Doug Gottlieb subbed for Mike Golic alongside Mike Greenberg on ESPN Radio Tuesday morning, and The Starting Five’s jweiler is amongst those amazed that once, former Mets GM Steve Phillips came off like the smartest guy in the room (link swiped from Repoz and Baseball Think Factory)

Tuesday is œJust Shut Up day on that show, and the just shut up contestants were those who believe Sammy Sosa is a first-ballot Hall of Famer versus those who believe he is not. Gottlieb (above) was adamant in his opinion that Sosa did not belong in the Hall of Fame based on three main points:

1) he obviously used steroids since his body changed dramatically and he went from being a pretty good player in 1997 to a monster player for the next several seasons.

2) he lamed out at the 2005 Congressional hearings, pretending he didn™t speak English and dodging the questions, just like McGwire.

3) he got a huge benefit from playing in Wrigley Field where, Gottlieb noted several times, he hit 350 of his career homeruns.

Gottlieb finally had to admit, when Phillips challenged  him in a subsequent exchange between the two, he had no evidence of Sosa™s use except that œit™s visual. Sammy got bigger – therefore, he took steroids. Gottlieb did make one important point: this debate, over Hall of Fame voting, is not ultimately going to play out in a court of law, but in the court of public opinion, and in the court of public opinion, if relevant people (like voters) believe something  it might as well be true. But, it is, on some leve,l the height of arrogance to believe that you know how a person changed their bodies merely by looking at them. And, I presume, in the case of Gottlieb and Sosa, not even in person, but on television.

During Phillips™ exchange with Gottlieb (Greenberg sat mutely through the entire conversation), the former Mets™ GM asked Gottlieb  whether he would assume that a player who 39 homeruns one year and 61 the next was cheating. Almost before Philips could finish his sentence, Gottlieb said emphatically œyes. And, demonstrating that baseball isn™t Gottlieb™s long suit, he didn™t realize that Phillips was, as he then informed Gottlieb, referring to Roger Maris, who hit 39 homers in 1960, 61 in 1961 and never hit more than 33 in a season after that. Phillips also noted that George Foster jumped from 29 to 52 in a season (from 1976 to 1977). Gottlieb did respond that Sosa got dramatically better for several seasons, but it would be an absurd standard of judgment to say that if a player improves dramatically in their late twenties and got bigger in the process,  that is all we need to go on,  to accuse someone of steroid use.

Phillips is not naive and he surely has his own suspicions about who was and who wasn™t using. We all do, however well we can or can™t substantiate those suspicions. But, on every key point Gottlieb made yesterday, he was either flat out wrong on the facts, or was using notably thin arguments. But, unusual for the medium, someone was actually there to call him on it, not with even more shrill hyperbole, but with a superior grasp of the facts and context of the situation.