Ken Caminiti’s Goody Bag

Ken Caminiti calls it his goody bag. The black and green duffel accompanies him on every road trip, along with his bats and the black mitt that helped him win his second Gold Glove award last season.

“I take it everywhere,” the San Diego Padres third baseman says, pulling it out of his locker stall before a game in Atlanta recently. “It’s part of my routine.”

Caminiti unzips the bag and reveals bottles and zip-locked bags of pills, vitamins and nutritional supplements. He opens one packet and shoves a handful of capsules into his mouth viking-style, all but swallowing the plastic.”

The above is the lede to Pete Williams’s 1997 USA TODAY story titled “Lifting the game: Creatine is baseball’s new gunpowder.” It’s not the only incredible part of the story when viewed through the lens of what we now know about performance enhancing drugs. The entire story is required reading, but a few snippets demand extra attention.

Hat tip to Bomani Jones for digging this story up early Wednesday morning.

***

In my mind, the most important quote comes near the end from Brian Sabean, then in his second year as Giants general manager (notable in itself):

Steroid use “wouldn’t surprise me,” says Giants general manager Brian Sabean. “If it gives somebody an edge, guys are going to use it. Look how it’s affected other sports. We’d really have our head in the sand if we thought it wasn’t here in baseball.”

There’s a lot going on here.

The reality of the performance enhancing drugs situation has been apparent for at least 15 years. You can go back further — Thomas Boswell claimed Jose Canseco was juicing in 1988, his trainer Curtis Wenzlaff was arrested in 1992, and then-Padres GM Randy Smith gave Bob Nightengale a similar quote to Sabean’s in 1995. But even as seemingly reasonable explanations for sluggers’ ever-swelling bodies existed, it seems notable for multiple general managers to come out and say they suspected a steroid problem. Fay Vincent added steroids to the game’s banned list in 1991. It seems downright subversive.

Then, of course, consider the source. Sabean was Barry Bonds‘s general manager as Bonds broke the single season and career home run records. Sabean traded for Melky Cabrera last season, before his infamous midseason bust.

I’m not accusing Sabean of aiding or abetting Bonds, Cabrera or any other Giant who may have juiced over his long tenure (nor, it should be noted, would I accuse Randy Smith of involvement with Caminiti’s steroid use). But if Sabean was willing to give such a quote on the record, he surely couldn’t have been the only general manager to know; as Smith said in 1995, “We all know there’s steroids use, and it is definitely becoming more prevalent.”

But Sabean’s quote must apply to more than just the players themselves. It extends across the entire league — the front offices, managers, owners, broadcast outlets, journalists, even fans. Just reading Williams’s lede makes Caminiti’s juicing seems screamingly obvious now, but there was no incentive anywhere across MLB’s wide influential network to actually do anything about it, or even recognize it as a problem.

***

As we know, not all juicers (nor legal supplement users) were bulging with muscles like Bonds and McGwire. Not all were sluggers, and not all were even hitters. So why else use?

“It helps late in the season,” says Rangers designated hitter Mickey Tettleton, who says he does not bother with nutrition supplements. “When you feel sluggish, it makes you feel like you have a little left in your gas tank.”

Changes in the structure of the starting pitcher make it tough to examine this from the pitching side — the five-man rotation and pitch counts have whittled down innings totals for years now. For hitters, we can take a simple look from a games played perspective — how many played in at least 160 games in one season? MLB adapted the 162-game season in 1961, giving us five convenient decades to look at:

1960s: 123
1970s: 100
1980s: 107
1990s: 86
2000s: 140

The 1990s saw two shortened seasons thanks to the 1994 players’ strike. As such, 86 seasons of 160 games or more is right in line with the totals from the 1970s and 1980s — about 10 per season. The 2000s — including the height of the steroid era — saw the big increase. Highlight the first half of the decade and the disparity is bigger — 2001 through 2005 saw 75 players hit the 160 game mark, whereas the last five years have seen just 56 (76.1 percent). Although it’s difficult to test, there’s no reason these endurance-granting effects shouldn’t have helped pitchers as well.

One of the great fallacies of the steroid era is that it only helped big, hulking power hitters. There was much more to it — the slappiest slap hitter, the overworked starter, the reliever pitching for the fourth time in five games — all of them could use the recovery benefits provided by supplements and steroids.

***

A final line that piqued my interest talks not of steroid use but one superstar who skipped the weight room altogether:

Others aren’t quite as sold on weight work. Ken Griffey Jr., the player perhaps most likely to make a run at Maris, eschews lifting in favor of a program emphasizing flexibility and leg strength.

Weight training — whether aided by steroids or not — has always had the potential for injury. Williams’s article notes how both Mark McGwire and Juan Gonzalez, both big-time weightlifters, struggled with injuries. McGwire played just 74 games between 1993 and 1994 and missed at least 30 games in both 1995 and 1996. Gonzalez had topped just 150 games once prior to 1997 and he missed 54 games in the strike-shortened 1995 season. Griffey was wary, and maybe it made sense.

But so much for that leg health. According to Griffey’s injury history on Baseball Prospectus, Griffey missed 205 games between the 2001 (age 31) and 2006 (age 36) seasons. Six times Griffey hit the disabled list for leg injuries — his right hamstring three times, his right knee twice and his left knee once.

Barry Bonds played in at least 150 games four times between age 31 and 36, hit the 140 mark five times and played at least 100 games in all six seasons. At age 30, Griffey had 78.5 career WAR; Bonds was at 73.8 when he hit 30. And then this happened:


Source: FanGraphsKen Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds

We know why Bonds was able to maintain his durability throughout his 30s. We’re left just able to wonder what would have happened had Griffey maintained his. But by 2015 — Griffey’s first year eligible for the Hall of Fame — Junior will, in all likelihood, be the only one of the pair with a plaque in Cooperstown.




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124 Responses to “Ken Caminiti’s Goody Bag”

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  1. Ian says:

    Nice article

    +14 Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Pirates Hurdles says:

    “Junior will, in all likelihood, be the only one of the pair with a plaque in Cooperstown.”

    Yes, because we all know that Griffey never used steroids or HGH to recover from his numerous injuries. Ridiculous.

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    • Rufio Magillicutty says:

      If he did he was using the wrong ones.

      +41 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • To-ga says:

        So, anyone using the *correct* steroids will be immune to injuries?

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      • AK7007 says:

        We don’t know how well steroids help injury recovery because it has all be done in secrecy.

        Andy Pettitte’s HGH worked, Giambi’s steroids hurt him. They were walking, talking, baseball-playing guinea pigs. They were experimenting on themselves with their cheating, and it didn’t always work. If somebody tried to cheat (which we can’t know without a test that we don’t have) but failed, we say it’s ok, at least you weren’t better than your peers. If somebody tried to cheat and succeeded – well, then it’s time to kick that bastard in the nuts. Lunacy.

        The whole “Griffey was clean” B.S. is no different from condemning players like Bagwell for “looking wrong.” Jack Moore should be ashamed of himself for promoting the PED police agenda like this – there wasn’t really any other purpose to the article besides talking about how Griffey was a saint brought down by the cheaters surrounding him. Cheating has always been a part of the game, it’s time to acknowledge it, get over it, and chronicle the history as it happened.

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      • LK says:

        It’s amazing to me that there were at least 16 people who thought this comment was a valid point.

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    • Preston says:

      Alex Rodriguez can be exhibit A, steroids/HGH do not always prevent serious career altering injuries. Jason Giambi can is an example of a guy who had an injury specifically created by steroids.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • TKDC says:

      Usually “ridiculous” statements are not %100 true. Do you think that Griffey will not be in the Hall in 2015 or that Bonds will? Which part of that statement is ridiculous?

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  3. G says:

    the line chart says it all

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  4. olethros says:

    This line from the full article is particularly intriguing to me:

    “Ironman Cal Ripken only began pumping iron in earnest last season, after watching how it helped Anderson.”

    Not making any accusations, but it’s certainly eyebrow raising.

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  5. LK says:

    I take issue with one part of this. We don’t “know” why Bonds was able to maintain his durability. Sure, steroids might’ve helped. But I’ve seen a ton of people say that A-Rod CAN’T stay healthy because of steriod use. To ascrbibe the entirety of Bonds’ durability to steroids seems entirely post-hoc to me.

    +33 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • YanksFanInBeantown says:

      Yeah, Nomar clearly destroyed his body with all the steroids he was taking.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Cole says:

      I clicked over here from my RSS feed to post just that exact comment. I agree.

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    • JayT says:

      You’re exactly right LK. McGwire is another guy that people constantly say was getting injured due to his steroid use. The last line in this article ruined it.

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    • Otter says:

      I’m not sure the point is that Bonds didn’t get hurt (he missed a lot of time in ’99 and pretty much all of ’05), but that Bonds didn’t ‘age’ like a normal player typically did/does. At age 31, when most players are starting to decline, Bonds got better. His age 39/40 season he hit 45 home runs, 3537 wOBA and nearly 12 WAR. He didn’t even do that in his age 28/29 season, which is typically around a players peak years.

      +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • LK says:

        I won’t dispute any of that. But the last paragraph of the article explicitly links Bonds’ durability to steroids.

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      • JayT says:

        Willie Mays had more WAR after turning 31 then he did before. Not every player ages the same way.

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      • cass says:

        Why are you assuming that Willie Mays was clean?

        Illegal PEDs were rampant when he played. I’ve seen articles alleging that his locker was a clubhouse source of “greenies” and “red juice”. And the players at the time knew that these drugs were wrong and illegal. They couldn’t get them from the team. Read Ball Four.

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  6. ian says:

    “We know why Bonds was able to maintain his durability throughout his 30s. We’re left just able to wonder what would have happened had Griffey maintained his.”

    At best, this is a wild oversimplification and a false dilemma.

    +9 Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Joe says:

    One thing that is important to note is that we had 4 expansion teams throughout the 90s, allowing 100 more possible players to be able to play 160 games than in prior decades by the end of it all.

    +19 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Eric R says:

      I ran something similar, but using 5 year blocks and a minimum of 98% of the team games played [so 112/114 in 1994 still counts, for example]. The numbers of adjusted to the number of occurrences per 30 team-seasons:

      2010-2011 17.0
      2005-2009 19.2
      2000-2004 19.2
      1995-1999 19.2
      1990-1994 16.7
      1985-1989 17.8
      1980-1984 23.3
      1975-1979 19.3
      1970-1974 20.0
      1965-1969 21.3
      1960-1964 27.1
      1955-1959 28.5
      1950-1954 36.4
      1945-1949 22.9
      1940-1944 33.0
      1935-1939 28.3
      1930-1934 37.9
      1925-1929 34.5
      1920-1924 46.5
      1915-1919 36.5
      1910-1914 26.5
      1905-1909 32.3
      1900-1904 42.9

      I’m guessing that mid-season trading is much higher now than it was a while back, perhaps partially accounting for the lower numbers ‘recently’ [if you get traded in July, it is tough to get to 98% of either teams total games :)]

      +7 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Gary says:

      There were larger expansions in the 60s and 70s too, obviously. Maybe Jack should have looked at percentages of active players over the decades or something.

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  8. manley says:

    A-Rod may be suffering from the affects of steroid use now, but during his admitted years of steroid use, he missed one game. With the Mariners – allegedly pre-steroids – he played more than 150 games only once. Maybe the steroids weren’t the driving force behind his durability, but they didn’t hurt.

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  9. Bryan says:

    So if Griffey had been using steroids and the benefit been getting to play consistently to the twilight of his career, is that a bad thing? I don’t think so. Griffey was a special player, and having him go homer for homer with Bonds into his 40s would’ve been spectacular.

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    • MrMan says:

      Not to me.

      Me and all my friends who followed baseball knew something was up by 1996…when guys like Brady Anderson hit 50 HRs (a feat accomplished once between 1977 and 1996). It was OBVIOUS to anyone with the least bit of intellectual curiosity that drugs were playing a key role in the massive offensive increase witnessed during the late 90′s.

      And I have NO DOUBT that many involved with baseball knew or suspected. Players, managers, coaches, GMs, “journalists”. The very same “journalists” who now refuse to give Sosa and McGwire consideration for the HOF were glorifying their feat 15 years ago while ignoring the mountain of evidence that it was PED-driven.

      It’s a key reason the 1998 homer race and Barry Bonds’ pursuit of Henry Aaron’s records were more of a footnote to me than compelling drama. While still amazing feats, they were not really competing at the same thing.

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      • Jonesy says:

        Have you seen Brady Anderson recently? He’s still in awesome shape physically. Better shape than a lot of active players.

        While I wouldn’t be surprised if took steroids the season he 50 homers, it seems unfair to assume that he was a PED-user just because his weightlifting and his one flukey season given the way his body has held up since he retired.

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      • kiss my GO NATS says:

        Many players of the past had fluky seasons with a one year serious spikes in home runs. But steroids were invented in 1918 and available in NYC medical stores in 1920. SO any player since 1920 could have been using.

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  10. The Rajah says:

    If it’s not dianabol, it’s androstenedione. If it’s not andro, it’s HGH. If it’s not HGH it’s something new that we will hear about and test for sometime down the road…after the players have moved on to something newer and better and isn’t tested for yet. There are a bunch of players who have found a new power stroke recently, just like Brady Anderson did in 1996. Isn’t is curious how a few guys north of the border have recently become power hitting beasts?

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  11. Spit Ball says:

    I can’t seem to find an article on google but I clearly remember whispers about Griffey JR. leanimg too much on natural talent early in his career and not spending enough time stretching and in the weight room. Whether this is truth or not I’m not sure but it certainly fit his laid back attitude. Even pre steroids Bonds was never like that. He was always surly and a hard worker even assuming he never used steroids prior to 1999.

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  12. Daven says:

    To be fair, Griffey seems to have done little to try to keep himself in shape as he aged. The 12+ sodas per day, for instance, that he only stopped consuming in his last season playing (substituting it for juice, which isn’t much better) and his surprisingly tubby frame in the last half of his career which he never seemed to care to do anything about were sad to see.

    Whether steroid enhanced or not, Bonds at least put in the work to keep himself in peak conditioning through his 30s and early 40s. So it’s not quite a 1 to 1 correlation of “one used steroids, the other didn’t, both had about the same talent, now look at their performance difference as they aged.”

    +8 Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. YanksFanInBeantown says:

    If Griffey had managed to stay healthy he probably would have continued to be worse than Bonds. Yes, he had almost 5 more WAR by age 30, but it was over 2 more seasons, over which he accumulated 8.1 WAR, and 255 more games. Bonds averaged 7.2 bWAR per season and 8.2 per 162 through age 30 while Griffey averaged 6.1 bWAR per season and 7.0 per 162. Bonds always was better than Griffey, he just started two years later.

    (I do prefer fWAR, but B-Ref’s layout is much more convenient)

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  14. moron hunter says:

    If anyone thinks Griffey was more likely clean than not then brand yourself a moron……ripken too…..the list goes on.

    Also…seeing as though steroids now are as rampant as they were in the the 90′s and 2000′s (and 60′s and 70′s for that matter) its getting to the point where anyone who isn’t clinically retarded has to start realizing that the hr spike during the late 90′s had very little if anything to do with steroids.

    -15 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Otter says:

      I should ignore because of some of your word choices, but I’m clearly not doing that… but what explains the drop at the top end of the distribution scale for home runs over the last five or six years (since ’08 we’ve seen one player hit more than 50 home runs. Between ’97 and ’01 we saw 13 and almost all those guys are admitted/strongly suspected PED users). This would also apply to the 70s and 80s, why do we see a ‘drop’ at the top end of home run distributions (compared to the spike in the late ’90s and ’00s). Expansion can’t be the reason as baseball talent hasn’t caught up to to the expansion of the 90s still today, 20 years on (I don’t believe the baseball playing population has grown by 15% over the last 20 years).

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Crumpled Stiltskin says:

        Smaller park sizes. Juiced balls were the two major factors, though steroids definitely help in injury recovery.

        If you want to see the effect that park sizes can have, just look at new Yankee stadium v. Old Yankee stadium. All the major distance markers identical, but since they used flat rather than curved walls in the outfield, the surface area is considerably less.

        The fact of the matter is that almost no one really cares to do real research on it. No one wanted to then, and it’s harder now, unless the balls exist still from those years (though I saw a study somewhere that showed they got bouncier through out the nineties. Most people are just too comfortable with their anecdotal evidence.

        And despite all this talk about steroids, most of the people talking about them and pointing fingers, still remain relatively clueless about exactly what steroids are, what they do, what are differences in each type in terms of strength, weakness, target area, and why some drugs classifieds as steroids (cortisols at the very least) are perfectly permissable for athletes in almost all sports to use.

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    • Richie says:

      Must be easy to hunt morons when you find one first thing every morning when you look in the bathroom mirror.

      +18 Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Hurtlockertwo says:

    Ken Caminiti is dead, so it may be respectful to at least mention that before you trash him. Does steroid use make you non-human and not worthy of any respect?

    -16 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Being dead makes you non-human, at least in most relevant moral senses.

      +12 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Ben says:

      Or it’s totally irrelevant? Unless he died of something steroid related. Which he didn’t.

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    • Bobby Ayala says:

      Non-human? Are you implying that KEN CAMINITI HAS BECOME A ZOMBIE?

      +13 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Eminor3rd says:

      People like you are so annoying. You’re so eager to be offended by something that you can’t even let people discuss an issue.

      +20 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Jason B says:

        Seconded. This article is clearly not setting out to “trash” Caminiti and is using direct quotes from him, and first-hand observations of him. Being offended on someone else’s behalf is a “rich white guy” problem (i.e., “I don’t have any *real* problems to worry about – where my next meal is coming from, having a roof over my head and my bills paid, so let me manufacture some!)

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      • TKDC says:

        Jason B,

        I like this “rich white guy” problem thing you’ve made up and eloquently explained here. I think it could catch on. One suggestion. I’d simply call it “white people problems.” I think that has a little more pep (we all know that all white people are rich anyway). Anyway, good luck!

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      • Hurtlockertwo says:

        People like me?? The guy cheated in a game, he didn’t rape your sister, rob the local 7-11, bilk 100′s of old people out of their money. He had a family that no doubt loved him for all of his flaws. I guess it’s ok to throw the dead guy under the bus, because what the heck, he’s already dead.

        -5 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Kampfer says:

        So while it is okay to throw a living person under the bus, it is morally wrong to throw a dead person under the bus? I do not seem to understand your logic, would you mind to elaborate?

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    • TKDC says:

      I have to agree with Hurtlockertwo here, and this seems to be a theme that is pervasive in Fangraphs. Take this article from about a week ago comparing the Yankees 1941 outfield to their 1961 outfield:

      http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/the-greatest-yankees-outfield-ever/

      Callously, the author fails to mention that all of these guys are dead with the exception of Yogi Berra.

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      • jim says:

        why does it need to be mentioned? this is like that month or so period where sullivan spelled out that terrible major leaguers are still great players relative to normal people because that was apparently too hard to figure out for readers on their own. do you also need every piece of wOBA to be explained every time somebody mentions it, or of FIP? fangraphs writers know their audience, what a terrible thing!

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      • YanksFanInBeantown says:

        jim, you ain’t too great at that whole “sarcasm” shebang, are ya?

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      • Guy Who Totally Gets the Joke says:

        YanksFanInBeantown. You totally mispelled WOOOOOOSH.

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    • kiss my GO NATS says:

      Using steroids makes you not worthy of respect!!! Absolutely!!! No truer words were ever spoken!!!

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  16. Ray says:

    Some strange arguments/stats in the article. First, the games played argument. I agree, steroids aid in muscle recovery so there might be something there but then again there were two expansion teams in 1993 and two more in 1998, maybe that combined effect is what put the 2000′s over the edge? What about amphetamines, which weren’t mentioned in this article at all but arguably have a greater effect on day-to-day health than steroids?

    Second is the Griffey vs. Bonds comparison. How about we line up, say, Mantle and Aaron, see what that proves? Through age 33 Mantle was at 111.1 WAR, Aaron at 107.3. From then until retirement, however, Mantle accumulated just 12.2 WAR while Aaron racked up an incredible 43.1 WAR…clearly Mantle wasn’t juicing enough or Aaron had some unseen advantage, right?

    +13 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Otter says:

      While I’m unsure about the partying habits of Hank Aaron, Mantle by all accounts was juicing too much on the booze, which would probably explain a lot.

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      • Ray says:

        Fine…Jimmie Foxx was at 111.1–same numbers as Mantle, actually, and retired with just 1.1 more WAR to his name.

        The comparison isn’t what matters, it’s the faulty premise and logic, that steroids are what gave Bonds his advantage over Griffey. Cobb accumulated 40 WAR, Williams 44.6. Maybe we should be asking what they were taking to account for that longevity?

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      • YanksFanInBeantown says:

        So does the fact that he was playing on an improperly treated torn ACL for his entire career.

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      • The Nicker says:

        Jimmie Foxx, like Mantle, had a serious drinking problem. Your second comparison suffers from the same problems as the first.

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    • db says:

      If you really want to see how players age, you would see that Aaron was really not a better player when he got old and that Bonds is truly anomalous.

      http://baseballanalysts.com/archives/2010/07/the_war_against.php

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  17. Ray says:

    Oh, and this comment: “We know why Bonds was able to maintain his durability throughout his 30s” Why, then, wasn’t Caminiti or Canseco able to maintain into their late 30′s? What do you make of Ted Williams and Ty Cobb and Hank Aaron, all-time greats who were able to dominate well into their late-30′s and even early 40′s?

    Sometimes the elite, the truly elite, are just that much better than everyone else. Sometimes the elite, the truly elite, get hurt and break down (ala Griffey and Mantle). The steroid argument fits when talking about Bonds, but use that same sentence when talking about Williams or Aaron and what’s the reasoning then? Use that same sentence when talking about Canseco or Caminiti and what’s the excuse? People love to tear down Bonds and his accomplishments, without thinking that he may have been among a handful of the best baseball players to ever live, he just happened to ply his trade when PED’s were prevalent in the sport.

    +8 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • MrMan says:

      Agreed.

      I hate Bonds….but I think it’s pretty self-evident he was a HOF before the steroid use and had a good chance at being among the 10 best players ever.

      Also, hitters weren’t the only ones juicing. Bonds was facing plenty of pitchers who had the exact same chemical benefits that he did.

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      • YanksFanInBeantown says:

        Bonds had 411 HR and 445 SB through 1998, the last year in which he was still skinny. No other play before or since has made the 400-400 club. If Bonds had retired after his age 33 season, he would have had the greatest combination of power and speed in the history of baseball, bar none, with a career WAR of 100.9, making him the 25th best player ever to play the game.

        Taking steroids turned Barry Bonds from Willie Mays into Babe Ruth. Nothing more, nothing less.

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  18. Billion Memes says:

    Steroids increase durability. Steroids increase strength. Steroids increase recovery time. Steroids increase risk of injury. They are all narratives in the end. We can never know how much steroids inflated a batter’s iso or pitcher’s k%, just like we can never know how much WAR is attributable to a player’s 20/20 vision vs. a player with 20/100 vision. The fact does remain though that players perceive that PED’s help them be better players and that’s why they take them. When you are this far on the right hand tail of the curve, any small advantage you can get could be huge.

    Just because we can’t measure exactly how much certain PED’s helped or hurt doesn’t mean their use should be ignored. They lower the integrity of the game in most fan’s minds and that’s enough of a reason for baseball to outlaw them and pursue methods for keeping the game clean. In the end, all of it boils down to money. MLB doesn’t want to piss its fans off too much and have them spend their dollars elsewhere. Players want to maximize their relatively short window for huge earnings. In fact, the only group where money isn’t the prime motivating factor for opinions and actions as it regards PED use is the fans. And people wonder why many writers get on their high horse over PED use. Well, because the fans care about it. Therefore, if the writers want readers (ie money), then they better care too.

    /END RANT

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    • LK says:

      I think the fans care less than they did 5 years ago, and I think 5 years from now they’ll care less than they do now.

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    • MrMan says:

      “And people wonder why many writers get on their high horse over PED use. Well, because the fans care about it. Therefore, if the writers want readers (ie money), then they better care too.”

      Sure, but writers had no problem turning the other way to glorify the titan achievements of Sosa / McGwire / Bonds when it sold copies. Now they want to sell copies by being indignant about it. Pure hypocrisy. Fans too.

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      • Billion Memes says:

        I don’t disagree. Some writers can come off as very sanctimonious, but I think they are just following what the fans want to read about. I think the fans were still in the dark and a little naive about how widespread the use of PED’s was back when McGwire and Sosa were doing their home run thing and the fans cared big time about that. Therefore, that’s what the writers wrote about. Now, the true extent of PED use in sports in much more well known.

        *None of this means I am a fan who cares about PED use. I don’t care what they use or don’t use, don’t worry about the bogus idea of the sanctity of the records books, HOF votes, etc. The only thing at all that bothers me about PED use is they are dangerous to use and it can send kids the wrong message IMO. Although, its questionable how much of an impact even that has.*

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    • Crumpled Stiltskin says:

      The attitude of fans was largely influenced by the sanctimony of writers. No one cared about brian downing or Jose Canseco doing it. At worst, the media portrayed Canseco as a clown, but even that wasn’t because of drug use.

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      • Billion Memes says:

        I think the writers can influence the fans some and you may even hear fans saying, “so and so said this in their article and I totally agree.” But I believe the fans drive the narrative of [steroids are bad] more than the writers.

        Take my father, huge cycling participant and fan. Got me into cycling as well, we probably watched 10 Tour De France’s together. He loved Lance Armstrong. I was more casual fan. About halfway through his run, I started to suspect PED’s in cycling, Lance included. By about 2 or 3 years ago, I was pretty sure of that opinion. My father held out almost to the bitter end believing that Lance was clean. Now, he has said he won’t spend a single second, dollar, anything on participating as a fan of cycling ever again. And he won’t. He felt betrayed. I don’t think any of that comes from a writer. Its how he feels. That’s how I think a lot of baseball fans react.

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      • Crumpled Stiltskin says:

        That is true, but I think still implicit in all this is first, how much more conservative our society’s views on drug use have become and second, that beat reporters used to want to feel as if they were friends with athletes they covered.

        Willie Mays and most of the all time greats of that era did amphetamines. Mickey mantle was a drunk. Babe Ruth was a womanizer. Gaylord perry was celebrated for being such a good cheater. And these are the guys we’re comparing the current players to and saying the game has lost integrity.

        The game hasn’t lost anything. The standards of acceptable behavior are just much higher now. I think that’s in large part because of the press, because of media on the whole. Though clearly, it’s not the only factor.

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      • Billion Memes says:

        Beat reporter is a terrible job to have at this moment in time. With the explosion of free content on the internet, they work for entities that are slowly dying off. Plus, there is an inherent conflict of interest in being a beat reporter. So on the one hand, they feel pressure to be “nice” to the players with what they report because otherwise they risk the access they need to do their job. On the other hand, they feel pressure to report on the sensational negative stories that can really drive readership due to their declining position in the journalism industry.

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  19. Dan says:

    What website am I on? Or wait, am I not even reading at all, but listening to sports talk radio? I think I’m suffering from dementia!

    Shoulda taken PEDs, which I heard ward off dementia. Or wait, maybe they just decrease recovery after dementia. Or no, I forgot that they cause dementia. Oh no, I’m so confused. It’s getting worse!

    +12 Vote -1 Vote +1

  20. a stack of cats says:

    Let’s do some math.

    The evidence is fairly strong that Barry Bonds used steroids. But had he kept the same diet/exercise plan without the steroids, would it have been possible for him to have attained the same physique? Most people tend to assume that he couldn’t have, but it seems like a difficult thing to prove either way.

    Luckily, there’s a way we can make an educated guess. There’s a measure called FFMI, or Fat Free Mass Index, that attempts to quantify the amount of muscle attainable without steroid use using your height, weight, and body fat percentage. It was developed by comparing the body statistics of admitted steroid users and those who had not used steroids.

    For most people, a score of 25 is about as high as you can get without using steroids (20 is average). Elite athletes with superior genetics (a category in which Barry Bonds certainly belongs), however, have scored as high as 27 without steroids. Current top tier bodybuilders, who rather obviously use steroids, reach scores of 30 and above.

    So, let’s estimate Barry’s FFMI! He’s listed as 6’1”. At his highest weight, he’s listed as 228 lbs. He wasn’t particularly lean at this point, and though we don’t have an exact number, judging by pictures he was probably in the 12-15% body fat range.

    Plugging those numbers into the formula, Bonds had between a 25-26 FFMI. Really high! Incredibly difficult to achieve! But for a freak athlete with an insane work ethic and a well-designed diet and exercise plan, totally feasible. It just might have taken longer.

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    • LK says:

      There’s too much guesswork here to be convincing. We don’t know Bonds’ body fat % at all, and listed heights and weights are wrong all the time. It might be interesting if we could calculate an accurate number, though.

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    • EEOC says:

      Barry Bonds admitted to taking the cream and the clear (the clear was an anabolic steroid – Tetrahydrogestrinone/THG), as given to him by Greg Anderson, his friend and trainer.

      Nevertheless, Bonds denied *knowingly* taking steroids. He said he thought the substances he was taking were legal (flaxseed oil and rubbing balm for arthritis).

      It is amazing to me that after all this time, people think there is a question about whether Bonds took steroids. He did. he admitted it under oath to a grand jury. The only question was whether he *knew* they were illegal steroids when he took them, which was the subject of his perjury trial.

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      • LK says:

        The point of the comment wasn’t that Bonds did not take steroids. It was whether or not it’s theoretically possible for Bonds to have achieved the same athleticism without the steroids he did take.

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      • TKDC says:

        The vast majority of conversation over Bonds’ steroid use is not about how talented he was with or without steroids, but about whether his use of steroids should keep him out of the hall of fame.

        In addition, I find it wholly irrelevant what Bonds could have conceivably done fitness-wise without steroids. The equation for Bonds is quite simple. He cheated. Does cheating mean he should not be in the hall of fame? I think it would be silly to exclude one of the greatest players of all time, but an analysis of what he might have been or not been without steroids is not relevant to that.

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      • TKDC says:

        In other words, by arguing about how much steroids did or did not help Bonds, you have failed to frame the argument the way you should (if you argue in favor of Bonds). You simply say Bonds was an all-time great player and all-time great players should be in the hall of fame no matter what. You don’t need all the side stuff.

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  21. Tyke says:

    This is one of the worst articles I have read on this site. Full of strange claims and logical fallacies with no evidence whatsoever to back any of it up. Reads like something from the Bleacher Report. Terrible.

    +5 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Guy Who Thinks You and Tucker Max Rule says:

      I agree. But I read the entire article and all the comments to this point before I came to that realization.

      Wait. No, you stink. But I’m glad to have read your comment here and am glad to know that it will be here online until fangraphs finally sells this site to Bleacher Report or FoxSports.

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  22. Dave says:

    It’s weird. I’ve been of the mind that you just put Bonds and the other suspected users in because we don’t have enough evidence to say definitively that they used, or that others didn’t. Just put them in and acknowledge there is a strong suspicion. But seeing that last graph is one of the more powerful arguments against my thinking I’ve seen. Perhaps it’s because Jr is the player that got me into baseball. But that graph resonates with me emotionally and logically.

    Jr is how a “normal” player should look. He was arguably just as talented as Bonds. So it’s not like we are dealing with completely different players. You can argue that injury is just bad luck. But it’s much harder to argue that productivity should increase that much with age. Not only did Jr get hurt, but his productivity when healthy declined. That’s normal, even for a supremely talented player like him. This is all preaching to the choir around here. And I’d still put Bonds in the Hall. But aside from a “smoking gun”, that graph might be the best evidence I’ve seen. That or Jr was terrible in his application of PEDs.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Ray says:

      Or option 3: Bonds was one of a handful of amazingly talented and remarkable athletes to ever play the game and was able to produce into his 40′s at a level only seen from other truly elite baseball players.

      You can post that same graph but sub in, say, Ted Williams or Hank Aaron or Ty Cobb for Bonds. You can also remove Griffey and instead plot the aging curve of Caminiti or Canseco or Sosa. What would either of those exercises prove or disprove about steroids or anything else? What do you make of the late-30′s/early-40′s success of other all-time greats? What do you make of sharp mid- or late-30′s decline from admitted steroids users like Caminiti and Canseco?

      Putting Bonds in the HoF is such a no-brainer to me it’s not even funny, and I say that as someone who can’t stand him from a personal standpoint and always rooted against him. He was heads-and-tails better than anyone when he was clean and others were using; and he was light-years better than anyone in the game when he and many other were juicing. Beyond those facts we can’t ‘prove’ or ‘disprove’ anything using stupid WAR plots for two players, trying to do so is folly.

      +8 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • The Nicker says:

        Bonds quasi-supporter here, but I think you’re going way too far the other way.

        Griffey certainly does not demonstrate a normal aging curve for truly elite players, but Bonds does not either. Try as you might, you won’t be able to find a single elite player in MLB history that had a more comparatively elite stretch of their career from 35-40 than Bonds.

        Look at Brownie31′s WAR graph comparison below. Look at how Bonds’ WAR by age line take a drastic left turn and easily bypasses all the other elite players in the game starting at 35. Say what you want, but the circumstantial evidence gives laypeople and sportswriters all the ammunition they need to refute Bonds’ legacy.

        He’s a no-doubt Hall of Famer. He’s also almost certainly a cheat.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • YanksFanInBeantown says:

      Bonds was better and more talented before he started using steroids. He had only 4.7 less WAR in 2 less years and 255 less games.

      There is only one reason that Junior had more WAR than Bonds at age 30: Barry Bonds went to college.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  23. tyke says:

    Source: FanGraphsKen Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth

    babe ruth used steroids, too!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  24. JP says:

    This is a strange article. What is the point exactly?
    Everyone knew about steroids?
    They helped users stay healthy – supported by a strange chart that doesn’t take into account the total number of players in the league at any time.
    Weightlifting can cause injuries? (But don’t you need weights to make the steriods worthwhile?)
    Ken Griffey was better than Barry Bonds until steroids made Bonds stronger and healthier?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • AK7007 says:

      The final paragraph shows us Moore’s point – “Junior will, in all likelihood, be the only one of the pair with a plaque in Cooperstown” – that steroid users are different and not Hall-worthy.

      That’s total crap, and speculation into steroid morality belongs on ESPN or Yahoo sports, not Fangraphs. I come here to read insightful information and analysis that increases my knowledge and therefore enjoyment of the game – not punditry designed to drive pageviews. I have to implore Mr. Cameron to focus his writers on the analytics that brought many readers to this site in the first place, or create a new portal for opinion/pageview pieces, just as Notgraphs has humor all to itself. (although Notgraphs is admittedly just as amazing as Fangraphs/improves my enjoyment of the game in it’s own awesome way)

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  25. Youthful Enthusiast says:

    One part of the article that caught my attention is that prior to ’84, hardly any players lifted weight. Then there was an explosion of workout rooms and equipment in MLB stadiums. The players didn’t build these, the management did. If you accept that the knew about steroids and build the workout facilities, does this make them complicit? Or can the benefits of workouts alone be enough to build the new facilities and steroids are a “see no evil” scenario?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  26. Rufio Magillicutty says:

    We see a consistent pattern with PED users in both performance and/or physical appearance and the injuries (back/hip) that come with that.

    Griffey Jr in his early 30s got old, fat, and slow, just as you would expect from someone who rarely worked out and has close to 2000 games under his belt. His injuries aren’t consistent with injuries from other steroid/HGH users, nor was his performance and body type.

    So if he was using he was using some cheap chinese knockoffs that had the opposite effect. From what we know of the kid, I can imagine his response to using steroids at the time to be something along the lines of, “Man I dont need any of that shit, I can roll outta bed amd still be better than all of ya’ll.”. Which in some ways, was the truth

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • brownie31 says:

      “Griffey Jr in his early 30s got old, fat, and slow, just as you would expect from someone who rarely worked out and has close to 2000 games under his belt.”

      Again though, why were other greats like Williams and Cobb and on and on able to maintain through their 30′s? Why, in an age when lifting weights had basically become the status quo in sports, do you excuse this supposed ‘elite athlete’ for getting old, fat and slow in his early 30′s? I know guys in their 40′s who are in phenomenal shape…if we’re going to knock PED users for poor ethical behavior (using something that was banned but not tested) shouldn’t we also knock Griffey for supposedly not taking his career serious enough to do everything in his power to stay strong and fit for a profession that requires strength and speed? Maybe modern training techniques as we know them weren’t available, but basic stretching, lifting and endurance training was certainly the norm in baseball in the 90′s, why did Griffey break down in his early 30′s when even ‘regular Joe’ baseball players can usually sustain a peak into their early 30′s and moderate performance through 34-36?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Rufio Magillicutty says:

        Drinkink 8 bottles of sprite a day and refusing to work out is not going to keep Griffey out of the HOF. Now your argument is work ethic vs ethical work, which is an interesting topic. If you had to choose a role model for your kids, would it be Bonds or Griiffey? Bonds worked a thousand times harder, but is a suspected cheater, Griffey was lazy (relatively) and whiny

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • brownie31 says:

        I mean it’s a completely different subject but you understand my point: Bonds may have used PED’s but he did them for performance purposes, he was attempting to get better, and he took them at a time when other players were doing the same, there was no testing and no one seemed to care about testing.

        Griffey was a ridiculous talent but he let it go to waste with a terrible work ethic. Honestly, taking the individuals out of it (since by all accounts Bonds was a monumental asshole) I’d tell my kids to emulate Bonds: the guy who tried to maximize his potential, who did everything he could to improve; who saw others cheating, saw nothing being done about it and got on board. I wouldn’t necessarily say the other option is bad, but in the regular workforce a lack of drive won’t get you far.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • TKDC says:

        A lot of people encourage their kids to be cheating assholes, so at least your not alone.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • bstar says:

        Brownie, “Bonds may have used steroids”? He admitted under oath to taking the Cream and the Clear.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Ray says:

        Context matters: “Bonds may have used PED’s but he did them for performance purposes…” Makes the statement a bit different, right?

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • JayT says:

      Because ruptured hamstrings are not at all in line with normal steroid user injuries.
      Also, seeing as though the main problem McGwire had in his career were foot related, I guess we can also see that he never took steroids.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Rufio Magillicutty says:

        Mcgwire is an admitted steroid user who was slowed by back injuries later in his career…so…there’s that…

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  27. Rufio Magillicutty says:

    We see a consistent pattern with PED users in both performance and/or physical appearance and the injuries (back/hip) that come with that.

    Griffey Jr in his early 30s got old, fat, and slow, just as you would expect from someone who rarely worked out and has close to 2000 games under his belt. His injuries aren’t consistent with injuries from other steroid/HGH users, nor was his performance and body type.

    So if he was using he was using some cheap chinese knockoffs that had the opposite effect. From what we know of the kid, I can imagine his response to using steroids at the time to be something along the lines of, “Man I dont need any of that shit, I can roll outta bed amd still be better than all of ya’ll.”. Which in some ways, was the truth

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  28. Bill says:

    I must be reading the last statement about Junior and Bonds’s respective HoF chances differently than some other commenters. I don’t see it as an indictment either way. Rather, I think it’s a remark on the power of perception, as is the rest of the article.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • JayT says:

      He says
      “We know why Bonds was able to maintain his durability throughout his 30s.”

      That’s not a comment about perception. That’s the author saying that he believes steroids lengthened Bonds’ career.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • AK7007 says:

      If Moore didn’t mean anything by that last statement, then there wasn’t any point to the article at all. Which might be even worse than trying to make a B.S. point. Perception had nothing to do with the early part of the article, it was mainly “Bonds was juicing, shame on all the people who should have/did know(n).”

      If you have to qualify your writing by saying “I’m not accusing Sabean of aiding or abetting Bonds, Cabrera or any other Giant who may have juiced over his long tenure” – then you are probably implying what you were just forced to deny. It’s like the pundits who have to qualify “I’m not racist but…(insert racist comment)”

      After that lead, he is establishing that “no, the real way that steroids made Bonds “better” than Griffey was longevity – I mean, just look at Griffey’s WAR graph, he was ahead until they hit their 30′s!” Utter horse manure. (He even neglects to mention that Griffey started out two years younger than Bonds and just had more counting stats, not “better”) Basically, it ends up being an article to say that his particular Idol (Griffey) was better than another idol (Bonds), and should get into the HOF while the other shouldn’t. Not Fangraphs material.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  29. deafdumbandblindkid says:

    er. when exactly was it that Randy Smith was the GM of the Padres?

    never? ahhh, right you are, then…

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  30. GWR says:

    I think a lot of people are getting durability and endurance confused. anabolic do not improve durability, the question is if they improve endurance. Durability is as the ability to not get injured, while endurance is the ability to not get tiered. The problem with looking at the number of players who play 160 games is that it look at booth durability and endurance. you should really look at the number of games a player misses when they are not on the DL because this is when a player is being rested for endurance reasons (some times for platoon reason). you could also look at possition players tanking days as the DH (all though this is a new-ish strategy).

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  31. Jon L. says:

    Doing a little more math, there were only 18 teams in 1961, as compared to 30 today. 123 160-game seasons in the 9 seasons from 1961-1969 should translate to 123 * 10/9 * 30/18 = 228 160-game seasons in the 10 seasons from 2000-2009 (or 205 such seasons if 1970 was included in the 60′s).

    So, either PED use has been killing player durability, or else myriad changes in the ways players are utilized and rested have diminished the likelihood of players playing 160-game seasons.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  32. pft says:

    The fact that a player was plagued by injuries is hardly proof he did not use steroids. This argument would lead one to conclude Cal Ripken Jr used steroids because he was so durable, which is not reasonable. Of course, you can’t rule it out.

    In fact, there is evidence that some players who take steroids are plagued by injuries caused indirectly by the steroids. Some players probably are not affected.

    I think the nature of some injuries can lead us to suspect steroid use, but we can never prove it.

    The only thing I am pretty confident of is that steroid use was widespread and as the author said, included singles hitters and pitchers, and not just sluggers. The smart players probably limited use to contract years due to health concerns, but some marginal players probably had no choice if they wanted to keep their job since their competitors for the job were likely using.

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  33. moron hunter says:

    Its fairly obvious by the negatives next to my comments as well as next to some of the others here that the average person would rather be fed a bunch of bull***t then be fed the actual truth.

    People….god love ‘em.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  34. EL DoRo says:

    Just because someone’s numbers dont hang doesn’t mean they weren’t using them as well. I blame a lot of Griffey’s drop off on changing his hitting approach. Before he wasn’t trying to hit homeruns. In Cincinnati it was obvious he was swinging for the fences often. Early in his career you would see him drive the ball to left center. Later he was ALL pull.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  35. Dan says:

    By the way, strikeouts are at an all-time high as well, so it appears that pitchers are using even better steroids than the position players.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  36. Nick says:

    Griffey didn’t use steroids, he was so affable and always had a big smile on his face!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  37. bSpittle says:

    It makes zero sense to keep bonds out of the hall.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  38. Dongcopter Pilot says:

    Sounds like if Griffey used roids, he was the first guy in history to receive zero benefit from it.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  39. Nate Staley says:

    I have no idea. Let’s just put them both in and blame old white people who run teams and write articles that shape public perception. Damn you white people!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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