Chris Davis: Why MLB Players Should Be Considered Innocent Until Proven Guilty
Originally posted at isportstimes.com on July 18, 2013
America loves a comeback story, and this year the big comeback story in baseball is Chris Davis, he of the 37 home runs before the all-star break. In truth, the comeback began last season, when Davis emerged from the Quad-A doldrums to post a .270/.326/.501 slash line with 33 long balls. But it wasn’t until this season that baseball fans really began to take notice, and with good reason. Davis has been the most valuable hitter this side of Miguel Cabrera, upping his slash line to .315/.392/.717 (a 1.109 OPS!) to go with the 37 homers before the break. It’s a fantastic story; a once ballyhooed prospect finally makes good on his immense potential to become one of the most feared sluggers in the game.
Yet baseball fans have yet to embrace the Chris Davis renaissance, and it’s no secret why. Any ballplayer that makes this kind of drastic improvement now does so under the specter of Brady Anderson’s 50 homer outburst in 1996. Simply put, fans don’t think it’s possible for a player to make such major gains, especially in the power department, without pharmaceutical help. The same issue followed Jose Bautista, it followed Carlos Pena, and it will surely follow whatever Quad-A guy makes the leap from fringe player to prodigious slugger.
The claims tend to follow the same trend. Nobody wants to be the guy yelling “STEROIDS” every time someone hits a home run, but that’s the era we live in. It’s not the fans’ fault. Blame Barry Bonds, or Mark McGwire, or Jose Canseco, or Bud Selig. But the reality of the situation is fans simply cannot trust what they see. We cannot fall into the same trap of naiveté that plagued us just a few short years ago.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. This isn’t the lawless days of 1998, where baseball officials were plenty happy to look the other way while players did whatever they could to get ahead. It’s obvious, perhaps painfully so, that MLB is willing to go to the ends of the earth to catch possible cheaters. More importantly, the players are on board with ridding the game of PEDs. To call this the Post-PED era is a misnomer; as long as there’s something to be gained by cheating there will always be cheaters. But gone are the days of rampant juicing without repercussions.
Outside of Krispy Kreme Cheeseburgers, one of the best ideas to come out of America is the concept of innocent until proven guilty. It’s an idea born from the fact that it’s nearly possible to prove innocence. Rather, the burden falls on the accuser to prove guilt. It’s one of the ideas that makes America the greatest country on earth.
Now it’s time for baseball fans to embrace the innocent until proven guilty mentality when it comes to PEDs in their sport. The way it stands right now, it’s impossible for players (even The Captain himself) to make significant strides in their game without bringing up those forsaken three letters. Players’ bodies are broken down by fans with the zest of John Madden on the telestrator. Chris Davis can smack 60 homers in the Derby tonight, turn around and pee in a cup on live TV, and people would still be skeptical. There’s no way for today’s players to prove innocence; their guilty by association to a past that they had nothing to do with.
This is no way to enjoy baseball. The truth is, short of a positive test or Biogenesis-type circumstantial evidence, there’s just no way to know for sure who’s doing what. That leaves two options: either assume everyone is cheating or trust the collectively bargained system to weed out those who do choose to use PEDs. It would seem that the latter option offers a much more functional way to enjoy America’s pastime than the former.
It’s okay to let your guard down America. Enjoy the laser show Chris Davis will be putting on during tonight’s Home Run Derby. Be amazed as Davis pursues the home run record, whatever number you consider the record to be. If it comes out later he was cheating, so be it. But for now, let’s enjoy an American classic: the comeback story.