Thursday, January 6, 2011

Jeff Pearlman being Jeff Pearlman

It's way too early in the morning to be cogent about the latest piece of trash by Pearlman. But here are some choice quotations:

Many have argued it to be America's greatest virtue; in this country, you cannot be punished for the mere presumption of guilt.
There must be proof.
What happens, however, if proof is impossible to ascertain? More to the point, what happens if proof is impossible to ascertain because the alleged guilty (and those working on their behalf) have made it so? What if there is no such thing as proof? What if it is as tangible as Roy Hobbs and the $3 bill? What if it can never actually exist?

You're not exactly helping your case, Jeff

Until 2004, Major League Baseball did not test for performance-enhancing drugs. This wasn't because the available methods weren't accurate enough, or because the timing wasn't right, or because Bud Selig was on a lengthy vacation to Guam. No, the reason Major League Baseball did not have a testing policy was because nobody within the game wanted players to get caught.

Not exactly helping your case that steroids users are cheaters, Jeff.

Thanks in large part to the pervasive usage of steroids, growth hormones and other performance-enhancing drugs, baseballs were soaring out of stadiums in record numbers. There was the magical Sosa-McGwire home run chase of '98. There was Barry Bonds hitting 73 in 2001. There was Rafael Palmeiro and Jose Canseco and Jason Giambi and Jeremy Giambi and, well, the list is endless.

Oh, you mean players that we have tangible evidence for steroids or non-denials from? Gotcha Jeff.

For the corporation known as Major League Baseball, power equaled a post-'97 lockout return to packed stadiums, and packed stadiums equaled money, and money equaled happy owners. For the juiced players, power equaled inflated numbers, which equaled inflated contracts.
So, until pressure came along, the owners did nothing.
The players said nothing.
The union -- specifically Donald Fehr -- fought to keep nothingness the norm. one but the fans cared that they were doing it and it wasn't against the rules so...we have a responsibility to keep them out of the hall. I mean, it makes sense--it's not like anyone is in the HOF for breaking what would later become a rule of baseball on a regular basis.

It's not like Jeff's wrong, in theory...but he sure is making his argument pretty poorly.

Simply put, if there is no chance of guilt -- if it is a literal impossibility -- what is the value of such an ideal? "People say, 'Hey, this guy never failed a drug test,' as a defense of certain players," says Howard Bryant, an senior writer and author of Juicing the Game. "It's an intellectually lazy argument. Generally speaking, innocent until proven guilty is true. But how can you use the never-failed-a-drug-test argument when, until relatively recently, there was nothing to fail?

Except we're not talking about a guy like Sammy Sosa, for whom "He never failed a drug test" is the ONLY possible defense. In this article, Pearlman is talking about Jeff Bagwell, the person for which the only argument that he DID take steroids is: "He played in the 90's and got bigger as his career progressed." No Mitchell Report mention. No being called to congress to testify (despite him being one of the best players in the game). No backdoor innuendo about pimples on his back or a change in hat sizes. No. Nothing but "he played in the 90's and got muscular in his career. An argument that could apply to everyone who played in the 90's. Something Jeff must have overlooked! Except...

Does this mean Jeff Bagwell used steroids? No, it doesn't. As NBC Sports' Calcaterra rightly pointed out in a recent post, "There is just as much evidence against [stars like Derek Jeter, Cal Ripken Jr., Randy Johnson, etc.] as there is against Bagwell." Again, the problem with the flawed logic of Calcaterra (one of the leaders of the leave-these-poor-guys-alone movement) and his minions is: There is no evidence. Against anyone. Because baseball made certain of it.

Oh. Never mind. Jeff hasn't overlooked this argument. He just decided to respond to it by sticking his fingers in his years and saying "LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA." I don't see any flawed logic here but yours, Jeff. Basically you're trying to turn the HOF into a job interview, no matter how many correct answers a candidtate gives, no matter how good his resume is, no matter how flawlessly his references check out, you reserve the write to say, "Nah...I can just TELL he won't be a good worker [read: HOFer]."

And everyone knows, that's how a good voting process should go.

Look--I don't really care about steroids use. I know that's not the public trend on the issue and I don't necessarily think people who do care about steroids use are wrong. I have seen very strong arguments against keeping Palmeiro and McGwire--two men for whom a very strong argument could be made that steroids turned them from Dave Kingmans and Will Clarks into HOFers--out of the Hall because of their confirmed cheating. I have also seen strong arguments that slam dunk HOFers like Clemens and Bonds should be kept out of the HOF because they are cheaters and assholes.

I don't necessarily agree with those arguments, but they are solid arguments.

This is not a solid argument. This is a witch hunt. There will be several HOFers and borderline-HOFers in the upcoming years who people have accused baselessly of steroids. Bagwell, Walker, Mike Piazza. As long as people continue to think like Pearlman, the HOF vote is going to be a chance for assholes like Pearlman to use these as-far-as-we-know innocent players as a soapbox to say "Look at me and how much holier than thou I am."

That makes me sicker than steroids ever could.


Tonus said...

He's using a strawman. It's not that the "leave them alone" crowd is using the 'no evidence' excuse to support a vote for every player from the Steroid Era. It's that the "don't be a reactionary shithead" crowd is pointing out that there isn't even a shred of circumstantial evidence against Bagwall, or even suspicion.

The only argument so far is "he played in Houston during the steroid era and was buff." That's not reasonable, and trying to play it off as people misusing the 'innocent until proven guilty' argument is disingenuous.

Chris W said...

That's a spot-on characterization of Mssr Pearlman's argument, Tonus. He's saying, "How could we ever know 100% that Bonds used steroids? Do you want us to elect Bonds?" as his argument for why he's okay with people keeping Bagwell out because of steroids.

Anonymous said...

Do you think Pearlman hurt himself when he stuck his fingers in his years? It seems painful.

Chris W said...

Since we can't prove he didn't, let's just assume it made him deaf

Jeff Pearlman said...

Chris, I hope a roided-up Jose Canseco comes along and cracks a bat atop your head. :)

But I still—after years of ruthless mocking—love the site.

Even if you're 100% wrong ...


Chris W said...


I've never been wrong in my life. Except for that time when I was 9 when I thought Tonya Harding was a babe.

Jack M said...

It's completely absurd that people in the Bagwell camp expect us to believe that he naturally gained muscle mass between the ages of 22 and 37 while playing professional sports. It's even more preposterous that they think that it isn't at all suspicious that a guy who retires from pro sports would lose muscle mass, even if he essentially only has one working shoulder left.

Jeff Bagwell: most obvious steroid user of all time or obviousest steroid user of all time?

Chris W said...

He is to steroids use what Tonya Harding is to babe-itude

your favourite sun said...

No being called to congress to testify (despite him being one of the best players in the game).

This is a terrible example of implying guilt. Frank Thomas was called to Congress, too, does that make him guilty? Or is he off the hook because he only appeared via satellite? What about Curt Schilling? What if Griffey got called? Or Craig Biggio? Congress didn't have any inside information, they simply called some of the biggest names(and biggest muscles) in the game to testify as "experts" on the subject. They didn't volunteer, nor did they do anything to get called there except play baseball really well, with the exception of Canseco, of course. Hell, people expected McGwire to go up there and denounce all steroid users, many expressed shock when he pleaded the fifth(kinda).

Sosa wasn't mentioned in the Mitchell Report. He was mentioned in the Grimsley affadavit but only for a random conversation he had with teammates about amphetamines, iirc. It was reported that he did fail a test when they did the pilot program like A-Rod did, which is far more compelling than "he was called in front of Congress." The character Stephen Colbert was called in front of Congress, too, to provide expert testimony(in character) on illegal immigration. I don't think this means that the fictional character is an illegal. Or an expert.

I do, however, believe that Elmo's 2002 testimony to Congress should bar him from any and all Halls of Fame forever.

your favourite sun said...

Oh, I agree with pretty much everything else you said, though. I don't want to seem too combative on the whole issue because you actually made great points, it was casually throwing that one line out like Congress knows who's guilty and who isn't that kinda brought things down for me.

Chris W said...

No, I know what you're saying man. I'm just saying that you can't even point to him being called to congress. He literally had no steroids footprint. I agree that Frank and Schilling almost certainly didn't use steroids and were called to congress. I was just trying to highlight that Bagwell had literally nothing in his career that could even resemble evidence of use. Besides getting big

Tonus said...

Tonya Harding WAS a babe!

Anonymous said...

We just don't get it Jeff. You spend 2-3 days getting e-raped on your blog and others about this, then invite 2 people to guest blog their case, who proceed to completely destroy your bullshit logic trainwreck.

Then you rewrite an even more boring version of the column for SI (plagarising yourself?), that includes nothing that you should have learned from the posts on your blog. I mean, even retards deserve to have an opinion but cooommme on...

So I guess the only question left is: Why do you hate America, God, puppies, sports, and sex with girls so much?