Tough Kids, Sissy Kids, Even Kids with Chicken Pox…Love Steroids

When my partner was still here at the juiceblog, I tried to stay away from writing about alleged steroid users. Since Will was the biggest expert on the subject, me weighing in on steroids would have been like me going to this site to break down hairy homos. It was not difficult for me to ignore the steroid topic, since I have never felt too strongly against someone using them. Athletes are always looking for an edge. Considering there was no test for performance enhancing drugs, I had a pretty libertairian view on the subject. There was always one guy, though, that seemed more obvious than anyone to be a PED user.

Now if you think I’m talking about Barry Bonds, I’m not. Since most of the collective baseball world has focused their spite on him, I’ve never wanted to join that lynch mob. Yeah, I will buy that Bonds would never have broken Hank Aaron record without PED’s. This still doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have ended up one of the greatest players of all-time. Who knows if Aaron ever breaks Ruth’s homerun number or if Pete Rose knocks Cobb from the all-time hit king mantle, without popping greenies like they were Spree? As usual, put me in the cynic category.

 

Much of the hatred of Bonds has been centered on him being a douchebag. Well, it ain’t like Roger Clemens doesn’t have the scent of Summer’s Eve wafting off of him when he strolls by. While Bonds has been almost the sole focus of the media’s glare on the subject, a very suspect Clemens has been climbing the all-time greats chart, without much scrutiny. While he was lucky enough to not be connected to BALCO, Clemens’ recent playing history seems at least, if not more questionable than Bonds’ does.

One of the best writers around, Seth Mnookin, mentioned this same thing in a short piece he wrote at his blog in April. Mnookin gets to the core of what I’ve always thought about Clemens’ more recent resurgence. One of the issues that Bonds’ haters always discuss is the growth of this head. Mnookin links a before and after picture of Clemens that is just as damning. I mean I haven’t seen a head that began in Boston grow this much since Ted Kennedy. (young or bloated)

I take my hat off to Clemens (I would actually offer it to him, but it wouldn’t fit), as he has been brilliant in the way he has not gotten caught. He reminds me of another Texas golden boy, Lance Armstrong, as they have both been able to masterfully cover their tracks. If they used performance enhancers or not, they deserve a ton of respect for what they’ve accomplished, as they were just doing what was neccessary to win.

As Robert Palmer wrote, Might as well face it your addicted to love….no, wait a minute, wrong song...As Robert Palmer sang, some guys have all the luck, some guys get all the breaks. Of course for every Armstrong or Clemens there is always a Floyd Landis or Jason Grimsley, who were more reckless, knowing they can’t just rely on natural talent to succeed.

Many have pointed to Clemens’ off the charts resurgence being because he takes extra time off to recharge his batteries. I agree this has played a factor, but my hypotheis is more cynical about why the llonger ayoffs. Think about it. What better way to rebuild yourself than to put a few additives in your engine, especially when you have a couple of extra months to flush them out of your system? If teams want you badly enough that they will pay you 18 million a year for just 4 months, the process seems to be perfectly constructed.

Now I know what I’m writing has elements of conspiracy theory to it. Sure to some I must sound like if Gary Thorne was hosting Art Bell’s radio show. Well, the rumors have circulated for a long time on the subject of Clemens and I think if Bonds’ has had to receive such a massive level of scrutiny, Clemens deserves a little more thrown at his head. (you know, like the Rocket would toss at Mike Piazza.) My guess is that Clemens will regret sigining with the Yankees, as the mix of American League hitters and the tough New York press will be a lot more challenging than life in Houston.

22 thoughts on “Tough Kids, Sissy Kids, Even Kids with Chicken Pox…Love Steroids

  1. 1.  I thought that was a Rod Stewart original. Figures Palmer wrote it. I like the old Rod, not so much the Old Rod.

  2. 2.  “As Robert Palmer wrote, some guys have all the luck, some guys get all the breaks.”

    Nope…”Some Guys Have All the Luck” was written by the mysterious J. Fortgang. The glorious NYC-based Persuaders had an early 70’s soul chartable hit with it’s heavy Philly Soul drippage.

    And naturally Robeert Palmer & Rod Stewart pop-butchered it.

  3. 3.  I liked Palmer’s version, but not Stewart’s. I have fixed the piece thanks to my crack research department. (repoz)

  4. 5.  I’ve always thought the ‘big head’ as proof of PED usage was/is ridiculous. I have no idea if Clemens, Bonds or anyone else took PED’s (honestly, don’t care), but a bigger head as one ages as evidence is silly.

    Look at Eddie Murray’s giant coconut as a Dodger…does anyone think he was on the juice?? His 1979 Oriole head was much smaller, does this prove anything??

  5. 6.  I think you could say the same thing for young Eddie Murphy versus today’s model.

    What my point in linking these pics is that Clemens seems to have had as much growth in this department as Bonds.

  6. 7.  This may sound insulting. I don’t mean it to be. But I cannot fathom how any sentient being can say Barry Bonds didn’t take steroids. I think it’s a testament to the laudable principle of innocent ’till proven guilty that so many (and there are many) seem to think Bonds is clean. Well, he ain’t. Scott’s conclusion is correct–the only reason why he is going to break Hank Aaron’s record is because of the ‘roids.

    I think he took them because McGwire and Sosa were garnering far more fame even though they weren’t nearly as good as Bonds. The irony is that the fame Bonds seemed to long for will be forever tarnished not just because he’s a rhymes-with-wick but because the guy took the juice and lied about it. If he breaks the record in any other city but San Francisco, the applause will be muted. And it should be.

    By the way, my hat size is the same now as it was in eighth grade– 7 5/8. My nickname was “headmonster.” School was not fun.

  7. 8.  I agree with Chris, not sure the head measurement argument is solid. I have a brother in law who’s about 60 pounds heavier then when my sis first married him(about 18 years ago) and his head is bigger. As a matter of fact its the family joke. And the only thing he’s taken are Krispy Kreme’s, cuppacino’s and chili dogs.

  8. 9.  Ironically, Ron Jeremy’s nickname in high school was the same, but it might have been for different reasons.

    Producing high quality dick jokes since 1992.
    Scott Long Comedy Associates

  9. 10.  Ron Jeremy has a new biography out and contains many photos. One thing that is very noticeable is that his head is much larger now than when he first entered the business.

    I do mean the one on his neck.

    Again, I’m not trying to say that Bonds didn’t take PED’s, I’m just saying that the fact a 40+ year old has a larger head than when he was 20 is lousy evidence for PED use.

    Part of my reluctance to jump on the “I-hate-Barry-for-something-apparently-lots-of-guys-did-only-they-still-suck” bandwagon is that the screeching chimps flinging poop the hardest are the same dopes that whine about the lack of complete games, think that the ideal number two hitter should be especially skilled in making outs and that on-base percentage is over-rated—in other words, they are pretty much wrong about everything in baseball.*

    But, the PED issue is the ONE thing they are right about??

    What’s wrong with trying gain some perspective on the issue before passing out judgement? Mao Tse-Tung was once asked what he thought the lasting impact of the French Revolution was upon the world and he famously replied, “It’s to soon to tell”. Here in America nothing seems to have a lifespan of 30 days. There’s plenty of time to hate Barry, or love Barry or be indifferent to him…ten years from now, we’ll have a better idea as to what all this meant.

    *I’m primarily talking sportwriters here.

  10. 11.  I think the reason (and this may be one of those “DUH!” comments) many people can’t stand Bonds is what was stated on 7 – he’s a smug bastard and he’s done little to make people say, ‘aw, poor guy – give him a break’. He just refuses to be a man, step up, admit you f*cked up and stop getting pissed off at people and accusing everyone of a witch hunt – you’re bringing on yourself, so stop being a dick (this opinion is solely mine and may not necessarily be supported by the Toaster Network!) 😉
    (and yes, this opinion is somewhat directed at Palmero & McGwire too…”Mr. Pot? There’s a Mr. Kettle on line 1 for you”)

    Look, Giambi pseudo-apologized, kind of admitted it, kind of didnt, but never made excuses for his shitty performance a couple of years ago. Instead, he got healthy – and put up some pretty decent numbers considering.

    I’m not condoning any use of PED’s in sports. If you don’t think you can be good enough without using, then you shouldn’t be playing to begin with. Everyone has their peaks & valleys in sports, maybe it’s just something every athlete has to go through…naturally!

    Oh, and in regard to Clemens’ head getting bigger? That’s not from ‘roids. That’s from his ego swelling! HAHA! (*note: I say that as a big Clemens fan!)

    🙂

  11. 12.  I sure hope Mark Prior makes it through his ‘natural’ shoulder surgery.

    Where do we draw the line here? It won’t be too long that someone like Dave Dravecky might be able to get a bionic arm instead of retiring. Would that be fair?? How is that different from an elbow surgery??

    If elbow surgeries are intended to get a player to their ‘natural’ state aren’t we really being cute? Perhaps Mark Prior’s arm’s natural state after throwing baseballs is to be ‘broken’. Isn’t fixing it enhancing his perfromance AND altering his natural state??

    Shades of Grey everywhere.

  12. 13.  Thank God…an intelligent sabermetric thread on Bonds…and yes CLEMENS!

    Barry’s a rat cheather, and Suffering Bruin said it best baby, “No sentient being…”

    Ah, the game we love….

    Scott, this blog gets more and more compelling…Wish I could participate more…

    O/U,

    TFD

  13. 14.  Thanks for the nice comment. I think what was holding it back was the other writers. So when Ken left, then you, and finally Will, the blog could get to the core of what makes it so special.

    (I write these words knowing the level of pomposity in them are beyond any kind of clear-thinking analysis. I just have a hard time taking a compliment.)

  14. 15.  This Giants fan isn’t really conflicted about the Bonds situation anymore. As long as nobody lays into me for applauding certain laundry, I have no problem. The way I see it, every NFL/NBA/MLB player is suspect and it shouldn’t be a shock when someone gets stupid and gets caught. Derrick Turnbow? Alex Sanchez? Rafael Palmeiro? Juan Salas? Shawne Merriman? Not shocking in the least. I forget where I read it, but someone pointed out that Merriman is bigger than the average offensive lineman from 1970 and runs a faster 40 than the average wide receiver from that year. Yes, he’s potentially just a freak of nature, but everyone in the NBA and NFL are freaks now.

    What’s appalling is that the NFL and (especially) NBA have near-zero rates of PED positives (as far as I know have been publicly released), and nobody blinks. Because, you know, in sports with seasons that are just as much of a grind as baseball’s (if not more so) and with much more rough contact the players won’t be nearly as tempted to take illegal measures to keep playing. Of course.

    Genie, bottle, yada yada yada.

  15. 16.  Here’s the difference between Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds: Barry Bonds admitted under oath that he (unknowingly) took steroids. Barry Bonds was associated with a place that made (even created) steroids. This place kept detailed records of Bonds’ use and regularly tested his blood. Barry Bond’s personal trainer and childhood friend is in jail because he won’t rat Barry out.

    Clemens, on the other hand, has not had even a shred of evidence connecting him to steroid use.

    The closest thing was a false report about something Jason Grimsley said (which was later denied by Grimsley, his lawyer AND the prosecutor).

    Clemens has gotten bigger as he got older, but all ballplayers do — just look at people when they’re 21-22 and then look at them ten years later — even the smaller guys bulk up or put on weight.

    The other difference is that Clemens did not get “better” with age — you don’t see the 44-year-old Clemens still throwing 96 miles an hour. He also wasn’t superhuman — he had off years in his career. Bonds went from good to being almost otherworldly — he got faster, stronger and better as he got older. Clemens had a lull in his career, and for two years returned to his original level of dominance, but it didn’t remain, and his years with the Yankees weren’t anything like his earlier years. His dominance of the NL had more to do with the competition.

    So outside of being good for a long time, I don’t think there’s any comparison between Bonds and Clemens. Bonds is stronger today than he was twenty years ago. Clemens shows his age.

  16. 17.  13 “Barry’s a rat cheather, and Suffering Bruin said it best baby, “No sentient being…”

    TFD,

    You’ve put me in a difficult position. Normally my “Mariotti Rule” applies—that is I put my $$$ on the opposite of what Jay Mariotti is screeching about—TFD calls Bonds a cheater….hmmmmmm

  17. 18.  A few thoughts…

    1) Cheater or not, I hate Bonds as a Dodger fan first and foremost, thankyouverymuch. I can only hope that what would have been blast 756 is knocked out of the air by a lightning bolt, back into Bonds, shattering that ridiculous shield he wears on his right arm (why yes, I could crowd the plate too if I was wearing Kevlar) and knocking him out of baseball forever.

    Go Dodgers. =P

    2) Beyond that, a big part of what bothers me about the Bonds debate is the “alleged” comments that still often get thrown around. There’s no “alleging” here – he took steroids. The only debate is whether or not he knew (and for those who actually think he believed it was flaxseed oil he was using, right, and Mark McGwire only wanted to not talk about the past because he’s a forward-thinking guy).

    3) With regards to other sports, I think it has a lot to do with the type of sports fan that is drawn to baseball versus other sports. Basketball and football are primarily viewed as much more ‘athletic’ pursuits, and much more physical games. Basketball players are, quite literally, larger than life. Football is a bunch of freight trains running into each other for a few hours. The two sports feature a fair amount of contact, to boot.

    Baseball, meanwhile, is much more ‘pure’ in a lot of ways. A guy like Grex Maddux or Jamie Moyer can still be a significant contributor, guys you’d expect to see teaching high school lit more than striking out the Ryan Howards of the world (another thing about baseball – most of the ‘fat’ guys are actually slow, unlike football, heh; I’d like to see Bengie Molina run a 40-yd dash in less than 6 seconds). There’s really no physical contact between players except the rare home-plate collision, and those who succeed there are lionized far beyond what they deserve, lucky for Darin Erstad.

    I suppose the point I’m trying to get at here, oh-so-tangientially (sorry), is that people don’t think raw physicality when they think baseball, incorrect as that perception may have become. It’s just, when we think steroids we think huge, musclebound monstrosities. When people think baseball, they think the gangly Koufax, or the rotund (to put it mildly) Bonds, or the relatively tiny Ozzie Smith (even for his era, 5’11” and 150 pounds is pretty darn small for a major leaguer). The clashing of the two conceps is where a big part of the furor over steroids builds, I believe.

    4) As a last note, believe me, the ‘steroids’ rumors ABOUND around Clemens, they’re just less prevalent in the mainstream media because Bonds is a much easier target with specific evidence to reference and plenty of extra examples. In fact, if I had to guess, Clemens is probably the #1 name used for sportswriters when writing a ‘is Barry being pursued because of race’ article, because of the numerous similarities aside from skin color. A quick check of Google shows that searching ‘bonds steroids’ returns 1.15 million hits (… wow) while ‘clemens steroids’ returns about 400k. Not AS common, but hardly a rare bit of commentary.

    The most amusing concept I heard, from a friend (though I think he may have gotten it from Bill Simmons, so please do whatever purification ritual is required before reading), was that the now-common Clemens time off was actually an MLB-imposed suspension. Stupid in actual execution, but kind of funny to think about. And yes, I do think Clemens used steroids (some reasons why below).

    Oh, and 16 – “The other difference is that Clemens did not get “better” with age” only works if there’s a lot of room to get better; for Clemens, there wasn’t. He was the best pitcher of the early 90s, Maddux OWNED the mid-90s, and then Clemens and Pedro were dominant in the later portions of the decade. So claiming he should have gotten ‘better’ is a bit spurious considering that he was always a power pitcher – unless you were expecting him to start throwing 105 MPH?

    Beyond that, the lack of consitency is FAR more damning than consistency. Follow his career track. Clemens rocked in his 20s… But from 30-33 he was much less effective. Then, at thirty-four (usually into a player’s decline years) he started pitching like one of the best in the game again. Okay. Fine. I can believe that; he was in noticably better shape (read: slimmer, not bulkier) after ending up in Toronto. He had a few good years in his mid-30s, but began losing his edge by the time he got to 37 or so.

    This is where players who start declining usually… You know… Keep declining. He was still winning games (being on the Yankees of the late 90s/early 00s will do that), but his ERA and WHIP were way higher. In case you think it’s because he went from Toronto to the AL East, his ERA+ (which corrects for external factors) was noticably worse as well. A case of a guy with a great fitness regimen simply finally starting to age, right? Wrong. Then, in 2004, when Clemens was FORTY-ONE, he went to Houston and won the NL Cy Young. The next season (people are stupid, he was way better the next year and should have gotten it then but got no run support and so no wins), he had an ERA of 1.87 in 32 starts, the lowest of his career. His ERA+ that year of 221 was barely lower than his 226 in ’97, though… But that’s almost a decade removed (and he was 35 in ’97, not exactly a spring chicken)! After several seasons of good-but-unspectacular years with the Yanks, he exploded back into the best pitcher in the game in his forties?

    To close, I’ll also note that Clemens has a very strange trend on his strikeout numbers (well, K/9’s a better measure of power pitching). From 90-93, he had a consistent trend downward, the exact opposite of what one would expect from a guy entering his prime years. All of a sudden, in his mid-30s, the guy morphs into a monster, posting K/9 rates of 9.53, 9.95, and 10.39 from 96-98 (his age 33 through 35 seasons). Then his numbers dropped again in ’99 to 7.82 – and would increase through 2002, topping off that season back at 9.6 (remember, he’s FORTY by 02) and then hanging around the 8 range since.

    There is no way this guy is not on something (my guess is steroids in the late 90s when his strikeouts jumped, then HGH in the last few years). And that was a really long comment. Wow. Sorry.

  18. 19.  … Dammit. “or the rotund (to put it mildly) Bonds” should very clearly read – or the rotund (to put it mildly) Babe – argh.

  19. 20.  18 Your analysis is full of inaccuracies. First off, from 30-33 (1992-1995), Clemens did have two great seasons alternating with two average seasons. Of course, in 1993 he had a few injuries and 1995 was the late starting season, which I’d imagine skewed players’ preparations. If you really look at Clemens ERA+ over the years, you’d see a steadily great pitcher (ERA+ of 130-160) with a few bursts of extra dominance as well as a few dips to near league average. Here is the progression starting in 1985: 130, 169, 154, 141, 132, 211, 164, 175, 105, 177, 115, 142, 226, 176, 97, 137, 128, 101, 112, 145, 221, 197.

    If you chart those points, it would look like a roller coaster. The only way one could draw a PED conclusion from that data set would be if they weren’t interested in the facts. Bonds, on the other hand, jumped from an OPS+ range of 170-200 before 2001, to off the chart numbers between that year and 2005 (262, 275, 231, 260).

    Again, there is no statistical comparison, nor is there a circumstantial evidence comparison between Clemens and Bonds. Suspecting Clemens of taking steroids because you he’s big, or you simply don’t like him, are not very compelling arguments.

  20. 21.  20 Just for laughs I did plot them. It looks like the Rockie (Rocket?) Mountains.
    http://tinyurl.com/2ttvgh

    On Bonds, thinking that OPS+ might be skewed by inordinately high walk numbers caused by a significant increase in pitching around an enhanced Barry, I thought plotting Bonds and NL Slg%, along with the difference might be interesting.
    http://tinyurl.com/3da3uy

    Draw your own conclusions.

  21. 22.  chris: yeah i feel like i need to wash because of my agreement with mariotti, but alas, even a squirrel…

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