Paul Konerko – one of the greatest 34-36 year old players in history

"The only way you'll get me out is if I eat my bat" - Paul Konerko / PRESSWIRE

With Paul Konerko reaching 400 career White Sox homers today, it seems like a good time to repeat how amazing he’s been for the last 3 seasons.

Check out the players ranked by highest OPS+ over their Age 34 to 36 seasons, minimum 1450 plate appearances:

Rk Player OPS+ PA From To
1 Babe Ruth 208 1926 1929 1931
2 Barry Bonds 206 1705 1999 2001
3 Mark McGwire 197 1663 1998 2000
4 Honus Wagner 170 1872 1908 1910
5 Nap Lajoie 169 1551 1909 1911
6 Tris Speaker 167 1788 1922 1924
7 Chipper Jones 165 1611 2006 2008
8 Paul Konerko 159 1452 2010 2012
9 Hank Aaron 159 1913 1968 1970
10 Edgar Martinez 158 1958 1997 1999
11 Roberto Clemente 157 1578 1969 1971
12 Gavvy Cravath 157 1743 1915 1917
13 Stan Musial 156 1916 1955 1957
14 Ty Cobb 156 1843 1921 1923
15 Willie Mays 154 1811 1965 1967
16 Jack Fournier 154 1598 1924 1926
17 Mickey Mantle 153 1493 1966 1968
18 Mel Ott 153 1513 1943 1945
19 Manny Ramirez 152 1781 2006 2008
20 Mike Schmidt 152 1934 1984 1986
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/27/2012.

OK, seriously. I count at least 12 inner-circle Hall-of-Famers on that list, and the only guys here who are not in the Hall at all are Gavvy Cravath (who wasn’t a full-time player until his 30s), Jack Fournier, Edgar (who is still on the ballot) and three active guys (Egdar, Manny, and of course Konerko.) Pretty damned good company.

Since 1901 there are only 9 guys who, each season from Age 34 to Age 36, qualified for the batting title with an OPS+ of at least 140:

Rk Yrs From To Age
1 Paul Konerko 3 2010 2012 34-36 Ind. Seasons
2 Edgar Martinez 3 1997 1999 34-36 Ind. Seasons
3 Paul Molitor 3 1991 1993 34-36 Ind. Seasons
4 Mike Schmidt 3 1984 1986 34-36 Ind. Seasons
5 Hank Aaron 3 1968 1970 34-36 Ind. Seasons
6 Stan Musial 3 1955 1957 34-36 Ind. Seasons
7 Babe Ruth 3 1929 1931 34-36 Ind. Seasons
8 Tris Speaker 3 1922 1924 34-36 Ind. Seasons
9 Gavvy Cravath 3 1915 1917 34-36 Ind. Seasons
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/27/2012.

These are all guys from the first list save for Paul Molitor who very consistently was right in the 140s each season.

What am I saying? Konerko’s got a real shot at the Hall of Fame despite a relatively slow start to his career. Two years ago seemed like a fluke. Last year we said it wouldn’t last. Now here here is putting up his 3rd spectacular season in a row, so far the best of the three. If he does it for a couple more years after this, I say he’s going to Cooperstown.

114 thoughts on “Paul Konerko – one of the greatest 34-36 year old players in history

  1. 1
    RJ says:

    400 career homers *with the White Sox.*

    • 6
      Forrest says:

      Didn’t he get some when he was in Cincinnati or LA?

      • 7
        CursedClevelander says:

        Indeed, he had 7 between the two teams in 1998. Today’s HR was #407 total, #400 with the Pale Hose.

        He’s now 48 short of the Big Hurt’s franchise record. The way he’s swinging the bat lately, I’d say he’s a very good bet to eclipse Thomas sometime in 2013.

        Not quite Mt. Rushmore material for the Sox, but definitely deserving of an honorable mention.

  2. 2
    CursedClevelander says:

    And, much to my chagrin, many of those HRs were hit against my Indians. Paulie has killed us for years, but especially these past few seasons.

    He’s the real-life Jack Parkman.

    • 15
      John Autin says:

      I don’t know about the last couple of years, but Konerko’s career stats against Cleveland — BA, OBP and SLG — are all a little em>below his over-all marks.

      (Which isn’t to say he didn’t get a bunch of game-winning hits or something.)

      • 27
        CursedClevelander says:

        Well, he has 44 HRs against us, but I suppose I’m remembering the big years. He killed us in 2005 (when it actually mattered) and I know he hit us very well in 2010, the start of this late-career resurgence.

        He must have had some poor years against us, though, for the numbers to average out the way they do. All I know is, he’s one of those guys who always makes me clench up when he comes to the plate against the Tribe, just like Miggy Cabrera.

  3. 3
    Dalton M says:

    Konerko in the above picture is clearly following in the footsteps of Carlos Quentin: http://btnbt.com/1995

  4. 4
    Dalton M says:

    Also, there was a decent thread on Reddit the other day about Konerko’s surge/HOF chances: http://www.reddit.com/r/baseball/comments/tufr9/will_this_be_the_first_nonped_guy_to_test_the_500/

  5. 5
    Jimbo says:

    Konerko’s career is the opposite of Andruw Jones.

    Jones – Looked like a Hall of Famer for 10+ years then fell apart and confused us.

    Konerko – looked like a “good” player for 10+ years while accumulating counting stats and then has a strong career finish and confuses everybody.

    • 12
      MikeD says:

      True. As I noted below, Konerko has an established level of who he is in the minds of many, and he will have to overcome that perception if he has any chance to make the Hall. Yet the inverse isn’t true for players like Jones.

      Mike Mussina probably did the second best thing he could have to gain entry into the HOF, short of winning 300 games. He went out on a high note, winning 20 games.

  6. 8

    I dunno.
    Even if he gets to 500 homers – 500 isn’t what it used to be…
    No (good) black ink for offense…
    Not a good defender…
    Career ops+ 300th all time…
    No single season stands out as HOF-quality…

    Maybe if he is still batting .396 in October…

    Otherwise I think he’ll have to take a number in purgatory and wait in line behind the Crime Dog.

    • 9
      John Nacca says:

      Paul Konerko is a perfect example of “what have you done for me lately”, much like Johnny Damon is now.

      Konerko has been a steady player, who has had a couple really good years. “Really good”…not “great”, not “historic”.

      I’m sorry, but a HOF without Gil Hodges should be a HOF also without Paul Konerko. Much like a HOF without Dwight Evans should be a HOF also without Johnny Damon.

  7. 10
    MikeD says:

    I don’t believe 500 HRs is an automatic Hall pass for players anymore. Konerko will also have to battle what I’ll call the “Dwight Evans Curse.” Like Evans, Konerko has become a better player in his later years after already having established a previous, lower level of performance. Yet despite his great mid-30s run, the perception of who he is as a ballplayer is already set for many.

    Last, he played a large part of his career during what high-offense steroid era. The fact that he is exhibiting a Barry Bonds-like improvement at at age when he should regressing will know doubt taint the minds of some voters. I’m not saying this is right. Just pointing out he has a number of things working against him, chief of which as Voomo Zanzibar notes above is his career OPS+ of 123 from a 1B’man isn’t all that spectacular, and he’s never been viewed as one of the top players of his time.

    • 11
      MikeD says:

      Hmmm, too many spelling, grammar and overall syntax errors in my prior note, especially for one so short. Perhaps a sign I shouldn’t be writing at this hour.

  8. 13
    John Autin says:

    Konerko’s batting average gain since 2010, with no apparent improvement in the offensive conditions, are very interesting. In 11 prior seasons as a regular, he had hit .280; since 2010, .318. It’s extremely unusual to have that kind of improvement, at that age, without some contextual change that’s favorable to the hitter.

    • 14
      John Autin says:

      Konerko hit .280 from age 23-33 in over 6,600 PAs, so I looked at all players with at least 5,000 PAs from age 23-33 and a BA from .275 to .285. (Note that I left out Konerko’s early years when he didn’t hit at all, which would have pulled his BA down to .277.) There were 108 such players.

      Then I looked at the 43 players from this group who had 1,000+ PAs from age 34-36. The PA requirement filters out most of those who hit too poorly to retain regular jobs.

      Konerko’s .318 PA is #1, 10 points ahead of #2 Paul O’Neill. The median is .280.

      Larry Gardner (.306), Harry Hooper (.305) and Ed Konetchy (.304) all benefited from the start of the live-ball era.

      Jose Cruz (.302), Brett Butler (.301) and Jeff Kent (.300) are the others at .300+.

      So, yeah.

      • 26
        MikeD says:

        Interesting stuff as always, John.

        I don’t have access to B-R’s paid service, otherwise I’d look up the numbers myself, but it appears that Konerko’s age 34-36 seasons are more amazing when looking at his most recent body of work, which to me is more telling than comparing it to his overall career. Actually, that’s not quite right. They’re both interesting ways of looking at the uniqueness of what Konerko’s accomplishing, but comparing him to his most recent work highlights how much better he’s been: Since you mentioned Paul O’Neill as being #2 on the BA list when comparing their age 34-36 seasons compared to their aged 23-33 seasons, here are their numbers for their age 31-33 seasons, which are most directly relevant:

        Konerko age 31-33 season: .260/.350/.475/.824, with a 112 OPS+.
        Konerko age 34-36 season: .318/.402/.568/.969, with a 158 OPS+.

        O’Neill age 31-33 season: .317/.416/.526/.942, with a 142 OPS+.
        O’Neill age 34-36 season: .308/.374/.494/.868, with a 124 OPS+.

        Konerko has gotten substantially *better* across the board, where O’Neill was actually declining across the board, and indeed the final year of the three-year set (his age-36 season), O’Neill dropped to a 107 OPS+, and then further to a 92 OPS+ at 37 before retiring the following year.

        What’s amazing about Konerko’s age 34-36 set is he’s increasing his performance from an already set and very good level for both his career and his most recent prior three-year set, and he’s done that as overall offense has decreased across MLB, hence the big jump in his OPS+ numbers.

        So at some time I’d be curious to see how Konerko’s age 34-36 seasons compare historically with other MLB players when comparing it to their age 31-33 seasons, which was their set level of play at that time, with OPS+ being the key number. I’d do it myself, but don’t have access to the resources.

        While in aggregate players get worse in their 30s compared to their 20s, there are a group of players who progress, like Dwight Evans, who produced a 114 OPS+ up to age 29 and then a 139 OPS+ up to age 37. The aforementioned O’Neill’s another. Konerko, too, although it appears Konerko’s increase is more dramatic.

      • 62
        bstar says:

        JA, I’m sure there are many more hitters who did better from age 34-36 than they did age 23-33. I just looked at Chipper Jones’ numbers for the same age periods. Chipper batted .304 from age 23-33, then .342 from age 34-36. That’s a 38 point jump in BA, the same exact one Konerko has had(from .280 to .318), so I don’t see how anyone can make a sane steroids inference from that alone.

        • 64
          John Autin says:

          b, you make a fair point. Indeed, there are many others who increased their career BA from age 34-36: Edgar Martinez, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Tony Gwynn, Babe Ruth, Eddie Collins, etc. Roberto Clemente jumped from .321 for 23-33 to .346 for 34-36.

          But my point was that Konerko’s BA spike was very unusual — not that it was anywhere near unique. I showed (and Mike D enhanced the point) that Konerko’s spike was easily the biggest among the rough cohort that I used (BA of .275-.285 for age 23-33).

          Another point is that most of those whose BA rose significantly in their mid-30s years benefited from obvious improvements in batting conditions. Cobb, Speaker, Collins — their age 34-36 years were the early years of the live-ball explosion. Clemente was 34 in 1969, when the mound was lowered; although his BA rose from .323 in 1966-68 to .346 in 1969-71, he was essentially the same hitter, with OPS+ of 156 and 157 for those periods.

          Meanwhile, Konerko has been swimming upstream. From 23-33, he hit .280 against a league average of .273, so that’s plus 7 points. For age 34-36, he’s hit (so far) .318 against a league average of .263 — plus 55 points. That’s a huge jump in league-adjusted BA by him.

          P.S. I assume your remark about steroids was in response to someone else; I haven’t said the word in this context.

  9. 16
    eddie says:

    This is a joke. Most of the modern guys on that list are PED users. Couple Paulie’s “resurgence” with three declining years and a contract year…. I smell PED user. I don’t understand how this isn’t talked about more. The other guys on that list didn’t have “slow starts” to their careers. How many hitters have career years from 34-36? This is a JOKE. I’m a Whits Sox but this is ridiculous lets have a real conversation.

  10. 17
    John Autin says:

    On a tangent, since Andy used such a terrific photo, I would like to suggest alternate captions:

    — Paul Konerko demonstrates the #1 “DON’T” for the MLB training video, “The Top 10 Do’s and Don’t’s of Sacrifice Bunting.”

  11. 19
    Timmy Pea says:

    There has been one man that has been touting the prowess of Konerko for a long time now and that is none other than Timmy Pea. I watch him play often and I’ve called it from the start that he is a great hitter. He’s done it in the steroid era and he’s done it after testing. I seriously doubt he is using PED’s, that is a joke if you know what kind of guy he is. I have no doubt that the financial security of his family may have something to do with a renewed concentration at the plate resulting in a few more hits a year the last few years. Ain’t capitalism great?

  12. 20
    eddie says:

    Financial security is the reason why Paulie would do PEDs! Paulie’s “resurgence” was in a contract year. Even if he’s found to be using PEDs he’s not going to give the money back. So capitalism is irrelevant as an argument against his use. Capitalism is absolutely a reason for his use, he wants that last big pay day. Don’t tell me PED aren’t being used see Ryan Braun. Paulie is a great candidate fot PED use. Not many sluggers have their best 3yrs after 34. Just be honest about what we’re seeing. Lastly don’t pretend that you know what kind of person Paulie is. I doubt anyone posting actually knows him. I’m strictly looking at statistical evidence.

    • 21
      Timmy Pea says:

      OK, so the trend is that guys get worse at this age. A trend is not an absolute. A down trend on Wall Street will still have winners bucking the trend, all though overall many more will lose money. Paul’s home run numbers are actually down from his peak years ’04 – ’06 and HR’s are what usually causes PED flack to be thrown out there.

    • 22
      Timmy Pea says:

      I feel a lot more comfortable talking about what kind of person he is, then you should making libelous accusations with no scientific proof to back it up. You talk like a man of science, but the first time you see a run on the craps table science can’t explain, you claim the dice must be loaded. In Paul’s last full season he hit .300 with 31 HR and 105 RBI. He finished 13th in MVP voting, that is hardly Barry Bonds hitting 45 plus HR’s at age 39.

    • 72
      nightfly says:

      Ryan Braun’s test was invalided. He’s also not 36.

  13. 23
    eddie says:

    Paulie LAST YEAR had his 2nd best AB/HR ratio of his career. Best since he was 29, a hitters statistical prime. This year (early, small sample size) he’s on pace to have his best AB/HR ratio of his career AT 36!!! So again I ask what hitter has his best seasons after 34 and after experiencing 3 seasons of natural looking decline? Did I mention his turnaround coincided with a contract year(#sarcasm)?

  14. 24
    eddie says:

    Last year before Paulie’s wrist injury (he got beaned remember?) he was on pace for 45 HRs. The four men who did that at his age? Ruth, McGwire, Bonds, and Palmero. Circumstantial evidence is all we have for most players so don’t blame me, blame baseball. I’m using the same rules that BBWAA will use to keep recent hitters out of the hall.

  15. 25
    eddie says:

    @TP craps is chance so anything you see has a probability. No matter how small you just might be in the right place at the right time. That’s what “luck”is. When something with low odds happens to you when interpret the event you call it good or bad luck. No mystery there, sorry.

    • 28
      no statistician but says:

      Why not wait to see how the rest of Konerko’s age 36 season plays out before going too far here?

      Just a thought.

      • 29
        bstar says:

        Could not agree more. Let’s give the player credit first before jumping to unfounded conclusions about PED use.

      • 35
        Timmy Pea says:

        Absolutely! The guy gets hot for a few weeks and people start screaming steroids. Ridiculous! Andrew Dawson’s 1987 year comes to mind of someone bearing down and playing with a chip on his shoulder to earn a big contract. Do you want to smear him also Eddie?

  16. 30
    eddie says:

    @No it’s not about what he’s going to do this year. My point is what he’s done the last 2 or 3 yrs. He had career years at 34 & 35 after having THREE declining years. He has his first career year in a contract year! Why is this so hard? Ten years ago we’d all call this fishy. But Paulie apparently is so beloved people can’t be objective.

  17. 31
    Andy says:

    I’ve seen quite a few people talking about success of some hitters in the last few years who jump right out with claims of “steroids” or “PEDs”. To me, this smacks of curmudgeonly laziness. While I suspect that most players are still using something that gives them some sort of boost, I think blatant use of steroids and HGH has been significantly curtailed. Somebody who jumps to calling a current player as a steroid user strikes me as someone who’s probably beaten down in their personal lives and is trying to make themselves feel better by tearing someone else down.

    It’s one thing to look at a player now whose performance has fallen way off from 5 years ago and suggest that perhaps they were using PEDs THEN which is why they are worse NOW. But to suggest that a guy like Konerko is using NOW and that’s why he’s so improved COMPARED TO THE STEROIDS ERA is, in a word, stupid.

    • 36
      Timmy Pea says:

      Well put, perfect!

    • 46
      MikeD says:

      Agreed. As I’ve noted here before, while I believe PEDs have had *some* impact on the game, I think it’s much smaller than most assume, and there are other reasons for the recent high offensive period, with PEDs being one of the contributing factors, but not the main factor.

      At the same time, it is fair for fans to introduce it into the equation. It’s part of the game’s recent past, and it I believe it’s part of the current game, and will probably be forever part of the game moving forward. Fans on either side of the debate need to both recognize it’s there, but not overreact to it one way or the other.

      Nothing indicates Konerko is a PED user. He is having a great run from 34-36, which makes him interesting.

  18. 32
    eddie says:

    @Andy last years NL MVP got busted for steroids and he got off on a technicality. The steroids he took will continue to give him a benefit for as much as nine months after stopping. Players are still using so my point is not stupid. I’ll say it again… I just want people to be objective.

    • 37
      DaveR says:

      You mentioned Babe Ruth earlier, so there is a precedent for a baseball player to do well at this age. I’m being objective.
      I can’t see how players today can get away with much based on all the medical testing that goes on.

    • 73
      topper009 says:

      Please take comments like over to your beloved sports tabloid, ESPN. This blog is for people to have reasonable discussions and not just repeat the things that ESPN anchors tell them to think.

      Braun was tested 3 times during the regular season and then had the test in question in October, so the regular was not affected anyways. Based on your ultra scientific blanket statement that steroids help players for 9 months (not 8 or 10) after using (?!?, please send me the academic paper that supports this claim) he should be playing much better this season compared to last.

      2011 wOBA: .433
      2012 wOBA: .432

  19. 33
    eddie says:

    @MikeD thank u for your research by the way. Your data points to something being odd with Paulie. It could be natural but MLB doesnt deserve the benefit of the doubt.

  20. 34
    PP says:

    Let’s not forget he and Ernie D and Marvin Barnes are from Providence, RI

  21. 38
    eddie says:

    @TP u really haven’t read a word from me. This isnt about a few weeks… this is about his 31-33 yrs and then 34-36. A poster above did a very nice analysis that dovetails what I’ve been saying. Dawson is irrelevant what he did has no bearing on Paulie. If you disagree that’s fine but don’t twist my argument.

    • 41
      Timmy Pea says:

      You’re under the assumption that every player shares the same decline ratio. Have you ever noticed that some people die at 50 and some die at 100, it’s called genetics and every players genetics are not the same.

  22. 39
    eddie says:

    @DaveR the reigning NL MVP was busted for steriods last year. He got off on a technicality but he didn’t dispute the results, his signature in triplicate or the science involved. The reigning MVP is a steroid user.

    • 74
      topper009 says:

      I didn’t realize you have the arbiter’s written decision where he stated Braun did not dispute the results or the science involved. I would like to read it when you are done with it so please post it somewhere.

  23. 40
    Brendan says:

    Konerko is not alone in experiencing a late-career surge. One player who had some of his best seasons late in his career was Darrell Evans. Three of his best seasons came at ages 36, 38, and 40, after he had rather flat production for his age 30-35 seasons.

  24. 42
    Mike L says:

    I’m neither a Konerko fan nor a White Sox fan. But it’s fundamentally unfair to presume guilt in the absence of hard evidence, and inference is not evidence.

  25. 43
    no statistician but says:

    A player with a somewhat similar career to Konerko’s is Mickey Vernon, who had ups and downs but put two of his three best seasons together at ages 35 and 36. Darrell Evans is another whose late career production almost defies understanding. Stats guys can produce a curve that shows the average career projection, but players defy its powers of prediction every year. Another thing: some guys just work hard to learn and adjust. Konerko may have done that. His increased OPS+ numbers for 2010 and 2011 seem to me to be more of a function of higher batting average, not of the super increase in power that generally comes with the use of Flintstone Vitamins or whatever. He isn’t walking more to confuse things. He isn’t running faster—just a guess—to beat out slow rollers. What it looks like is that he simply is hitting better generally, something players have worked to do and very often have succeeded at since the game began.

    As for this year, as I suggested earlier, why not wait and see what happens. 2012 has already produced some incredible hot hitting streaks that have cooled down.

  26. 44
    e pluribus munu says:

    I have no idea what the answer on PEDs here is, but I’m sure every exceptional case like this in the future will raise a question, and people will react differently in deciding how to handle it. The steroids era spoiled something fundamental about taking pleasure in the unexpected. It does not mean that players can no longer do unprecedented things.

    I’m with Mike L. Raising the question is fair – we all have it – and expressing your attitude is fair enough too. But there’s no place further for that argument to go, and accusing an individual without pertinent evidence is not fair enough. To point to Braun is one thing – he tested positive. That does not imply that players who are not testing positive should be.

  27. 45
    Hartvig says:

    I’ll add my voice to the ones calling for a little restraint in calling Konerko a cheat. Yes, it is true that MLB ignored the problem for far too long and the last years MVP had a positive test result. But Braun claimed from the get go that the results were wrong and while it’s true that he did get off on what could be called a technicality, it’s also true that the evidence collection procedure is riddled with problems. I suspect that soon all major sports testing procedures will soon also require a DNA test on positive tests to prove origin (I’m assuming that that is possible to do with a urine sample).

    Second, thank you Andy for writing an article at mentions Gavvy Cravath and Jack Fournier, two largely unheralded and under-rated players from long ago. With a few breaks I think both would have careers worthy of the Hall of Fame.

  28. 47
    Ed says:

    My two cents….I think this discussion reflects the ongoing frustration of fans not knowing. We don’t know who cheated in the past or how much and we have no idea who’s doing it now. We don’t even know how PEDs do or don’t help batters or pitchers. Some fans react to not knowing by assuming all anomalies are the result of PEDs; other fans react by burying their heads in the sand and hoping/pretending there’s no problem.

    • 49
      MikeD says:

      Ed, I agree, and your thoughts relate to my note above to Andy. I’m not going to get annoyed at someone for bringing up PEDs, as long as there is some intelligence behind the claim. Most of the time there is none, driven many times by fans ranting against players they don’t like, or who are angry that the whole PED situation was able to develop and go on for so many years.

      An increase in performance by a player in his 30s is not evidence of PED use. If so, players having been using PEDs going back to the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s. There is nothing about Konerko’s performance that should lead one to conclude he takes PEDs, yet it’s okay for any reasonable fan to at least consider it a possibility. That’s part of the game now, and that’s what many do find annoying.

    • 51
      Artie Z says:

      You left out a third type of fan – those who realize that some players are using but just don’t care. How many commercials during a sporting event are for some drug/product that is supposed to help someone with something? There are certainly “life sustaining/death preventing” drugs being promoted (thinking of things like cholesterol meds and such) but there are plenty of products that are promoted that are supposed to help people accomplish something (thinking high energy drinks and weight loss pills). We should get worked up about steroids in baseball while there are commercials talking about “low t” playing between innings?

      My view is that every generation of ballplayers in the past, and likely every generation in the future, is going to attempt to gain an advantage by circumventing the rules. The PED generation just found a good one – certainly better than bat corking, probably the best since someone realized that spitting on the baseball and throwing it made the ball more difficult to hit (which was so effective that baseball outlawed it but realized that certain pitchers livelihoods depended on it so they grandfathered in some spitballers).

    • 52
      tag says:

      Ed, I also agree with your point. But I think we can indeed conclude that PEDs had a substantial impact on the game. I know many people cite other factors – the alleged juiced ball, expansion, climate change, etc. – that could have contributed to the offensive explosion of the time. And I agree we can’t know definitively how much of a factor PEDs were, but I think the career of the PEDs poster boy, the oft- and above-mentioned Barry Lamar Bonds, might just be emblematic of their impact. I admit, his career might not be a perfect indicator. There are still things we can’t control for, as well as other mitigating factors, but I think it does give us real, valuable insight.

      The numbers are readily available. In summary, Bonds, until very late in his career, followed a fairly typical path for a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He was slightly above average as a 21-year-old rookie, got significantly better the next few years, and exploded as a 25-year-old with his first MVP season. He maintained this superlative level of performance though his 28-year-old season, posting black ink galore, recording OPS+s of 204 and 206 in 1992 and 1993, and winning two more MVP awards, the latter in honor of his best offensive season till then, which took place with a new team at a (for him) new home ballpark known to favor pitchers.

      Now it’s either the following year or two years later (I’ve seen all kinds of surmises) that the juiced ball is supposed to have entered the picture; expansion in the form of the Rockies and Marlins had already taken place. So wouldn’t one expect Bonds, still in his prime at 29, in fact at his peak as a hitter (his best base-running and defensive days were behind him), to go Ruthian then by taking advantage of the watered-down pitching and that supposed hopped-up horsehide if they were the causes of the offensive inflation? But he doesn’t. From ’94 through ’96, playing the same full slate of games as he did in previous seasons, he basically remains the great Barry Bonds, posting totals in line with to slightly below his MVP years. This of course is awesome, but there is no real “pop” in output and in fact there is far less black ink; others (dare we say early adopters?) are catching up.

      In his next three seasons he maintains this somewhat reduced level of greatness, still exceeding 1.000 OPS every year, but there is almost no black ink anymore and he suffers his first “nonBonds” season, posting an OPS+ of “only” 156 (jeez, run the bum out of town) and playing in only 102 games due to minor injuries. At 34, he’s getting older, has lost a step or two, and cannot rely on his speed to affect games as much he used to.

      Now Barry is many things but dumb is not one of them. He knows what’s going on. So he decides to crash the cocktail party. We don’t have to surmise this. He admitted, reluctantly, to the investigators that he took PEDs; he just insisted that he didn’t take them knowingly. We also know when, where, how, and what kind – both from his own admissions and from the good journalism done on BALCO. (We’re not a court of law. We can accept well-researched journalistic evidence inadmissible in the halls of justice.) He, clearly, took cutting-edge PEDS – these were steroids that were themselves on steroids. But it’s only now, as a 35-year-old, that the Ruthian surge begins. Arizona had come on line in 1998 to further thin out the ranks of hurlers, but this evidently hadn’t helped him either. The alleged juiced ball, previous expansion, the hot weather and melting glaciers in Antarctica hadn’t ballooned his numbers (or his body). It’s when he himself starts juicing that his measurable performance, at a time when he and it should be declining, goes exospheric, and he posts ungodly across-the-board improvements on the already phenomenal batting figures of his prime – all while playing his home games in another pitcher’s park.

      PEDs obviously affect different people in different ways, just as weight training itself does. What works for an inner circle Hall of Fame outfielder who possesses off-the-charts reflexes and one of the keenest batting eyes of all time might not have the same affect on a journeyman infielder or an AAAA-level relief pitcher. It certainly helps to have access to and be able to afford BALCO PEDs (the same ones, by the way, that turned Tim Montgomery, who failed to qualify for the 100-meter dash in the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games, into the fastest human on earth in 2002), plus a personal trainer paid to ensure that you get the most you can out of them. It also helps to be single-minded and obsessed with assuming your rightful place as the best player in your chosen sport, as well as toppling the revered records of a long-ago white legend. It probably helps to be an asshole too.

      Again, I’m not saying that this is the only, or even necessarily the best, way to gauge what went on in that era. And I’m not saying that a juiced ball wasn’t introduced in the mid-1990s. I don’t know. What I do know is that we have good evidence of what PEDs can do for a specific player with talent, experience and dedication, and I think certain other conclusions can comfortably be drawn from that. Now whether any of us should care, as Artie Z suggests, is another question.

      • 54
        Paul E says:

        tag:
        “It probably helps to be an asshole too”.

        Geez, why is it the asshole always has the upper hand?

        This, of course, is a rhetorical question often repeated through history by such well-known thinkers as Socrates, Plato, Descartes, Ghengis Khan, Napolean, Isaac Newton, Hitler, etc..

        But, honestly, why is it the bigger the asshole, the more likely to be referred throughout history by the single name: “Hitler”, “Napolean”, “Stalin”, “Mussolini”…..

        • 55
          Ed says:

          Thanks for the interesting discussion guys! A few follow up points:

          MikeD: Understood, but I find the “willfull ignorance” of the PED’s deniers/defenders equally annoying. Look at how far they bent over backwards to defend Ryan Braun, coming up with incredibly convoluted and nonsensical defenses. That includes some posters on this forum whose opinion I generally respect (btw, I’m not saying he deserved to be suspended, under the current rules, clearly he didn’t). And we recently had a vote on the Brewers Rushmore and lots of people were insisting that Braun should be on there and in the discussion there was ZERO mention of PEDs. I felt like I was living in some bizarro parallel universe.

          Artie Z – Good point. There are fans who simply don’t care.

          Tag – I understand what you’re saying. I wasn’t completely clear in my point. Taking Barry Bonds, what I was trying to say is that we can’t know the exact effect of taking PEDs. Did it help his batting average? His home runs? Both? How much? Without PEDs would he have hit 40 homeruns in 2001? Or 50? Or 30? So that’s what I mean, we can’t know what player’s stats would have been in the absence of PEDs.

          • 57
            tag says:

            Well, no, we can’t know the exact effect of Bonds’ PED intake, but we can get pretty close. Did PEDs help BB’s batting average you ask? Yes, greatly. The highest he’d batted pre-PEDs was .336 in his great ’93 MVP year. Then on PEDs he eclipses that three straight years, including seasons of .370 and .362. Homers? His highest pre-PEDs total was 46, again in ’93. On PEDS he hits 73, 46, 45 and 45 – needing, in both of the last two seasons, a good 150 fewer at-bats to produce the same number of homers that he did in ‘93. You can figure out the percentages and gauge how much improvement PEDs were netting him. If you take later years, during which the supposed rabbit ball and watered-down pitching were in play, the percentages are even higher. The only guesswork is how much more of a PEDs boost to factor in, since his production, due to his age, should have been declining significantly by the time he was posting these seasons. As mentioned above, he was 28, in his prime, in 1993. So all of a sudden he’s hitting 60% more homers at a time when he should probably be hitting 30% fewer than in his prime? The answers to the questions you pose are pretty clear to me.

          • 66
            Ed says:

            Tag – Sure it’s relatively easy with Bonds cause he’s such an extreme example. But how about Rafael Betancourt? He was busted for steroid use. What effect did taking steroids have on his career numbers? Heck, looking at his BR page, it’s hard to even guess when he was busted for steroids. Okay, no one really care about Rafael Betancourt but remember lots of marginal players have been busted for PEDs. Okay, how about a different Rafael. How about Rafael Palmiero? Or how about Alex Rodriguez? See, with most guys, it’s really hard to see exactly what the effects are/were.

            RE: batting average. Talking specifically about Bonds….was his increase in BA directly due to PEDs or was it an indirect effect due to his power increase leading to picther’s pitching him differently.

          • 75
            tag says:

            Ed, the reason I chose Bonds is not because he’s such an extreme example. It’s because we have a lot of information about him. We know when he started taking PEDs and can deduce with a good degree of accuracy the affect they had on him. We have no information about Rafael Betancourt, except that he was caught taking them (about all I can deduce is that he might not be the brightest bulb in the marquee).

            As I said earlier, PEDs affect different people different ways, just like weight training itself. First, you have to use them properly. I mean, I know guys who thought if you took them you automatically became massive and strong. They didn’t realize you still have to work out. Plus it clearly helps to have personal trainers who keep you to a strict regimen, and it also certainly helps to do the best cocktails. I think we can conclude that a lot of marginal players – you know, the guys who mailed in for their PEDs and did their cycles by themselves – probably did not get the full benefits the drugs have to offer. (I can tell you about cyclists here in Europe who botched things royally.)

            As for Palmeiro, I saw him as a Cub. He was Mark Grace. At best you hoped he’d become Keith Hernandez as a hitter. Yes, he was young and hadn’t fully developed. But how did he wind up hitting 569 homers? Well, his home park when he was in Texas helped him, but the answer otherwise is clear.

            And ARod. He was a SS for Chrissakes. I was already dubious in Seattle when he was hitting 42 homers. When that jumped into the 50s in Texas it became pretty clear. I mean, you’re right, we can’t be certain exactly how much PEDs helped these guys. But, as I demonstrated with Bonds, we know that PEDs CAN help players enormously, if taken properly and if you train religiously. For wealthy, established players with all the necessary resources, I think we can err on the high side in our estimates on how much they helped.

          • 76
            bstar says:

            So, tag, what does any of this have to do with Paul Konerko, a man whose body has not changed in appearance a bit since he’s aged, is not necessarily hitting more home runs than usual, and a guy who if you follow baseball closely enough you should know has been an adamant opponent of steroids, so much so that when MLB first started to test players for PEDs he tried to convince his teammates to refuse to take the test so all their results would come up a positive, forcing baseball to institute mandatory testing. Konerko did this as a leader of his team and because he was fed up with steroids tainting the game.

            So when people on this thread suggest we should think Paul friggin Konerko is on steroids because his batting average is higher than in the past, I don’t appreciate being labeled as someone who is “burying his head in the sand and pretending there isn’t an issue” if I suggest that notion is ridiculous( and I don’t mean to attack you personally , tag). Suggesting Paul is on steroids is a very cynical, jaded view of things, and I feel sorry for those watching baseball who can’t seem to get steroids out of their heads whenever a player performs above an expected level. Instead of saying “wow, what a great year Konerko is having” the thought is “this guy is on steroids”. That saddens me.

            Again, this was not meant as a direct attack on you—I just needed to vent, tag.

          • 77
            bstar says:

            tag, please disregard my comment #75 as any sort of reply to what you had been saying. I should have typed my comment as a stand-alone post instead of directing my passion in the form of a reply to you. Sorry. I’ve been worked up over this Konerko thing for a few days and its been simmering but I couldn’t quite find the right time or words to type what I meant to say, and I chose wrongly.

          • 80
            Ed says:

            A few follow-up comments:

            1) Again, what I’m saying is we can’t know EXACTLY what a player’s numbers would have been without steroids. Would Palmiero have hit 200 home runs without them? 400? Who knows? There’s just no way to make any sort of a precise estimate.

            2) Re: Konerko. I have no idea if he’s a user or not, nor am I claiming he is. Obviously the only evidence against him is circumstantial. But the same is true for many suspected steroids users. Even someone like Palmiero. Sure he flunked a test, but that was late in his career. Otherwise the evidence against him is circumstantial just like it is for Konerko. Granted, Konerko is being subjected to testing but we’ve known for a long-time that cheaters will also be ahead of the curve relative to testing. It just bothers me that guys pre-testing are assumed to be steroid users and guys post-testing are assumed not to be. (which is exactly what the players who are currently taking PEDs want us to think; they want less vigilance, not more). I don’t know. I don’t have any answers. I just think there’s a double standard being applied to how we view players pre and post-testing.

        • 78
          bstar says:

          make that disregard comment #76

          • 79
            tag says:

            Hi bstar. No problem. In the Konerko debate, I’m on your and Timmy Pea’s side. I like Paulie a lot. He’s old school. He works very hard. I don’t suspect at all that he’s taking PEDs. I know it got a little off topic, but what I dislike is a revisionist tendency I see taking hold that PEDs didn’t/don’t affect the game that much. I think they did and do, and I think that can be demonstrated with careful analysis.

            Now I’m not saying Ed voiced this, but he seemed to be saying because we can’t know things for sure it makes all judgment near impossible. Again, I don’t agree with that. I’m not of the opinion that taking PEDs is a horrendous crime against nature, but they were/are illegal, against baseball policy and they do distort the game beyond what I think is reasonable.

          • 82
            e pluribus munu says:

            I’d like to add something to tag’s comment questioning whether PEDs are a “horrendous crime against nature,” and to Artie Z’s comment on marketing performance enhancers.

            In my view, there are plenty of gray areas on this – it’s about rules, not morals; when others take PEDs the issue becomes one of survival ethics, etc. But the bottom line is that PEDs raised performance standards in pro sports, and a significant sector of the youth population invests its aspirations of success in athletics. These kids enter a zone of coercion to use PEDs, often urged by complicit adults, and they do irreversable harm to their bodies – much more serious harm than most illegal drugs, and (I presume, but maybe not) advertised legal products.

            The impact on fans, game outcomes, and statistical history (which we care a lot about here) really doesn’t carry heavy ethical weight, but I think the larger social issue does, and the greatest responsibility falls on MLB, the NFL, etc., whose executives get rich on the social impact of athletics, and which possesses leverage to affect the issue in its most visible form. (For me, that makes Artie Z’s “type-three” fan an enabler, and also complicates questions like HoF eligibility – personally uncomfortable for me, because my instincts are permissive: I looked the other way and enjoyed McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds, and I’d let Jackson and Rose in the Hall.)

            But, to paraphrase a comment I made earlier, while exceptional performances may make us worry about PEDs from now on, they are not evidence of PEDs, and I agree that there’s no fairness in tossing accusations at Konerko.

  29. 48
    Kirk says:

    As a die hard White Sox fan Paulie is one of my all time favorites. I don’t believe his resurgence is due to PEDs. First in the years prior to his age 34 year Paul had several nagging injuries that kept him from performing at his peak. The sight of him in pain after a swing was very common. Thus the improvement at 34 is just getting back to where he should have been. Second and most importantly is a different approach to hitting. Before Paul would be trying to hit everything as hard as possible and end up with outside pitches topped to the left side – see high GIDP numbers. Now he seems content to slow down and slap the ball to right for a single.

    HOF? – I hope so, because he would class up the joint. But realistically, he is on track to the Hall of the Very Good unless he can keep it up for four more years – or have some post season heroics.

    • 53
      no statistician but says:

      My post at #43 above says a lot of the same things in the form of hypotheses. I remember Konerko’s injury problems only vaguely, but that gives more credence to comparing him to Mickey Vernon, another sadly-almost-forgotten member of the HVG whose crimes were inconsistency and only moderate power playing in the cavern that was Griffith Stadium. Bill James in the first Historical Baseball Abstract writes about Vernon at length, his health problems and baseball culture on the post-WWII era.

  30. 50
    Artie Z says:

    My initial thought is that Konerko might be a clean player who was hurt by the overall offensive levels in the PED era. His 2004-2006 seasons aren’t that different from his 2010-2012 seasons (from a raw numbers standpoint). But if others were using PEDs and dragging the overall offensive level of the league “upwards”, then Konerko’s league adjusted stats (like OPS+) will suffer. So he has very similar rate numbers in 2004-2006 and 2010-2012 but his OPS+ numbers from 2004-2006 don’t quite hit the 140 mark because numbers are up around the league.

    I mean, look at his 2006 and 2010 seasons. The difference in those 2 years is that he had a few less PAs in 2010 (12 to be precise) and a few more walks (again 12) and big dip in GDP (16 less in 2010 – thanks to Kirk above). The rest of those two seasons are basically the same – 39 against 35 HRs, 171 hits against 177, 30 doubles each year, 110 K’s against 104, 320 TBs against 312.

    It’s not like Konerko came out of nowhere and was a no talent hack – this is a guy who was highly touted. He was Baseball America’s #2 rated prospect pre-1998 and #11 pre-1997 (and top 50 pre-1995 and pre-1996), so someone saw talent. And yes, we all know that guys with talent use(d) steroids as they are not immune from the temptations, but Konerko’s biggest crimes seem to be that he has maintained his power level while walking a little more (maybe) and hitting into less double plays as the league has adjusted downwards.

    • 68
      Timmy Pea says:

      For the Konerko detractors, I would love to hear your thoughts on Jeff Bagwell. He’s going to get into the hall and to me, at least looked like the PED body type, face type. Konerko does not and never has had a PED type body.

  31. 56
    Lawrence Azrin says:

    I don’t see Konerko as a serious HOF candidate yet, even if he continues his great age-36 season this year (I don’t mean that he’s gonna hit .395, but more that he could be as good as, say, his 2010 year). He’s an all-hitting player who adds very little of value from his defense, position, or baserunning. He’s been a very good hitter, but never one of the very best hitters in any one year.

    In that regard, he reminds me of Fred McGriff (his Most Similar Batter – 934), as several people have already pointed out, with the same strengths and weaknesses. This is slightly decieving, however:
    1) McGriff’s first seven full years,or about 40% of his career, were before the big offense explosion starting in 1994. His unadjusted numbers may be about the same, but are more valuable in context
    2) McGriff had a somewhat better peak, whether you use mainstream measures such as MVP votes, or advanced measures such as WAR

    McGriff has been on the HOF ballot three years now and hasn’t cracked 40%, and Konerko’s case isn’t quite as good as McGriff’s, so I don’t think Konerko has a serious HOF case yet. If Konerko can maintain his late-career surge after this year, though, his case would improve.

    • 67
      Timmy Pea says:

      I think if Konerko has an MVP year this year or a close second, and his team goes to the WS, and he has another 30/100 season next year he could get into the HoF. It is true he is a right handed, average fielding firstbasemen, but the HoF is full of those. Hitting 475 life time HR’s is not such an easy task.

  32. 58
    MikeD says:

    To play off my prior note comparing two Pauls, Konerko and O’Neill, here’s another White Sox player who would almost assuredly be accused of being a PEDster if he played in the game today. He didn’t. He played in the 1930s and 40s. Good old aches and pains himself, Luscious Luke Appling:

    Luke Appling age 31-33:.326/.418/.395/.812, with a 107 OPS+.
    Luke Appling age 34-36:.302/.388/.380/.768, with a 116 OPS+.

    At first glance nothing unusual here, beyond being a highly productive middle infielder through his mid-30s, which of course would raise some suspicion among the suspicious. His rate stats declined slightly, but his OPS+ actually increased, so compared to the league he was playing better as he aged.

    Yet his age 35 season was the worst of is career, so it would be understandable if people thought age was catching up to him. Not so. He would then follow that up with what was one of the two best seasons of his career, if not the best.

    Age 35 season: .262/.342/.341/.682, for an OPS+ of 95.
    Age 36 season: .328/.419/.407/.825, for an OPS+ of 143, a career high.

    A SS who looked like he was at the beginning of the end at 35, who went on to winning at batting title at 36, and had his best overall season based on OPS+?

    Old Aches doesn’t stop amazing there. He then heads off to the war for almost two years, and without playing in a single minor league game, returns at age 38 at the end of 1945 to hit .368 and post a 195 OPS+, granted in less than 100 PAs.

    Appling played until he was 43, and was an an everyday infielder through age 42. He got better as he got older.

    Appling age 36-42: OPS+ of 126.
    Appling age 23-35: OPS+ of 108.
    (Appling for career: OPS+ of 113.)

    There’s no other six-year stretch where Appling produced a 126 OPS+, as he did in his later years, and to handicap himself he even tossed in a nearly two-year period when he left the game for WWII to try and dull his skills.

    No question about it. Appling would be accused of being a steroid user and a cheat if he played today.

    • 61
      Richard Chester says:

      I believe that at the time of his age 36 season (1943) Appling was the oldest player to win the AL batting title. Of course Ted Wiliams later broke it.

  33. 59
    MikeD says:

    A few final random thoughts on Luscious Luke.

    Appling received only 0.8% of the vote for the HOF in 1953. Based on today’s rules, he would have been one-and-done and never would have been elected by the BBWAA members.

    Appling was elected eleven years later with 94% of the vote. So he went from 0.8% of the vote to 94% of the vote. I would guess that’s one of the most dramatic turnabouts ever in HOF voting.

    Appling hit a HR at age 75 in an old-timer’s game. Clearly he was still juicing, since he wasn’t a HR hitter at any point in his career.

    Damn MLB for not allowing MLB clips to be distributed on YouTube. Can’t find Appling’s HR. MLB just doesn’t get it when it comes to video.

    • 60
      Hartvig says:

      Old Ache’s and Pain’s became a favorite of mine when I read Jean Shepard, on who’s short stories the movie A Christmas Story is based. He doesn’t get a mention in the otherwise wonderful movie but he does in the book(s).

      I know we’ve complained endlessly about how messed up the HOF voting is and Appling is a perfect example of how bad it is. He not only got just 0.8% of the vote in his first year but 1.2% two years later but then 94% just nine years later. How is it remotely possible to justify that? Thirty three voters did not think that Willie Mays belonged in the Hall of Fame. The fact that people that stupid were allowed to vote in the first place was bad enough but the majority of them were allowed to continue to cast HOF votes for years to come, not to mention continuing to write about baseball of which they had already demonstrated a near criminal lack of knowledge.

      • 63
        e pluribus munu says:

        I always liked Appling because he batted .388, and somehow that number got into my head early, after Williams’ ’57 season. But I see the Hall voting differently (I went back to track Appling’s case). Appling became eligible in ’53, only 3 years after retiring, and the Hall was still small. First-year eligibles got virtually no attention (Appling got 2 votes; Arky Vaughan got only 1). DiMaggio was an exception (it was his first real year), but even DiMaggio could only get 44% and didn’t make it for two more years. There were over a dozen future Hall members who’d already been waiting on the ballot 10 years (a few even deserving)- I think the voters were still sorting out what the Hall meant, and they had lots of established names in their heads to deal with. There was no rush for new guys. As the backlog began to clear, more 1st-year players began to get notice (in ’62 Feller and Robinson jumped to the head of the line) and that slowed worthy but second-tier guys like Appling. When he made it in ’64, he didn’t get 94% – he got 70% (which was a leap, but he’d been building his votes) and then they had special run-off because no one had broken 75.

        But there’s a bigger issue here, Hartvig. I think an election without criminally ignorant votes would be un-American. Where’s your patriotism?

        • 65
          MikeD says:

          Thanks for the perspective, although I’m not giving them a pass. : -)

          In 1953, when Appling received 0.8% of the vote, the players elected were Chief Bender, Dizzy Dean, Al Simmons and Bobby Wallace. In 1954, the players elected were Bill Dickey, Rabbit Maranville and Bill Terry. In 1955 when he was up next and received all of 1.2% of the vote, Home Run Baker, Joe DiMaggio, Gabby Hartnett, Ted Lyons, Ray Schalk and Dazzy Vance were elected.

          I understand they may have been trying to clear out some backlog, yet if the likes of Bobby Wallace and Rabbit Maranville and Ray Schalk are being inducted, then Appling should have been getting more than 1% of the vote. We’re not talking Ruth, Gehrig and Cobb here. Outside of DiMaggio and Simmons, Appling stacks up quite well, and exceeds a number of them. By the mid-1950s, HOF voting had been going on for two decades.
          In 1956 he was still at only roughly seven percent. In fact, in 1962 he was only at 30%.

          In fairness, the BBWAA has done a pretty good job when compared to the various forms of the Veterans Committee, but Appling’s vote totals are still one of the stranger ones.

          • 69
            e pluribus munu says:

            Good points, Mike. Let me try one more counter.

            The Veteran’s Committee accounts for a lot of the odd selections: Schalk, Wallace (Baker too, but he was a good choice) – a bad system and it got worse. Dickey, Terry, Vance – those guys were Hall-worthy and in writers’ memory banks waiting their turns. The split voting suggests that the question at that time about the very good earlier players wasn’t who deserved to go in, but who goes in next. It would have been very odd if Appling, retiring in ’50, had leapt ahead of them.

            As for Appling’s jump in consecutive elections (’62/’64) from 30% to 70%, it’s easy to account for: two of the three guys ahead of him moved out of the picture (Rixey off the list; Rice in through the Veterans group), and the other jumped alongside him almost as much (Ruffing went from 45% to 70%).

            But look at Appling vs. Rizzuto in those two elections. In ’62, Rizzuto’s new to the list and almost ties Appling – obvious reasons: NY press, a zillion Series (and a fine player). But Appling goes right in next time while Rizzuto subsides (Reese jumps well ahead of him, then he falls off) and actually never makes it via the writers. That seems to reflect thoughtful assessment. (I’d say the SS who’s left dangling most unjustly is Vaughan.)

            Maranville’s an example of the type of anomaly we may not see again: he was around forever as a steady player with a weak bat, he was excellent copy, he was associated with an historic team in ’14, but what I understand got him in was that he could drink the writers of his day under the table – no mean feat.

          • 71
            Richard Chester says:

            Reply to post 69. After he retired Maranville spent some time working for journalist William Randolph Hearst. During Maranville’s final days Hearst used his influence to get HOF voters to vote Maranville into the Hall. I brought this issue up on the BR blog and someone posted a link to a story about the event in Baseball Digest.

      • 84
        Lawrence Azrin says:

        We endlessly discuss here who’s not in the MLB HOF who should be, and who IS in the HOF who _shouldn’t_ be, and endlessly complain about how ignorant the BBWAA HOF voters are for those votes, but to me one of the more inexplicable BBWAA HOF votes ever was the above-mentioned (by Hartvig) 1979 vote, where 23 {432-409} BBWAA voters left Willie Mays off the ballot.

        Let’s think about this – this is a player who was universally acknowledged well before he retired, as one of the greatest all-around players EVER. We are not asking the voters to confer that status on him, but ‘merely’ to elect him to the MLB HOF.

        Yet, there were 23 voters who did not believe he was not worthy of that honor. I don’t really know what the thought process would be (unless it’s that idiotic concept of “no one should be elected unanimously”). I understand no one has ever been unanimous, but still…

        Here are the first-ballot players elected with fewer missed HOF ballots than Mays:

        Cobb – 4 (only 222 ballots in 1962)
        Seaver – 5
        Nolan Ryan – 6
        Ripken – 8
        Aaron – 9
        Brett – 9
        Bob Feller -10 (only 160 ballots in 1962)
        Ruth – 11 (only 222 ballots in 1962)
        Wagner – 11 (only 222 ballots in 1962)
        Johnny Bench – 16
        Schmidt – 16
        Ted Williams – 20
        Steve Carlton -20
        Mathewson – 21
        Musial – 23

        Does _anyone_ really believe that Mays was less deserving of the HOF than most of these above players?

        • 85
          Richard Chester says:

          And the writers certainly didn’t have the excuse of a backlog of deserving players. And imagine Hal Lanier with his .228 BA and 50 OPS+ getting a vote.

        • 86
          e pluribus munu says:

          Lawrence, using your list (plus Tony Gwynn, but excluding the 1936 entrants, who were in a different situation), it seems to me that the question should be a different one: What accounts for Mays’s missing votes? I think what accounts for it is changing views about the appropriateness of first-year-eligible inductees. If we use vote percentages, here are the highest totals, down to Mays, giving percentages and year of induction:

          Seaver 98.8 / ‘92
          Ryan 98.8 / ‘99
          Brett 98.6 / ‘99
          Ripkin 98.5 / ‘07
          Aaron 97.8 / ‘82
          Gwynn 97.6 / ‘07
          Schmidt 96.5 / ‘95
          Bench 96.4 / ‘89
          Carlton 95.6 / ‘94
          Mays 94.7 / ‘79

          Mays set a record for first-year eligibility. That seems more significant than asking how he could not be a unanimous choice. I’d assume every voter knew he was going into the Hall – just like everyone else on your list – but in earlier eras there was a higher number of voters unwilling to vote for *any* first-year candidate. Look at Musial, for example. I’d say that in ’69, 100% of the voters knew Musial belonged in the Hall, but only 93.2% added his name. My conclusion is that the first-year “resistance rate” in ’69 was 6.8% (actually, it was only 6.6% for Williams in ’66); in ’79, for Mays, was 5.3%; in ’82, for Aaron, was 2.2%; and continues to be about 1%.

          Who knows why there are voters who have this philosophy, but for players like this, I doubt it has much to do with judgments about whether the player belongs in the Hall.

          • 87
            Lawrence Azrin says:

            Wow, that was a very incisive and nuanced analysis. I admit, taking the raw totals of ‘HOF Votes Not Cast’ was not the most intellectually useful approach, but I couldn’t think of a better way, I’m glad that you did.

            As I understand this, you are stating that the “resistance rate” (throwing out 1936) of HOF voters to unanimous first-year induction has been getting gradually lower for over forty years. It still seems kind of silly to me that Mays, Musial and Williams got lower percentages of the vote than clearly inferior players such as Ripken, Gwynn, and Ryan.

            Of course, _everyone_ I just mentioned above should be first-ballot HOFers.

            I guess that, just like a raw batting average, you can’t take a HOF vote% at strictly face value.

          • 103
            e pluribus munu says:

            Thanks for the kind words, Lawrence. I thought you picked up Hartvig’s good comment and moved it forward very well. I agree that seeing Mays, Williams, and Musial lower than a number of others on this list seems silly. Since my analysis tends to make the Hall voters look a little more reasonable, it’s probably deeply flawed!

    • 70
      Lawrence Azrin says:

      Based on today’s HOF rules, Appling shouldn’t even have been on a HOF ballot till 1956, when he did get 7.6% of the vote, so I wouldn’t hold that 0.8% in 1953 against him. Many players till the late 50’s got HOF votes before their five-year waiting period was up.

      The 94.0% in 1964 was in a Run-Off Election, which isn’t directly comparable to the percentages in a regular BBWAA HOF election.

      The HR by Appling in the Old Timer’s game (1986?) in DC was a classic moment; it was hit off Warren Spahn, and Spahn was laughing as he chased Appling around the bases.

    • 81
      Phil Gaskill says:

      I, ah, went to Google Search on this here computer thang and typed “Luke Appling Home Run” and immediately found several videos of the blast.

  34. 83
    Mike L says:

    I’m going to wade into the steroids thing again, and maybe make some people unhappy. I think taking them is cheating. Perhaps in football, which is mostly about wins and losses and huge guys throwing themselves at each other, it’s irrelevant. Baseball is rooted in history, and it is rooted in statistical measures of excellence, and the steroid era screwed that up-we just don’t know who did what over the last twenty years, so we don’t know which players numbers are honest. Everyone has to draw their own line psychologically, and for me the line between user or not is either an admission (like Pettitte) or a test failure (like so many). Everyone else I need to give a pass to, unless they subsequently fail a test. So, for me I don’t care when Palmerio started, he’s a user, and that colors my view of him. For Konerko, as I’ve said before, with no evidence, there’s no guilt. Maybe that’s an intellectually lazy way to do things, but I need a framework. Topper, you are going to get all over me for this, but to my mind, Braun failed a test, and was acquitted on a technicality, not exonerated. I’d put Ortiz in the same category-he failed, said it wasn’t possible and he would clear it up, then didn’t. I think epm @ 82 is right on-most of us, including me, enjoyed all those heroics while we were watching them and choose not to look too closely.
    At the end of the day, I think there’s a lot of honesty in numbers, when accomplished fairly, and it annoys me that the juicers screwed all that up.

    • 88
      topper009 says:

      You have no idea why Braun’s suspension was not upheld. ESPN told you that it was a technicality, but they are just covering their own tracks. No one knows why the arbiter ruled in favor of Braun. It is not “to your mind” that Braun got off on a technicality, it is what ESPN wants you to think.

      Remember this arbiter is not a judge, he has no rules he has to follow, he can decide any way for any reason. If a judge sees a video of a murder but it was obtained illegally he has to throw it out and sit through the whole trial knowing the guy is guilty even if the jury lets him off. That is a technicality. If that judge was an independent arbiter he would not have to throw out any evidence or anything like that.

      If the only thing Braun could show was that some guy had his sample in some non standard way but could not provide any evidence that storing the sample in such a way could have changed the result of the test the arbiter had no obligation to rule with Braun.

      • 90
        Mike L says:

        Topper, I did say you wouldn’t like my opinion. The results of the hearing were also carried by AP, and other news organizations.

        • 94
          topper009 says:

          What are you talking about, the results of the hearing certainly have not been made public especially the written decision from Shy Das. The only thing that came out was that Braun won on a 2-1 vote and some ballrub from MLB said he “vehemently disagrees” with the decision. (Im sure he was totally independent and not biased towards any particular outcome) Then according to “sources” the ONLY thing Braun argued was a technicality which ESPN fed to the public.

          • 99
            Lawrence Azrin says:

            The Braun hearing was decided by a three-man panel consisting of:

            – someone chosen by the players union
            – someone chosen by the owners
            – a professional independent arbiter, which either side can fire at any time

            As often happens when the owners lose a closely contested decision, they expressed their extreme displeasure. They also fired the arbiter a few weeks ago. To be surprised at this turn of events is to be surprised that people are displeased when prices rise.

            IOW, it’s pretty much inevitable.

            I can’t get as worked up about PEDs as some people here. I agree that it is wrong, it should not be allowed, and MLB took too long in implementing comprehensive testing.

            However, I also feel that it does no good to try to villify an entire group of players who may-or-may-not have used PEDS 8-10-15-20 years ago. Plus, the whole ‘guilt by spike in performance’ thing is ridiculous. Players have been having fluke seasons since the beginning of MLB.

            It’s way in the past, it’s not going to improve the current game to prosecute former players for past PED acts, there are way more important things in the world to vent your moral outrage on.

    • 89
      topper009 says:

      And if you don’t like steroids because it gives current players an advantage over older players and messes with the history of the game then you should be advocating for the lifetime ban of all players who had Tommy John surgery or at least never support their HOF candidacy.

      • 91
        Mike L says:

        Topper, the “lifetime ban of Tommy John pitchers” argument, by extension, eliminates everyone from consideration, because every modern ballplayer benefits from modern medicine. Surgical techniques have vastly improved even over the last ten years, reducing the number of “open” procedures. Penicillin was discovered in the late twenties, and were difficult to mass produce initially. The mycins date from WWII. Even the first rubber gloves weren’t developed until the 1890s. Where do we start?

        • 92
          topper009 says:

          Exactly, you are making my point for me. Steroids do not have a magical quality that makes you better at baseball. It helps you heel and recover and allows you to spend more time in the weight room. It is no different from penicillin.

          • 93
            Paul E says:

            I hate to jump in here, but if steroids weren’t a “means to an end”, why in the hell would ballplayers risk their health taking them.

            Steroids work-plain and simple. Now that they are banned in MLB, it’s cheating. Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, and Palmeiro weren’t cheating back in 1999, but the “numbers” they achieved are bullshit-plan and simple

          • 95
            Mike L says:

            Sorry, I respect your position, but don’t see the analogy. Treating an injury or illness is not the same as giving someone a performance enhancing drug. If you think that steroids should be legal under all circumstances, we just have a difference of opinion.

          • 96
            topper009 says:

            Then why dont you take steroids and play for the Yankees? Offense had a big spike in 1993, did the whole league get together in the offseason and all agree to uniformly take steroids to produce a spike in offense?

            MLB also used a new ball in 1993 (just like they did only for 1987, hmm interesting spike in offense that year).

            What is more likely, a new ball caused a raise in offense or the entire league all took steroids at the same rate and every team increased in scoring compared to the previous season.

          • 97
            topper009 says:

            How is Tommy John surgery not performance enhancing? Im not saying the players should be able to take steroids, Im just saying that steroids do not cause you to become better at baseball. Maybe they allow you to heel faster and that keeps you in the lineup feeling better more often which causes you to play better, but how is that any different from Tommy John Surgery?

          • 100
            Mike L says:

            Topper, as to me taking steroids and joining the Yankees, I have to say, as enticing as it sounds, I’m not sure juice would help much. There’s not that much of a market for a 56 year old 5’7″” 140 right-hander, even if I gained twenty pounds of muscle and 20MPH on my “fast” ball.
            However, I might still be faster than Konerko…

            How about a truce and we listen to Andy expound on all things baseball?

          • 101
            topper009 says:

            Sorry Mike, comment 96 is in response to 93 and 97 is in response to 95.

            I just wish people would stop acting like they know with 100% certainty Braun got off on a technicality. If you want to be suspicious of Braun that is fine since none of the detail have come out. Here is what we know:
            -Braun was tested at least 25 times in his career including at least 3 during the 2011 season, no positives.
            -It is a known fact that all players in the playoffs get tested and they all know that.
            -His test result showed the largest T:E ratio of all-time
            -The arbiter has never ruled with a player before, including superstar Manny Ramirez.
            -The collector admitting to storing the sample in his basement, unrefrigerated, over the weekend.
            -Braun has not demonstrated any noticeable difference in performance for a player entering his prime.

          • 102
            MikeD says:

            Paul E, players take all sorts of vitamins and supplements, some with potentially negative side effects, on the belief it helps them, even though they don’t. If players think it will give them an edge, or if they think their competition is taking it and might be getting an edge, then that encourages use.

            Andy Pettitte took HGH on the belief it would help him heal faster, yet the medical evidence on HGH to help heal is quite clear. It doesn’t. Considering the amount of money invested in professional athletes, MLB and other sports would be funding studies on HGH if it was believed to reduce downtime and get athletes back on the field faster. It’s a legitimate drug, so MLB teams would have no problem having it administered by medical professionals if it had benefits.

            BTW To be clear, I’m not saying that PEDs don’t provide advantages to athletes. How much is an open question. I think some have benefited greatly, but I think most althletes have benefited little based on a number of factors, including their age, the type of sports they participate in, improper and inconsistent usage, and uneven results across individuals.

            Then there’s a question of what is a PED. Creatine was being used by at least 25% of all MLB players. Based on what creatine does, I find it hard to not classify it as a PED, yet it’s entirely legal, and also carries some health risks if used improperly, yet no one questions a player if they use it.

          • 105
            Ed says:

            Topper: Here’s my problem with your summary of “what we know”. You’re leaving out several relevant facts:

            1) We know the sample came from Braun. Braun has never disputed this.

            2) The sample was triple sealed and there was no evidence of tampering. Evidence of tampering would have triggered an FBI investigation which we know didn’t happen.

            3) The sample contained synthetic testosterone.

            These are the salient points that people who defend Braun refuse to address because they can’t answer them. How did Braun’s sample have synthetic testosterone????

            Honestly, I see the list that you’ve compiled of “what we know” as an attempt to distract from the real issue (i.e., the presence of synthetic testosterone in his sample). For example, who cares if his level was the highest ever? Someone has to hold that distinction (and by the way, that’s reportedly only true for baseball but not in general). Likewise who cares if there’s been no spike in performance? We know plenty of kids start using in high school so it’s possible he’s been using for years. Another explanation for the lack of spike is that testosterone doesn’t actually aid baseball performance. Either way, it doesn’t matter!

            What matters is that there was synthetic testosterone in his sample, something that can’t happen on its own. Storing the sample unrefrigerated (I’ve read conflicting reports on that) can’t produce synthetic testosterone. As far as we know, there’s only one thing that can do that.

          • 106
            bstar says:

            Ed, apparently, and this is just conjecture on my and others parts, the whole case turned once Braun’s side was able to “replicate a false positive” by subjecting another sample to the same conditions that Braun’s went through. How you can definitively state that Braun is guilty after that is beyond me.

            Do you not think that in any testing procedure false positives are not a reality? And I don’t understand your dismissal of Braun’s sample being the highest registered since testing began. Shouldn’t that be a red flag that something was awry with that sample?

            I wait and wait with bated breath for words from Das over his ruling over what influenced his decision. Unfortunately, I’m not sure we are ever going to get it because of Das’ firing. And BTW, for whoever said that it was a 2-1 decision, that is a mere technicality. Every time the union and MLB face off, the union rep votes for the player and the MLB rep votes for baseball. Every single decision that goes through this process is inherently tied at 1-1 with the arbitrator’s decision the deciding vote.

            I guess what upsets me the most about this is the whole “guilty until proven innocent” thing. It’s supposed to be the other way around in this country, is it not? I’ve heard people say that they are still waiting for some sort of explanation from Braun, when in fact the day after his exoneration he plainly stated something to the effect of, “I am 100% certain, that at no time, did this substance ever enter my body.” What else is he supposed to say after that? That is his side of the story, and that’s all there is to it.

            It’s really hard to look at Braun’s numbers and find some unnatural spike in his performance. He’s been mashing the ball ever since he came to baseball and continues to this day to do the same.

  35. 98
    topper009 says:

    Why doesnt anyone acuse Babe Ruth of taking steroids, or having some sort of advantage over Honus Wagner that explains his power outburst? The largest increase in scoring of the last century occurred from the 1910s to the 1920s, no the 19802 to 1990s. Infact, that division is even defined the dead ball and live ball eras. Everyone accepts that the huge spike in offseason in mostly attributed to the ball, not steroids. Then, in 1993 the EXACT SAME THING HAPPENED, a new ball was introduced and offense rose. Now all of a sudden there is a different reason, mainly for two reasons
    1) The established writers did not like seeing all their childhood heroes’ records being broken and could not admit that this new generation was better so they must be cheating
    2) The general public assumes that an increase in upper body muscle mass correlates with more HRs, which is completely wrong. They see Mark McGwire’s huge pipes and assume this causes him to hit more HRs. Of course if this were true then MLB teams would be lining up sign the world’s strongest man competitors and professional wrestlers.

  36. 104
    Timmy Pea says:

    Garner testified he could notice signs of certain players were using PEDs based on changes in their performances, such as a player’s time down the first-base line improve from 4.3 seconds to 4.1 seconds or if a hitter started hitting the ball 30 or 40 feet farther to the opposite field.
    Phil Garner testifying in the Roger Clemens trial.

    • 107
      Paul E says:

      Thank you, Timmmy! At least someone has cited empirical data. What’s up with baseball fans denying streroids work for baseball players. They worked for East German, Russian, Bulgarian, and Communist bloc athletes for decades (particularly women). They work for weightlifters and wrestlers, sprinters, etc….And if you had enough skill to go .275/25/80 before taking steroids, you certainly could go .310/35/110 with them. Look at Caminiti’s OPS+ mid-career leap-we know he juiced and we know when. He actually admitted it.

      If you look on this same page, there is an advertisement with a 70 year old man with 6-pack abs. Apparently, “Cenegenics” works ,too

      • 108
        topper009 says:

        Tony Perez
        1967: .290/26/102 121 OPS+
        1970: .317/40/129 158 OPS+

        How was this possible???????? Was Perez teammates with Jose Canseco in the minors maybe?

        Of course steroids help weight lifters, that is what steroids do, add muscle mass and allow you to stay in the gym longer and have those muscles recover faster so you can work out more the next day. Being huge does help very much in baseball, it requires hand-eye skills. Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime would have been a great NFL linebacker but would not have hung around in the minors at all.

        If it does help it allows you to be healthy more often during the long grinding season. Being healthy means you play better. Steroids do not have a magical ability that causes you to catch up to a 99 mph fastball that you previously weren’t quick enough to touch. Adding muscle mass will help but I dont see anyone calling for a ban on weightlifting. Steroids can help guys recover just like Tommy John surgery or physical therapy or gatorade or water.

        • 109
          Paul E says:

          Tops:
          If player “A” has a track record of .280/.340/.440 for his age 22-32 seasons, I assure you steroids will IMPROVE his numbers. He already HAD the skills to hit ML pitching-he’ll just hit it better, harder, and further. A 400# bench presser will bench press 475# with steroids…Tim Montgomery will go from 10.05 to 9.85…and Ken Caminiti will go from 98 OPS+ to 140 and win an M V P award.

          It’s OK….it’s just cheating. No big deal. Wall Street has inside information, politicians and college football coaches have slush funds, and life goes on in the U S A

          • 110
            topper009 says:

            Being able to lift weights and run faster does not make you better at baseball. They make you better at football and track. You can “assure” me all you want but you dont have any evidence to support your claim. For every player you show me with a supposed steroid boost I can show you an admitted user who did not get a boost or an old timer who had the same boost without steroids.

            The ball changed in 1993 and the parks got smaller, that caused the offensive outburst. That plus more teams moving to HR hitters and away from the base stealers of the 80s.

            Why has scoring went down in Colorado, because of steroids testing? No, because they changed the ball with the humidor. Humidor started in 2002, steroid testing started in 2005.

            Coors Field Park Factors
            1993 120
            1994 113
            1995 128
            1996 129
            1997 113
            1998 125
            1999 125
            2000 129
            2001 121
            2002 117
            2003 110
            2004 119
            2005 110
            2006 107
            2007 109
            2008 105
            2009 119
            2010 118
            2011 116

            Pre 2002 ave = 122.5
            Post 2002 ave = 112.5

          • 111
            Paul E says:

            Topper @110:
            And the 29 other parks where scoring has gone downin the last 4 years?

  37. 112
    Mike L says:

    If someone wants to cling to the idea that steroids are mere healers, that they don’t boost performance for the majority of players, there is nothing that can be said to convince him otherwise. Bigger and stronger doesn’t necessarily make baseball players, but to the extent that they give a professional hitter 12 more feet on a flyball, or a pitcher 5MPH on his fastball, they will, inevitably, over a large enough sample, lead to better results. But, even if you want to stand on the idea that they are nothing more than palliative M&M’s, they are still banned from baseball and should not be taken. I don’t know how it could be clearer. Players who are caught have labeled themselves.

    • 113
      bstar says:

      I agree with this. I do think steroids help players strength-wise. Let’s suppose hypothetically that steroids help a player hit the ball 5% farther. Well, that turns a 395-foot out on the warning track into a ~415 foot home run, so saying that all steroids do is help a player heal quicker to me is not correct.

      One other point I would like to make is that players who lift weights to get stronger get lumped in with those who lift weights and do steroids. If you ever watch an old game from even the 70s or 80s, you’ll notice that virtually every player to a man is skinnier than now. Back then, you didn’t hit the gym much if you were a baseball player, if ever. Now, players grow up through high school lifting at least a little to make themselves stronger. Look at Jeff Bagwell. Obviously Bags was a weightlifter–but he was never tied to steroids to my knowledge. Still, the BBWAA decided to ding him severely with an embarrassing 40-odd% vote on his first attempt at the HOF because he merely looked the part.

      But lumping Paul Konerko into a steroids user when he neither looks the part and has not ostensibly increased his power numbers much but instead merely raised his batting average in the last two years and two months is taking it too far.

  38. 114
    Leo Sary says:

    There may be something wrong with your links. You should have somebody take a look at the website.

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