Now that Bautista's reached the 40-homer mark in August, bettering his previous season high by 24, it's inevitable that the PED rumblings would begin. But it's from unexpected sources: the two Toronto papers, doing a curious sort of "journalism."
It started on Sunday, when The Star's Damien Cox took to his blog on the paper's web site to raise the issue. And the post's title tells you everything you need to know:
"Gotta At Least Ask the Question"
Oh, that is just the worst. "Here's this thing I'm thinking, and I can't prove it, and can get in trouble for even suggesting it, so I'm going to couch it in the guise of 'shouldn't we at least be wondering about this guy?'"
When it comes to Jose Bautista, how is it exactly that at the age of 29 he's suddenly become the most dangerous power hitter in baseball?
Chance? Healthy living? Diet? New contact lenses? Comfortable batting gloves?
Anyone reading about the Roger Clemens perjury case this week, which of course brings up all of baseball's tawdry steroid history, should at least be willing to wonder about Bautista's sudden transformation into the dinger king.
Really? Quite a story, huh?
Makes one remember Brady Anderson, who went from 16 homers to 50 and then back to 18 right smack dab in the middle of baseball's steroid problem.
Things happen in baseball, I guess.
For all the shit Jerod Morris took for daring to question Raul Ibanez's aberration of a season (Ibanez has reverted to form, by the way), Cox does the exact same thing.
But to Cox's credit, it's written on his personal blog, rather than under the guise of the newspaper. And if we're going to go after the mainstream media for being so slow to embrace new media, we can't blast Cox for using his blog the way it was meant to be used: rampant speculation.
That brings us to the Globe and Mail, who actually did some legwork. They talked to Bautista, and recorded his denial of "Internet conjecture" of steroid use.
I haven't heard it once," Bautista responded evenly when asked for his reaction to the unfounded allegations. "Nobody's said anything to me, and I don't see why they should. Baseball has a strict policy against those performance-enhancing whatever you want to call them."
No doubt the debate will continue, with Bautista increasing his major league-leading homer total to 40 with two more Monday against the Yankees – including the eventual game-winning run on a solo shot in the eighth inning to lift the Blue Jays to a scrappy 3-2 win.
That's the other way to report a story based solely on hearsay: write how it's not true.
Since when did Internet rumors require the subject to comment on them? The Globe and Mail found a way to get the unfounded speculation into print, and they did so by shooting them down. It's a sort of reverse straw man, knocking down a nebulous argument only to give it legitimacy.
It's nothing new. Journalists have been taking these tacks — "just asking questions" and "the subject denied it so there must be something to it" — forever. And we don't really have a problem with that. It's just when they decry fans and bloggers for doing the same thing, denigrating them as dirty blog tricks, that we have to call them out on their shit.
Funnily enough, it was a blog that called them out first.
Gotta At Least Ask the Question [Toronto Star]
Bautista shoots down steroid rumours [Globe And Mail]
The Mainstream Media Is Above Unfounded Steroid Speculation [Lookout Landing]