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

Is there any evidence of anti-Brown push-polling?

I find myself wondering whether I should have passed on claims that someone is involved in push-polling targeted at Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown. In the case of those anti-Martha Coakley calls, I have specific examples from people I know. The anti-Brown calls amount to no more than a rumor.

If you have received a push-poll call aimed at damaging Brown, please post some details. If you want to be taken seriously, use your real name.

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Quick thoughts on the Senate debate


  1. lkcape

    I can confirm the telephone number that was previously cited.

    202-461-4773 called yesterday evening at 7:37 PM.

    Because of the way that their auto-dialer responded to a connection, the message left was truncated to:

    “…we may call again later.”

    They have yet to try again.

  2. John Costello

    I gave the Brown guy for the South Shore an earful last night for bothering me about fetuses during an NFL Playoff game. He said, and I beleive him, that they are not responsible for the calls. He said a private Republican group is making the calls, not them.

    I wasn’t going to vote becuase of Marhta My Dear’s poor track record on going after pedophiles, but the Republican push polling has made me sure that I will be voting for her, while holding my nose.

  3. Nina L

    Called from the same number on Sunday evening. Tha questions were as stated by Dan Kennedy.

  4. mike_b1

    Speaking of Brown and drug use, nothing yet on Mark McGwire’s admission to steroid/PED use?

    Did you see that he said he had good years on PEDs and bad years on PEDs and good years while clean and bad years while clean. It’s anecdotal, of course, but interesting nonetheless to those of us who insist that no proof exists that PEDs translate to on-the-field improvements.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @mike_b1: Are you serious? Who cares what McGwire’s opinion is? He admitted he took steroids the year he hit 70 homers. We are free to draw our own conclusions.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @mike_b1: From ESPN: “Told by Costas that certain Maris family members have said that they now consider Roger Maris’ 61 the authentic home run record, McGwire responded: ‘They have every right to.'” If McGwire doesn’t think steroids helped him hit home runs, why would he say that?

  5. O-FISH-L

    @John Costello. Are you seriously going to vote for someone because a pollster not affiliated with either campaign annoyed you? Good grief!

    The recent obsession here with Brown possibly push polling is hilarious. I would say shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic, but someone said that already.

  6. lou

    I am surprised you are not “live blogging” the debate!

  7. mike_b1

    @Dan Kennedy,

    What, you want to keep talking about whether some never-will-be GOP hack is trying to pull a fast one on the Mass. electorate? Pitchers and catchers report in five weeks! Five weeks!

    It’s baseball season, dude!

  8. mike_b1

    @dan kennedy: Because he’s in apology mode. Even the least PR savvy person would recognize that when you’re trying to say you’re sorry to a bunch of people who already think you’re a cheater and a liar, there’s no point in pulling any punches. He’s going to be so contrite, we’ll wish he had gone on lying about it.

  9. Harrybosch

    “no proof exists that PEDs translate to on-the-field improvements.”

    Curious if you concede that PEDs, when used in conjunction with weight training and proper diet, enhance muscle mass and strength above just training alone.

    Wouldn’t it then follow, by definition, that enhanced muscle mass and strength improve on-the-field performance, for example, how far a baseball might travel?

    Sincerely curious what standard of proof would be enough for you.

    (Not dogmatic on the issue one way or the other. Just think players ought to play on a level playing field.)

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Harrybosch: Why would you ever think stronger guys hit more home runs? Don’t you look at statistics? If Jacoby Ellsbury can just work on that uppercut, he may hit 80 this year.

  10. Harrybosch

    “If Jacoby Ellsbury can just work on that uppercut, he may hit 80 this year.”

    Come to think of it, he does have a Brady Anderson-type build.

    So it’s entirely possibe . . .

  11. mike_b1

    @harrybosch, there have been some small studies that I know of that support the idea that increased muscle mass could have a positive effect on bat speed.

    However, what seems much more important than muscle is the hitter “type” (e.g., ground ball, line drive, fly ball). If you distribute all homeruns by those three types, fly ball hitters hit more than their share. Case in point: Nomar Garciaparra, who outhomered plenty of bigger, stronger guys on the Red Sox. Gary Sheffield would be another. He’s not going to win any bodybuilding contests. Remember George Foster? He was far leaner than teammates Johnny Bench and Tony Perez. In fact, he didn’t lift at all: He practice karate.

    Ellsbury’s bigger problem is he can’t really pull the ball. Some hitters, Yaz was one, learn how to do so as they get older.

  12. mike_b1

    @harry: To finish the question, What kind of proof would be enough for me, I would accept a controlled study conducted over multiple seasons. But until something can be proved to be repeatable, it can’t really be proved. The studies done by Penn State on the very real changes in the baseball, for example, are far more convincing that the anecdotal evidence about this guy or that using PEDs of an undisclosed brand and undisclosed amounts over an undisclosed period. We’d never accept such “evidence” as useful in determining, say, whether a new anti-cancer drug has an impact on human health, so why would we ever settle here (except that falling for the PEDs = gazillion homeruns conceit neatly fits our preconceived notions).

    • Dan Kennedy

      @mike_b1: As we know, steroids really do make you stronger. Therefore, what you are asking for is a controlled study as to whether guys who are stronger hit more home runs. Not to go anti-scientific on you, but I’m willing to live without that data.

      Most of the great home-run hitters have been big, strong guys. Interesting that you would invoke Yastrzemski, because he’s a perfect example for my purposes. Everything had to be right for him to hit homers, and as a result, he only had three seasons with 40-plus. Nomar? Let’s not go there.

      To me, a far bigger issue with McGwire is that the weight of the world is coming down on him even though what he was taking was apparently allowed under major-league rules at the time, and even though he has never flat-out lied to anyone about what he did.

  13. Harrybosch

    Thanks for the reasoned response, Mike.

    Absolutely agree that changes to the baseball, in addition to the new ballparks, have indeed had an impact on the number of home runs hit.

    Appreciate too your conceding that steroids do indeed increase muscle mass.

    But much of the rest of what you posted (“what seems much more important than muscle . . .”) appears to be just the sort of anecdotal evidence that you later go on to decry.

    Perhaps in the absence of definitive proof, we can agree to disagree.

    In terms of McGuire himself, I’m glad he (mostly) came clean. Far as I’m concerned (not that he needed it from me) all is forgiven.

  14. Ggood

    It’s interesting to see this race develop from a distance. Since I’ve been out of Massachusetts for 5+ years now, I follow this only through friends and media. I’ve almost never seen the media reports be so at odds with what the people I have generally trusted are telling me about the race.

    The media, particularly Washington media, is reporting this as a competitive race, which completely contradicts the stories I hear from both Ds and Rs in the state. I’m told Brown’s people are using old, incomplete lists and that many of the stalwart GOP GOTV operatives are in Florida and not coming back while the Coakley people have locked in the usual suspects for their ground game on election day. They tell me Brown has no ground, virtually no in-state phone banking and zero chance and that Coakley has women and unions fired up and ready to roll. They expect an easy landslide for Coakley (10% plus margin) and Brown to develop some statewide name recognition to get a shot at a statewide seat (ie. Joe Malone II).

    I know there’s always a horse race element to campaign reporting and that reporters will sometimes make a race look close to sell their reporting. But this one surprises me because of the lack of any plausible anecdotal support for the story line. I’ll be really interested to see if the reporters have ginned this one up, or whether I’ve just been gone too long to know what’s going on.

  15. LFNeilson

    I could care less about McGwire. Larger issues: Should anyone take steroids, especially young people. Should people expect to be held to rules? Should they be held to telling the truth?

    Athletes are held out as heroes to kids, so it’s critically important that they not cheat, lie or do drugs. It completely destroys the concept of athletic competition. Can a clean athlete expect to win?

    Even in medical practice, steroids can bring on horrid consequences, many years later. Anyone using them for strength is insane.

  16. ben

    Dan you are forgetting that McGwire broke the law.

  17. mike_b1

    @Dan, ah, the “Why can’t journalists do math?” issue rears its ugly head.

    You can’t use Yaz to support your case because, well, he doesn’t support your case. He weighed 182 lbs. (not exactly Frank Howard there) and played in an era where 40 homeruns (a completely arbitrary number picked by you) was a big deal. He finished in the top 10 in homers six times, and that was in a park that plays very long for left-handed hitters. Mel Ott was 5’9, 170 pounds and played in the cavern known as the Polo Grounds, and he hit 511 homers. Please explain. Or Ted Williams. He was a stick, remember? And he finished in the top 10 in HRs 15 times, and first or second eight times. He hit 40 or more HRs in a season just once. More than half his HRs came on the road (273, vs. 248 at home). You really need to baseline these things, big guy.

    Indeed, if it were only a matter of strength, why didn’t Doug Mirabelli hit more when, by most accounts, he was as strong as anyone on the Red Sox. Varitek is a monster, and he couldn’t/can’t hit homers either.

    In regard to what McGwire was taking, it would seem you’re acting under the assumption that if something wasn’t explicitly banned by the MLB agreement, it was OK to take. That’s false.

    First, baseball banned steroids in 1991 (the “Vincent memo”) and Selig reiterated the policy in 1997. Second, many players apparently broke several laws by obtaining controlled substances without prescriptions. And McGwire indeed has flat-out denied using steroids. On Feb. 13, 2005, in response to questions on Jose Canseco’s book, McGwire released this statement: “Once and for all, I did not use steroids or any illegal substance. I feel sorry to see someone turn to such drastic measures to accomplish a personal agenda at the expense of so many. The relationship that these allegations portray couldn’t be further from the truth. … Most concerning to me is the negative effect that sensationalizing steroids will have on impressionable youngsters who dream of one day becoming professional athletes.”

  18. mike_b1

    @harry: Actually, I skipped detailing all the info on correlations between hitter type and homeruns because I didn’t feel like looking it up. The data are clear, though.

    Some examples (courtesy of Baseball Prospectus):

    “On average, players hit ground balls on 42.5% of batted balls. A too-high G/F can handcuff power production and result in slap-style hitting similar to Seattle’s ground ball specialist Ichiro Suzuki. Only three hitters in the majors – Hunter Pence, Casey Kotchman and Russell Martin – hit more than 10 homers while hitting more ground balls than fly balls. Of those three, only Pence had real power numbers, eclipsing the 20-home run mark with 25 knocks.”

  19. Harrybosch

    Thanks, Mike. Interesting stuff.

    Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with the impact that the enhanced muscle you and I both agree steroids provide might have on a players home run totals.

    But interesting, nonetheless.

  20. Patricia

    Dan, I’m starting to think you should edit your original post to point out that it led to a fascinating baseball discussion that has nothing to do with Coakley versus Brown!

  21. Harrybosch

    “Mel Ott was 5′9, 170 pounds and played in the cavern known as the Polo Grounds, and he hit 511 homers. Please explain.”

    WikiPedia suggests that that perhaps a 257-foot (78 m) foul line at the Polo Grounds resulted in him having higher numbers (323 homers) at home.

  22. mike_b1

    @harry: I probably could have been more clear, but what the data show are that those players who hit more fly balls tend to hit more home runs than the players who have high ground ball rates.

    Now, if you want to draw a connection between muscle and fly ball rates, I can’t help you there, although I am pretty sure there have been studies done on body type (which is a matter of definition) and slugging.

    I’m just not familiar with all the literature, but I do know of a study by Nate Silver (yes, that Nate Silver) in 2005 where in trying to fine-tune his baseball predictive model called PECOTA, he looked at correlations between weight and homers and found:

    “If you take two players who had identical statistical lines, each of whom hit 30 home runs last year, and one of whom is bigger and taller than the other, the larger player is more likely to sustain that home run production.” [emphasis mine]

    He also found that, “Between around 1984 and 1993, there was a sharp increase in BMI for both pitchers and position players.”

    Now, PECOTA was pretty new at that point and continues to be refined and it may be that more evidence has come to light. Silver didn’t say how many years’ worth of data he used to draw that conclusion about weight and homers. And I’m a bit reluctant to say that weight = muscle. After all, I remember John Kruk.

  23. mike_b1

    harry: you are correct in noting the short foul line. Here’s the thing though: Very few homers are pulled down the lines. The vast majority are hit to the so-called power alleys (right center and left center).

  24. Harrybosch

    “The vast majority are hit to the so-called power alleys (right center and left center).”

    Mike, you are far more conversant and knowledgable about this than I.

    But has an interesting write-up on how the dimensions of the Polo Grounds was an asset to pull hitters like Ott:

    “The ball did tend to fly out, but hitters had to shoot for the foul poles to have success. The result was that hitters like pull hitters like Mel Ott – he hit hit 323 homers here between 1926 and 1947 and just 188 on the road. Another player who really benefited from this park was Hank Thompson, a left-handed pull hitter who hit 88 home runs here between 1950 and 1956, compared to 47 home runs on the road.”

    In terms of the other, I’d concede that players who hit fly balls tend to hit home runs. Seems only natural. But it also seems natural to me that players who hit fly balls, who have also bulked up their muscle artificially via steroids, would hit even more.

    But again, the two of us, drawing different conclusions from the same set of anecdotal evidence, can agree to disagree.

  25. mike_b1

    @Harry, I do have to say how much I appreciate both the back-and-forth and the tone of our conversation here.

    Two things pop out about the Met Ott stuff. One is that, even though he hit a boatload more HRs at home, he still hit 188 on the road. Let’s say that was his true, non-park adjusted level of power. So double it and he hit 376 HRs for his career. That would rank tied for 65th today, and at the time he retired (1947), it still would have been good for fourth.
    (When he retired, Ott was 3d all-time in HRs, behind Ruth and Foxx.) So we can agree, I think, that regardless of park effect, he was a big-time slugger.

    Second, in order to truly understand the park effect on Ott’s performance, we would have to look at where he hit his homeruns (left, center, right; down the line or in the alleys) and also, all fly balls (was he in fact hitting all those HRs down the lines or was he perhaps robbed because he hit more balls to right-center). Other factors, such as humidity and altitude, are well-known to impact home run rates, though I doubt anyone is going to work up those historical data any time soon.

    These sorts of data are now tracked using something called HITFx. It was not available, of course, in Ott’s time.

  26. mike_b1

    On another note, Martha Coakley just called.

    Besides two reminders of the upcoming election, she said:
    “The national Republican Party and extreme rightwing groups are pouring money into the state.”

    “Press 1 now to commit to my campaign.”

    The phone ad was “Paid for by the National Democratic Committee” (and included a phone number).

  27. Harrybosch

    “Let’s say that was his true, non-park adjusted level of power. So double it and he hit 376 HRs for his career. That would rank tied for 65th today, and at the time he retired (1947), it still would have been good for fourth.”

    Amen, and I’d take nothing away from the greatness that was Mel Ott.

    But 376 is a long way from 714.

    And even further away from 762.

  28. mike_b1

    @Harry: “But 376 is a long way from 714. And even further away from 762.”

    No question. That’s why we need to look at those numbers in context. When Ott retired (1947), MLB as we know it had been played for a combined 90 years (that’s two leagues — AL and NL — playing since 1903). In that time, three players had hit more than 376 homers (and just three more — Hornsby, Chuck Klein and Al Simmons) has 300 or more (Mize crossed the threshold the next year). So even if it wasn’t anywhere close to Ruth, it was an incredible number relative to the field. Which means that even if you throw out more than half his output, a 5′9, 170-lb. player had outslugged more than three generations’ worth of players. So perhaps something more than muscle was involved?

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