The Difference Between Baseball and Football

The other day, Brett Favre said that Adrian Peterson is the best running back he's ever seen. He compared him to his childhood favourite Walter Payton, concluding that even Payton couldn't match Peterson's talent. ESPN reported on his comments with a tag along the lines of "Favre calls Peterson best of all time". Brett Favre specifically stated that he was comparing Peterson to everyone else he has seen. He never said anything about all time. Yet the association made is that the best this generation has seen equals the best all time. No matter that the restriction precludes consideration of Jim Brown or Red Grange or whomever else might be considered in this discussion (I honestly don't have nearly the knowledge of football history as I do of baseball history); if Favre says he's the best he has seen, he must mean the best of all time.

Imagine if John Smoltz were to say Albert Pujols is the best hitter he's ever seen. Would anybody confuse that for him saying he's the best of all time? Would we just forgo consideration of Ty Cobb or Babe Ruth or Ted Williams or Willie Mays and limit "all time" to the memory of this generation? As a baseball fan first and foremost, this kind of lack of historical sensibility is hard for me to fathom. Like I said, I really don't have the historical sense of football either, but is that normal even for fans who are football first? Maybe I just don't know the right fans, but it seems like it is.

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Why Strikeouts Matter More for Pitchers

One question that bothers a lot of fans new to statistical views of the game is just what we are doing with strikeouts. Why, they ask, are strikeouts so important in evaluating pitchers yet so insignificant to how we judge their ash-encumbered counterparts? If you are going to count them for one, shouldn't we at least be consistent in how we count them for both? It's a difficult question even for a lot of us who have accepted the wave of defense-independent pitching measures and linear weights. Why, indeed? It doesn't help that this observance is in many cases an inversion of the views a lot of fans bring into the discussion. We all grew up taking the mound with mantras of throwing strikes and letting them hit it ringing in our heads. We dug in at the plate told to choke up and put the third strike in play, to swing at anything close and protect the plate with 2 strikes. We're all groomed with the idea that as pitchers, we should not worry about strikeouts, but as hitters, we should fear them. So naturally, the reverse concept can be hard to digest.

So it is that a good starting point, given the history most of us share in the game, is to note that professional ballplayers are not Little Leaguers (and when they were, they never had to worry about choking up or not striking anyone out). With a team of 10-year olds carpooling to practice, the primary issues are advancing the game in a timely manner and that everyone gets a good amount of participation. That means the key focus on coaching pitchers is making sure they throw the ball over the plate and not that they miss bats. When they do find the plate, you want the kids to hit it. When both sides are doing this, you've got a good game.

Unfortunately for many of us, this is where most of our coaching in the game ends. In order to separate the rules of value we played under from those in the pros, we have to first have a grasp on where value comes from at the top levels of the game. In doing so, we break players into two distinct categories and look at their values independently. Obviously, these categories are pitchers and non-pitchers (or hitters, as some like to call them, though that is not the whole of their value).

We judge pitchers by how good they are at run prevention. We judge non-pitchers by a combination of run prevention and run creation. From here, we can begin to see where our valuations of both categories differ. The first thing you should notice is that the task of run creation is left entirely to the group of non-pitchers (essentially), but that run prevention is split up between pitchers and non-pitchers (as fielders). The entire spectrum of events on the offensive side of the game is the charge of the hitter, whereas the pitcher's responsibility is bunched toward the fielding independent side of the spectrum.

This means two things. One, since the breadth of pitcher responsibility is spread disproportionately over a tighter range on the spectrum, those areas (the fielding independent stats such as K, BB, and HR) each hold more weight relative to the rest of the spectrum. Two, non-hitters share the responsibility for some of the areas of run prevention as well as controlling all of run creation. This means that there are more areas where non-pitchers can pick up value, and no one area is as essential to their value. They don't even necessarily have to be more than passable hitters if they provide enough value on defense.

Adam Dunn can strike out 200 times in a season and still be a great hitter because there are so many other ways he can add value at the plate. Adam Everett can fail to do anything at all to make him a valuable hitter and still be valuable because of his glove. Adam Wainwright needs to be good at some combination of striking hitters out, limiting walks, and limiting home runs in order to be valuable. If he's not good at those things, there's not enough places left for him to make it up. This is the first reason that strikeouts are more important for pitchers than for non-pitchers.

Of course, preventing walks and home runs is also important. In fact, the concensus among statisticians is that both a walk and a home run have a greater effect on run scoring than a strikeout, and a home run substantially moreso. Run estimators that assign weights to different events reflect this by giving strikeouts less weight than HR and walks. Why all the focus on strikeouts, then?

We can look specifically at a run estimator to see how strikeouts affect value differently from other events as well as how they affect value for pitchers differently than for hitters. For this article, I'll look at Jim Albert's formula using four component rates. The formula is:

-3.2 + 13.2*BB% - 12.3*K% + 40.9*HR% + 24.5*BABIP

I chose this formula over other run estimators for a number of reasons that suit it to our purposes:

-It is easily applied to both pitchers and hitters.
-It breaks down value into the three most important fielding independent events and one rate that lumps fielding influenced value into one category, so we can focus on the fielding independent events.
-It uses strikeouts as one of its components.
-Each successive rate in the formula excludes all previous events from its denominator (K% does not include walks, HR% does not include walks or strikeouts, BABIP includes none of the other events). This means that each rate is reasonably independent of the others. HR/PA or HR/9 will hide some of the value of strikeouts in the HR component because allowing contact on fewer PAs will mean fewer home runs. Each of those rates is really a combination of HR/contact PA (the HR% in Albert's formula) and the amount of contact PAs allowed per AB (K%, essentially). Since we are concerned with the effect of strikeouts, using a formula that isolates strikeout rate as much as possible from other components is preferrable.

As we can see from the formula, home runs are by far the most important component. They're so important, in fact, that it is virtually impossible to make the Majors and stay there for any length of time if you can't keep home runs below a certain level. Anyone who serves up gopher balls at a BP-like rate is going to be weeded out pretty quickly. So there is an upper limit to HR% in the Majors for pitchers. Over a large enough sample, nearly every pitcher who makes the Majors will fall below that limit. There is also a lower limit to HR% (obviously 0 is a limit, but the actual limit is above that because big league hitters are good enough that they will inevitably leave the yard occasionally if they can put the ball in play). The upper limit is close enough to the lower limit that there isn't that much room for pitchers to rack up value.

Walks have a bigger spread than home runs, but there is still only so much room below the average BB% for pitchers to pick up value. Strikeouts, on the other hand, have a larger spread and have a ton of room above average where elite pitchers can gain value over their peers. The following graph shows the spread of each component of the above formula using all pitchers with at least 200 IP since 1993 (845 pitchers). The coloured box represents the spread from the 25th to 75th percentile with a line in the middle for the median. The whiskers above and below each box are the spread up to 1.5 times the spread of the box. Circles represent outliers that fall outside that range.

Strikeouts not only show a greater spread between the second and third quartiles, they also show the most outliers (particularly in the positive value direction-above for strikeouts and below for walks and home runs) as well as outliers the furthest away from the spread. Elite value is easier to come by in the strikeout category. That is, the best pitchers in K% gain more value from being good at striking out hitters than the best pitchers in BB% or HR% gain from being good at preventing those events. By applying the weights from the formula to the spread, we can see how much each spread is worth in run value.

25-75 SD
BABIP 0.51 0.39
BB% 0.36 0.26
HR% 0.45 0.33
K% -0.75 -0.58

This means that the difference in a pitcher at the 25th percentile in K% and a pitcher at the 75th percentile is .75 runs per game. The difference in pitchers 1 standard deviation apart in K% is .58 runs per game. As you can see, this is a significantly larger difference than the other components. Expanding the spread to include the extreme reaches of each component will further exaggerate the difference because of the additional spread outside the box for strikeouts, so you can see how important strikeouts can be to the value of an elite pitcher. Looking at the extreme values does introduce some problems if we try to use them to quantify the spread, as many of the outliers are relievers pitching under circumstances that inflate K%, but we can still see qualitatively how the extremes are pushed further in K% than in any other component.

Let's look at the same graph for hitters (minimum 800 PAs since 1993, 842 hitters in sample):

and the values of the spreads (NOTE: These numbers are not on the same scale as the pitcher values. They are scaled to fit runs per game, so this is hitter value over roughly 40 PA, which is obviously not comparable to the playing time for a pitcher whose value is scaled to runs per game. That means you can't compare the actual values between the two tables, only how they relate to the other values in the same table.):

25-75 SD
BABIP 0.71 0.54
BB% 0.48 0.37
HR% 1.23 0.90
K% -0.92 -0.70

HR% shows the largest spread value for hitters. BB% climbs a bit to just over half the spread value of K%. The fielding dependent component, which is more important for hitters since we charge them with all of run creation, also shows a relatively higher spread value compared to K%. We also see significantly more outliers in HR% and BB%, especially in the positive value direction (above the spread), fewer outliers in general in K%, and no outliers in the positive value direction (below) for K%. Elite hitters can pick up a lot of extra value by excelling in components besides strikeouts, and, unlike pitchers, hitters who don't strike out a lot don't gain all that much value compared to those who excel in other components.

Not coincidentally, hitters with poor strikeout rates tend to make up for that with good home run rates. Hitters who lose a lot of value in strikeouts can still be valuable hitters because it is possible to make up more than that value in HR%. For hitters, K% correlates fairly strongly to HR% (r=.59 over the sample). This is not true for pitchers (r=.04). Much of this is do to a selection bias (hitters who strike out a lot are only allowed to play if they can make up that value in hitting for power, whereas pitchers are already limited to a much tighter range of home run rates), but there is something relevant to take from this. Hitters can improve their HR% by deliberately swinging for power, usually at some cost to their K%. In other words, there is often a positive trade off to changing their approach to increase strikeouts. This is not true for pitchers. A pitcher who changes his approach to reduce strikeouts will generally not see a corresponding drop in HR%. For pitchers, K% is either good or bad with little effect on HR%. For hitters, the two are somewhat linked, so that changes in strikeouts for hitters are dampened by a corresponding change in power.

None of this is to say that strikeouts are the only way to measure value for pitchers, nor that they mean nothing for hitters. The proper way to consider strikeouts is in conjunction with other components and weighted appropriately. Once we have the proper weights for each event, we don't need to give special consideration to strikeouts or anything else, so nothing in this article should lead you to quantify pitching success differently from how you normally would (assuming you are doing it properly to begin with); rather, the point is to illustrate why the way we analyze pitchers and non-pitchers gives more significance to the strikeout in pitcher success than in non-pitcher success. Non-pitchers simply have more places to pick up value that render strikeouts less essential. They can pick up more value than pitchers in home run rates or on the value of balls in play (the fielding dependent events involved in run creation/prevention). They have fielding value completely unrelated to hitting. What's more, one's approach at the plate links home runs and strike outs in ways that a pitcher's approach can't so that the cost of strikeouts can be offset by gains in power.

When your team signs a Tim Lincecum or Javy Vazquez, take their value for what it is. Enjoy that they can mow through lineups with minimal contact allowed for the other team to work with rather than worrying about them buying into whatever notions about pitching to contact and using the defense you might have. When they sign a Mark Reynolds or Adam Dunn, instead of getting hung up on the frustration of every plate appearance wasted without making the fielders work, focus on where else they provide value. Look for the damage they do when they do make contact or the advantages they win when they work a walk. The results will be there if you know how to look.
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OPS by Position and Decade

The following table shows how each position, as a whole, hit in each decade from the years 1954-2008 (those available on Retrosheet). Two numbers are given for each position in each decade: OPS, in italics, and OPS+, in bold. This shows both how offensive production went up or down at each position as the overall level of production changed (OPS) and how each position has moved up or down relative to the league as a whole (OPS+). The numbers 1-9 are the standard numbers assigned to defensive positions, 10 is the DH (only available from 1973 onward), and 11 is pinch hitters.

OPS/OPS+ by Position

1 .421 14 .369 4 .380 7 .360 0 .362 -3 .362 -5
2 .716 92 .674 89 .689 93 .683 89 .715 89 .721 87
3 .791 111 .771 116 .774 116 .777 115 .823 117 .835 116
4 .692 86 .652 84 .666 87 .686 91 .723 92 .744 93
5 .746 100 .715 101 .726 103 .734 103 .757 100 .775 101
6 .684 84 .650 83 .622 75 .653 81 .694 85 .727 89
7 .803 115 .763 114 .763 113 .758 110 .781 107 .813 110
8 .784 110 .737 107 .734 105 .729 102 .755 100 .764 98
9 .783 109 .773 116 .761 112 .762 110 .797 110 .811 110
- - -
.725 102 .746 106 .789 109 .793 105
11 .638 72 .602 70 .632 78 .644 79 .652 74 .660 72

This is just intended as a reference point, but there are a few interesting things to note.

-The DH is not really that close to being the strongest hitting position. First base and both corner outfield spots hit better as groups than DH. The DH position's peak in this sample, relative to the rest of the league, was in the 90s. It might seem as though the AL has adapted to utilize the DH to develop pure power hitters who need do nothing else and that the position is more potent than in the earlier years when teams were just sticking an extra bat off the bench or resting a regular there, but DH production this decade is about the same as it was in the 70s and 80s.

-Middle infield positions become a little less light-hitting. Second base steadily rose up into the low 90s in OPS+ over the decades. Shortstop lagged a little behind, getting considerably worse in the 70s and then making jumps in each subsequent decade to get back to its old position just behind second base. This reflects changes in positional adjustments that statisticians have noted: these positions have come a few runs closer to the field in recent decades (i.e. shortstop being +7 adjustment instead of +10).

-Catcher, despite being the furthest right on the defensive spectrum, having the highest positional adjustment, and having a reputation as a position where teams settle for players who are obviously not ML-quality hitters, has not been the weakest hitting position in decades past. It wasn't until the upward surge of hitting talent in the middle infield positions that catcher has been weaker than them. The worst hitters may or may not be catchers, but there is probably a skew upward from the handful of really good hitting catchers. Since the position is not limited by requirements for quickness and agility like second and short, you can still have big, powerful hitters who drive the overall average up. I don't know if that is why catcher was ahead of those positions in the past or not, but it seems a reasonable possibility.

-Both corner outfield spots usually hit at about the same level even though most people consider left field the more offensive position.

-Pinch hitters are always bad, worse than having any typical starter at the plate, even at a weak position. Fans should probably stop looking at their teams PH stats with the league average in mind as a baseline. It's not good for your health. So if you happen to notice that your team seems to suck at pinch hitting, and you look up the stats and see that they do, don't worry about it. Everyone does.

Feel free to glean whatever else of interest you can out of this chart. Otherwise, I think it's just a useful reference for comparing positions and mapping their changes over time.
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R.J. Anderson is a Genius

There's nothing to this post except to say that R.J. Anderson has created the best baseball graph I have ever seen. Per FanGraphs:

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Lifetime Achievement MVPs?

It's no secret that I am annoyed by what is at times an unreasonable enamorment with Derek Jeter from the media. I have still never seen it taken to this level. The Wall Street Journal ran an article yesterday with the basic premise that they know full well that Jeter is not the most valuable player in the league this year, but that they should give him the award anyway.

The article is set up with the idea that Academy Awards are often given as lifetime achievement awards to recipients who don't necessarily deserve it for the film they are being honored for, but who have earned it for past works that were not recognized. This, they claim (without any justification), is no different from how MVPs are awarded in baseball. The article goes on to list the typical immeasurable reasons Jeter defies everything we know about baseball analysis, but the crux of it is that he has never won one before, so why shouldn't he, following in baseball's long-established tradition, win one for the hell of it as a last hurrah?

Because that's BS, that's why. The concept that MVP awards in baseball are awarded to players who have been rebuffed throughout a great career and put up one last good, if not MVP-worthy, season as a last shot to win one has no basis in reality. It should probably have been a clue when they had no problem listing examples of Academy Awards given in this manner, but then, after saying baseball was no different with MVPs, failed to produce a single example (if they are going to present evidence of only one, shouldn't it be the relevant one and not of the completely unrelated analogy?).

In baseball history, there have been 10 MVPs age 35 (Jeter's age this season) or older:

-Four of them were Barry Bonds. These were clearly not making up for a great player never having won, as: A)he deserved them all; B)he had won 3 of them already anyway, and it's not like they were going to keep giving him lifetime achievement MVPs year after year; and, I guess C)no one liked him enough to do that anyway.

-One was Dennis Eckersly in 1992. If voters were going to give a lifetime achievement MVP to someone who they think should have one but doesn't, it wouldn't be a relief pitcher, a position they aren't to eager to honour in the first place. Eckersly was legitimately studly that year and wracked up some glamour stats as a closer that attracted the voters when no position players jumped out.

-One was Mike Schmidt in 1986. Like Bonds, he had already won multiple MVPs and thus had no need for a lifetime achievement nod. He also won 2 legs of the Triple Crown (HR and RBI).

-One was Willie Stargell in 1979, when he tied with Keith Hernandez for the award. This is probably the closest to a lifetime achievement, since Stargell probably didn't deserve the award, but the voters' choice likely had much more to do with recognizing Willie for leading the family in Pittsburgh to an NL best 98 wins.

-One was Hank Sauer in 1952, hardly a player anyone would give a lifetime achievement MVP. Sauer wasn't even a regular player until he was in his 30s.

-One was Spud Chandler in 1943. Chandler falls in the same boat as both Sauer and Eckersly. Like Sauer, he won the award for his performance that year (his 20-4 record and 1.64 ERA led the league), not for his career 131 starts to that point. He climbs aboard with Eckersly for winning as a pitcher in a year that lacked offensive standouts (Chandler had only one fewer HR than runner up Luke Appling).

-The final (or first, since I'm going backwards in time) was Walter Johnson in 1924. Like Bonds and Schmidt, Johnson had already won an MVP. It's also worth noting that Johnson's MVPs (as well as Spud Chandler's, for that matter) were won when there was no Cy Young award, so voters couldn't say that pitchers had their own award as they do now. As for whether Johnson deserved the award, he led the league in pretty much everything (wins, W%, ERA, strikeouts, games started, shutouts, H/9, SO/BB, SO/9) and hit .283 to boot.

No one else has won an MVP at Jeter's age or older.

Simply put, MVPs are not awarded as lifetime achievement Oscars. I have no idea why anyone would say that. I don't generally read the Wall Street Journal, so I don't know what kind of quality to expect from their sports page, but they also seemed to think that it would be a good idea to calculate how many words per minute each TV pbp guy says per minute to determine which broadcasters talk the most solely by watching one total inning of work for each broadcast team with a clicker in one hand and a stopwatch in the other (if it weren't such a pointless study in the first place, one would be inclined to take them to task for publishing such poorly executed results). So maybe we shouldn't hold the standard too high.
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Discrediting Jose

Fair warning to those who might expect this blog to get back to more important themes (it will, don't worry): this is another steroid-related post. It will be the last one in this recent series, from me, anyway.

Many fans look to Jose Canseco as some sort of anti-hero in the game for his role in bringing the issue of steroids to light. Of course, rare is the fan who will enter this defense of the man without prefacing it with various caveats ("I'm not saying he's a hero or even a good guy, but..."); however, that "but..." is still a common refrain. ...but he did get baseball to do something about steroids; ...but when has he been wrong in what he has said?; ...but where would the game be if he hadn't spoken up. There is always that addendum of credence following the caveats. People constantly use these justifications for taking what he says seriously every time he says something new with regard to steroids. There is this perception, at least among a significant portion of the interested population, that Canseco has earned credibility on the subject such that we should act under the assumption that when he says something on the subject, it is true.

I have to admit, I just don't see it that way. Canseco's record in speaking on the subject is littered with inconsistencies and lack of integrity, rife with the sense of self-interest. He stakes his credibility on his vast first-hand knowledge of the issue on one hand while making many of his claims with no first-hand knowledge on the other and doesn't seem to differentiate between the two. Many of his claims are unverifiable. Some of his verifiable claims have been proven false. I really see no reason to even listen to the guy at this point.

I bring this up because Canseco has thrown himself into the spotlight again this summer with statements following the HOF induction ceremony that baseball definitively has steroid users in the Hall. This, as I will discuss a bit later, falls in line with some of his other claims as a bit of a "duh" statement, meaning something that anyone could say with just as much certainty as Canseco. We know steroids have been around for decades. There is documentation of steroid concern in the media and from fans (though nothing like today) at least back to the late 80s, yet nothing was really done about it until recent years. So one could assume that it's likely that at least one person in the Hall of Fame has used steroids at some point in his career. Do we have any idea who? No (and most likely neither does Canseco), but probably someone has. Even if none of them have, there isn't really any indesputable proof that they haven't, so there's not really any way to be "proven" wrong on that. So Canseco is basically making a claim that you or I could have made just as easily.

I guess there's nothing wrong with that, as long as Canseco is clear that that's all he is doing, but he's not. He is implying some sort of first-hand knowledge, as always, where there is no indication he has any. Beyond that, he is either deliberately implicating one specific player or he didn't think at all about what he was doing. He has had the opportunity to say this at any point over the past several years, but he waits until immediately after a former teammate of his from that Oakland clubhouse he has spoken so fondly of gets inducted to speak up. Coincidence? He also seemed to imply that the HOFer was on the list of 104 names from 2003 (note that when he says "I know who's on that list" in the quote below, it is in a discussion that began with the revelation of Ortiz' and Ramirez' names being on that list), which, considering the number of HOFers who played in 2003, really narrows it down. Canseco insisted he wouldn't name names, saying the following:

It's not about naming names. I've never had anything against the players. It's always been against Major League Baseball. I know who's on that list, but like I said, it's not about attacking the players. It's about the machine that allowed this to happen. What I speak out of my mouth is the truth. It burns like fire. Just remember, I have never lied about this subject.

The disingenuities here are numerous:

-He is again invoking his supposed credibility, claiming he has never lied about this subject (which is not true)
-He claims he is not about naming names. This should be self-explanitory
-On top of the above hypocrisy, he is implicating one specific player, either through deliberate deception or through sheer stupidity, by dropping so many hints that point to that player and then refusing to name anyone different
-The player he is implicating, either through deliberate deception or through sheer stupidity, is a player he has specifically named multiple times as being 100% clean, at least to his knowledge

I don't know how I can take a quote like that seriously. On top of all that, stop for a moment and think just how ridiculous it is for us to believe that Canseco actually knows who's on that list. The list is sealed under court order, and only persons involved in the legal proceedings have access to it. The media is hungry for the names on the list and goes to great lengths to work them out of leaks from those with access to them and to get whatever verification they can and still has trouble getting reliable names, but we're supposed to believe that Canseco went to the goverment or lawyers or whoever and asked to see the list, and they just said, "Sure, here you go. Take your time, copy it down in full if you'd like."? And then, even though he has the list and has had no problems telling us that Manny was on that very list, we should just trust that he has it but won't name names because that's not what he's about? Come on. Even JOB Bluth can figure this one out.

Canseco quite clearly seems to be full of BS here. That's no surprise. His entire history on the subject is nothing but contradictions and inconsistencies. Let's examine his claim that he has never lied on this subject:

-In 1988, stories surfaced of Canseco's since admitted steroid use. He denied it at the time.
-The following spring, Canseco again denied steroid use after steroids were found in his secretary's bag at an airport, even though his friend was facing legal charges stemming from the event.

-Jeff Marron of ESPN's Page 2 finds a pattern of at the very least lazy fact-checking and lack of regard for accuracy in Canseco's book Juiced, but one particular detail is particularly relevant. One of Canseco's supposed triumphs of truth is that he correctly named Bret Boone as a steroid user, but Marron's research on the passage where Canseco details a conversation where Boone told him of his steroid use in ST shows that the conversation is almost certainly fabricated and could not have taken place as described in the book. So, in effect, while Boone did happen to use P.E.D.s, Canseco's claim to first-hand knowledge of that was a lie. You don't get credit for that, Jose.

-Canseco wrote in Juiced that he and Clemens had discussed steroids and the effects of different combinations of drugs, as well as that he heard Clemens use the term "B12 shots" in discussing players, which Canseco claims was common joke, especially among pitchers, of referring to steroids in an indirect way. He later told investigators for the Mitchell Report (<-PDF file) "that he had numerous conversations with Clemens about the benefits of Deca-Durabolin and Winstrol and how to 'cycle' and 'stack' steroids." However, according to AP reports, he claimed in a sworn affadavit that Clemens had never discussed any interest in using P.E.D.s with him and that he had not been contacted by Mitchell's people to discuss allegations against Clemens. Beyond just blatantly lying, many of Canseco's claims have little merit. His credibility is supposedly built on his first-hand knowledge of the subject from within the game. Various statements from Canseco have put the number of players in recent years who used steroids from 80-95%, and Jose claims in his book, "When I talk in detail about steroids and how I single-handedly changed the game of baseball by introducing them into the game, I am saying what everyone in baseball has known for years." (p 3). With such a vast first-hand knowledge of what players have used, players he specifically introduced to steroids, he has to resort to naming players like Brady Anderson and Bret Boone in his book? Really? Players he never played with and whose use he has no first-hand knowledge of? Why, if he has any number of players he knows for certain juiced, would he stake his credibility on naming names like that, and why would he make up his story linking at least one of them to steroids? The most reasonable answer I can come up with goes back to the concept of the "duh" statement behind his HOFer comment. He picked 2 players everyone already believed were on steroids, presumably thinking that would lend him credibility. Sort of like Bud Selig taking credit for attendance going up on weekends. Especially for someone who's not about naming names, naming names with that little evidence doesn't exactly lead me to believe everything else he says.

Canseco's history of speaking on the subject is just one self-serving contradiction after another:

He expressed regret in television interviews for naming names in his first book while he was in the process of pitching a second book called, get this, Vindicated: Big Names, Big Liars, and the Battle to Save Baseball, during the writing of which he was reported to the FBI for blackmailing a player to keep his name out of the book.

As implied by the title of his second book, Canseco now takes credit for saving baseball from this rampant steroid problem that was hurting the game. In his first book, he writes:
By the time my eight-year-old daughter, Josie, has graduated from high school, a majority of all professional athletes — in all sports — will be taking steroids. And believe it or not, that’s good news...Steroid use will be more common than Botox is now. Every baseball player and pro athlete will be using at least low levels of steroids. As a result, baseball and other sports will be more exciting and entertaining. Human life will be improved, too. We will live longer and better. And maybe we’ll love longer and better, too...Yes, you heard me right: Steroids, used correctly, will not only make you stronger and sexier, they will also make you healthier.
-Juiced, pp 1-3
That does not sound like his intentions were to clean the game of steroids to me, or even that he considered it a problem.

He bemoans his unfair treatment saying that he was singly targeted for his steroid use because he was Latino while white players were given a free pass, and then basically makes a mockery of this potentially engaging discussion point by saying, as noted in the quote above, that he single-handedly introduced steroids to the game and that everyone knew it and failing to link that to why he was such an easy target.

What we see in Canseco is a megalomaniac who consistently distorts reality to put himself in the spotlight. He almost certainly didn't single-handedly introduce steroids to the game (and the knowledge he has disclosed on the subject does nothing to indicate that he is nearly as significant as he claims in this regard). He believes himself in 1988 to be "hands down the best player in the world. No one even came close." (p 78) and complains that no one was willing to recognize him, that only white players were household names (Canseco was awarded the MVP in 1988). He says on the same page, "In 1987 and 1988, who were the great Latino ball players? There was only one; it was just me." Think, for a moment, just how ridiculous a statement that is. He was the only great Latino ball player when he broke into baseball. Forget, for a moment, the all-time greats who had preceded him as Latinos in the game and who actually paved the way for him, and that Canseco seems to have no sense of history here (this passage is about how the game was closed to Latinos until he became great and, apparently, opened the door for them). Forget future Hall of Famer Rod Carew who had just retired. Pedro Guerrero made his 4th of 5 All Star Teams in 1987. Rafael Palmeiro made his first of 4 in 1988. Eight other Latino players born outside the U.S. were All Stars in '87 or '88. George Bell won the MVP in 1987. Benito Santiago was voted Rookie of the in '87. Fernando Valenzuela was coming off a stretch of 6 straight All Star appearances from '81-86 in which he won a Cy Young and a Rookie of the Year award. But Jose Canseco was the only great Latino player.

This is a player, who, as Jeff Maron points out in his Page 2 article, took artistic license in his book in describing a heroic, mammoth home run he launched in Detroit that, it turns out, was actually hit by Mark McGwire.

Canseco is clearly out of touch with reality. The quality of the evidence he has provided on the subject, filled as it is with claims that are already widely believed before he makes them and which he is no more informed to make than you or I am, gives no indication that he is the significant figure he paints himself, and if he is, then he is witholding information that could actually be meaningful and instead giving us random BS on purpose. He has a history of lying about his own steroid use and a pattern of tailoring his accounts to the point that they conflict each other. His interviews are filled with disengenuity. If these sound like ad hominem attacks, forgive me, but when all we are given are unverifiable claims and asked to trust them on the integrity of the speaker alone, what are we to do but point out his past inconsistencies and general lack of regard for truth and integrity?

Sorry Jose. I have nothing to add to those caveats.

*quotes from the book are from free previews available on Google books, except for those from pages 1-3, which are not available in the preview, but are excerpted on
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