By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

When did Manny start juicing?

Since we already know that Manny Ramírez was using steroids, let’s engage in a little open and gross speculation. For all we know, Ramírez had been juicing for years. But there is circumstantial evidence to suggest that he began sometime around the end of the 2007 season.

You may recall that he put up some rather un-Manny-like numbers that year. He hit just 20 homers and drove in a mere 88 runs in 133 games. In 2006, by contrast, he hit 35 homers with 102 RBIs, despite playing in three fewer games. Moreover, in ’07 Ramírez occasionally looked as though his bat was slowing down. Yes, he came alive in the post-season, and he was a key to the Red Sox’ winning the World Series. But he was no longer the Manny of 1998-2005, when he averaged nearly 41 homers and 130 RBIs.

Then came the ’08 season. We were told that he was happier than he’d been in years. The power was back. But his once-harmless antics took a nasty turn. He assaulted Kevin Youkilis. (Yes, Youk can be pretty annoying, but his other 23 teammates somehow manage to restrain themselves.) He assaulted a 64-year-old clubhouse guy. And he sulked his way out of Boston. As Gerry Callahan writes in the Boston Herald, perhaps we were looking at “‘roid rage.”

I am not sure why the Boston Globe’s Bob Ryan wants to give Ramírez any benefit of the doubt.

In one sense, I disagree with both Callahan and Ryan. Ramírez is not stupid. Rather, he is supremely self-centered. The rules have never applied to him, and he knows it. When you consider what he’s gotten away with over the years, why would he think it would be any different this time?

Photo (cc) by Jeff Wheeler and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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  1. Bill H.

    Dan, I agree with you on the supremely self-centered comment, but I also think a case can be made for stupidity. With some of the biggest names in the game recently taken down by association with steroids, only a very stupid person would think either that he wouldn’t be caught, or, if he were caught, that the rules wouldn’t apply to him. Regarding the issue of the end of the 2007 season, how long does it take for a player to begin to feel the effects of steroids? Is it immediate, or cumulative, or what? It would be too bad if the ’07 championship was diminished.

  2. bob gardner

    Yeah, there’s a case here for stupidity and self-centeredness but not Manny’s. Dan, you shouldn’t mention the Youkilis-Ramirez fray without providing a link to what you wrote about it. My recollection is that you were about ready to punch out Youk yourself. Now suddenly it’s evidence for what you want to believe this week. As for the assertion that a variation in home run and rbi production means that he was using steroids despite passing 15 tests, there is an easy way to find out. Get some sabremetrician run a program which picks up each case of falling or rising production that is out of the norm. If we go back far enough, we can not only pick up all the cases of steroid use, but we can find out which ballplayers from the 30’s and 40’s were not only using steroids, but using time travel to obtain them from the future, and damaging the time-space continuum in the process.

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Bob: I am saying even now that Youkilis’ behavior can be damned irritating. But even if 24 players wanted to go after him, the fact is that only one did.

  4. Mike F

    Wasn’t there some connection between Manny Alexander and Manny Ramirez? I think I remember Ramirez’ name coming up when Alexander got busted years ago. Ramirez was still with Cleveland at the time and it was before all of the revelations we’ve learned of over the past few years, which would account for why it never became a big story. I may be off on this, but I’m pretty sure I remember this being the case, where the link between the two was mentioned, given a brief ‘hmmmm…’ and then quickly forgotten.Also, it might be time to just believe everything that comes out of Jose Canseco’s mouth.

  5. mike_b1

    Ugh. Honestly, is this even a topic that merits speculation?

  6. cavard

    Great post Dan, just FB’ed it!

  7. O-FISH-L

    mike_b1: Can you believe it? They’re posting about steroids in baseball despite your definitive last word on Monday, “there is no evidence that proves any correlations between steroid use and (improved) baseball performance.”Goes to show there’s no respect for authority nowadays. None whatsoever.

  8. mike_b1

    O-Fish, the doctor called. Your brain has arrived. Please make an appointment to pick it up.

  9. An Astute Observer

    Nice comeback mike_b1.That’ll show ’em.

  10. Mike from Norwell

    Dan, don't think end of 2007 was when he decided to start juicing. Think you have your RS fanboy blinders on. Suggest that you click over to and try to listen to Schilling's bit yesterday w/ D&C.Mike_b1, seems that you have your Peter Gammons denial phase going strong. "there is no evidence that proves any correlations between steroid us and (improved) baseball".Maybe not "improved" baseball, but when you have hitters and pitchers in their mid 30s getting better rather than degressing, when you see the likes of a Brady Anderson hitting 50 (they can't be winding the cores of those balls that tight – remember that quaint explanation back in '97?), I'd beg to differ. If you want to put your tin foil hat on, think back to the '94 strike, which almost killed baseball. Did you ever wonder where all of these mutant body types that emerged in the late 90s came from? Seemed there was a blind eye turned to get people back by watching ridiculous displays of offense.Look back to the Rices, Andre Dawsons, Eddie Murrays, heck Hank Aaron; then contrast their body shapes with the McGuires, Sosas, Bonds et al. Steroids didn't allow you to see the ball better, but they sure as heck let you hit that pitch further than you could clean.

  11. Nial Liszt

    Have always wondered about most political lefty’s decided preference for baseball over football. Is it that there is some actual playing experience there, i.e., roaming right field in Little League? The usual explanation, that it is the thinking person’s sport with so much strategy involved, is weak given the fact that there is more strategy in one defensive series of an NFL game than there is in an entire weekend MLB series.

  12. Dan Kennedy

    Mike from Norwell: I would not be at all surprised if we learned Manny had been juicing for years. So no, no blinders. But I do think there’s some logic in my speculative rant.

  13. mike_b1

    Mike, the problem is that there’s never been a controlled study, so it’s impossible to know what, exactly, the dominant factor(s) are. What role does age, body type, nutrition, weight training, DNA and other factors play, if any? Also, for every Brady Anderson you name, I’ll give you 10 guys named Joseph Billick or Grant Roberts or Pedro Lambertus … literally hundreds of guys have been suspended by baseball for juicing, almost none of whom you have ever heard of. So did it help? Apparently not.Moreover, what are the downsides? Are users more susceptible to major injury, thus actually hindering their careers, not enhancing them?No, the only denial is by those who seem to think that “science” comes down to “what my gut tells me.” As for me, give me the data.

  14. mike_b1

    Nial, what are you talking about? There’s no strategy in football.

  15. Mike from Norwell

    Mike-b1, let me know when you plan to call WEEI to bring up your argument. Don’t want to miss this one.Simple enough: steroids and other performance enhancing drugs are against the rules of baseball (and football, hockey, basketball, cycling, olympic sports, et al). How do you propose your controlled study (and isn’t 73 home runs from a guy in his late 30s enough proof that something might be helping these guys to perform at a higher level?).

  16. mike_b1

    Mike, I’m not one to bother with talk radio. Serious question: Has anyone EVER learned anything from WEEI?Back to stats: Have you ever taken a stats course? Again, serious question. Because what you are referring to is called an outlier. And in statistics, when trying to understand the data, we would never mistake an outlier for a fact.But since you won’t take my word for it, do this. Call up a stats professor at any local college and ask them if one guy hitting 73 homers is clear and unambiguous proof that steroids enhance performance. And be prepared to be laughed at.

  17. Dan Kennedy

    Mike B1: Is it possible to say that any one case of lung cancer is caused by smoking?

  18. mike_b1

    Also, I don’t know how you do a controlled study when PEDs are against the rule. But I know you don’t make wild and uneducated assumptions about outcomes without knowing the inputs.

  19. mike_b1

    Dan, that specifically is a question that researchers wrestle over in every forum imaginable. And while I suspect you are serving it more in a rhetorical vein than anything else, I’ll take the bait because it’s a great example.As I understand it, much of the data surrounding cancer — and I’m not a cancer expert — are derived from two sources. One, test studies done on mice and rats, which are completely controlled, and generally accepted, given the similarity in physiology, as representative of what would happen in humans. Two, epidemiological studies. In the latter, they look hard at events known as a “cluster” — which is when the local incidence rate of a disease is higher than what would have been predicted for a particular place or time — and try to drill down to assess the “why” behind that. Example: Two college kids get sick and die. The cause is determined to be meningitis. Everyone freaks — it’s an epidemic! — except the doctors, who look at the history and learn that 1) college kids had colds (were immunocompromised; 2) college kids were at a party where people were smoking (enhancing the mode of transmission); 3) the incidence rate for meningitis in that area is 3 cases per year, in which case they are well within the probability.So the media runs wild, the public assumes the worst, and the experts shrug, because nothing is really out of the norm.(You’re making me recall my undergrad days, btw. It’s not easy.)So Bonds and McGwuire hit 70 HRs each one year. And both are known or suspected to have used steroids. But wait — literally hundreds of other players are caught (not suspected, caught) using steroids. And none of those guys hit 70 homers. None of them even hit 20. So did the steroids help?

  20. Dan Kennedy

    Mike: Not entirely rhetorical. I covered Woburn. I don’t think any of the families would have been able to show that their children’s leukemia had been caused by exposure to trichloroethylene. Yet there was a strong likelihood that that was the case.Just a hunch, but I think if we knew exactly which players took steroids, we would quickly see a correlation with improved performance. Steroids don’t help hand-eye coordination or allow a pitcher who’s wild to throw the ball over the plate. But there’s pretty strong anecdotal evidence that it helps players hit the ball farther and throw harder.We have seen quite a few performances, especially by older players, unlike anything in the history of baseball in recent years — all by steroid users.

  21. mike_b1

    The Woburn poisonings is a classic cluster. No question.As for baseball, great players do amazing things. It’s what makes them great. For example, Ted Williams hit .388 with 38 HRs in 1957 at the age of 38 (adjusted for all-time, that’s the equivalent of .404!). And he slugged .645 in 1960, at the age of 41. He most certainly wasn’t juiced. Randy Johnson has won 65 games and struck out almost 950 batters since turning 40. Juiced? Or just a great player?The thing about PEDs is that there’s so much we don’t know. So there’s lots of guessing from the cheap seats. That’s not science. There was a time the sun was thought to revolve around the Earth, too. The question I have is why, if steroids have such a supposed (positive) impact on baseball performance, don’t they apparently help all players equally?

  22. jt

    mike_b1, read a little about stats before you shoot your mouth off. A late-30s player hitting 73 homers is 5.5 standard deviations from the mean. A statistician would not laugh at the idea that PED caused that performance, but rather accept it as the only possible rationale for it occurring. Read here.

  23. Mike from Norwell

    Mike-bi1:Back to stats: Have you ever taken a stats course? Again, serious question. Because what you are referring to is called an outlier. And in statistics, when trying to understand the data, we would never mistake an outlier for a fact.But since you won’t take my word for it, do this. Call up a stats professor at any local college and ask them if one guy hitting 73 homers is clear and unambiguous proof that steroids enhance performance.And be prepared to be laughed at.Nope, just a dumb shmuck. Actually, I was a math/econ double major and now an actuary for over 25 years. Have had profs who have hung out with Nobel winners and a friend running his own economic forecasting firm who is on a first name basis with CEA head Christina Romer. So maybe I won’t take your advise. Have been around that block. Have you?Ever heard of Mark Twain’s famous quote: “there are lies, there are damned lies, and then there are statistics.”From Curt’s latest posting (from that “knucklehead” source over at the past 19 years or so I’ve had suspicions, some stronger than others, but to sit here today and say I played on even one team that was totally clean would be denying reality I think. I’ve never personally seen a player inject, ingest, swallow HGH, or steroids but like every other player I played with that had his eyes open I saw the huge weight gains in one winter, I saw the hat size increase, I saw the acne in places a camel would be embarrassed to have it. I watched the player hit 20 more homers in one year than they ever had, then revert back, I saw the pitcher throwing 87-90 come to spring training throwing 95-97, I saw all of that. None of those are ‘no brainers’ — none — but they were hints, and when you get enough hints you can see the answer clearly if you are looking.I played pretty much my entire career in the Steroid Era.Mike_b1, not sure what your slant is here, but the fact of the matter is that PEDs do have an impact, and all sports (outside of the WWE) outlaw their use. Outliers my ass; when the tail gets that shifted, anyone actually trained in stats gets suspicious. And you’re missing one salient point from your analysis: even if PEDs are nothing more than a placebo, they are against the rules.

  24. mike_b1

    jt: n = 1. Once you have learned what that means, come back and join us. Mike/Norwell: The argument isn’t whether PEDs are legal in sports. They aren’t. Duh. The argument is whether they help. Sorry — there’s no conclusive proof.When it comes to understanding the data, Schilling has proved marginally adept at best. Recall that he didn’t want to come to Boston because, as a fly ball pitcher, he felt he would be ineffective in Fenway. The Sox brain trust had to explain to him that he was misreading the data. Here’s the list of players suspended under MLB’s Drug Testing Program. How many are good? How many have you ever heard of?Alex Sanchez Rays 10Jorge Piedra Rockies 10A. Montero Rangers 10Jamal Strong Mariners 10Juan Rincon Twins 10R. Betancourt Indians 10R. Palmeiro Orioles 10Ryan Franklin Mariners 10Mike Morse Mariners 10C. Almanzar Rangers 10Felix Heredia Mets 10Matt Lawton Yankees 10Yusaku Iriki Mets 50Jason Grimsley D-backs 50Guillermo Mota Mets 50Juan Salas Rays 50Neifi Perez Tigers 25Neifi Perez Tigers 80Mike Cameron Padres 25Dan Serafini Rockies 50Jay Gibbons * Orioles 15Jose Guillen * Royals 15Eliezer Alfonzo Giants 50Henry Owens Marlins 50J.C. Romero Phillies 50Sergio Mitre Yankees 50Manny Ramirez Dodgers 50And if you have all that education and training, I would expect you would know more about stats than you apparently do. Shame on your professors for passing you.

  25. bob gardner

    I remember when NBA teams were lucky to have one or two seven-footers, and there was no-one (or almost no one)in the NFL who weighed 300 pounds. If other athletes have become stronger and bigger in the last 35 years or so, why not baseball players? Steroids certainly may be one of the reasons for 70 homes runs in a season. But there is no way to know without actually doing some kind of controlled study, as Mike B1 says. Anecdotal evidence just leads to people seeing what they want to see.

  26. Dunwich

    According to Lou Merloni the RS brought in a MD to talk about the effects of steroids (during the Duquette administration). The physician told the players that you would get stronger using PED’s with little conditioning, than someone who was on a strict strength/conditioning regimen and not using drugs. He supposedly was speaking on the condidtion that players were going to experiment, so they might as well be informed about safe usage. Of course he was not condoning anything.

  27. Mike from Norwell

    Comical, Mike-b1, list of players. Of course you neglect in your cogent analysis (which means nothing) to remember that MLB only established a drug testing policy in 2004 after the Union finally capitulated. Think that might bias your results of your list a bit? Did they ever cover that part of understanding statistical analysis in your GED class?Remember that A-Rod only got outed because someone leaked his failure of the 2003 blind test to see if there was a problem. It only points to the stupidity of Manny Ramirez in the first place to get bagged in 2009.

  28. Dan Kennedy

    Mike B1: Not going to get into an argument about statistics, but a player who sucks and takes steroids still sucks. Maybe he generates more wind speed when he swings and misses.

  29. mike_b1

    You miss the point, Mike from Norwell (great town. All that actuary work has you really living large).Look again at that list. Count how many players are on it who have accomplished nothing. If steroids are so performance-enhancing, how come Nefei Perez hit all of 64 homers in 1403 major league games?And compared to most of the guys on that list, he was a slugger! Yes, steroids obviously helps. A lot.Now shut up and watch the Sox-Rays game.

  30. mike_b1

    Dan, Perez was good enough to play in 1403 major league games. He used drugs enough to be suspended not once but twice. He played much of his career in two parks (Colorado and Wrigley) that enhance home run rates. Shouldn’t steroids have helped him? I could also offer up Jason Giambi, who in two of the seasons following his semi-admission of use, actually had a higher HR/AB ratio than in his Oakland/steroids using years.Please explain.

  31. Mike from Norwell

    Why don’t you put the dates on your list on when the suspensions were handed down. Then think back to when guys were putting up the big numbers. Then see who is missing the point.Do you see McGuire, Clemens, Bonds, Rodriguez, Palmero et al on your list? I wouldn’t hang your hat on the list of idiot players who got caught after they finally decided to officially test to determine whether PEDs make a difference or not in performance.

  32. mike_b1

    Mike from Norwell: Yes, I see Palmeiro on the list. Don’t you?

  33. Mike from Norwell

    Let me put it this way (without this turning into some hissy fit on the Internet): MLB ddn’t issue bans for PED test failures until 2004. This was in large part due to the fact that the Union resisted drug testing (thanks Gene Orza). If you want to rely on statistical analysis to determine whether steroids influenced performance, the simple fact is that you can’t because there is no data available before 2004. And the explosion in stats and performance all occurred before testing was finally was put in place. So no matter how you analyze your data, your results are meaningless, so yes, you do have to rely on your gut instincts. And you’re pretty naive to think that there wasn’t something funny going on in the 90s up to 2003.Suggest that you (or anyone else out there) to at least read the Darryl Huff classic “How to Lie With Statistics”. Illuminating in a ’52 sense that still applies to sniffing out BS in numerical analsysis; heck, even ol’ Ross Perot went for a few examples back in his ’92 infomercials.

  34. Dan Kennedy

    I’d like to see a chart showing total home runs per 100 at-bats, 1980-2008. Make whatever adjustments are necessary for changing stadium dimensions (I know, not easy to do). I think we’ve all got a pretty good sense of when the steroid heyday took place. And I’ll bet that chart would tell an interesting tale.

  35. mike_b1

    Dan, those data exist. BP has shown them a dozen times. I’ll dig them up in a bit — gotta go to Germany right now — but they don’t paint anything resembling a clear picture.

  36. bob gardner

    Dan, Google “Steroids and Home RunsArthur De Vany”, for one study which finds home runs being hit at about the same rate decade after decade.Mike from Norwell, I’ve read “Lying with Statistics” several times and I don’t think the idea of going with your gut instincts comes from Darryl Huff, but from Stephen Colbert.

  37. Mike from Norwell

    “Gut instincts” comes from thinking that an analysis that says steroids don’t do anything to enhance performance because there are a bunch of no names suspended by MLB might have a flaw in logic due to the fact that MLB didn’t implement drug testing until 2004.Gut instincts is what gets people to realize that numbers thrown out as “proof” may be fatally constructed. Another example was last week’s PR release that you’d save over $12k by taking public transportation. Gut instincts cause a reasonable minded person to wonder “how in the heck did they come up with number?” Also saw several posters over on try to defend it by starting with baseline AAA mileage numbers of cost to run a car and then start adding gas, insurance on top of their “analysis” (without bothering to consider that the AAA number already factors those costs into 49 cents per mile). Gut instincts, BS sniffer, whatever you want to call it; how about healthy skepticism?

  38. Dan Kennedy

    Mike from Norwell: Good point. I had to rely on public transportation several times recently and started doing some calculations in my head. I realized it would cost me money — a lot — unless I could get rid of my car, not have to buy insurance, etc.

  39. mike_b1

    Dan and all: Read this piece by Jay Jaffe (and don’t skip the link to theI’m going to excerpt two key grafs:As flawed as it is, the Mitchell Report should serve as a reminder that we don’t really know what impact PEDs have on player performance. For every statistical outlier like Clemens or Bonds whose late-career greatness is supposedly attributable to steroids and/or human growth hormone, there are dozens of named players who allegedly used PEDs but who remained on the fringes of the majors, unable to win regular jobs even with whatever extra help they provided. Either that, or I simply missed the days of greatness of Adam Riggs and Phil Hiatt. Furthermore, there were many more named players who apparently turned to PEDs but simply couldn’t reverse the effects of age and injuries, and were out of baseball by their mid-30s. David Justice and Chuck Knoblauch, two players on this year’s ballot, come to mind.Add to that the fact that the rising tide of home runs most commonly associated with “the Steroid Era” is best explained by more fundamental changes in the industry, not by the drugs or the myriad changes that have taken place over the past two decades—newer (but not all necessarily smaller) ballparks, expansion, the changing strike zone, and interleague play. On the one hand there are the well-publicized changes in bat composition; maple bats, as used by Bonds and others, are slightly more dense then the typical ash bats, but also more durable, allowing for thinner barrels and lighter, faster-swinging clubs which maintain the size of the bat’s sweet spot. On the other hand, there are the more under-the-radar changes in balls, such as Rawlings’ decision to move its manufacturing base from Haiti to Costa Rica in the late 1980s, switching from hand-wound balls to machine-wound ones during the 1990s, and introducing a synthetic rubber ring in the ball’s core, one not covered by MLB specifications. A study commissioned by MLB and Rawlings done at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell in 2000 found that balls within the extremes of official tolerances could differ in flight distance by 49.1 feet despite being struck under the exact same conditions. Juiced balls, not juiced sluggers, likely represent the primary reason for those rising home run rates. then read this: in particular, this: CTs of balls used during the 1998 season definitively show the ball itself was juiced.You can argue all you want. But without reading the literature, you’re just pushing air around.(Aside to Mike from Norwell: Math is hard. Hang in there, buddy!)

  40. Mike from Norwell

    Mike:To be honest, hadn’t heard of Art DeVany until these postings. However, after doing some research, did find a few things: to me a valid refutation of DeVany’s hypothesis. Also, in trying to research his website, seemed that he was more interested in selling me $100 DVD sets than letting the interested observer in to peruse his ideas.Also, seems that much of the fuel here seems to be motivated by people with an ax to grind (steroids are being made an issue because “the Man” wanted to put down Bonds, ignoring the obvious issue that Bonds was threatening to break Aaron’s, not Ruth’s record): sure hope that when my kids enter college this type of “Renaissance man” prof isn’t around. Bob Gibson and the mound? Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Yaz won the batting title at .301 and the pitching/batting contrast had become too lopsided (last I checked, don’t think Gibson pitched ALL of the games in ’68). Sure don’t remember hearing the explanation for lowering the mound to preventing Gibson from breaking some old white guy’s ERA record.Were there other factors involved besides steroids in the late 90s? Sure, but to dismiss it out of hand is silly. Baseball just about died after the ’94 strike (didn’t notice it much here in Boston, but if you were an Expos, Twins, KC, Pirates fan, it destroyed attendance for several years). Heck, just look at Nick Cafardo’s piece this morning in the Globe about Merloni’s revelation over the weekend. This is sports, not rocket science we’re talking about here. Whether steroids or other PEDs are nothing more than a placebo or not (which DeVany seems to be saying), the fact is that fairly or not the abuse is going to taint the accomplishments over the last 20 years.You brought up the concept of “outlyers” earlier. I’ll make a counterargument: pretty much any analysis of major league players is inherently flawed since by definition they are “all” outlyers just to make it to that level. We’re not talking about whether steroids are going to affect some 40 year old Park League player; we’re talking about guys at the most elite level.Heck, look at cycling: that sport is pretty much destroyed due to rampant drug cheating. Forget the math: if you want baseball to sink to the level of pro wrestling, then just keep saying that steroids don’t make a difference.An example from Huff that I recall was a stat flying around in the mid 40s comparing the death rates of Navy sailors to the general population of NYC. Of course the Navy death rate (despite being in the middle of WWII) was lower; hence by “logical” conclusion it was safer to be in the Navy during wartime than to be back in NYC. This of course ignored the fact that the NYC stats including the entire population (i.e., including infant and elderly populations, instead of a direct comparison of healthy males at wartime v. healthy males hanging out back home). Fun with numbers.Recall advise from a professor, Charles Poor Kindleberger, about the economic profession and the chase to econometrics: his view was that it was ruining the profession as it was getting caught up in dubious statistical analysis without actually looking around to see if what they were positing made any sense. Buyer beware…

  41. mike_b1

    I’ll make a counterargument: pretty much any analysis of major league players is inherently flawed since by definition they are “all” outlyers just to make it to that level. We’re not talking about whether steroids are going to affect some 40 year old Park League player; we’re talking about guys at the most elite level.From a stats perspective, totally wrong. We’re not talking about one or two subjects here. We’re talking about nearly 1000 major league players (each year), plus thousands more minor leaguers, all of whom form the statistical universe. With this number of subjects, you can most certainly compare elite to elite.Heck, look at cycling: that sport is pretty much destroyed due to rampant drug cheating. Forget the math: if you want baseball to sink to the level of pro wrestling, then just keep saying that steroids don’t make a difference.A point made in one of the links is that the same drug can have a different effect based on the sport. We tend to focus all our energies on a formula of steroids = homeruns when in fact, it has been shown that as many if not more pitchers have been users. Pro football almost certainly has a more widespread use of PEDs than does baseball. But because we don’t use the same depth of metrics to measure performance in football, we tend to miss (or choose to ignore) the use in that sport. Fans certainly aren’t running from football. Baseball has been publicly dealing with steroids for a decade with no clear negative impact on public support. In the past three decades it has survived multiple players’ strikes, an owners’ lockout, a canceled World Series, cocaine use, extraordinary inflation, etc. I don’t think the “pro wrestling” analogy holds. Yes, there are ethical and other aspects to this. But very little of the “analysis” deals with anything but the statistical noise.I’m reminded of Fred Gwynne’s classic line to Joe Pesci in “My Cousin Vinny”: “Once again, the communication process is broken down. It appears to me that you want to skip the arraignment process, go directly to trial, skip that, and get a dismissal.” The same thinking holds with less-than-rigorous approach being taken to determining the effect of PEDs in baseball.

  42. Mike from Norwell

    Mike:First off, you have no data to accurately identify who was and who wasn’t on steroids. So your pool of a 1000 MLB players (forget the minor leaguers, they’ve been subject to testing for a long time) isn’t exactly the huge number that you posit. In my line of work multiply that by about another 1000 and then you can start get some statistical significance.I’ll admit I hadn’t looked into too much of sabermetrics before, outside of maybe perusing Bill James Baseball Abstract a few times in the 80s. Interesting sure, and I see some economists dabbling (as a hobby, don’t kid yourself), but have you ever heard of the practical phrase “false precision?”You seem to be hanging your hat on this Art De Vany article (which I did read, and also found a counter to his logic). I kind of feel like I’m falling into a circular argument here with a 9/11 truther or a Holocaust denier on this point. You seem to be asserting that because it can’t be “statistically proven” (when there are so many issues in even identifying your sample base) then steroids/PEDs have no effect on performance.From a practical standpoint though, if this crap doesn’t work, why have so many top of the line athletes with 8 or 9 decimal points on the line used this stuff? I wouldn’t think that they would be risking health, financial well being, and reputation on a placebo. Do you have any idea of the hundreds of millions of dollars forfeited by the likes of Bonds, Clemens, and now Manny (good luck getting a contract next year, sport) in contracts and endorsements?Will agree that the whole PED argument is oversimplified when focusing on home run production (that was the simple argument in the late 90s). As we have seen, PED issue is not just tied to bulky HR hitters; little guys and pitchers also have been swept up.But I’d sure like to see a much larger body of work as your Holy Grail than De Vany. I do know enough that just because you can’t isolate a factor (and you know darned well you can’t in this pretty small sample base) doesn’t invalidate suspicions.

  43. Dan Kennedy

    I’ve been thinking about the whole notion of whether it can be shown statistically that PEDs do or do not result in improved baseball performance, and it strikes me that it’s besides the point. Players themselves are too variable.Here’s the issue: Is it or is it not a fact that steroid use increases strength? If it is, then it’s self-evident that some players are going to benefit from it. Doesn’t really matter that Manny Alexander never hit 50 (or 5) home runs.

  44. mike_b1

    Mike, my Holy Grail isn’t De Vany. His research is just a fraction of what’s out there. Dan, if baseball were all about strength, you would see a very different set of players out there, don’t you think? If 100% of the players chewed bubble gum, and it had no affect on performance, would anyone care? Nope. So why would we care if a subset of drugscould make a few guys stronger than their peers, except if it made a difference in the game results? It’s all about what happens on the field.

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