When I’m hard up for something to write about regarding baseball, one of the places I look is Sports Illustrated’s newswire. It’s usually good for something that sparks my desire to comment.
The Indians are planning to put out an Albert Belle bobble-head next June in which he points to his flexed biceps, a pose the real Belle struck in the 1995 play-offs against the Boston Red Sox, when the Sox manager Kevin Kennedy asked the umps to check Belle’s bat for corking. The gesture has a whole new meaning today, in light of all we now know about steroids in the 1990’s game.
I’m not accusing Belle of steroids use, but I do wonder about a bobble-head that celebrates something relatively forgettable that happened 18 seasons ago. However, the Tribe hasn’t won a World Series since 1948, but last lost the Series in 1995 and 1997.
I guess Belle making a muscle is the best they can do. As far as bobble-heads, I would have gone with their two big free agent signings this off-season, local boy (relatively speaking) Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, or one of their young stars like Carlos Santana (if they haven’t already issued a bobble-head for him), and left it at that.
I was also amused by back-up catcher Francisco Cervelli‘s claim that he “consulted” with Biogenesis of America LLC, but never used any of their banned performance-enhancing products. It may be true, but it certainly sounds ridiculous.
The players most likely to resort to performance enhancing drugs are (1) superstars, who want to be the very best and have unrealistic (?) expectations that they will be protected from disclosure so long as they perform; (2) marginal players, who have the least to lose (minor league careers at dirt pay) and the most to gain (significant major league careers and salaries) by using PEDs; and (3) aging veterans trying to hang on for a few more seasons. That being said, all professional athletes can benefit from the boost they get from PEDs, and a lot of it probably comes down to each individual player’s willingness to push the envelope (i.e., cheat) to get ahead.
One thing to be said for Cervelli — his career numbers don’t suggest a player on steroids. As a major league player, Cervelli’s strongest attribute is his ability to get on base (i.e., lay off pitches just out of the strike zone and draw walks — he has a .339 career on-base percentage), and he’s never shown a whiff of power (career .353 slugging percentage). I don’t see how PEDs would give a player a better batting eye, and there’s no evidence at all that Cervelli has added strength by ‘roiding up.
Here’s a silly Spring Training article about how Barry Zito has a bounce in his step and renewed swagger after his fine performances in last year’s post-season. I’ve already written about how Zito’s 2012 post-season finally justified the $126 million contract he signed with the Giants before the 2007 season.
However, Barry Zito‘s post-season performance in no way suggests that he still has the major league stuff to pitch his way successfully through the 2013 season. Zito’s 15-8 regular season record was more a matter of good luck and the law of averages bouncing back, at least when one compares his 2012 performance to 2009 and 2010, when he had losing records but pitched about the same or better.
Compared to those two prior seasons, Zito’s hits per nine innings and strike outs rate were worse in 2012. He threw a few more strikes in 2012, but not enough to justify his vastly better won-loss record.
I’m not taking anything away from Zito’s 2012 post-season performance by saying it’s highly doubtful that the ego and confidence bump he got will translate into a successful 2013 campaign. Instead, the objective evidence suggests that Zito’s 2013 is more likely to look like his miserable 2008 and 2011 seasons, than his 2009, 201o and 2012 campaigns.