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Innocent Until Accused by Reilly

In his most recent column, Rick Reilly decides to give out past baseball awards to guys who should have won them, had the people ahead of them not cheated. While it’s not a bad idea, I took exception to one thing he wrote.

You (Albert Pujols) hit .335 and averaged 41 bombs those years and yet you finished second behind the clearly creaming Bonds in ’02 and ’03 and third behind Bonds and Adrian Beltre in ’04. We’re throwing out Beltre since, while he denies ever using PEDs, he fell off the face of the planet once baseball put in stricter steroid suspensions in 2005. If he wasn’t cheating, I’m the Queen Mother.

Wait a minute. It’s okay to suspect a guy of using steroids. I suspect a number of players of using them who were not caught. But to flat-out say that a guy used, without any evidence, is simply wrong. Adrian Beltre never got extremely huge like Bonds or McGwire. His name hasn’t even come up in any investigations.  Yet Reilly says it’s fact that he cheated. Here’s an email I sent to Reilly, responding to his accusation:

Adrian Beltre was always said to have superstar potential. He had one great year, then signed with Seattle and became mediocre again. Beltre’s monster year was in 2004. Are you suggesting he didn’t use steroids in 2003 or 2002 or before that? Why weren’t his stats good before 2004, unless he simply used for one year? It could have been a fluke, it could have been steroids. Only Beltre knows. But to flat out say a guy used steroids without any evidence other than a fluke season is wrong. Be cynical. Be suspicious.  But don’t call it truth unless you’re sure of it.  You’re better than that.

Terry Steinbach.  35 HR’s in 1996.  Next highest total: 16.  Must have used steroids, right Rick?

Roger Maris, 61 HR’s in 1961.  Next highest total? 39. (and only hit more than 28 three times)

Barry Larkin. 33 in ’96.  Never hit more than 20 other than that year.

Wade Boggs: 24 in 1987.  Next highest total: 11.

The guy you gave the MVP in 2001 award for not using steroids, Luis Gonzalez, hit 57 that year.  He only broke 30 one other time in his career (31 the year before).

Bert Campeneris hit 22 HR’s in 1970. His next highest total: 8.

How about we get this out of the way and say that all those guys were on steroids? Again, I’m not saying that Beltre didn’t use steroids. He may have. But to claim something as fact based on a fluke season is unfair.

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