Caminiti and a measure of vindication
Too bad Ken Caminiti did not live to see this.
Vindication. After all the abuse he took for speaking publicly about baseball and steroids.
A quick refresher. Caminiti was a hot shot third baseman who logged 15 years in the major leagues. He played on the 1998 San Diego Padres World Series team against the Yankees and his apex was winning the 1996 Most Valuable Player award while leading the Padres to a first-place finish. He had an all-out style best illustrated in a game during that 1996 season.
Dehydrated and suffering an upset stomach before the game, Caminiti took two liters of intravenous fluid, wolfed a Snickers bar and then hit two home runs. His career ended in 2001.
He also had a long history of substance abuse problems, including alcohol and cocaine - he once was arrested in a crack house. In October, he tested positive for cocaine, thereby violating his probation and was sentenced to jail. But he died just six days later of a heart attack.
Caminiti made one other major splash in baseball. It didn't come on the field and it made him a pariah among his former colleagues. His achievement? He was the first to speak frankly about his use of steroids - and the widespread presence of steroids in the game.
Caminiti told Sports Illustrated he was on steroids during the 1996 season and used them the rest of his career. He admitted he hit the ball harder and farther while on steroids. Further, he said that half the major leaguers used the drugs. He was not the only one making such a claim - in the same article, former player Chad Curtis put the number at 40-50 percent of big leaguers.
The initial reaction was shock and awe. Then anger. Caminiti is lying, players and those around the game said. Who can believe him - he's a drug addict, etc. As could be expected, the backlash was so harsh, the personal attacks so cruel that Caminiti later backtracked and said his estimates of others' use were unfounded.
It wasn't the first time a sports figure was browbeaten into backtracking and Caminiti's retraction had a hollow, let's-forget-about-this ring to it.
Fast forward to this fall when grand jury testimony regarding the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative (BALCO) and steroids was leaked.
New York Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi admitted using steroids and injected human growth hormone and getting supplies from Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds' personal trainer.
Bonds' testimony was leaked a few days later. Bonds essentially admitted using some of the same substances that Anderson gave Giambi but claimed he didn't know what they were, a sort of the-dog-ate-my-homework equivocation.
The 40-year-old Bonds, it's been well noted, has dramatically transformed his body over the years becoming brawnier as he's aged and hitting more home runs. (I don't know about you, but I didn't get stronger and beefier when I approached 40.)
Who knows where else the BALCO investigation will lead or what its impact will be on baseball. Or if fans will care. But one thing seems certain: Caminiti died with a lot of folks owing him an apology.
To be sure, there's still no way to say how accurate he was. But he was the first to speak so bluntly about steroids - he didn't even think using them was a bad thing - and was castigated for it. Players branded him a low-life and said the media set out to stir things up.
Yet now it's clear Caminiti, unlike some, had no agenda and had nothing to hide.
ERA winners -- who are these guys?
Jake Peavy is just the latest in baseball's long line of head-shaking winners of the ERA title.
Especially since expansion began.
Take a look at some of these guys. Steve Ontiveros, who won with a 2.08 ERA with Oakland in '94. Danny Darwin, 2.21 with Houston in 1990. Buzz Capra, 2.28 with Atlanta in '74. Diego Segui, 2.56 with Oakland in 1970.
These guys are different than the pitchers who throw the oddball no-hitter then disappear into obscurity. The Mike Warrens or the Joe Cowleys.
No, ERA winners were better for more than just a day. In fact, they were terrific for a year. But, in may cases, not more than that. Many of the title winners were mediocre before and after their one shining moment.
Here's a look at some of them.
-- Ontiveros. A 2.08 to win the title pitching 115 innings, one inning more than the minimum to qualify in a strike-shortened season. Career record 34-31.
-- Darwin. Got his 2.21 ERA in 168 innings including 17 starts. Career 171-182. No all-star games.
-- Scott Garrelts. 2.28, 193 innings, San Francisco 1989. Career 69-53, one all-star appearance.
-- Allan Anderson. 2.45, 202 innings, Minnesota 1988. Career 49-54. No all-star games.
-- Joe Magrane. 2.18, 165 innings. St. Louis 1988. Career 57-67. No all-star games.
-- Alejandro Pena. 2.48, 199 innings. Los Angeles 1984. Career 56-52, 74 saves. Zero all-star games.
-- Rick Honeycutt. 2.43, 174 innings. Texas 1983. Career 109-143. Two all-star games.
-- Atlee Hammaker. 2.25 in 172 innings. SF 1983. Career 59-67. 1 all-star game.
-- Sammy Stewart. 2.32 in 112 innings. Baltimore 1981. Career 59-48. Zero all-star games.
-- Craig Swan. 2.43 in 207 innings. New York Mets 1978. Career 59-72. Zero all-star games.
-- Capra. 2.28 in 217 innings. Atlanta 974. Career 31-37. One all-star game.
-- Segui. 2.56 in 162 innings. Oakland 1970. Career 92-111. Zero all-star games.
-- Dick Bosman. 2.19 in 193 innings. Washington 1969. Career 82-85. Zero all-star games.
-- Joe Horlen. 2.06 in 258 innings. Chicago White Sox 1967. Career 116-117. One all-star game.
-- Hank Aguirre. 2.21 in 216 innings. Detroit 1962. Career 75-72. One all-star game.
What to take from it?
That these guys won one of baseball's key categories in a given year is something you wouldn't see in another sport. This is like, what, Jay Fielder (Miami Dolphins) leading the NFL in passing. Or Jerry Sloan leading the NBA in rebounding during a year in the 1970s.
Here's what else to notice. Often, the ERA winner didn't surpass the minimum innings requirement by much. Ontiveros, Darwin, Stewart and Segui made it by the skin of their teeth. In this list, only Capra (who never surpassed 162 innings in a year again), Aguirre and Horlen really blew past it.
And back to Peavy. He qualified with 166 innings, crossing the minimum in the final week. Luck, timing and a lack of ton of innings seem to be part of the reason why these guys, without glittering careers, have a piece of the record book