Defending Brady Anderson

I could write a book about Brady Anderson.

I feel terrible for the guy. It’s not that we’re accusing him of having taken steroids. I have no problem speculating. Joe Posnanski wrote a piece where he compiled lists of players we strongly suspect used, players who probably used, and players who adhered to “fair play.” I think it’s fair to pass conjecture on any of the players Posnanski places on the strongly suspected list. I’ve heard the “guilty until proven innocent” rationale used before to defend these players, mainly in the case of Barry Bonds. Of course, that defense only applies in the court of law, and since there’s no reason for Bonds to be taken to a trial, then it is our prerogative to come up with a verdict using whatever available evidence is at our disposal. The evidence rather conclusively shows that Bonds used steroids. For the “fair play” list, I take issue with the thought that David Eckstein and Jamie Moyer never used, but whatever, nobody’s name on that list is getting libeled.

I feel terrible for Brady Anderson because we’re accusing him of being an idiot. Posnanski writes “We all know that Anderson famously hit 50 home runs in 1996, and he never hit more than 24 home runs in any other season.” OK…

Do fans actually believe that you can determine if a player took steroids by simply studying the number of home runs he hit? And why should one outlier season increase the probability that he took steroids? Because he only used PEDs for that one year? Do you think steroids can actually add that much power to a player’s bat? Do you have any idea how steroids work? 34 homers? Are you kidding? And then what? So here’s what you’re telling me:

It’s fall of 1996, and Anderson, having realized the magic of performance enhancing drugs, is coming off a 50-homer year. He’s heading into his final year with the Orioles before he hits free agency. But he comes to the decision that he doesn’t want to be remembered as a cheat, so he dramatically throws all his pills and vials into the trash, possibly with the help of an intervention from Zack Morris. So Brady hits 18 homers in 1997, but he does it clean. Or maybe you think that he didn’t have a moral renaissance. You just think he wasn’t smart enough to realize he could have been the most prolific home run hitter in baseball had he continued down the path of Bonds. Remember, in your world, Barry Bonds was not the greatest player of the 1990s. That was Ken Griffey Jr. Bonds only became great because of the juice. In your world, Saved by the Bell is a go-to television show reference.

Let’s review. You’ve constructed this scenario where the guy takes PEDs for a year and posts a superhuman .637 slugging percentage. That’s the only year in your scenario where he uses steroids, and he regresses the following year, in the process forfeiting millions of dollars, as this is his contract year. So in your scenario, he comes clean, as he realizes that compromising his moral values isn’t worth the fame and money. But instead of being a hero for this, you’re here to lambaste the guy. You know the truth, and you want everyone to know that he cheated in 1996, which to you invalidates his entire career accomplishments. To you, he’s the poster-boy for meaningless home runs in the Steroid Era, even though you believe he only took steroids for one year.

I have no idea whether or not Anderson took steroids. He’s denied it, but a lot of players who take steroids don’t cop to. I do know that Anderson was a very good ballplayer with one spectacular season. Unfortunately, we’re belittling his career achievements because of that one spectacular season. We’re making character judgments on him, saying that he either lost his backbone for one year by succumbing to the allure of steroids, or he wasn’t smart enough to realize the impact steroids had on his batting numbers. Let’s not insult the guy.

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Comments

  1. casper said...

    If that’s his opinion, then that’s his opinion. Anderson isn’t being taken to trial, he’s simply being looked at curiously for being such an anolamous member of the 50-homer club. I mean, seriously – you really think Posnaski is the only one that thinks this about Anderson? Doubtful. Hell, it’s HIGHLY doubtful that it’s only Posnaski that thinks this, so it’s hard to swallow your allegation of Posnaski “constructing the scenario.” Further, just because someone thinks that Anderson could have followed this storyline offers no implication that the person who thinks this about Anderson is attempting to insult Anderson’s intelligence. Look – no one will know whether Anderson did steroids, and if he did do them, no one but Anderson will know why, either. So who cares? Arguing about what logic he may have or may not have used is a waste of time, particularly 14 years after the fact. You sound like a jealous lover, dude, defending your man. Was it the side-burns that sucked you in? Did he have you at hello?

  2. Jeremy Greenhouse said...

    Mike, he broke the law multiple times. That doesn’t mean there’s reason to take him to trial, in my opinion.

    Casper, I can’t tell if that’s satire.

  3. lincolndude said...

    Hmm, tried to comment but it thought I was spam…

    Anyway, I agree completely, and think that the reaction to Anderson is just one aspect of the arbitrary and unfair judgment that a lot of the commentary on this subject puts down.

    There’s just no systematic and meaningful way of deciding who did and didn’t use.

    And there have been other outliers just like Brady Anderson: Maris and Wilson, as Posnanski mentions, but also Davey Johnson, who hit 43 one year and never higher than 18 in any other.

  4. Matt said...

    Just looking over Anderson’s career after reading this post . . . those 50 homers in ‘96 do stick out, of course, but equally striking to me was his sudden improvement in ‘92, his age 28 season. Prior to that he’d put together four almost identical seasons of half-time (234-325 AB) play, during which he batted between .207-.231, with 1-4 homers each year and a cumulative slash line of .219/.306/.313. His OPS did creep up somewhat over this period—- .558, .636, .635, .662—- but a guy who puts up those #s with fairly consistent PT during his age 24-27 seasons seems like a guy who’s about to wash out of the league (unless he’s a mind-blowing defensive C or SS). Then, at 28, he goes .271/.373/.449, with 21 homers. I know it’s not unusual for players to break out at that age, but Anderson’s prior mediocrity was so consistent deep into his 20s . . . something dramatic seems to have happened. 

    A couple of other thoughts . . . the breakout was almost entirely power-based, as Anderson always had good command of the strike zone, walking in about 12% of his PA each year from ‘89-‘91.

    Interestingly, Cal Ripken had kind of an outlier year in ‘91, right before Anderson’s breakout. That was his second MVP year, when he posted a career high OPS+ of 162, after going 105, 128, 105, and 114 the previous 4. AFTER that second MVP, his next four OPS+s were 92, 97, 107, and 91.

    There are a few instances of guys suspected of PED use with performance spikes or new plateaus even within their suspected steroid runs (L. Gonzalez and Bonds, both in 2001, are two that come to mind)—- maybe Anderson’s ‘96 season is one of those. Maybe ‘96 was the only year he could get access to the superjuice, or maybe it was freaking him out to use it, so that after that year he went back to the regular stuff, which had been serving him just fine. Or maybe PEDs had nothing to do with any of it. I should say—- I’m not trying to make any moral judgments here; I’m just curious about the causes behind fluctuations in performance. If it were up to me, all of these guys would have have amnesty pre-2004, even where the Hall of Fame was concerned.

  5. Jim said...

    Some thoughts on Brady:

    1.  Thomas Boswell covered the Orioles on a daily basis in 1996.  Boswell has never been shy on the steroid issue (he publicly called out Jose Canseco in 1988).  He has said repeatedly that, based on his daily interactions with the team, he does not believe that Anderson was using steroids.

    2.  Anderson was well known in Baltimore to have been a health nut, who consumed all kinds of mysterious potions.  Many of them were presumably legal dietary supplements.  Some of them may not have been.  Only Brady knows, and he ain’t saying.

    3.  Anderson’s 1992 breakout is generally attributed to Johnny Oates’ decision (which seemed capricious at the time) to hand him the full-time CF job.  But remember, Anderson was considered a can’t-miss superstar prospect coming out of the Red Sox system, so it wasn’t a total shock to see him perform when given regular at-bats.  No steroid explanation seems necessary.

    4.  It seems to me to be at least plausible that Anderson tried steroids for a time, didn’t like the effects they were having on his body, felt that he’d already established a high-enough earnings level to meet his financial ambitions, and quit.

    5.  In any event, even if you adjust for hypothetical steroid use, Anderson’s 1996 season will always stand out as one of the world’s great head-scratchers, like the international prominence of the Dutch empire in the 17th century and Lyle Lovett’s marriage to Julia Roberts.

  6. Mike said...

    Scott Moore has impressed the Orioles in spring training. He got off to a sizzling start at Norfolk last year. The only issues have been roster space and that thumb, which he first injured in 2008.

    I’ll have more from…Moore…later this morning. We chatted briefly last night and he told me that he worked out with Brady Anderson in the Los Angeles area. They focused on Moore’s conditioning, of course, but also his hitting.

    Just lay off that high fastball with Cal Ripken on deck.

    Anderson turned 46 last month, but Moore discovered that the former Orioles center fielder is faster than him and in better shape. He raved about those sessions and how much better he feels because of them.

    http://masnsports.com/2010/02/more-early-arrivals.html

  7. James said...

    Great post Jim!

    Your #4 point is on target.  He mixed some kind of steroid into his normal routine and it helped for a time but had some adverse effects.  It does make the most sense to me anyway.

    The fact that everyone thinks that he took them one year and stopped ONLY because of the stats is funny though, since what if he just realized that it was a red flag and stopped??? Who knows.

    I’m just tired of the appologists and writers who refuse to accuse players because they “might” be wrong.  Chances are most of the players you think did PEDs actually DID them.

    My favorite arguement against the fluke year stats is bringing up examples of past players from different eras that had that “one” big year and didn’t have another.  Well to me jumping from averaging 30+ HRs to 50 is not that big as 15 to 50 sorry guys.  So Brady is on an island regarding this one wink

    I’ve never said that Bonds, Mac, Sosa, Clemens, etc were not good or great players without cheating.  Rather I’m arguing that they get the benefit of lengthing their careers and thus benefitting from MORE stats toward career HOF numbers.  Do any of you really think after 100 years of players barely hitting 60 HR, all of the sudden 65, 70 HR start happening??? Ridiculous sorry.  Equipment, nutrition, and working out helps only so much.

    If Babe Ruth had taken steriods to stay healthy, how many more HR?  70-80 HR in year, with 900+ total for career?  Speculation? sure.  Hank Aaron was the most consistant slugger ever and averaged 40+  could he have hit more?  maybe but he DIDN’T.

    PED is an excuse to say anything that helps a player is the same.  Its not.  You guys arguing this point are like saying Global Warming, Oh I mean Global Cooling, Uh, er Climate Change.

    Players cheated and people need to call them out…period wink

  8. MikeS said...

    “…there’s no reason for Bonds to be taken to a trial…”

    I believe that receiving and taking prescription medication without a prescription is against the law.  As is taking controlled substances for which no prescription exists.  As is conspiring with a physician to receive and use drugs for indications other than their intended use.  These are the same laws that people taking illegal narcotics (cocaine, heroine, marijuana etc.)or those taking legal narcotics (oxycodone, hydromorphone, codeine, etc.) for recreational purposes are prosecuted under.  Not to mention perjury if he ever lied about it under oath.  So if he did the things that he is believed to have done, there is a reason for taking him to trial.

  9. Jeremy Not Greenhouse said...

    Oh, gosh, I just looked again and realized I share a first name with the author of this article! I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to cause confusion with my comment last night (this morning) at 1:30 am PST. I’m not the author of the article. John K, thanks for the well-considered comments. smile

  10. James said...

    Jeremy,

    Great example on Davey Johnson.  Very similar to Brady, except that I believe Davey was hurt through out the year he hit 5 HR and was more likely to hit 15-20 in his prime so he basically doubled his top season to 43 which is suspicious yes.

    There were steriods in the 70s with Football players and of course Weight lifters, so it is not impossible that a few baseball players experimented in 70s.  However the craziness to me started in the 80s when all of the sudden the players started bulking up.  Remember 1987 when everyone and their grandmother hit 30+ HR?

    You can play safe on accusations with all the other people that refuse to wonder why stats jump around.  But stats don’t lie.  Baseball is the ONLY sport where the stats have been consistent for about 100 years.

    Believe what you will.  I choose to throw stones, right or wrong and that is my right as a baseball purist.

    No harm done on us disagreeing wink

  11. Jeremy said...

    Okay, James, let make sure I understand you:

    Brady Anderson going from 16 to 50 home runs is clear evidence of steroid use.

    Davey Johnson going from 5 to 43 home runs is clear evidence of clean play.

    Is that about right?

  12. Neil said...

    On Eckstein, etc. – it’s harder to fault them and even harder to know, but I agree that we can’t dismiss the guys who didn’t hit home runs. I remember Canseco making the claim that the marginal players were heavy users, that there were many more guys taking steroids because they couldn’t crack the big leagues and were now just above replacement-level than there were guys who were average and became stars.

    Which is to say that it someone like Eckstein doesn’t get a pass just because he never hit 40 homers. Steroids don’t turn everyone into power hitters – going from ‘career minor leaguer’ to ‘good enough for a bench spot’ is probably enough reason for most players to try it.

  13. John K said...

    Jeremy, good thoughts.

    It’s amazing to me that anything that seems out of the ordinary in the last 20 years is immediately lambasted towards steroids. Baseball is the sport of stats, and anything that doesn’t fit into a nicely congealed bell curve is the obvious sign of cheating.

    So obviously, Maris, Ruth, Aaron, (and even Davey Johnson), are part of the bell curve, but Brady must have been cheating, because nobody in that era could have such a season out of proportion.

    Apparently 16=>50 is more a sign of steroids than 9=>28 (missing a month).

    I don’t know if Brady cheated or not, nor will I ever. However, I do know that people are very quick to put guilt on someone. What if it came out tomorrow that Babe had been taking Bull Testosterone to improve his play?

    One outlier season does not mean much, from the standards of this site, people talk about small sample sizes and fluke seasons, except there are no fluke seasons in the late 90’s early 2000’s because everyone who had one then was obviously using.

    I am so sick of people wanting to hold onto some antiquated feeling of how things were better before. How the Babe was more pure, or Hammerin’ Hank was more pure (admitted using greenies, but not liking the effects).

    Nobody has any evidence, but a season that doesn’t fit nicely into their expected results from a guy, so they assume the worse. He may have used, but he may not have. Glad to see that the stat following, love of baseball guys, who love old time spitball baseball, will be the first throwing the stones at anyone who may have just had the best season of their life, with no further proof than it doesn’t fit into what he did otherwise.

    Again Jeremy, Great thoughts. I really appreciate that you are taking a different view on just lambasting anyone that had the best season of their career during an era that will now be known as time they got caught cheating.

  14. King Kaufman said...

    “one of the world’s great head-scratchers, like the international prominence of the Dutch empire in the 17th century and Lyle Lovett’s marriage to Julia Roberts.”

    This is unnecessarily harsh. I think Julia Roberts is kinda cute.

  15. Jon said...

    There’s some good comments here on this thread.  In my opinion, based on the huge number of people using steroids and the uncertainty of who did and who didn’t, we need to accept steroid use as a part of the game’s history.  Just move on to the game as it is today.  There is so much that is likely tainted, if you want to use that word.  The heart of the 2004 Red Sox lineup was taking PEDs (at least they were in 2003), the chase of ‘98 obviously wasn’t clean… what else?  Unless you were a baseball fan before the mid 80s, the event that attracted you to the game of baseball (whatever it may be) was likely influenced by steroids. It’s wrong to throw out an entire era of baseball because it wasn’t as clean as we’d like it, but that’s the only choice available to us unless we accept the steroid era and move on.  For those who used steroids, they are only human.  It’s silly to claim that everyday people like you and me wouldn’t have succumbed to the pressure to use.  What would you do for a childhood dream?  What would you do to get that one job opening?  When everyone else is cheating just to survive, are you willing to roll over and die to preserve your integrity?  We need to stop hating the ballplayers of the steroid era for being merely human.  Take their numbers for what they are: numbers that record exactly what happened.  Sure, it would be prudent to mention they took steroids when telling their story if it comes out that they used, but don’t try to forget their numbers or invalidate them.  What we should do is lift up those who (likely) succeeded without cheating.  Those are the people with extraordinary physical gifts and uncommonly strong character.

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