Sunday’s series finale against the Astros was essentially two hours of my life that I will never get back. I think I
passed out fell asleep on the couch around the fifth inning or so. The Twins had to go with their C-squad lineup since Justin Morneau was out, Jason Kubel got sick in the middle of the game, and Denard Span won’t be back at least until Thursday. I guess one run on two hits is about all that can be expected of a lineup comprised of all the worst hitters on the team. Glen Perkins didn’t have a terrible outing, the Astros got a bunch of lucky breaks in the first inning that scored three runs, but he also walked as many batters as he struck out and benefited from some run-saving catches by Carlos Gomez. So, I guess I should be glad that one of the most boring 4-1 losses I’ve ever witnessed could have easily been more like the most boring 5-or-6-to-1 loss I’ve ever seen.
In an effort to
make moves for the sake of making moves address the bullpen issue, the Twins have called up Bobby Keppel and DFA’d Luis Ayala. Yes, cycling through replacement-level relief pitchers is exactly the sort of bold vision and creative thinking from the front office that will bring us straight to the top of the division.
By the way, it’s been almost a year since Bill Smith said about the dumbest f***ing thing I’ve ever heard a GM in baseball say. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the man in charge of your Minnesota Twins.
Yeah, Harold Reynolds said something dumb about OPS or something, too. I think he was just trying to point out that OPS isn’t perfect and shouldn’t be the decisive factor in determining a player’s worth, albeit in a semi-literate way. He’s actually right about that. I dunno. I guess it doesn’t bother me that much when analysts don’t seem to have a basic knowledge of stats and how they work because HAROLD REYNOLDS ISN’T RUNNING MY FAVORITE BASEBALL TEAM.
Brother, can you spare Brad Pitt $50 million to finance the Moneyball movie? Columbia has suspended production on the project, citing problems with the script. It’s probably just as well. I can’t imagine that a film based on the use of advanced metrics to identify undervalued skills (like drawing walks) and help a small-market team remain competitive in the era of free agency would be compelling to anyone other than baseball nerds.
Don Fehr is stepping down after more than 20 years as president of the MLBPA. I actually have kind of mixed feelings about this. He did play a central role in the whole steroids mess by resisting PED testing for years (and then failing to have the results of the 2003 tests destroyed, as he was supposed to). However, I don’t think there has ever been a stronger advocate for the rights of players, and without his leadership the MLBPA would now be about as powerful as the NFLPA. It was, after all, Fehr who successfully took on the borderline criminal tactics employed by the owners to screw players out of their money, and I’m sure guys like Mark Teixeira and C.C. Sabbathia are grateful for that. Unfortunately, it was probably his unwavering opposition to MLB and the owners that kept him from having those initial test results destroyed, and the ensuing PR nightmare has ultimately screwed over the very players he fought so hard to protect.
Ok, maybe not, but clearly the offense needs a little help. Baseball prospectus has recently projected the Twins to finish with a 79-83 record, second in the division behind the Cleveland Indians. Their reasoning is pretty sound, as historically teams that have had a great deal of success based on a statistical anomaly (such as the Twins’ high BA with RISP last season) tend to fall to the norm the next season. It’s not likely that the Twins are going to repeat last year’s offensive production, in which they scored 829 runs on 111 home runs. However, if some of their young talent begins to show its potential to hit for power (particularly Delmon Young and Jason Kubel), then the Twins will likely win 90 games. Otherwise, 79 wins sounds about right.
The front office hasn’t made any moves to upgrade offensively, and it appears that they’re gambling on the fact that the young talent will improve rather than regress. For once, I’m actually not going to criticize Bill Smith for this, since there hasn’t been much out on the market that looked like it would be a good fit. There were rumors that the Twins were going to trade for either Garrett Atkins or Kevin Kouzmanoff, but neither would be a significant enough upgrade at third to be worth the cost (reported to be Kevin Slowey AND Denard Span, plus a top prospect). Casey Blake wanted too much money, and also wasn’t enough of an upgrade over the Harris/Buscher platoon. Joe Crede would have been a great fit, since he would provide the right-handed power bat the Twins need as well as Gold-Glove caliber defense. However, his health is a major concern, and considering that he is seeking a one-year deal worth $7 million the Twins are probably wise to pass.
Come to think of it, certain Twins players have experimented with banned substances in the past. And failed miserably at it, too. Suspected doper Bret Boone was acquired down the stretch in 2005, and batted an anemic .170 in 14 games before being released. Howie Clark and Rondell White were both known HGH users, and both were busts during their tenure with the team. Obviously the performance-enhancing substances these guys were using weren’t having the desired effect. But then again, all of these guys were suspected users while they were on other teams and had probably stopped by the time they signed with the Twins.
Apparently the front office has it backwards: they need to get these guys while they’re still using and then release them after they get caught.
Actually, the only player who was busted for using banned substances while he was with the team was relief pitcher Juan Rincon. Rincon was one of the league’s premier set-up men, until he tested positive for a banned substance in 2005. Of course, he denied that he was taking anything stronger than a supplement he bought over-the-counter at GNC. But considering that he really hasn’t been the same pitcher since serving his suspension, I’m not so sure. He was released by the Twins last season, after posting an awful 66 ERA+ in 24 appearances. Now, he is the Detroit Tigers’ problem, having signed a minor-league deal with the ballclub during the offseason.
Well, I’m not going to throw in the towel on the season just yet, especially since it hasn’t even begun! And who knows, maybe our guys will exceed everyone’s expectations and win another World Series title. After all, baseball is a crazy game and anything can (and will) happen. The Twins weren’t projected to win more than 79 games last season, and they won 88 (and nearly made the playoffs, too). Maybe they can do it again, even without any umm…help.
Oh, I believe some of the things you said. I believe that you felt you were under a lot of pressure to perform when you signed that contract with the Rangers. I mean, you had just signed the largest free-agent contract in history at that point and I’m sure you felt an incredible amount of pressure to hit like a modern-day Babe Ruth. I also believe you when you say that the culture in the clubhouse was very permissive at the time, and a lot of guys were taking a lot of different things. Considering that seven of your teammates at that time have either tested positive, or were suspected of using performance-enhancing substances, that’s probably true.
But I don’t believe you when you say you didn’t know what you were using. There is no way that a man who is so obsessive about conditioning, who pays so much attention to what goes into his body, would simply ingest substances without knowing what they were. I think you knew full well what you were taking, and who you got it from. I realize that you might not want to incriminate your former teammates, or members of the Rangers’ training staff, and that’s perfectly understandable. But don’t ask me to believe that you didn’t know what you were doing.
I also don’t believe you when you say you were young and naive and had never even heard of steroids before. Please. You were 25 years old when you signed with the Rangers in 2001, no longer some fresh-faced kid, some rookie who just got off the bus. You were certainly old enough to know better. Every All-American athlete in high-school, such as yourself, has faced the pressure to use illicit substances to perform even better. There’s so much pressure to get noticed by scouts, not just from colleges but major league baseball as well, that a lot of kids are tempted to use steroids to gain a competitive edge. I don’t know if you started using back then, and we will probably never know since MLB didn’t implement random drug testing until 2003, but you can’t tell me that you had never even heard of these things before you joined the Rangers organization.
I would really like to believe you when you say you’ve been clean since 2004. There certainly isn’t any good evidence at this point to suggest otherwise. However, if the allegations that Gene Orza tipped you off about upcoming drug tests prove to be true, I won’t even believe that anymore.
You know, I don’t really believe you when you say you’re sorry,
either. Nope. I think you’re sorry you got caught, but that’s about
it. And I think the only reason you admitted you used steroids in the
first place is that you had no choice. Unlike Bonds and McGwire and
Clemens and all of the other suspected dopers, you tested positive. We
have proof that you were a cheater, and so a denial on your part
wouldn’t have done you any good.
I’m not going to condemn you for what you did, though, because you’re certainly not the only one. You’re just the only one we can prove was a cheater, and that’s not entirely fair. You certainly weren’t the first one to cast a pall over our beloved sport, and you won’t be the last. After all, there are 103 other names on that list, other players we have definitive proof of their guilt. And until we know the truth, until we know those other names, we will just have to doubt all of baseball’s current greatest players.
By the way, Strib columnist Patrick Ruesse got into a lot of hot water with the commish over this column he wrote criticizing Selig and his lax oversight during the Steroids Era. Selig countered with an attack on the player’s union, which can be read here, and some of his allegations are rather startling. Of course Selig would blame the union, but the column is worth reading anyway.
There is a contingent of people in the blogosphere and in the media who feel that baseball fans are also partly to blame for the steroid scandal. And they do have a point. As early as 1998, Mark McGwire was suspected of using PEDs (he was caught with a jar of something nefarious in his locker, but I don’t recall what it was. Andro maybe?) and fans just shrugged it off. Heck, people were still coming out in droves to see Barry Bonds surpass Hank Aaron on the all-time home run leaders list, even though he was being indicted for his part in the BALCO scandal at the time. Fan apathy, the reasoning goes, is the main reason the fraud was allowed to be perpetuated for so long.
Blaming fans for steroid use in baseball is like blaming people when their cars explode during minor traffic accidents, though. Certainly people should be skeptical and do their research, and a vehicle that looks like this is suspicious:
Oops, I mean this:
But what is such a deathtrap doing out on the market anyway? Doesn’t the manufacturer (i.e. the players and the league) have a responsibility to make sure the product on the market is as good as advertised?
This whole thing reminds me of the Enron Scandal. Early in 2001, CEO Ken Lay was videotaped at a conference encouraging employees to invest all of their retirement funds into Enron Stock. Of course, what he failed to disclose at the time was that the company was tanking and the top executives were all pulling their money out of company stock. When Enron filed for bankruptcy and these people all lost their life savings, analysts were quick to blame them for what happened. “It’s their fault they lost all their money,” they argued, “other employees who diversified their portfolios are fine.” (which is not entirely true, those with diversified portfolios still lost a lot of money, just not every single penny they had). This argument obscures the real problem: that Enron’s executives, like baseball’s allegedly dirty players, were all liars and cheaters.
There is one other parallel between Enron and baseball’s greatest players in the modern era: those who were initially skeptical of both were completely ignored. Before Enron was exposed for the fraud it was, there were some investors and members of the media who were skeptical of it’s growth projections. They didn’t believe any company could grow so fast for so long, and felt there had to be something fishy going on. Of course, they were ridiculed by Enron execs, the financial industry as a whole, and the mainstream media as well. Some even ended up losing their jobs.
There were some sports writers who were skeptical of all of the records being broken during the Steroids Era. They pointed to the unusually large, muscular frames of guys like Jose Canseco, and the striking transformation of guys like Mark McGwire from skinny kid to lumbering behemoth. Like those who raised concerns about Enron, they too where shouted down by the players, the union, the commish, and the public at large. Of course baseball is clean, people said to themselves, every single professional sport tests for this stuff. There’s no way the league would allow something like this to happen to our beloved sport. It wasn’t until much later that we learned the truth: major league baseball had one of the most lenient doping policies in professional sports. Nothing was illegal and nobody was ever tested for anything. It was the steroid version of the honor system: as long as guys said they were clean no one was going to investigate further.
So where does that leave us now? We will probably never know the true extent of the steroids problem. We will never really know which records are real, and which ones are fraudulent. We will probably never really know who was using and who was clean. Maybe if we just assume that everyone who played baseball from 1992-2004 was doping then things will be much easier.
So Alex Rodriguez is allegedly a doper. I say allegedly because we don’t really know much about the supposedly positive test he submitted. If it’s like the positive Bonds test that recently surfaced, the sample has been mishandled so much that it’s impossible to know the truth.
We may never know who else is on the list. The tests were submitted under the condition of anonymity, and the players who tested positive weren’t supposed to face any sort of punishment. This was done by the league to determine how bad the doping problem really was, and what steps needed to be taken to eliminate it. The legal issues involved with revealing all of the names will most likely prevent any more from being released. I have no idea how Sports Illustrated found out A-Rod was on the list, and we will probably never know. Most reporters would rather go to prison than reveal their sources.
I really wish the evidence against Bonds, A-Rod, Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens and all of the other alleged ‘roiders was more concrete. As it is there’s no real good evidence that any of these guys used anything that was illegal. The reputation of all of these baseball greats is at stake, not to mention the sanctity of the game itself, and I would hate to see any of these guys excluded from the Hall of Fame if they are in fact innocent. I’m not naive; I can see that the physical transformations of guys like Barry Bonds is striking:
It’s more than likely that they did use steroids. But until there is evidence that proves beyond all reasonable doubt that these guys were juicers, I think they should be given the benefit of the doubt.
*Sigh* All this makes me yearn for the days when the biggest doping scandals involved LSD:
Of course, Bud Selig and the owners need to be held accountable for their part in all of this. There is no way that none of these people knew what was going on. The problem was so widespread that they had to know. At the very least, they simply ignored the problem (allowing the league to have the most liberal doping policy in all of professional sports certainly didn’t help). At worst, they openly encouraged their big stars to use any means necessary to bulk up. After all, the big sluggers were drawing interest in baseball again. Attendance figures were rising, revenue was increasing, so what’s a little PED use between friends?
I guess if there is any good to come out of this it is that the league can no longer look the other way regarding the use of illegal steroids. Much more stringent drug testing policies are now in place, and though it certainly doesn’t stop everyone from using, it has led to a culture change in major league baseball. Front offices are (finally!) starting to place a higher premium on guys with a high OBP and defensive skills than those who hit a lot of homers. Ten years ago it would’ve been inconceivable for guys like Manny Ramirez and Adam Dunn to be looking for work so close to Spring Training. They would’ve been snapped up right away, for insane amounts of money. And I’m sure they will probably get paid eventually. But it’s nice to see teams hesitate before giving large contracts to guys who can barely play their respective positions, even if they are the best hitters in baseball.