Monday, April 27, 2009

Houston: Gateway to Easy Roids?

Another interesting tidbit in Jeff Pearlman’s Roger Clemens book, “The Rocket That Fell To Earth” is the notion that playing in Houston allowed members of the Astros easy access to PED’s.

Per Pearlman:
The Astros were known throughout the league to have lots of players benefiting from performance enhancers. “It was a joke,” says one opponent. “All you had to do was look at them. It was beyond obvious.” From the ballplayer’s standpoint, the beauty of Houston was the close proximity to Mexico, where most of the steroids originated. With its border only 353 miles from Houston, Mexico served as a 24-hour CVS where $50 was accepted in lieu of a prescription.

Pearlman goes on to question the plausibility of a 42 year old man (Clemens) being able to throw 96 mph while working out four to five hours a day. Other media members had commented on grooming patterns of players as a tip off to whether a person used PED's. One potential side effect of taking PED’s is altering the facial structure and as a result some players felt the need to grow beards and goatees.

Previously, other media members had speculated on Astro Jeff Bagwell. Looking at his historical statistics, Bagwell averaged a home run for every 17.4 at bats. At his peak in the 1994 season, Bagwell hit a home run every 10.3 at bats during the 110 games played. What’s odd about that stat is that two years prior, when he played in 162 games, Bagwell hit a home run every 32.6 at bats. His last season was 2005, two years after drug testing was put in place by MLB. After survey testing occurred in 2003 without any punishment or threat of being identified, he had his last productive season playing in 160 games and hitting 39 home runs (an average of one HR per 15.5 AB). In 2004, his numbers fell off dramatically, playing in 156 games and hitting 27 home runs (an average of one HR per 21.2 AB). This rate was one Bagwell had not seen since his third year in the majors when he averaged a HR for every 26.8 AB.

Houston, we have lift off.  Can this production be explained by Pearlman’s explanation? It’s for the reader to decide.

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