Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Scott Van Pelt: Human Performance Enhancing Drug Detector

I was listening to the Mike Tirico show today and heard this nugget from Scott Van Pelt in regards to Greg Maddux's insane accomplishments during the modern/steroid era: "... and he did it clean."

Before I discuss this comment specifically, let me preface this blog post by stating that I've found Van Pelt to be an insufferable ass for about the last six months. He's become smarmy and obnoxious ... much in the Dan Patrick and Keith Olbermann mold.

Getting back to his proclamation of Maddux's straight-arrowness: I have no reason to believe Maddux did drugs. He hasn't been linked to even the slightest bit of dodgy behavior, and he doesn't even look like he works out. Nevertheless, I wouldn't be surprised if news broke tomorrow that Maddux purchased cartloads of Rhinoceros hormones.

Scott Van Pelt has no idea whatsoever as to who did what, when, and where. For him to declare "which players are clean," he must know which ones are dirty. Neither he, nor any member of the cadre of sports reporters/professional suck-ups, has ever specifically called out one player who they suspect is dirty until someone's been arrested or a government entity announced the results of an investigation. At least, I can't ever recall it happening. They wait for Mitchell Reports or arrests and then complain that nobody did anything.

Whenever a sports reporter indicates that a guy "did it clean," I always imagine they go through a mental checklist to reach that determination. Here's what I've come up with:

1.) Nice to reporters;
2.) Nice to fans;
3.) Doesn't have a physique similar to Brady Anderson circa 1995;
4.) Hasn't been directly linked to a person known to distribute performance-enhancing drugs;
5.) Double bonus points if he's white.

Here's a couple of other guys who I've heard reporters continously claim: "did it clean." Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn (who overcame his non-whiteness to avoid steroid rumors). If Cal Ripken was a surly black man, I guarantee you there would be more rumors. Take his truly aberrant 1996 season. At the age of 36ish, he not only played every game at shortstop, he hit 26 home runs, had 102 RBIs, and slugged .466. You have to go back quite a few years to find another season like that. Even if you cherry pick, he hadn't had nearly that many homers or RBIs for at least three or four years.

At 27, Tony Gwynn hit seven home runs, batted .370 (wow), and had 54 RBI. Not much power early in his career. Four of his double-digit home run seasons came between the ages of 34 and 39 ... during the mid 1990s. At the age of 37, he batted .372, belted 17 home runs and had 119 RBI. Basically, a slower, more sluggish-looking 37-year-old Tony Gwynn utterly demolished his 27-year-old counterpart. If Tony Gwynn was obnoxiously arrogant, sported tattoos, and played for the Texas Rangers, would sportscasters be so confident about his squeaky cleanliness?

Now, I'm not saying Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken, or Greg Maddux ever did anything the slightest bit wrong. I don't know. And you know what, neither does Scott Van Pelt. So he should keep his mouth shut on the subject. I'm really sick of sports pundits graciously granting us stone tablets affirming which players are A-OK. It's not as though they've done a good job of guesswork thus far.

By the way, the fact that we are ever surprised that a particular athlete gets caught red-handed at some nefarious activity always shocks me. Nothing about the Roger Clemens trainwreck is surprising. Not even Karl Malone [allegedly] impregnating a 12-year-old is terribly unexpected. Okay, actually that one is revolting and completely unfathomable.

There is one professional athlete (during my lifetime) who I would simply not believe cheated on his wife or enjoyed illegal drugs. That would be A.C. Green.


Anonymous said...

Excellent commentary, Mike. You should send this to the NY Times.

Mike Bock said...