I generally read all the baseball-related chats on ESPN.com (except the Fantasy Baseball ones). I don’t usually participate while they are going on, what with having a job and all, but I always read them, and I often find myself wishing I were the one doing the answering. It’s not that I think I know everything; I just think I know more than Joe Morgan and Steve Phillips.
I often have issues with these chats, generally when the chatter agrees with (or doesn’t vociferously disagree with) a stupid question. Other times, the questions are fine and it’s just the chatter who is stupid. In reading today’s chat with Steve Phillips, I came across a couple question/answer combos that merited my attention.
Matt (Philly): would 62 homers by Ortiz or Howard be recognized in the public eye as the single season record?
Steve Phillips: Great question. Yes, some would probably recognize that. Some would still say Sosa because we don’t have any real evidence at least not like with McGwire, Bonds. I do think a lot of people would recognize 62 as the record.
I agree that it is a very thought-provoking question, and I have to believe that a lot of people WOULD recognize it as some sort of unofficial record if Howard or Ortiz hit 62 homers. My problem is with Steve’s answer, where he implies that we have more “real evidence” of steroid use against Mark McGwire than Sammy Sosa. Ummm, Stevie, the only evidence we have of McGwire’s steroid use is this: he didn’t deny using them. But one thing that everyone forgets in the rush to condemn McGwire for his testimony to Congress is that he started his testimony by saying, in effect, “If I say I didn’t take steroids, people will call me a liar; if I say I did, people will call me a cheater; so I am choosing not to answer the question.” His silence was no more an admission of guilt than it was a declaration of innocence; it was simply silence.
Other than that silence, we have no “real evidence” of cheating by McGwire. On the contrary, we have the fact that he hit 49 homers as a relatively skinny rookie. Sosa, on the other hand, never did anything offensively until he suddenly buffed up, and his stats went downhill very quickly once MLB started the steroid testing. That evidence seems just as real to me as McGwire’s silence.
John (Hopewell Jct, NY): Steve, why hasn’t David Ortiz’ name come up in the performance enhancing drug conversation? Here’s a guy who never had more than 20 HRs and 75 RBIs in any season but doubled those numbers and raise his slugging pct by over 100 points when he got to Boston.
Steve Phillips: I’ve never heard of donuts being referred to as PEDs. I think Ortiz is explainable by his great plate discipline. He did show it early in his career, but like most good hitters it takes time to recognize which pitch in which count they can look to to drive it out. It has just taken him time to develop the power.
I don’t think Steve’s donut joke does nearly enough to mock the stupidity of this question. First of all, John from Hopewell does the classic moronic move of comparing raw numbers instead of percentages. “He never had more than 20 HRs and 75 RBIs in a season” blah blah blah. In his last two years in Minnesota, Ortiz’s averages per 600 plate appearances were 28 homers and 91 RBI; in his first three years in Boston, those averages went up to 38 and 124. Yes, that is quite an increase, but it’s not the same as what John was implying, which was that Ortiz had no power as a Twin. Of course, Steve Phillips did nothing to alleviate the problem when he confirms that it just took Ortiz some time “to develop the power.” Hey guys, the power was always there! Know what wasn’t there? The ability to hit left-handed pitchers!
And then there’s the obvious reason this was an absolutely ridiculous question, the one Phillips was trying to make with the lame donut joke: The great-hitting David Ortiz of the Red Sox is physically identical to the lousy-hitting David Ortiz of the Twins. So John, here’s the short answer to your question of why Ortiz’s name doesn’t come up in steroid discussions: because most people in the world are more intelligent than you are.