Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Holiday Blog Dump of 2007

So it's been awhile since my last post; I've found it hard to find the time to sit down and write anything with all of the holiday preparations to be done this month. I also had strep throat this month, which made me not want to do anything for about a week. Anyways, let's see how much I can get done today. I've a feeling that there won't be too much fantasy analysis, but bear with me. Also, I'm planning on doing the next part of my keeper series sometime in the next week, so keep checking. Here we go.

Let's see, what to talk about. We had a blockbuster trade, a few minor moves, one big-name pitcher that stayed put (for now), a falling out between A-Rod and his agent, anything else? That's about it for big news this month, right? Nothing else except . . .

Oh yeah, that.

Even though I’d rather not, I feel somewhat compelled to discuss it. Of course by “it”, I’m referring to the news story that won’t go away, the Mitchell Report.

The Mitchell Report has released the names of 80 or more baseball players connected or implicated in the use of performance enhancing drugs (or PEDs as all the cool kids are calling them.) Most of them are minor, such as F.P. Santangelo and Glenallen Hill, but there are some All-Stars, including future Hall-of-Famer Roger Clemens. A lot of the players are implicated in “he said, she said” statements by trainer Brian McNamee and steroid supplier Kirk Radomski, but not all accusations have been supported with corroborating evidence. Here’s a convenient list of players named in the report and why.

What do I feel about the report’s findings? What was my first reaction?

Nothing. It didn’t bother me one bit.

It didn’t bother me to find out that Clemens may have injected Winstrol into his buttocks with the help of trainer McNamee.

It doesn’t bother me that former and current stars like Mo Vaughn, Kevin Brown, Miguel Tejada, Jason Giambi, Troy Glaus, and Gary Sheffield may have used or are suspected of having used performance enhancing drugs. To be honest, you could accuse anyone from the last twenty years and it wouldn’t surprise me. (Though for some reason I think I’d be horrified to know if Shawn Green used steroids. Just can’t imagine him doing it.)

It doesn’t bother me that former Dodgers catcher and fan-favorite Paul LoDuca may have introduced Dodgers players such as Eric Gagne, Kevin Brown, Todd Hundley, Matt Herges and others to Radomski, and helped them order supplies of HGH.

It doesn’t bother me that the 80 odd names supplied in this report are definitely just the tip of the iceberg for a sport that has looked the other way for almost two decades.

This won’t affect how I feel about the players named. LoDuca is still the scrappy team leader I remember. Gagne will still be “Game Over” to me. Clemens is still a great pitcher who deserves to go to the Hall of Fame. This does not change how I view baseball for the last two decades. Nor should it change anything for anyone else. And it won’t. Baseball will survive, and the game will move on.

This is not to say that I condone the use of steroids. I don’t, and I never will. I hope that this leads to stringent testing rules and I look forward to the day when I can (almost) confidently state that game is steroid-free. As far as the history and sanctity of the game, I will not look at the stats of the so-called Steroid Era as cheap or sullied. I will take into account the environment of the game, as I do when examining the pitching dominated years of the sixties and seventies, or the deadball era of the early 1900s. I will take to the records of the nineties with a grain of salt, as I do with Cy Young’s 511 career wins. They are records set in different times, in different environments. The environment of the Steroid Era just happened to be conducive to enhancing your performance pharmaceutically, conducive on all levels of the sport.

It’s the fact that it appears to have been an incredibly widespread and open secret throughout major league baseball that keeps me from vilifying the players named in the report. I sympathize with them more for feeling pressured to compete at a higher level and to come back from injuries quicker and stronger, and heck if the competition is using it and the guy fighting for your job is using it, why not? The reason I don’t view it as cheating is that major league baseball seems to have condoned it. They made money off of it. Everyone loved the long ball, and Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire saved the sport in its post-strike years with a homerun race fueled by andro and other performance enhancing drugs. Everyone looked the other way when guys showed up in spring training with 15-20 extra pounds of muscle. People, including the press, joked about it, but no one at the upper levels of MLB management seemed willing to investigate it. At least not until Jose Canseco came out with his book, saying that around 85% of players in the game were juicing, soon followed by the BALCO case which pointed the fingers at Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and Gary Sheffield.

I’m just waiting for the steroid furor to subside, and for MLB to clean up the game. Everything else is just noise to me.

Curt Schilling believes that if Clemens is guilty, he should forfeit the four Cy Young awards he’s won since 1997.
I don’t agree with this for a lot of the reasons previously stated. Schilling says that the awards should go to the runners-up, but how can we know that they weren’t on steroids as well. It seems we have to assume that everyone was on steroids, and if that’s the case, then Clemens was the best pitcher in an era dominated by cheating.

ESPN’s Jayson Stark says that the case against Clemens isn’t airtight and wouldn’t hold up in court without further corroborating evidence.

Andy Pettite admits to using HGH once in 2002. Brian Roberts also admits to using steroids once in 2003. ESPN’s writers call such accusations “a joke” and demand for them to come clean.
I’m all for everyone coming clean, but one thing that annoys me is the “holier than thou” attitude that seems to frame every sportswriters’ articles these days. Look kids, it’s a race to see who’s the most morally outraged.

Here’s LA Times’ columnist Bill Plaschke taking the lead.

Uh-oh, here’s a team effort from various Hall of Fame voters.

Plaschke’s colleague at the Times, Helen Elliot, gets the first moral judgment on Dodgers’ owner Frank McCourt’s recent signing.

Oh, incredible, Plaschke pulls back into the lead with an article bemoaning the Dodgers’ “sullied history”. (Extra points for the use of the word sullied.)

· Here’s a good article from Buster Olney’s blog examining the lack of critical insight of the Mitchell Report. He makes some good points about what the commissioner’s office should have done over the last decade and why the report may have wrongly tarnished some players’ images.

· TJ Simers sums up my thoughts nicely. Hopefully I won’t feel the need to write anything else about steroids for a long time.

· Detroit makes a huge trade with Florida, dealing two highly prized prospects for young uber-stud Miguel Cabrera and pitcher Dontrelle Willis. Cabrera will slot nicely into the middle of Detroit’s order, giving them one of the most impressive in major league baseball. Willis strengthens the back of their rotation behind Jeremy Bonderman, Justin Verlander and Kenny Rogers. The Tigers signed Willis to a three-year extension worth $29 million, less than what the Mariners gave Carlos Silva, who has a career 4.31 ERA. I like the Willis contract, because even though he’s moving to a tougher league, I think being near the back of the rotation will take the pressure off him and allow him to focus on returning to the pitcher he was two years ago. I don’t think he’ll ever be more than a middle of the rotation type guy, but his upside and talent makes him worth the risk.

Rob Neyer disagrees, and has the stats to back it up.

· Dodgers sign Japanese pitcher Hiroki Kuroda to a three-year deal worth $35.3 million. While the market for starting pitching may have forced them to overpay, it appears they’ve found a solid pitcher to start behind Chad Billingsley, Brad Penny, and Derek Lowe. The main thing I don’t like about the deal is that they’ll be paying him $13 million to pitch when he’s 35 years old. Hopefully he’s more Hideo Nomo than Kaz Ishii.

Jim Allen likes the deal, while Tristan Cockcroft is less excited from a fantasy standpoint.

· Eric Karabell has a nice blog post on players to avoid for next year. Not to spoil it for you, but he includes Carlos Pena (who I advised Brubaker not to keep over Garrett Atkins), Hunter Pence, and Ryan Zimmerman, two inclusions that are disconcerting to myself as I want to keep both of them.

Since we’re on the subject of players to avoid, here’s a brief list of pitchers that I think will be overrated next year. All four pitchers had sub-4.00 ERA’s in 2007, but don’t pick them too early. They throw a lot of pitches and walk too many to be efficient.
1. Carlos Zambrano
2. Tom Gorzelanny
3. Matt Cain
4. Orlando Hernandez

· One non-fantasy related item before I go. I caught VH1’s 1oo Greatest Songs of the 90’s this weekend. Some thoughts: the music of the 90’s is not nearly as enjoyable as the music of the 80’s. With a few exceptions in the first hour, nearly every song on the 100 Greatest Songs of the 80’s countdown will get you fired up and pumped. Not so for the 90’s countdown; everything’s a lot more acoustic and mellow, and a large amount of music influenced by the artists of Lillith Fair. Of course there’s the few grunge hits, poppy boy band hits, rap hits and metal hits on the list, but most of it is angsty and angry but in the softer way. When they got to the end of the countdown, which was topped of course by Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, I was livid with the omissions. No Rage Against the Machine? No Smashing Pumpkins? No Foo Fighters, Sublime, No Doubt, or Dave Matthews? Sure Canadian’s answer to Shaggy makes the list with fucking “Informer”, but no “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” or “Everlong”? These were great bands with multiple hits throughout the 90’s. Plus so many bands on this list received only one spot, when they should have had more. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Green Day only had one song each on the list? Ridiculous.

· Oh well, there’s always this decade. In nine years, I’ll be watching the members of Sum 41 and Linkin Park on VH1’s special 100 Greatest Songs of the 00’s talk about how great it was when people bought there music. Merry Christmas.


Jon said...

yeah, i noticed these VH1's and Rolling Stone's love to make shitty lists.

Nathanael said...

Ben - write about my team. i have 11 players i am considering keeping

Ben Westrup said...

Nate - Hopefully I'll get to your team soon. I'm trying to go through each team in order of finish, so yours will be near the end. But I hope to churn these out a little quicker.