There are a contingency of writers that have decided to judge players on the “guilty by association” when it comes to performance in the steroid era. Players who best years happened post 1990 usually fall into this category. Recently, Jeff Pearlman discussed how he holds all the players of this era accountable, regardless of evidence, in a piece about Jeff Bagwell’s Hall of Fame candidacy. It’s the classic “guilty by association” argument that I personally don’t understand. Never mind the fact that steroid use was going on long before individuals like Jeff Bagwell made their major league debut. As a matter of fact, former big league pitcher Mike Marshall told me on my radio show that he believes alarming the Players Association to steroids becoming a potential issue led to a lack of interest in his services after a solid 1981 season.
On Sunday, NYBD listener Gregg Ferrara called into my weekly radio show to discuss his response to Pearlman, and point out that it wasn’t just the players that were “juiced” during that era. Gregg pointed out an article which cites studies done by the University of Rhode Island and Penn State. These studies concluded there was a difference in elasticity between baseballs used prior to the mid nineties.
Without getting technical (click here for the entire study), the Rhode Island study examined baseballs from 1963,1970, 1989,1995, and 2000, while Penn State studied images of baseballs from 1915 to 2007. The results indicated that baseballs from early nineties onward were more elastic, leading to greater bounce. Some of the reasons include change in manufacturers (Spalding to Rawlings), density, material, and woolen winding. The piece also points out how Major League Baseball conducted its own biased study in 2000 that many believe was nothing more than a “straw man exercise.”
So my question to the fans, writers, and members of the BBWAA that believe results from players in the nineties are tainted and don’t deserve to be recognized for the sports high honor: how do you quantify the juiced baseball? I am not denying there was rampant use of steroids, but do the players take the hit for the ball?
I also would like to see a study about the baseball from last year when a 1,000 less runs were scored. Would anyone be surprised if the opposite occurred and now the material is less elastic? The point is it takes more than just some pills and weight lifting to produce lofty offensive numbers.
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