By Matt Snyder
We all know the story by now. Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista went from being an also-ran -- if that -- to the best hitter in baseball with a virtual snap of the fingers. Since he did so just south of his 30th birthday and less than a decade since baseball was forever stained by the steroid era, there are some people who just can't grasp the fact that a player can sometimes just get better without using PEDs.
There are other explanations:
- He changed his swing.
- He was finally given full-time playing time and left alone.
- Once he got hot in 2010, his confidence grew. Hitting is just as much mental as it is physical after all.
- He was just a late bloomer. Sometimes it takes players a while to come into their own.
- Davey Johnson hit 43 home runs in 1973 and otherwise never more than 18 in a season. Was he on 'roids? There are more examples like that in baseball history, too.
But none of those matter to the many fans who just can't shake the cynicism. He has to be doing steroids, you'll hear: "He can't just get good like that. It's not possible." Just like it's not possible to get rich without cheating or recruit well in college hoops without paying players. Or you can't win an election without being dirty. And on and on the list goes. Obviously there are places where that stuff happens, but it's just lame to assume it happens without any evidence of it.
Friday on Jim Bowden's SiriusXM radio show, Bautista was a guest. He said that he had been tested 15 times over the past three years and every test came back negative (Bowden via Twitter). Now, I can hear the cynicism already: "How do we know that's true? He's lying. He could be using HGH anyway, because that's untestable."
You can believe that. Then you can explain why the notorious juicers in the early 2000s were herculean (Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, etc.), showing noticeable increases in size, while Bautista is six feet tall and less than 200 pounds. Same as he was as a bit player for the Pirates. And he hasn't tested positive for anything.
If Bautista ever does test positive, I'll admit I was wrong and take the abuse from the "I told you so" crowd. Until then, I'd rather be perceived as naive than a narrow-minded simpleton who refuses to give credit to a player for working hard and bettering himself.
I believe Jose Bautista is clean, and I believe the evidence is on my side.
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