We’ve all been there and, if you haven’t yet, you will one day. Recalling old glories and inflating past achievements with a little bit of creative licence. The older we get, the better we were, as the old saying goes.
This can be a little tougher on former ballplayers as their accomplishments of youth are proudly on display all over the place, most notably Baseball Reference and sites just like it.
When an ex-player decides now, with the popular opinion turning increasingly against drug use in baseball, is the time to sound off about their great misfortune of playing during the era of a pill-addled home run monsters, it rings a little hollow.
Former Cy Young winner Pat Hentgen, now the Blue Jays bullpen coach, gave an interview with Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star this week, explaining how tough it was for him to pitch during the height of the steroid era.
Well, you saw my whole career. I was scored upon a lot on home runs. So do I think I gave up more runs because of the Steroid Era? There’s no doubt. I feel like I did.
Hentgen served up 269 home runs across his long career, which spanned more than 2000 innings. Among pitchers who threw 2000+ innings between 1992 and 2004, only one posted a higher HR/9 rate than Hentgen. If we eliminate Hentgen’s steep decline due to injury and only count up to the 2000 season, only one other player gave up more home runs between 1992 and 2000 (min. 1500 innings).
Maybe, you know, it wasn’t just drug use among your fellow players that cause you to surrender so many long balls?
It is frustrating to look back at the era that I played in and I wish we could have been more verbal, but it’s the old ratting somebody out. Do you really want to rat out a player? Do you really want to rat out a teammate and be that guy and take on all that extra p.r. and all that pub or do you want to just blend in and go with the flow? When I look back on it, no question about it, I definitely gave up more runs, I definitely feel like it cost me more earned runs and it cost our team more runs because of it.
Wait, rat out a teammate? I thought it was the other guys who were using, costing your team runs? I’m very confused by this, Pat.
How Pat Hentgen remembers the 90s.
I’m not being fair to Pat Hentgen, who was a very good pitcher for a very long time, including his 1996 season in which he won the AL Cy Young by leading the league in innings pitched and posted the lowest home run rate in the American League (one of only two seasons Hentgen posted a HR/9 rate was below league-average).
But the point remains: Pat Hentgen pitched in the same era as many other great pitchers. He faced the same batters as everybody else in the league (though he didn’t have to face the notorious 1998 Blue Jays club, featuring steroid poster boys Roger Clemens and Jose Canseco aka the teammates he didn’t want to “rat out”) and many, many pitchers managed to keep the ball in the park better than old Patty the bulldog.
Just like the Jack Clark screed against Albert Pujols (that’s Jack Clark, NOT Will), the one that got him sued and cost him his job, it is another example of ballplayers heading down a slippery slope. When current players like Mike Trout come out strongly against PED use, it is admirable but something of which they must be wary. The legacy of Rafael Palmeiro shaking his finger in front of a congressional hearing lives long in the memory, just like Pat Hentgen’s memory of clubhouse malfeasance haunts him as he daydreams about what his career might have been were it not for all those no good cheaters.
You just never know who is using what. You never know who is clean and who is dirty and what are the degrees of clean and degrees of dirty. It’s a weird time for all of us. The more baseball clears the air about drugs, the muddier the waters become. You’ve got NPR goofs and USA Today “columnists” re-writing Pete Rose‘s story – the story of a degenerate gambler who is also sort of vastly overrated but didn’t “wrong” the game quite like the players taking Performance Enhancing Drugs.
It is just so easy. It is easy to criticize now, rather than when you shared a locker room with Mark McGwire. Just as it is easy for me to fire shots at players like Pat Hentgen for taking the easy way out, waiting until the coast is clear before they stick out their necks.
Yes, Pat Hentgen gave up home runs to players who used performance enhancing drugs. So did everyone who pitched in that era, including guys who provided (ample) run support for Hentgen for years. For all the talk of “leveling the playing field”, it is easy to forget that the playing field was level before – everybody had to get the same hitters out. Some guys were just better at it than others, drugs or otherwise.
And the rest
Peter Gammons on two teams going in opposite directions – the Angels and the Rangers [Gammons Daily]
Speaking of going in a direction, it can only go one way for the Toronto Blue Jays (shout out to rock bottom!) [DJF]
Stock on the rise – Paul freaking Goldschmidt! AMERICA’S FIRST BASEMAN!
On the Pirates and the edge defensive shifts give them [Pirates Prospects]
Guest columnist Scott Boras? [ESPN Insider]
— Matt Sussman (@suss2hyphens) August 13, 2013