Sometimes a good story is just that: a good story. No hidden meaning, no dishonesty, no other shoe about to drop.
In sports, fans usually love a good a comeback story. Unless it seems too good to be true. Unless they're sure that other shoe-drop is pending. In Eric Thames' case, a lot of baseball people seem sure that footwear is in mid-plummet. But let's cool it with the conspiracy theories and the assumption of chemical aides, and just enjoy the idea that it sometimes takes a while for athletes, particularly baseball players, to find success.
Thames, as you know by now, has taken the early baseball season by storm, clubbing 11 home runs in 20 games for the Brewers in his first season back in the bigs after playing the previous three seasons in Korea. Through Tuesday's games, he also leads everyone in runs scored (25), slugging percentage (.929) and OPS (1.411). His power surge does seem unusual, given that his previous career high in homers during parts of three MLB seasons was 12.
So, of course, given baseball's recent history of PED scandals, and the general fan suspicion that has emerged, the S-word has entered the conversation about Thames' hot start. Fans love home runs and fans love comeback stories. But put them together and everyone gets skeptical.
"If people keep thinking I'm on stuff, I'll be here every day," Thames, 30, told reporters Tuesday. "I have a lot of blood and urine."
Thames has been tested for PEDs three times (so far) this season. As far as we know, the tests haven't shown anything suspicious. That's apparently not enough for a lot of people, who've heated up social media with flailing the-truth-is-out-there takes alleging malfeasance. These kinds of ignorant assumptions, communicated as certainties, are a lazy approach to analysis.
It's important to remember that baseball is a game of constant adjustments. Sometimes, the right adjustment, at the right time, in the right setting, changes everything. In a game of inches, even the slightest tweak in a batter's swing, if repeatable, can be the difference between a few home runs and a lot of home runs. That's not even factoring in mild physical changes that can come with new diet or workout routines, or a player's mental approach at the plate.
Sometimes the sudden improvement doesn't make sense. Sometimes, something just clicks. That doesn't necessarily signal hijinks.
Look at Sandy Koufax's first six seasons. More recently, look at Jose Bautista's evolution. But maybe the best parallel to Thames is Cecil Fielder, who returned from playing in Japan to club 51 homers in 1990. His previous high was 14. (Fielder has denied steroid use, and he has never been implicated.)
The point is, we shouldn't jump to steroids because Thames' power numbers are up. Plus, it's still April. Thames isn't likely to keep this pace up for long. There will be slumps. Pitchers will adapt. It's probably a stretch to even expect 40 homers from Thames this season.
Let's give Thames the benefit of the doubt until there's a reason not to.
Let's just enjoy the story.