While yesterday’s baseball post was supposed to be about the perfect game and multiple one-hitters that occurred this past week, it quickly morphed into one about steroids. Little did I know at the time, but Roger Clemens’ perjury trial would conclude just hours later with Clemens’ being acquitted on all charges that he obstructed justice and lied to Congress about using Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). Speaking big picture, this outcome only proved the prosecutors could not prove Clemens’ guilt of perjury, not necessarily that he did or did not do steroids – two completely different issues. After posting yesterday’s piece, there were several comments that noted I overlooked the fact batters were not the only ones who used PEDs, but pitchers did as well. I assume those who commented were implying that since pitchers also used PEDs, it created a ‘more-level playing field’. While I acknowledge yesterday’s omission about pitchers also using PEDs, the omission wasn’t because I believe pitchers never used them. I simply believe PEDs had a greater impact on hitting than it ever did pitching.
My first belief is any strength gains attributed to the use of PEDs were more beneficial to a hitter than they were a pitcher. If a hitter is stronger and is therefore able to hit the ball further, that is an important consequence in baseball. What may have once been a long-fly ball or a double in the gap could now become a homerun. On the flip side, if a pitcher becomes stronger and is able to throw harder, that is not always a good thing. I was recently listening to a Yankees game and the announcer was talking about a conversation he had with Derek Jeter. Jeter had said something to the effect of, “Ten years ago, it was easier. Everyone threw harder but it was straight. Now, nothing is straight.” His point being, back when many pitchers were on steroids, they simply tried to overpower hitters. But the harder pitchers threw, the less movement their pitches generally had. Also, ‘the harder one throws, the further it goes’. Simple physics. While the benefits of PEDs likely had an impact on pitcher’s ability to rebound quicker from start to start, once a pitcher was on the mound, the benefits were not as dramatic as they were for hitters. Simply throwing harder does not necessarily equate to success. Simply hitting the ball further does.
My second belief is the newfound power of the Steroid Era made many pitchers afraid to throw strikes. Even if pitchers were on steroids, if they dared throw it down the middle, many juiced up hitters were going to launch it into the cheap seats. This caused pitchers to nibble around the strike zone, walk more batters, and in consequence create more run-scoring opportunities. You want to know what the REAL Moneyball philosophy was – Steroids. How many of the Moneyball Oakland A’s players ended up being connected to steroids? Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada both won MVP’s for the A’s – both have been linked to steroids. Simply look at this link to see how many other prominent A’s were linked to PEDs – never mind the amount that likely got away with it. Hey Billy Beane, of course your team drew a lot of walks and created run-scoring opportunities, much of your team was (allegedly) using PEDs! (Yes, yes. I realize every other team had PED users as well, and much of the A’s success was due to cheap, elite, young pitching and not necessarily hitting. But I was just trying to make a point… just as the book was). Now a days, pitchers can be much more aggressive and throw the ball over the plate knowing that only a select amount of hitters are going to knock it out of the park on a consistent basis. Ten years ago, even the once light-hitting 2nd basemen could hit the ball 400+ feet on a regular basis. Times have changed.
Again, I fully acknowledge pitchers were using PEDs as well as hitters – I simply believe hitters saw greater benefits between the lines because of them. It is much more difficult to recover on a day to day basis while maintaining your strength and energy when you are playing 160 games a year as compared to making 30 starts with a minimum of four days of rest in between. Barry Bonds’ alleged PED usage allowed him to feverously work out during the season, maintain the 40 pounds of muscle he put on after the age of 35, and perform at the highest level in the history of baseball – all during a period of his career in which he should have been in a sharp decline. I realize the same argument could be made about the latter part of Clemens’ career. The only difference is, Clemons didn’t pitch better than anyone ever had in the history of baseball – as Bonds did at the plate – further providing support for my belief PEDs enhanced batters at a greater rate than it did pitchers. That’s that.
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