he going to break? People overwhelmingly wanted McGwire kept from being inducted into the Hall of Fame. What home run record was he in line to break?

What? Palmeiro had just gotten his 3,000th hit. Not a power-hitting record, but it was still clearly tainted by the controversy. And McGwire...remember that season that he broke Roger Maris's HOME RUN RECORD? That's the main reason he's being kept out of the HOF - he broke a sacred record and now everyone thinks he cheated to do it.

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Ridiculous comment so soon after Palmeiro's cheating ended his career. What home run record was he going to break? People overwhelmingly wanted McGwire kept from being inducted into the Hall of Fame. What home run record was he in line to break?

It's not just "records," per se, but milestones. 500 homers, specifically. That number is practically holy to some people.

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It's not just "records," per se, but milestones. 500 homers, specifically. That number is practically holy to some people.

That would be fair, but I read Stark's comments as though Bonds is being singled out when he says:

"I still believe that the only kind of substance abuse in sports that people care about is abuse that might cause somebody to break a home run record. Why is that anyway?

Bonds is not being singled out for scorn. He's one of several who are facing a backlash as a result of bad decisions that they have made.

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That would be fair, but I read Stark's comments as though Bonds is being singled out when he says:

Bonds is not being singled out for scorn. He's one of several who are facing a backlash as a result of bad decisions that they have made.

I think he was saying that people care more about the best players in the sport cheating, rather than the Neifi Perezes of the world.

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I think he was saying that people care more about the best players in the sport cheating, rather than the Neifi Perezes of the world.

If that was the intent of his comments then I would agree w/that. Although that is only natural and should/would not be suprising. It would be that way in anything.

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If that was the intent of his comments then I would agree w/that. Although that is only natural and should/would not be suprising. It would be that way in anything.

It is natural, but it's also hypocritical.

For me, thinking just as a fan, Bonds cheating is so much worse than Perez cheating; Bonds was already a great player and that apparently wasn't good enough for him, but Perez is a marginal (some would say awful) player looking to extend his career another year or more.

But shouldn't all instances of cheating be handled the same way? In a moral sense, anyone who used steroids illegally should be punished equally.

I can almost sympathize with a guy like Perez, for whom steroids might be the difference between another $500 K or, I don't know, managing a McDonalds, or whatever he'd be doing otherwise. But for Bonds? I think that today he'd be getting a lot of respect for a great career if he hadn't done what he did. He wouldn't be loved, but he'd get a lot of grudging respect for being an amazingly talented player. And even with the steroids, I have to give him credit for his tremendous hitting skill and batting eye. But he really can't claim any kind of moral high ground.

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But shouldn't all instances of cheating be handled the same way? In a moral sense, anyone who used steroids illegally should be punished equally.
People who took steroids shouldn't be punished at all, since it wasn't tested for it essentially was legal as far as MLB was concerned up until a few years ago.

People who are taking steroids nows should (and are) punished equally.

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People who took steroids shouldn't be punished at all, since it wasn't tested for it essentially was legal as far as MLB was concerned up until a few years ago.

People who are taking steroids nows should (and are) punished equally.

Yeah, you're right. The real moral quandary in this is that MLB brought this on itself.

There's really a whole generation of ballplayers for whom we'll kind of have to grit our teeth and accept that we don't know if they cheated.

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There's really a whole generation of ballplayers for whom we'll kind of have to grit our teeth and accept that we don't know if they cheated.
I really don't have an issue with just accepting the players as they are. I think the massive amounts of HRs and runs are moreso due to the smaller parks, juiced ball, and expansion than steroids. I think if anything steroids kept HRs down, because I really think pitchers benefit more from using (recovery time, particularly for relievers).

So just like any era, you just need to compare guys to their peers, and then adjust for the era when comparing guys from different eras.

I think for this era that the use of steroids by hitters and pitchers balances each other out. The only troubling part is the lesser numbers of the guys who weren't using when they were going against guys who were. I think there are far more guys who would have had better numbers (comparatively) if not for others using steroids than there are guys who have better numbers (comparatively) because they themselves used steroids.

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Stark: "I still believe that the only kind of substance abuse in sports that people care about is abuse that might cause somebody to break a home run record. Why is that anyway?

The best defensive player in the entire NFL tested positive for steroid use last year. I'm still waiting for the national uproar. Why wasn't it just as loud and ferocious as the outrage over Barry? Explain it to me, OK?"

Caple: "You are right on the mark there, and the reason is no one cares whether or not it is harmful to players (and I really mean whether or not) or whether it is cheating. They just want 714 and 755 to mean the same thing that they have for the past 30-70 years."

Caple: "Remember, when McGwire broke Maris' record in 1998, we knew all about his use of andro and we suspected he was on something stronger, and no one cared."

Professional "sports" stopped being about competition, athleticism and sportsmanship many years ago. PED are just a part of the culture now. We all need to face the fact that this is an entertainment business. If this stuff entertains you enough to make you spend your money then that's what it's all about.

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