So I just checked traffic to the site so far today. Decent, nothing spectacular, just a normal no-link-from-the-Philadelphia-Inquirer (or, excuse me, tweet from @HHReynolds) day here at MSF.
However, something caught my eye that has become a pretty noticable trend.
My stats show me the keyword searches that have driven search engine referrals to the site. I’ve noticed that every time Albert Pujols has a big game, searches involving his name and “steroids” spike. After another two-homer outburst by El Hombre yesterday, here are the search numbers so far today:
- “albert pujols steroids” – 53
- “pujols steroids” – 41
- “pujols steroid” – 6
- “is albert pujols on steroids” – 4
And to the right is a snapshot from my Google Analytics tracking since I wrote this post about Pujols on May 15th. These are all search terms and the number of individual visits that have come to Midwest Sports Fans as a result.
I guess some people are wondering about Albert Pujols and steroids, huh?
And keep in mind, at last check my post about Pujols was only #7 on the first page of Google results for “albert pujols steroids”…so the posts above mine are driving significantly more traffic from these types of searches than I am.
And lest you think that the aforementioned post was speculative regarding Pujols being on steroids, I assure you it was not. In fact, I went out of my way to state that Pujols is one of the few remaining guys left that I believe to be clean. There is always doubt — a fact that we’ve all been over ad nauseum in recent weeks — but Pujols gets more benefit of the doubt than anyone in my mind.
A quick excerpt from that post, which was written a few weeks before the now infamous Raul Ibanez post:
Iâ€™ve given up hope on most current and former baseball players and stopped giving the vast majority of them any benefit of the doubt. And I donâ€™t blame myself for not being able to withstand the force of pessimismâ€¦I blame Major League Baseball and the greed and vanity of the players.
However, one of the few guys that I remain steadfast in defending is Albert Pujols.
In fact, Iâ€™m done referring to PEDâ€™s as performance-enhancing drugs. From now, Iâ€™m calling them Pujols Emulation Drugs. Albert Pujols is the standard by which all other major league baseball players should be held, both on and off the field. Anyone caught using PEDs, like Manny for instance, is clearly just trying to reach Pujolsâ€™ level. But thatâ€™s the greatness of Albert Pujols: he didnâ€™t need to use PEDs to get where he is (good Lord I hopeâ€¦I really do).
I could go into all of the SEO reasons why this post ended up on the first page for an “albert pujols steroids” search, but I don’t want to bore you. Mainly it’s because those terms are in the <title> tag and the content matches up. It wasn’t necessarily my intention (not that I’m complaining, mind you) but I am glad that people searching for this information are finding that post.
Just as in the case of the Ibanez post, my discussion about Pujols was completely speculative, completely honest in terms of my thoughts and feelings, and highlighted a continuing problem in Major League Baseball that still requires addressing. The tone of the Pujols piece was more explicit in giving him the benefit of the doubt than the Ibanez article (something I’ve previously recognized as wishing I could do over) but I don’t really see a huge gulf of difference between them.
At the end of the day, Albert Pujols and Raul Ibanez sit atop my list of players that I believe in more than others. Everyone is playing with a cloud of suspicion right now, testing policy or not, and that’s just the reality. And while stories like ARod and Manny continue to frustrate me and many other baseball fans (though many have professed to just not caring anymore, which is fair…I’m just not there yet), I still try to focus more of my attention and appreciation on the guys who I think have always played the game the right way.
With that said, a list was recently published at the site RotoInfo that is supposedly the complete list of the 103 players who failed drug tests prior to the 2003 season. It is accompanied by the statement “Rumored steroid list (UNCONFIRMED)” and no other information is given but names. I find it absolutely amazing that my piece about Raul Ibanez — which accused no one — caused such a huge stir, while this list — which accuses 103 players specifically — has gone relatively under the radar in comparison. Again, I’m not complaining about the exposure generated by the Ibanez post, and I never have. The whole thing just still seems so random to me.
For the record, I don’t really have an opinion one way or the other about the RotoInfo list. I’ve seen other lists that have attempted to guess the identities of the 103 players and I simply lump this in with those. It’s just a speculative list — which I’m fine with — and there is no reason to consider it something more or less than any other list until we have some sort of confirmation. Tommy Craggs over at Deadspin wrote about the list yesterday and offers a more informed opinion about its potential validity than I can provide, as I am not all that familiar with the past work of RotoInfo.
However, after seeing the RotoInfo list and other lists like it, I figured I would try to flip the steroid speculation on its head and focus on the guys I think are clean, rather than waste time worrying about the guys I think may have cheated over the years. I will state again that I firmly believe every player is legitimately under suspicion; not necessarily that they are currently using, as I think testing has to have had a positive impact, but that they might have used in the past during the height of the PED era. With that said, there are guys that I believe in a lot more than others. So even though I’ve somewhat become an icon for negative steroid speculation (fair or not), allow me to tread for a few moments in the much less volatile and Rosenthalless ground of positive steroid speculation.
Here is my own personal speculative list of guys currently playing that I think have always been clean and still are (but that, granted, I still wouldn’t be totally shocked to learn dabbled in PEDs at some point during their careers).
Note: This list is not meant to be exhaustive. It only takes into account players who have played at a consistently above average level for a number of years and that I feel I could make a legitimate statistical and empirical case for in defending. Feel free to argue or add to the list in the comments:
- Albert Pujols
- Raul Ibanez (as said in the post linked above, after looking at even more statistical evidence that I’d originally neglected, I believe in his numbers much more than when I initially wrote the post.)
- Mark Buehrle
- Derek Jeter
- Roy Halladay
- Justin Morneau
- David Wright
- Grady Sizmore
- Mariano Rivera
- Joe Nathan
- Johan Santana
- Ichiro Suzuki
- Jim Thome
- C.C. Sabathia
- Ken Griffey Jr.
If you want to know how I arrived at this list, here you go: I clicked on each of the rosters in my fantasy league and went down the list, just going with my gut reaction. I tried to stick with more veteran guys who were around during the early parts of this decade. There were plenty of guys that “almost made it” (although I won’t name them so I don’t get accused of implicitly accusing them) but the guys above are the ones that I didn’t hesitate to add.
I suppose there are two ways to look at this list. I was actually surprised to find that many guys that I feel relatively comfortable with, but it still looks pretty paltry in comparison to the total number of MLB players. The list is only about half a roster’s worth of players. Congratulations once again Major League Baseball. The rotten fruits of your greed never cease to find new and exciting ways to manifest themselves.
Bringing things full circle, Albert Pujols does, in my mind, stand out as the “last great hope” of baseball fans who want to see records held by guys we believe in. I still consider Roger Maris to be the single-season home run king and I still consider Hank Aaron (my favorite player as a kid, even though he was retired) to be all-time home run king. Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, etc., etc.; these guys are not worthy of such lofty status. If Albert Pujols ever achieves one or both of those marks, I believe he will be worthy.
(Good Lord I hope…I really do.)
* – Albert Pujols photo credit: AlbertPujolsFanClub.com