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Ryan Howard's Litmus Test and Other Tales on an Accidental Off-day

Jeff Passan wrote a piece on Yahoo.com today.

I objected to it the moment I read the headline below.

Having a wee bit of newspaper experience, I am well aware that columnists do not pick the headlines for their own articles. It was probably just due to an overzealous Yahoo! staffer.

Except it's hard to believe that, given the content of the article.

I believe that Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire were steroid users. All three of them put up single-season home run totals that trumped Roger Maris' record of 61 in 1961.

But it's important to note one thing in common between Bonds, Sosa, McGwire and Maris. None of them have ever tested positive for steroids.

Sure, with Bonds we can say with near-absolute certainty that he was a steroid user. But Sosa? And McGwire? What more is there to say about them besides we think they were steroid users?

That they had freakishly large muscles? That there have been reports in papers that they were connected to steroid dealers?

Ryan Howard's huge. So is David Ortiz. Come to think of it, it seems as though three-quarters of active MLBers are musclebound.

You know who else has never tested positive, right? Ryan Howard.

So why has it become the responsibility of the Maris family to determine who is and who isn't clean?

It's not all that hard to make an argument that Ryan Howard is doping. Howard is slugging an impressive .626 this season. His career minor league slugging percentage in five seasons is .547. That number appears not to be a huge difference, except when you consider how spot-on Howard's other minor league numbers are.

He hit .299 in the minor leagues; .297 this season. His minor league OBP? .384. His OBP this season? Also .384.

Now let me add that I don't think at all that Ryan Howard is a steroid user. But it has been established that MLB's tests can be beaten.

Jason Grimsley, a user of illegal performance-enhancing drugs this season, never tested positive with MLB.

I guess Roger Maris' grandkids know better than I do who is using steroids. But to write off Sammy Sosa, who testified under oath that he never used steroids, Mark McGwire, and Barry Bonds, who have both never tested positive, is a huge joke.

As much as I detest Major League Baseball's lack of action toward Bonds and Giambi, I can't help but think that the Maris clan should just shut their mouths for the good of their forefathers.

Think of it this way. So many baseball insiders claim that Mike Scott was scuffing the ball up in 1986, en route to a Cy Young Award and an NLCS MVP award.

But has second runner-up Fernando Valenzuela ever referred to that Cy Young award as his? Absolutely not.

The Maris family should shut it. Otherwise, I'm going to repeat my previous claim that Babe Ruth actually holds the single season home run record with his 60 homers in 1927. Remember, they played only 154 games a season back then? So, Babe would have been on pace to hit 63.1 homers in 162 games. And yes, I considered games the Babe sat out as part of the 162.

So, there, Maris family. Sorry your claim to fame is dead. But, come now. Ryan Howard may be taking steroids; Sammy Sosa may have been clean.

The fact that a reasonable doubt exists about anyone's guilt or innocence makes this story the Despicable News Item of the Week.


A rainout? That's great.

I'll probably take in the first game of tomorrow's doubleheader, but due to prior commitments it looks like that'll be it.


The Mets called up a small army of players today, including top prospects Phil Humber (right) and Lastings Milledge. Also promoted were potential postseason backup catcher Kelly Stinnett, starting rotation also-rans Dave Williams and Brian Bannister and Ricky Ledee.

The non-callups had a few surprises. Insufferable veterans Jose Awfulman and Jose Lima were not promoted, nor was super-stud Mike Pelfrey. One must wonder whether Pelfrey's earlier injury has somehow made the Mets think of shutting him down.

He may also not be promoted until later this week. I'm also a little bit surprised that Ruben Gotay was not promoted, considering he has more pop than Anderson Hernandez.


Here's my proposed postseason roster:

Position Players:
C: The Duck
1B: Delgado
2B: Valentin
3B: Wright
SS: Reyes (right)
LF: Floyd
CF: Beltran
RF: Green

-notes: Maybe you could think about replacing Green with Chavez in this lineup or Chavez replacing Floyd if he's unhealthy. Otherwise this lineup is locked in. World Series DH? Let's not get ahead of ourselves, but suffice it to say Milledge or Franco should get some consideration with a lefty on the hill.

Spare Parts:
C Kelly Stinnett
IF Anderson Hernandez
1B Julio Franco
OF Lastings Milledge
OF Endy Chavez
UTIL Chris Woodward

-notes: Anything surprising here? Hernandez only rejoined the Mets this weekend after leaving the team earlier this season. He's not a great hitter, but he can play both middle infield positions and provide a solid pinch-running option or bunting option off the bench. Stinnett is just about as good a defensive catcher as DiFelice, but he's a better hitter even though he's yet to suit up for the Mets. It's also worth noting that Lo Duca's going to start every game anyway.

I was thinking about going with Michael Tucker over Firstings, but it is of incredible importance to have a righty bat that can suit up in the outfield, especially ith the health issues of Floyd and Shawn Green's incredible struggles since joining the Mets.

Julio and Endy are easy selections. Woodward gets on here because he can play any position on the diamond with sound fundamentals, even though he's not a great hitter.

SP1: Pedro Martinez
SP2: Tom Glavine
SP3: Orlando Hernandez
SP4: John Maine

CL: Billy Wagner
SU: Aaron Heilman
MRP: Guillermo Mota
MRP: Roberto Hernandez
LOOGY: Pedro Feliciano
ROOGY: Chad Bradford
LONG MAN: Darren Oliver

-notes: There really isn't anything surprising here, aside from the fact that Steve Trachsel (hanging his head at right) shouldn't touch a ball in the postseason for the Mets. I just pray Willie doesn't make Trachsel a part of this team in the playoffs just because he's the longest-tenured Met and he leads the team in wins and starts (and walks and home runs allowed) and blah blah blah.

I don't like Bert at all, but considering the other options, I'd say he's probably the best bet. No doubt I would like to see Henry Owens up in September though, if not for any other reason than to humor Mets fans. He looked pretty good earlier this season.

If Owens, Matt Lindstrom, Heath Bell, or Royce Ring were to be absolutely dominant in September, I think one of them should bump Hernandez.

A Mota implosion is also not that far-fetched.

So, how's this roster looking? I like it. Versatility and capability off the bench (as well as the incomparable Firstings), plus a bullpen that can go toe to toe with anyone in baseball.


I'll leave you with this Bert Blyleven video (via Deadspin, warning: foul language)

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