Mariners Analysis

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Bret Boone and steroids

One of many hot topics among M's fans as we near Spring Training is Bret Boone. Just about everyone understands the success of the M's this year depends on players like Boone and Moyer rebounding.

So what do we expect from Boone this year? This is not an easy question; just look at some of the factors-
* The birth of twins last year
* Death of grandfather
* Lack of protection in lineup
* Age
* Poor eyesight

How much did any one factor play in his disappointing season? Impossible to say.

And then there are the steroids accusations.

Did Bret Boone use steroids in 2001? Many people thought so at the time. It wasn't Canseco who first theorized Boone was a steroid user. There were many people within the clubhouse who marveled at Boone and the many pounds of muscle he seemed to grow overnight.

For those of who that haven't seen Boone in person, he is a small guy. Small hands, small feet, small build. And yet in 2001 he looked like a mini-slugger: bulging forearms, big arms, thick neck. Along with the increased mass came one of the greatest seasons by a 2nd baseman in history. All in a contract year, and during a historic 116 win season by the Mariners.

There is no proof that Boone used steroids, and I am not trying to imply that he did. The questionable story Canseco offered is no help in determining if he actually used them. Unless we get more information, we simply have to take his word for it and assume 2001 was a career year and nothing more. Is he smaller today than he was in 2001? Yes. Does he work out less than he used to? Is weight training no longer part of his routine? Only Bret can tell us, and the local sports writers do not ask tough questions. Don't expect any of the beat writers to help us out in determining what goes on in the locker room- the adage what goes on in the locker room stays there applies to sportswriters assigned to the team.

So back to 2005. We can be sure that Boone is not using steroids this year, and I can tell you right now he is not as big or as strong as he was in 2001.

Last year saw Bret hit .251 with 24 HR's and 83 RBI's. Normally you would take this from your second baseman in a heart beat- we would love to see Jose Lopez put up numbers like this in a full season if he were playing 2nd. The difference with Boone is simply he makes $9 million/year and is one of the chief power sources on the team. Last year Boone was EXPECTED to hit 30+ HR's, and when he didn't criticism justly followed.

For some reason last year Boone phoned-in his performance on the field: there were many plays he had a brain-fart and misplayed balls he never should have had trouble with. His range was also limited, and his concentration was missing. Other days showed the Boone of old.

Expectations for this year? Has to be better than last year, for a couple of reasons:
* Family situation improved
* Contract year
* Competitive factor
* Improved lineup
Bret is one of the most competitive guys in baseball. He would like nothing more than to be the lead HR hitter yet again this year on the team, making fans forget Beltre or Sexson. He knows the team is thinking this is his last year. The best way for Boone to stay in Seattle is to put up numbers that Bavasi and the FO simply can't ignore. In a Boone dream scenario, he leads the team to the post-season and plays so well the M's have to bring him back.

Of course the other scenario sees Boone have a nice year and then get traded at the All Star break with the team in last in the AL West.

Unless Bret has learned a changeup in the off season, he can do little to help the rotation, the biggest question mark on the team. But assuming he is healthy, a .270 average with 28 HR's and 90 RBI's seems reasonable.

I hope he has a nice year, and I hope we never find out he used steroids.