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Defending maniacal bloggers

It's funny, what gets turned into news. You've no doubt heard about Raul Ibanez's war with a previously obscure blogger who recently had the temerity to suggest that maybe, just maybe Ibanez's big numbers this season might have benefited from a bit of illicit drug use. From our story, Ibanez's public reaction:

    "I'll come after people who defame or slander me," he said Tuesday night before the Phillies played the New York Mets, according to the report. "It's pathetic and disgusting. There should be some accountability for people who put that out there."
    "You can have my urine, my hair, my blood, my stool -- anything you can test," Ibanez said, according to the report. "I'll give you back every dime I've ever made" if the test is positive, he added.

    "I'll put that up against the jobs of anyone who writes this stuff," he said, according to the Inquirer. "Make them accountable. There should be more credibility than some 42-year-old blogger typing in his mother's basement. It demeans everything you've done with one stroke of the pen.

    "Nobody is above the testing policy. We've seen that."

Ouch. I'm a blogger. I'm 42. And some years ago I spent a summer in my mother's basement. Also, Raul Ibanez is a wealthy man with a wonderful career and I think he should pick on people his own size. So, my first impulse is to give the blogger the benefit of the doubt. But what did Jerod Morris actually write, that elicited such disdain? The following comes near the end of a long, mostly statistical discussion of the things that might explain Ibanez's performance:

    Maybe the 37-year old Ibanez trained differently this offseason with the pressure of joining the Phillies' great lineup and is in the best shape he's ever been in.
    And maybe that training included ...

    Well, you know where that one was going, but I'd prefer to leave it as unstated speculation. However, if Ibanez ends up hitting 45-50 homers this year, you can bet that I won't be the only one raising the question. And judging by my buddy's message board post this morning, and questions like this in public forums, people already are.

    For the record, Ibanez has denied ever using steroids. Back in 2007 when former Mariners OF Shane Monahan said that the clubhouse culture in Seattle led him to use steroids, Ibanez and Jamie Moyer came out and publicly lambasted Monahan while denying that steroids had ever been a presence in the Mariners clubhouse. Of course, as well all know, explicit denials of steroid use don't really mean a whole hell of a lot these days.

    It will be a wonderful day when we can see a great start by a veteran like Ibanez and not immediately jump to speculating about whether steroids or PEDs are involved. We certainly are not at that point yet, however.

That's not a particularly good piece of writing, because when you say you're going to leave the speculation unstated and then spend three paragraphs essentially stating the speculation, you've written yourself into an uncomfortable corner. Aside from that single clause, though, has Morris -- who's 27, by the way -- written anything here that's unreasonable? Players cheated. Players have lied about cheating. The players fought for years against any efforts to limit or eliminate the cheating.
I'm sorry, players, but you just don't deserve the benefit of the doubt. If we see something that suggests cheating, it's now fair to raise the subject. If only to knock it down. I wouldn't have raised the subject in this case, because I think Occam's Razor would suggest that Ibanez's numbers are the result of a good hitter in a good hitter's park in the weaker league having a couple of lucky months. For me, that's enough.

But I'm often reminded of that George Carlin bit, where everyone who drives slower than you is an idiot and everyone who drives faster than you is a maniac. Well, you (and Raul Ibanez) might think that Jerod Morris is a maniac. But it really just depends on how fast you're driving.

My personal opinion -- as someone who, granted, has been called a maniac many times over the years -- is that Morris has made just one serious mistake: He (sort of) apologized.