We’re going to remind readers again that we covered Major League Baseball for major news outlets over 10 regular seasons (2009-2018), and 7 of those years (2009-2015) were spent in press boxes at stadiums around the country where a lot of whispering of factual events goes on—even if no one will admit to it on the record.
That literally makes us experts on this topic, as we also covered two World Series for CBS (in 2013 and 2014). In those two Series, incidentally, the Boston Red Sox and the San Francisco Giants, respectively, emerged victorious, and we know the truth about those cities and those titles.
So, when it comes to The House That Steroids Built, we also know what we are writing about here: The objective expertise of journalistic experience cannot be denied. While the 2015 San Francisco Giants won 84 games and missed the playoffs, we know what was really going on …
Exhibit A: Gregor Blanco
Here’s yet another guy who washed out of the majors after stints with two different teams before being out the majors entirely for a full season … before coming back with the Giants and being a productive player. See the pattern? You should, unless you’re willfully ignorant in a reality-distortion zone created of your own cognitive dissonance.
Blanco posted a .670 OPS in 204 games with the Atlanta Braves from 2008-2010, and he also appeared in 49 games for the Kansas City Royals in 2010 to the tune of a .717 OPS. Then, he didn’t make it to The Show at all in 2011. The Giants pulled him off the scrap heap for the 2012 season, and Blanco still sucked for the next three seasons, never topping a .707 OPS over 428 games for San Francisco by 2014.
But at age 31 during this 2015 season, he produced career bests in batting average (.291) and OPS (.781) while playing all three outfield positions. Not so coincidentally, as we have shown, his defense went downhill (-0.8 dWAR) as his offense peaked. Ironically, when Blanco couldn’t duplicate this late-age success in 2016 (.620 OPS), the Giants cut him loose. Trust the process, right?
Exhibit B: Matt Duffy
This is the guy that finally prompted Baseball Prospectus to call bullshit on the Giants. Duffy posted a .602 OPS in college ball, and then he “improved” to a .688 OPS in Triple A. Yet put him in The House That Steroids Built, and he came up with a .762 OPS during the 2015 regular season. Yes, that is why BP called it “Giants devil magic” …
When Duffy couldn’t repeat the miracle in 2016, the S.F. organization was able to ship him off to Tampa Bay—a team that really should have known better—for veteran starter Matt Moore, who had his moments in a Giants uniform, for sure.
At age 24, though, Duffy “peaked” in his first full season with the Giants, and he was never again able to regain such heights. We wonder why, although we have to assume at least some of these players end up having attacks of conscience in the end.
Exhibit C: Joe Panik
Say it ain’t so, Joe! Another player who was 24 during this 2015 season, Panik hit .312—and has never hit higher than .288 again in his career. In fact, he has hit only .294 over 492 games in the minor leagues, so to hit .300-plus in the majors was not a likely probability for this guy … not to mention peaking so soon.
It was a big surprise when he hit .305 as a rookie in 2014, but his .711 OPS that year was perhaps more indicative of his talent level. Yet when his OPS jumped to .833 in his second season in San Francisco (2015), you knew Panik was doing what many had done before him (and after him): immersing in the accepted Giants clubhouse culture.
His next-best MLB OPS mark? A .768 effort in 2017 for the sad-sack San Francisco squad that bottomed out. But again, to reiterate, players who peak too soon and flame out by the time their primes should be starting, based on historical trends? Are prime suspects for PED use, and Panik fits that profile. The Giants dumped him on the New York Mets in the middle of his age-28 season, to boot.
Exhibit D: Chris Heston
Here’s a pitcher to round out the discussion today. Heston compiled a total of 194 innings pitched in his MLB career from 2014-2017, but in 2015 alone, he notched 177 of those innings to the tune of a 3.95 ERA. His career ERA? An unsightly 4.55 mark. He basically got lit up in every other season he pitched.
He didn’t even make it to the majors until age 26, which is a bad sign, and the fact he was even productive once he did make it is shocking. He actually won 12 games with that 3.95 ERA for the Giants in 2015, with career bests across the stat sheet.
So what happened to this guy? He threw a no hitter in 2015, but Heston couldn’t keep the devil magic going in 2016, and he washed out of the majors by 2017 after brief stints with the Seattle Mariners and the Minnesota Twins. Like many other players profiled here, he was only ever any good in a San Francisco uniform, playing in The House That Steroids Built.
Conclusion: More of the same, same old story
To recap this episode, another guy who was out of the majors entirely before coming back with the Giants leads it off for us, followed by the inspiration for the coining of the “devil magic” phrasing. Then comes along another early peaker who washed out by age 27, before we end with a dude who never could manage to be effective for any another organization but the one in San Francisco.
These examples just never stop coming, and to deny them is a refusal to accept ethics, facts, logic, morality, reason, and science in the thought processes on what constitutes the real world around us. It really is that simple.