You Know it's You, Babe

Bill James, who is probably my favorite living writer, has a wonderfully rambling piece up for Slate that jumps from Babe Ruth, to Barry Bonds, to Prohibition, steroids, the American habit of disrespecting rules, Martha Stewart, financial regulation, Roger Clemens, and the criminalization of everything. You don't need to like baseball to enjoy it, though it surely helps. Some chunks:

Ruth knew perfectly well that he wasn't supposed to eat eight or 10 hot dogs between the games of a doubleheader, but he did it anyway. In 1930, the Yankee players were introduced to the president of the United States before a game at Yankee Stadium. The other Yankee players said things like, "Thank you for coming, sir" and "Honored to meet you, Mr. President." Babe Ruth said, "Hot as hell, ain't it, Prez?" Every story about Babe Ruth, every episode, reflects this very deep belief in the importance to Babe Ruth of not obeying the rules.

I am not saying that we should not admire Babe Ruth, that we should not respect him, that we should not honor him. What I am trying to get people to face is the cast of mind that made Babe Ruth what he was. It was not very different from the cast of mind that made Barry Bonds who he was, or made Roger Clemens or Ted Williams who they were. I myself am a stubborn, sometimes arrogant person who refuses to obey some of the rules that everybody else follows. I pay no attention to the rules of grammar. I write fragments if I goddamned well feel like it. I refuse to follow many of the principles of proper research that are agreed upon by the rest of the academic world. An editor said to me last year, "Well, you've earned the right to do things your own way." Bullshit; I was that way when I was 25. It has to do with following the rules that make sense to me and ignoring the ones that don't. It doesn't make me a bad person; it makes me who I am. I started the Baseball Abstract, self-publishing it when self-publishing was cumbersome and impractical, because it was my book and nobody was going to tell me how to write it or tell me what people were interested in. [...]

People write that Babe Ruth was "allowed" to develop a hitting style based on a powerful uppercut because he was a pitcher, so nobody worried that much about his hitting. Bullshit; he hit that way because he was Babe Ruth, and he was deeply convinced that the rules did not apply to Babe Ruth. Like a scientist, like you and me, Babe Ruth did not believe that what everybody "knew" was necessarily right. A lot of what people "know" is nonsense, and the rules based on that knowledge are fetters and hobbles. [...]

There is no real difference between sending Babe Ruth to jail and sending Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens to jail. The only relevant difference is the difference between America in 2010 and America in 1940. [...]

So now it is Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds in the crosshairs of the prosecutors, and the question I would urge you to think about is not only "Are these people guilty?" It is also, "Is this prosecution necessary and appropriate?"

Link via Baseball Primer. Me on Bill James here and on Barry Bonds here. Steve Chapmen on Roger Clemens here.

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  • ||

    I say this as a person who thinks the prosecutions of Bonds and Clemmons are a complete waste of time. Bill James is an idiot.

    Eating too much between double headers and developing an unorthodox swing is not the same thing as using an illegal substance and lying to Congress or a grand jury about it.

    It should also be noted that James is on the payroll of the Boston Red Sox. And that his "steroids are no big deal" kick started literally the week before it was leaked that Manny Ramerez and David Ortiz were on the infamous 2003 positive test list.

    And lastly, Bill James ideas on baseball suck. No Bill Derick Jeter can play defense, RBIs do matter, and you can't have a winning team that fields nothing but fat guys who walk a lot.

  • fyodor||

    Yeah, the quoted section sure conflates a bunch of stuff.

    No one is free from the consequences of their actions, but we should all should be free from bad laws.

  • ||

    Yes we should be.But, baseball is also free to decide how its game should be played. I have no problem with baseball banning steroids. In fact, I support it because I hate what steroids does to the game. But, that is a private entity. No one should be going to jail for using steroids.

  • robc||

    Nothing in the article mentions the rules of baseball (well, except Ruth corking bats). It is about the prosecutions.

  • ||

    Which makes the article even more stupid. Bonds and Clemmons may be guilty of dumb crimes. But they are guilty of crimes. You can't compare their plight to Ruth corking a bat. It is the dumbest article I have ever read on the subject.

  • Hugh Akston||

    John, I'd hate to accuse you of being selectively law-n-ordur about people you happen to dislike, but, well...are you being selectively law-n-ordur because you don't like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens?

    For my money, anyone who tells the truth to a Congressional witchhunt deserves nothing but contempt.

  • ||

    John|9.13.10 @ 3:35PM|#

    I say this as a person who thinks the prosecutions of Bonds and Clemmons are a complete waste of time.

    What part of that is so hard to understand? I am not selective law and order at all. I think the government ought to leave both of them alone.

    It is not James' conclusion that is wrong. It is his bizarre reasoning that corking a bat is the same as using steroids and lying to Congress that is wrong.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I guess I just don't get what's making you so pissy.

    James is saying that bat-corking, steroid-using, and Congress-lying are all rules that some people think are important, but that certain ball players don't feel apply to them. I think that is a reasonable comparison. What's your beef with it?

  • robc||

    He didnt compare corking bats to steroids. He compared drinking alcohol during prohibition to steroids.

  • ||

    Which makes the article even more stupid. Bonds and Clemmons may be guilty of dumb crimes. But they are guilty of crimes. You can't compare their plight to Ruth corking a bat. It is the dumbest article I have ever read on the subject.

  • Brett L||

    Lying to Congress about something that is none of their business should not be a crime.

  • ||

    I should be able to tell "Congress" to go screw themselves unless they have a warrant and in that case local jurisdiction holds sway. In other words, Congress shouldn't be allowed to subpoena anybody to come before a committee. They can ask nicely and I can refuse just as nicely (prefereably with my middle finger)

  • Mo||

    What's funny about Clemens is that Waxman told him he didn't have to testify and asked him not to. However, Clemens insisted on testifying to clear his good name. It's really hard for me to feel bad for a guy that was given every opportunity to walk away and stay silent but wanted to testify before Congress and decided to lie.

    Which is not to say that there should have even been those damn steroid hearings.

  • ||

    "I did not inhale."
    "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

  • ||

    Nothing in the article mentions the rules of baseball (well, except Ruth corking bats). It is about the prosecutions.

    Um, actually it mentions several examples of "rule-breaking" that occur outside a legal context, from Branch Rickey breaking the color barrier to the lack of formally correct grammar in his own writing.

  • robc||

    I was willing to just disagree with you until your last paragraph. And you are just fucking wrong.

    For one thing, you dont understand any of Bill's work, you are quoting the idiots who dont understand his work.

    For example, its not that Jeter cant play D, its that the GUY FORCED TO PLAY THIRD WAS A BETTER FUCKING DEFENSIVE SHORTSTOP THAN HIM (at the time they signed ARod anyway). Jeter should have been shifted to 2nd or 3rd.

  • ||

    Yes, Rodriguez was a better defensive shortstop than Jeter. But, Jeter is not a defensive liability or the Yankees wouldn't have left him there. I don't buy James and his statistics, which are only as good as the information behind them, that says Jeter is a defensive liability. Defensive play is too subjective. It is not hitting. You can't quantify it like hitting.

    And James has some bizzaro ideas. He thinks that small market teams should stop drafting and developing hard throwing pitchers because the big market teams can out bid them later. So they should find guys who throw slow and make them effective. He originally pointed out a few interesting things. But his ego has gotten to him. Now he mostly spouts nonsense.

  • robc||

    Who said he was a defensive liability? It hurt the Yankees having Jeter at SS and Arod at 3rd relative to other way around, so in that sense, he was. But not in any kind of generic way.

  • ||

    But, Jeter is not a defensive liability or the Yankees wouldn't have left him there.

    THAT'S your reasoning? Here's a translation: "Conventional baseball wisdom must be right; otherwise it wouldn't be conventional." I know you wouldn't buy that bullshit if I said it about politics so why would you buy it when it comes to baseball? I agree that defense is much harder to quantify than offense (and most sabermetricians agree 100%) but that doesn't discredit James's work or change the fact that Jeter is and always has been a mediocre shortstop who has benefited from a few flashy plays that have overshadowed his below-average range and arm.

  • Mo||

    Those flashy plays are because of his below-average range and arm. If he had elite shortstop range, the flashy plays would look like a standard 6-3 putout.

  • ||

    No. I think the Yankee scouts and coaches know more about baseball than some nerd feeding in statistics. To believe James you have to believe that everyone in major league baseball but him and his cult is wrong about nearly everything.

  • ||

    Joe Morgan was good at hitting and catching a baseball. Therefore, I should ignore all the absolutely retarded shit he has spewed every Sunday night for the last seemingly gazillion years and conclude that he's smart?

  • ||

    D'oh! I'm the Joe Morgan of threaded comments. Let me re-post this where it belongs.

  • Gray Ghost||

    I do miss firejoemorgan.com. Ken Tremendous was one of the angriest, as well as one of the funniest, baseball commenters I've ever read

    Is Voros going to pop into this thread anytime soon? Defense is a lot harder to quantify than offense but the metrics and people Mo cites are doing an increasingly good job of it.

    And any bitching about drugs in baseball really needs to take greenies into account. I feel a lot sorrier about Bonds---even the loathsome person that he is---than Clemens. Clemens didn't have to testify before Congress; he chose to. If you don't have to testify, then I don't think you should get much sympathy when you choose to, and then lie during it.

    Finally, we have OPS+ and ERA+, and I'm sure if pressed, SABR can come up with similar stats for BA, OBP, etc to normalize across eras. Use those for determining who gets into the Hall of Fame, and stop beating this dead horse already.

  • ||

    FJM is coming back on Deadspin as of Sept. 22nd. Not sure if it's going to run once a week or what, but I'm definitely looking forward to it.

  • Gray Ghost||

    Fantastic. Thanks for the news, I'll be looking forward to it.

  • Mo||

    I don't buy James and his statistics, which are only as good as the information behind them, that says Jeter is a defensive liability. Defensive play is too subjective. It is not hitting. You can't quantify it like hitting

    Piazza was a defensive liability at catcher and they left him at catcher because he was enough of an offensive monster that it counterbalanced his defensive failings.

    There are plenty of ways to objectively measure fielding. There's the range factors, defensive average*, fielding runs, SAFE, the various zone ratings, &c.

    Just because you're in Joe Morgan's dirty jersey = good defense land doesn't mean you can't measure it.

    * Baseball nerds actually look at where each batted ball ends up and determines how often it is turned into an out.

  • ||

    the Joe Morgan hate always amused me. The guy was probably the second or third greatest second baseman who ever played. Really only Rogers Hornsby was clearly better. Yet, every baseball nerd in the world is convinced they know more about how to play baseball than he does.

  • ||

    Joe Morgan was good at hitting and catching a baseball. Therefore, I should ignore all the absolutely retarded shit he has spewed every Sunday night for the last seemingly gazillion years and conclude that he's smart?

  • ||

    Maybe the shit is not so retarded? He is not well spoken and is kind of annoying announcer. But I am not buying for a moment that he doesn't know what he is talking about when it comes to baseball.

    So instead of someone who actually excelled at the game, I should listen to bunch of yuppies who couldn't hit a batting cage fastball over at firejoemorgan.com?

  • Sidd Finch||

    Joe Morgan isn't dumb; he's lazy. Last night he said the Braves got Melky to hit 20-30 HR and 100 RBI. In reality, they got him to get Vasquez off the payroll. It's amazing he could be so wrong about a starting Yankee player at ESPN of all places.

  • Mo||

    Joe Morgan: Great ball player, terrible announcer.

    Just because you were a great player at a sport doesn't make you knowledgeable about that sport. There's a theory that great players are terrible coaches and evaluators of talent because they are such physical freaks and so naturally good at it that they can't understand the strategy and nitty gritty. If you look at former players that are coaches or GMs, the mediocre players, like Phil Jackson, outnumber the superstars, like Jerry West.

    See:
    Matt Millen - GM Lions
    Art Shell - HC Oakland Raiders
    Michael Jordan - GM Wizards
    Isiah Thomas - GM/HC Knicks

    Those guys were amazing players, terrible at management/player evaluation.

  • ||

    They were terrible at evaluation and teaching. But they still know a lot about the game. You can't be a great player without being smart and understanding the game.

    I agree with you that Morgan is annoying. But I am not buying that he is stupid or that his ideas about the game are stupid.

  • ||

    Apples and oranges, John. You said: "Those guys were amazing players, terrible at management/player evaluation." That's the whole point. The essence of sabermetrics is player EVALUATION. Bill James isn't trying to teach anybody how to hit a curve or throw a cutter. God knows the world is filled with frighteningly talented athletes who are as intelligent as a water cooler.

  • ||

    Also, all of your "nerd" cliches were first levied at Theo Epstein. He seems to have done pretty well for himself, as compared to a baseball lifer like Andy McPhail.

  • Mo||

    Joe Morgan can hit and field. Joe Morgan also thinks that RBI and BA are more valuable measures of quality than OBP and SLG%. He also thinks clutch hitting exists. If I want to know how to identify and hit a curve, I'll ask Joe. If I want to know which guy my team should give $30M to, I'll ask Bill James. They may both end up being wrong, but at least the latter will base it on more meaningful things than being gritty.

  • ||

    You can't be a great player without being smart and understanding the game.

    false

  • ||

    This is true. I used to coach Olympic-level gymnastics in the 70's and early 80's and I know more than one US Olympic team captain who was a piss-poor coach.

  • ||

    I've never had a problem with the Morgan/Miller team, they do a serviceable job.

    Besides, Joe Morgan should be in the Reason baseball hall of fame for being profiled and then accosted by a police officer in an airport looking for drugs.

  • Rock Action ||

    I'm usually willing to listen to all sides of all baseball debates unless Joe Morgan is talking. He took what is an otherwise pleasurable experience - baseball on Sunday night - and has combined with Jon Miller to absolutely ruin it for me. It's teeth-gnashingly bad, in my opinion.

  • Brett L||

    So your position is the Yankees should have changed their franchise player's position at the top of his game. WTF?

  • ||

    Ah, the irony of somebody suggesting that it's stupid to change a franchise player's position in response to an article about GEORGE HERMAN FUCKING BABE RUTH.

  • Rock Action ||

    I'm not going to fully defend the poster (John) but SABR has been woefully wrong in the past, and has admitted its own premises were wrong more than once. And they were at the forefront of saying Jeter couldn't play defense. I know, I'm a Red Sox fan.

    I've followed the SABR/non-SABR debate for a long time, and the SABR guys have often cleverly shifted their arguments to confirm and support their own relevance within the baseball world. It's almost reminded me of the tactics used in politics. It's understandable, but creepy.

    For example, the consensus - overwhelmingly - of the SABR guys during the late nineties was that defense didn't really matter. At all. And I bought into that, too. Then, after the steroid era, they realized defense did matter, and started attempting to measure it with UZR and other non-public measurements. But during the late nineties they mocked - outright mocked - the concept of saving runs. All you have to do is read Rob Neyer from ESPN during that period. And now they act like they never said these things. Just like they act like they've always had the concept of 4A players, and never advocated that Izzy Alcantara and Roberto Petagine would have been a great fit at the professional level.

    I haven't read Moneyball, but I'm sure it, as everything else, is pretty effin dated, and that a lot of the assumptions behind the statistical modeling they were using is just flat wrong.

    And Billy Beane looks worse and worse with each passing year. See his Moneyball 2003 mock draft on Wiki vs. the actual draft itself. He looks bad, just like he looks bad for trading Gonzalez and Street to the Rockies for one half-year with Holliday, which wound up being a swindle for the Rockies. Self-assuredness and contrarianism does not make for competence.

  • Mo||

    Actually, Moneyball said that there probably will be a way to measure defense*. However, stats of the day didn't measure it well and defense was overvalued. IIRC it said that one day there would be a way to measure defense in a way better than fielding percentage.

    Interestingly, the SABR guys were a lot like creationists. They, in essence, said that we couldn't properly perceive and measure defense, therefore it is worthless and non-existent. Eventually, the defensive stats caught up to the offensive stats. In reality, it was the existing defensive stats that were largely worthless (fielding percentage is the RBI of defensive stats).

    * The future is now!

  • Rock Action||

    Yeah, I didn't read Moneyball, so my thing was more with SABR as a whole than with Beane. Really, it's with Neyer and ESPN. FWIW, I pretty much agree with all your points, and I totally agree with your second paragraph.

    And in fairness to the SABR guys, they were right to discount defense when it came to a guy like J.T. Snow, who had no business playing first place anywhere in the bigs.

    But like you said about the creationism, I've actually gotten in a few debates with those guys about trying to quantify things that were unquantifiable, and attaching too much importance to things that you could quantify. I always likened them to central planners, much like you likened them to creationists. In other words, if a result didn't fit the expectations of the model, it wasn't the model, it was that it didn't matter - or even worse, that an obvious truth wasn't true, or couldn't be true because it wasn't expected.

  • Mo||

    Depending on the situation, ignoring the unquantifiable in favor of the quantifiable is what you have to do. However, you need to be cognizant that it exists and that it can't be measured, take it into account in your model and be open to the idea that you may be able to measure it further on in the future.

    What annoys me are people that believe their model, useful as it may be, is the end all be all and ignore the gaps in their model. Dave Berri* in basketball is one of the worst at this, though John Hollinger is pretty bad at it as well.

    BTW, a lot of those guys have econ backgrounds. In some ways, they are central planners.

    * I follow the hoops stats community more than the baseball one

  • ||

    The thing is, that's a legitimate concern any time you're engaging in statistical analysis, but that doesn't discredit statistics themselves. And that's what drives me nuts with knee-jerk stat reactionaries like John... if you have a criticism with a specific stat or theory, go ahead and share it. God knows there are plenty of mistakes. But that's not grounds for throwing ALL modern statistical analysis and going back to batting average, RBI's and "gut instincts."

  • Gray Ghost||

    Oh. My. God. Wages of Wins is interesting stuff, and I like and have used WP48 in arguing with people vis a vis the merits of a player, but his WoW group could give arrogance lessons to Objectivists. AGW advocates are more willing to admit their models don't explain everything than those guys. I am going to be extremely interested watching the Warriors and seeing if they hit the 50 wins one of their posts predicted. And I'm still waiting for Troy Murphy to be the devastating force their model predicts, rather than a stat-whore who sells out on defense.

  • Gray Ghost||

    The commenters at WoW though, once you apply a fanboy filter, are pretty insightful and more willing to admit the model doesn't explain everything.

  • Contrarian P||

    Somebody predicted the Warriors will get 50 wins? Over how many seasons?

  • Matt Welch||

    J.T. Snow hit .273/.372/.443 from 1997-2004 for Giants teams that finished 1st four times and 2nd 4 times. (http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/snowj.01.shtml#1997-2004-sum:batting_standard) He had plenty of business playing first base, especially for teams that understood he couldn't hit left-handed pitching with an oar.

  • SFC B||

    JT Snow contributing a 273/372/433 line from '97-'04 probably had a lot less to do with the Giants finishing first or second for 8 years than Barry Bonds hitting 320/493/792. 415 home runs can cover for a whole lot of below-league-average offense from your first baseman.

  • Rock Action ||

    Huh. I'm probably wrong, but I still call unfair. It's not that cut and dry. You sort of just picked a time period that included his best two years. And it was arbitrary. He had more at bats in 2005 than in 2004, when he had his career-high OPS of .958. He spent both years in Frisco, playing first. Why not cut off after 2005, when his OPS was .708 and he had more AB's than in 2004?

    And I disagree. The .815 OPS isn't that great for a starting first baseman. It's not your average starter's - note the word starter's, not positional - OPS, and like I said, you've included his two best years in the mix. Otherwise, his career OPS looks more like around .784, and is a good deal less than average for a power position like 1st base.

    But you're right. I was a bit hyperbolic in the "no business" categorization. He had a bunch of barely average years, and one excellent one. He'd still be bottom ten or so among the worst OPS guys playing first base regularly today. And those guys play for really low payroll teams with little flexibility, aside from James Loney in LA.

    Oh, I just went through and checked most of their career OPS's, and of the guys that are starters today - meaning 350+ or so at-bats, I noticed that only one guy that plays first, Ty Wigginton, has a lower career OPS than Snow.

    But Snow's defense was consensus-buildingly (yay consensus!) excellent, and I shouldn't have been so disparaging about his talents.

  • Rock Action ||

    350-plus AB's this year, I mean. And I think Wigginton may only have 300 or so. But it's late, mang.

  • ||

    Like most raw stats, you can't just look at OPS across eras (or even single seasons) without normalizing those figures within the context of that league and that year. Snow's 2003 OPS, f'r'instance, was only .805, a figure that looks terrible for a 1B on this side of the Oughts. Yet, that number turns out to have been 22% above league-average for that year, putting Snow in some fairly elite offensive company. (Granted, the OBP component of his OPS accounted for much of his success. Still, getting on base ahead of Barry Bonds when teams were still pitching to Bonds was certainly a valuable skill.)

  • ||

    I have read Moneyball and it is a joke and a lie. The whole never mentions the real reason why the As were competitive. They had three young front line pitchers (Hudson, Zito and Mulder) who all came up at the same time. They drew the equivalent of an inside straight. But the author never mentions this. It he makes it sound like the As were competing with higher paying clubs because of all the SABREmetric stuff. Bullshit. They were good because they had three front line starting pitchers who were not yet eligible for free agency.

    The book ends with some catcher whose name escapes me that the A's were convinced was going to be a star hitting a home run after a September call up. The guy never played a full season in the majors. The book is a total fraud.

  • Mo||

    They also thought that Kevin Youkilis was going to be a stud (and wanted him over the catcher) and he turned out to be right. Beane never claimed to have 100% accurate. Beane was a victim of his own success. If you have a competitive advantage, the one thing you don't do is spell it out and brag about it to the whole world in a book. The problem is Epstein had the same strategy and stats, but 3x the budget.

    I liked your rant better when I heard it, verbatim, the first time, from Buzz Bissinger.

  • ||

    Who is Buzz Bigginger?

  • ||

    Bissinger.

  • Gray Ghost||

    Writer of Friday Night Lights. Author of lunatic rant against bloggers here: http://deadspin.com/385770/bissinger-vs-leitch

    And description of same here: http://news.cnet.com/8301-10784_3-9932896-7.html

  • robc||

    WTF? The defensive stats date to the early 90s, because in the 90s everyone KNEW defense mattered and were trying to measure it.

  • Matt Welch||

    "SABR" is an organization that has thousands of members who disagree sharply with one another, about all sorts of things, including but not limited to the alleged genius of Billy Beane, and the selective emphases of Michael Lewis.

  • SFC B||

    So... it's... Reason?

  • ||

    John, I get annoyed when people conflate actual laws with mere rules of a game, and I sense that's what you're getting at here. However, I think James does a pretty good job to stick to his thesis that the law shouldn't be involved here.

    Also, James never said you could build a team of fat guys who walk a lot. His point was that, if you have scant resources, the only way to build a successful team is to focus on undervalued commodities that can help you win. It just so happened that, at the time, on-base percentage was undervalued. I'm curious to hear why you disagree with this thesis.

  • robc||

    James actually recommended a team of 9 Rickie Hendersons. Which is the opposite of a team of fat guys.

  • Ricky Henderson||

    Ricky Henderson agrees with Bill James' idea for a team full of Ricky Hendersons. Ricky Henderson can pitch too.

  • Spiny Norman||

    Oh, man. Styx reference.

  • ||

    Did you have to point that out? Goddammit...

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Wait, what? Hot dogs were banned substances when Ruth played? Or writing unconventional sentences is just like gaining a performance advantage via banned substances? Or something?

    Unconventional != cheater.

  • Steven Smith||

    Alcohol was certainly a banned substance when Ruth drank his way through the 20's, and the corked bats he used gave him a similar performance-enhanced advantage compared to the rest of the league that HDH does today.

  • ||

    STEVE(N) SMITH AGAINST STEROIDS! HELP BASEBALL PLAYERS FIGHT OFF STEVE AND PREVENT RAPE! NOT GOOD! ARRGGGHHHH

  • Warty||

    STEVE SMITH NO TOLERATE CORKED BAT!! ARRRRRRRRRRGH RAPE BABE CORPSE!

  • ||

    We're so dumb. I love it.

  • Warty||

    I particularly liked our simultaneous usage of ARRRRRRRRGH. Delightful.

  • ||

    Pursuit of the simultaneous ARRRRRRRRGH is a goal for many couples.

  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Prohibition made consumption of alcohol illegal? You might want to investigate that more.

    I'll grant that corking a bat is against the rules if you grant that it provides 0 advantage, and may hurt, when it comes to hitting the ball farther.

  • ||

    Considering that corking a bat makes it harder to hit homeruns and alcohol is not a performance enhancing drug (unless you are a fat girl as last call) then Ruth wasn't hurting anyone but himself.

  • Contrarian P||

    Corked bats have been demonstrated to give very little, if any, advantage to a hitter, other than a psychological belief that they are using a superior bat. Ruth could have gotten the same effect by swinging a lighter bat instead of the 45 to 50 ounce barge poles he was throwing around.

    By the way, if you don't think anyone else was cheating during Ruth's era, you're deluding yourself.

  • ||

    James' point had nothing to do with hotdogs; it was simply that Ruth would have used steroids had they been available to him at the time, because *everything* in his character painted him as a man who would break rules to gain an advantage.

  • Sandi||

    I took a shit in The House Ruth Built once.

  • Robert A. George||

    Matt Welch (or the Web editor) should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law for sticking that damn Dennis De Young song in our heads. Everyone knows that it takes at least 72 hours of cranial delousing to get something like that removed. Damn you, Welch!! Damn you to hell!!

  • robc||

    Here is a hint...sing All Good People by Yes. Its line lengths are longer than brain buffer size so it pushes anything else out and cant get stuck itself. And if it did, who cares?

  • Matt Welch||

    What is "Web editor"? I guess I've just got too much time on my hands!

  • Jennifer||

    Domo arigato.

    Jerk.

  • Hugh Akston||

    If Mr. Welch should be verdamt for anything, it's posting a baseball thread.

    We'd get less hateful comments on a thread about Glenn Beck hiring illegal immigrants to build a mosque/abortion clinic on former torture site that was destroyed on 9/11.

  • PR||

    First, have every cop in the country tell a federal official whether they've ever used steroids.

  • Ragin Cajun||

    You know that we could use a man like Warren Harding again

    Dead in office?

  • ChrisO||

    Bill James' larger point is one I entirely agree with. I want to live in a country of beer drinker and hell raisers. Not the emerging police state I find myself in.

    You don't have to go back to Babe Ruth's time to make an interesting comparison. The amount of personal freedom and lack of governmental intrusion the average person experienced in 1970 or even 1980 is stunning compared to today.

    However, I think he misses the root cause of Americans' increasing love of authoritarianism. We are increasingly risk-averse. "Bad behavior" is now anything that causes a risk of some kind of harm, however remote. The reason we are more risk-averse is that we are all far more prosperous and don't have to do much to earn our prosperity, compared to our ancestors (at least for the moment).

  • ||

    Hmmmm....

    If only I could think of a mostly risk-averse demographic segment of the US population that has moved from having almost no direct political power to representing the majority of votes & spending the majority of disposible income over the last 100 years...

  • ||

    That's why Lehman Bros. went bankrupt; they were trading in something [derivatives] they didn't understand.

    FALSE. They understood them perfectly. They simply failed to appreciate the downside risks, as they were bubble blind.

  • ||

    How is it that they understood them perfectly but failed to appreciate the downside risks? Doesn't the failure to appreciate the risks preclude Lehman from understanding them?

  • ||

    "Understanding" is knowing how something works. They knew what their liability would be if the market imploded. They simply (like 1/2 of America) didn't believe an implosion was impending.

    People buying houses at the top of the market understood the transaction. They were simply too generous in discounting the risks.

  • ||

    I must have missed that part where Clemens was required to talk to Congress and required to lie. Take the fifth, remain silent, refuse to discuss the past, whatever. Just because Congress was wasting their time with an investigation of steroids does not grant Clemens permission to engage in perjury.

  • Hugh Akston||

    You can't be permitted to lie to Congress. Which is part of what makes it such a good deed.

  • Barely Contained Rage||

    The amount of personal freedom and lack of governmental intrusion the average person experienced in 1970 or even 1980 is stunning compared to today.

    This.

    I remember my dad telling me when I was, as I recall, a teenager, maybe my early 20's, that I simply could not understand the changes he had seen in his lifetime and that he had far more personal freedom when he was my age than I had.

    And now I have seen the same thing in my lifetime. There is no doubt that, in many regards, there was more individual freedom/personal liberty 30-40 years ago than there is today.

    By the same token, by certain measures, it might seem like we have greater freedom - but only in certain respects.

    For example, thanks not only to the actions of many states, starting with Florida in the late 1980s, and more recently thanks to Heller and McDonald, we have seen easing of restrictions on gun ownership and legal concealed carry.

    And modern attitudes towards use of marijuana seem to be shifting a bit.

    But yes, that certainly does not add up to enough to counteract the fact that these days if you fart in the wrong place, you'll get someone filing a lawsuit against you or lobbying for legislation to outlaw it.

  • ||

    Personal freedom AND personal responsibility. If you can't handle the latter, you'll be happy to give up the former.

  • ChrisO||

    Actually, the kids of the '70s were pretty much free to toke and snort their way to ecstasy without worrying about a SWAT team breaking down their door, regardless of the drug laws. We largely have Ronnie and Nancy to thank for that one. Some states (Texas), obviously were far more intrusive that way and gave out horrible prison sentences even for simple possession.

    AFAIK, restrictive gun laws outside the NE were largely a result of the Brady Center folks and their ilk, though I don't know specifically about concealed carry. Heck, in many rural places, kids took hunting rifles to school.

    What has changed for the better is that society's outcasts, oddballs and minorities don't receive the kind of harassment as they did in the old days. But everyone suffers under a pervasive regulatory hand, often due to fewer job opportunities and more expensive goods and services.

  • Max||

    Babe Ruth was a believing Catholic who obeyed the rules of the church when it came to divorce. He was also a Democrat.

    Matt Welch is a right-wing asshole

  • ||

    Please, please, please... We don't use that kind of language here. The proper term for "right-wing asshole" is "ratfucker." Thank you.

  • slurpman||

    *slurp*

    More cum please!!!

  • BuelahMan||

    This is about the level of BS I have come to expect from this site.

    I agree with Max's 4:15 comment.

  • Warty||

    THIS SIGHT IS DISINFOMATIVE I WILL TAKE MY BISUNIESS ELSEWHERE!!!! FOR A MAGIZINE CALLED REASON YOU DONT HAVE ANY!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • ||

    Your blog sucks harder than your mom.

  • Warty||

    I had been primed for the story for years by the media. Today I don’t believe anything I watched or heard that day. Nor do I believe that Bin Laden had anything to do with it.

    Truther assault!

  • Warty||

    Did you ever notice how the Jewish people find it necessary to change their names? Have you ever wondered “why” they do this? Think it may be because they basically run this country, from virtually every asect, including Hollywood? Think that the tired old story that Jews know money is the reason they own and run the Big Banks (which, in turn, mean they run the US government) is true?

    Well now, gentlemen, I don't see how we can argue with this. It's time that we admit it, this guy has proven the perfidity of the tribe of Israel.

  • ||

    Mmm, that's good anti-Semitism.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Lefiti and a Troofer troll, united in their hatred of reason.

    I tip my bonnet to you Mr. Welch.

  • Matt Welch||

    Without Bill James, I am nothing.

  • ||

    Glug, glug.

  • ||

    Best Reason link in a month, maybe more. Thanks for sharing, Matt.

  • Wesley||

    Agreed. I loved it.

  • Sidd Finch||

    Is the video to rebut the ridiculous notion that Ruth's swing (which stayed square to the field the longest in baseball history) was somehow a rebellious, "powerful uppercut?"

  • ||

    Two thoughts:

    (1) That video of the Babe's swing shows an incredibly powerful stroke. Wow. Shows that, if you know what you're doing and use your hips and legs for power, bulking your upper body with steroids is a waste of time. But, easier, I suppose, to dope up and hit the weight room that learn to do it right.

    (2) Is there no topic the commentariat can't get into a total nerdfest catfight over?

  • Sidd Finch||

    If you have kids, get them a heavy wood bat with a thick handle. It'll quickly fix any handsy, casting problems.

  • Mo||

    Is there no topic the commentariat can't get into a total nerdfest catfight over?

    I would say sports is a far more fertile ground for pointless arguments and nerdfest catfights than politics.

    Manning vs. Brady and Kobe vs. Lebron arguments get just as heated and idiotic as any Red vs. Blue argument.

    BTW, it's a lot easier to have the gaudy numbers that Ruth had when all you were dealing with pitchers with far fewer pitchers in their arsenal and no specialists, so in the 8th and 9th you're seeing a tired pitcher rather than a fresh pitcher throwing 98 mph gas.

  • ||

    You mean, "far fewer pitches in their arsenal".

  • Matt Welch||

    That swing is pretty special. Just when you think it's got too much hitch & airspace, he gets that dinosaur leg through the zone with some serious violence.

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