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A Letter To WFAN: Howie Rose, The Steroid Era, And Context

Here's a letter to WFAN:

During your broadcast of Thursday's 1-0 Mets loss to the Rockies, longtime Mets announcer Howie Rose once again expressed his disappointment with the Steroid Era. In this instance, he targeted the supposed tainting of hallowed records. He said (and I'm paraphrasing):

The most revered numbers in sports -- 61, [the former single-season home run record], for example -- have been tarnished.

Rose would do well for himself and his listeners to stop parroting this line of thought, which lacks nuance and ignores context. The so-called magic numbers -- 61, 755, etc. -- are just counts of what a player has accomplished on the field. They do not convey important considerations about the era in which they were amassed, such as the run-scoring environment, the number of teams in the league, and park factors, to name a few. Standing alone, the numbers tell us nothing about the context in which they were accumulated and, therefore, very little about the value we should ascribe to such numbers.

Elevating context-free numbers above all else cheapens analysis. If Rose must continue griping about the Steroid Era, he should at least abandon the "tarnished numbers" reasoning.

James Kannengieser