Was Yaz On Something Stronger Than Kielbasa?

Posted in Baseball at 7:12 pm by

Dugout Central’s Bill Wellman continues his analysis of statistical aberrations that might point to PED abuse amongst the game’s greats.  Along with oft-rumored candidates such as Adrian Beltre, Brady Anderson and Luis Gonzalez, Wellman considers the case of….Red Sox LF Carl Yastrzemski? “As far as I know, nobody has ever publicly accused Carl Yastrzemski of using steroids. Given critics™ willingness to accuse other players so swiftly, I really don™t know why not.” (link taken from Repoz and Baseball Think Factory)

The history we all learned is that Yaz chose to lift weights during the winter of 1966-67, and that his decision to work out was enough to cause a 175% increase in home runs. That could be true. If Yaz had been using steroids, one might expect swift increases in power hitting from other Red Sox, too, once they saw how well they worked for Yaz. But we did see that: Ken Harrelson came to Boston and went from 12 home runs in 1967 to 35 home runs in 1968, and Rico Petrocelli then went from 12 home runs in 1968 to 40 home runs in 1969. Both Harrelson and Petrocelli then endured swift, somewhat abnormal declines that ended their careers at ages 29 and 33. Yaz endured a similar precipitous drop from 1970 to 1972, a decline blamed upon injury, but a decline that left him somehow at almost exactly his 1961-66 level as a power hitter. He continued his career at, more or less, an arc appropriate to his pre-1967 career for another decade before retiring at age 43.

Did Yaz juice? I don™t know. I certainly have no proof. But I™ll say this: both his career arc and the career arcs of a couple of his teammates look as if steroids might have been involved, and steroids were certainly available to athletes in the 1960™s. Players in the Steroid Age have been accused of juicing on far less circumstantial evidence, and few players from before the Steroid Age ever boosted their power hitting in a single winter the way Yaz did.

As a former Bostonian, I would like to point out I long suspected Rico Petroleum of the Groinoids of being on performance detracting drugs.

2 responses to “Was Yaz On Something Stronger Than Kielbasa?”

  1. Brushback says:

    Wait, this is dumb. Fenway Park was a real home run park back then, and the pitchers mound was lowered after the 1968 season. These are possible explanations for what happened with Harrelson and Petrocelli.

    Besides, did Yaz ever look like he had an oversized skull or inhumanly big muscles? I don’t really think so.

    I’m kinda lost with this one.

  2. BW says:

    I don’t believe it – see below. There’s no objective evidence for it and hitters have had sudden jumps in power before (Stan Musial 1947-48 for instance 16 – 39 Hrs), also I think Johnny Mize and Ted Kluszewski are examples. Moreover it wasn’t just one year, as is the case with L. Gonzalez, A. Beltre, and Anderson – it was 4 in a row ’67-’70. His 1970 season (40, 102 .329 with 128 walks) was almost as good as 1967. Finally he signed a huge contract in ’71 (I think $500,000 for 4 years. Wow, today that’s pocket change) so why would he suddenly STOP in 1971?

    From what I understand Yastrzemski sustained a serious wrist injury in 1971 after which he returned to his older style of hitting (more for average than for power.) Wrist injuries to hitters seem to be quite serious (note what has happened to Ortiz over the last two years), and Yastrzemski’s numbers for the last 13 years of his career are significantly worse than the first 10, i.e. he did NOT return to the same level of hitting of 1962-1970, which includes 3 batting titles and 3 40-hr seasons, lots of hits, and leading the league in doubles several times. From 1971-83 the most doubles he had in a season is 30 and the highest BA is .301.

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