Archive for July, 2013

MLB & PEDs: The Image of Scandal

Hey everybody. It’s good to be back, but what in the world have you allowed the Jays to do in my absence? Their July record is worse than their April record! There’s a lot of tumult and turbulence in Jaysland, but they were quiet at the deadline. However, I also notice that there’s a great deal of turbulence in Major League Baseball regarding BioGenesis and it’s connection with MLB players. Rather than boot the Jays around (like they’re booting the ball around in Game 3 vs. OAK), let’s have a peek at what’s gone on over the last 40 years or so, leading to the impending fallout of the BioGenesis investigation.

Major League Baseball is preparing for another scandal to rock the sport. The aftermath of the BioGenesis Clinic-related discoveries will see at least two former MVPs (Alex Rodriguez; Ryan Braun) and one former Cy Young Award winner (Bartolo Colon) either suspended or have their reputations ruined. My question is, ‘how could MLB let it get this far?’ The rumours and allegations date back to the late 1980s: had they dealt with it decisively at that time, the BioGenesis scandal probably wouldn’t have occurred.

A Little Historical Perspective

Regarding the magnitude of the scandal, this rivals the Black Sox/gambling disgrace of the late 19-teens when players threw games for money and put forth a dishonest effort. Is this any different in principle? Back then it grew ’til it affected the World Series. Now it’s MVPs, CYAs, batting champs, and, of course, the integrity of the World Series.

MLB hired Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis in 1920 and gave him wide discretionary power. Many owners were against his hiring, but he came down hard on the cheaters (lifetime bans, etc.) and cleaned up the game. Punishments were harsh and swift, acting not only as a deterrent but also as a means of restoring justice and integrity to the sport.

Regarding the duration of the scandal, there were reports that the gambling issues of the early 1900s reached as far back as 1908. The PED issue has been been going on for at least 25 years (Canseco, etc.). PEDs have tarnished MLB’s reputation badly in large part because it took Mr. Selig so long to act decisively.

If Jose Canseco is to be believed, star-level players have been using PEDs since at least the late 1980s, but it likely predates the ‘Bash Brothers’. The ‘Bash Brothers’ were the logical successors to the MLB cocaine scandals of the late ’70s/early ’80s, which featured the Pittsburgh Pirates prominently but not exclusively. They, in turn, were the successors of the amphetamine users of the ’60s (Jim Bouton’s book Ball Four is a really good read, and it gives a glimpse into the amphetamine culture of the day). Broadly speaking, the use of drugs, whether to enhance performance or for other reasons, has been going on for some time now.

Competition is Ubiquitous

Professional athletics is a highly competitive environment, and athletes aren’t much different from you or me: they’ll try almost anything to ‘get an edge’ on their competition. The rewards for success are substantial in terms of the 3 things that we humans strive for so often: glory, money, and sex. Who wouldn’t want gobs of money, fame that will live longer than you will, and a steady stream of high-quality companions? Not all athletes fall into these traps, of course, but many of them do, and PEDs can make it all possible. Frankly, it’s not difficult to understand an athlete’s rationale and desire to use something if it can increase the quality of their performance, even if it’s morally ambiguous.

How Did it Get This Far?

Athletics impact everyday folks like us. Not only are we taking our kids to soccer and swimming and hockey or playing them ourselves, but we follow pro athletes and their teams, buy the products, immerse ourselves in the competition. We cheer when they win and rail when they lose. Each sport wants our full and undivided attention: they’re competing for you and me. They compete with each other, but they also compete with other forms of entertainment as well as our family, work, religious beliefs, etc., to get and maintain our ‘loyalty’. “Image” is crucial to this process. Since it’s crucial, maintaining this “image” is a chief concern. Major League Baseball has some work to do…again.

The cocaine scandals were a significant blow to the image of Major League Baseball. Drug dealers weaseled their way into clubhouses. Prominent players were involved (Keith Hernandez, Dave Parker, Tim Raines, etc.). And, in one case, the reputation of one of the all-time greats was sullied, as Dale Berra was caught using cocaine.

The cocaine scandals gave way to the Pete Rose affair in the late 1980s. The all time hits leader placed bets on Major League Baseball games while he was the manager of the Cincinnati Reds. He gambled and lost, receiving the punishment set out 70 years earlier. The fallout of this scandal included the sudden death of MLB Commissioner A. Bartlet Giamatti, but also included an irony: the Reds won the 1990 World Series over the heavily-favoured Oakland A’s. Those Oakland A’s had 2 players—Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire—who burst on the scene and were leading one of the American League’s flagship franchises back into prominence.

The next scandal was different: labour relations shortened the 1994 and 1995 seasons, and cost executives, players and fans the 1994 World Series. After a decade-and-a-half of battling one major scandal after another, MLB’s image had been distorted beyond recognition, and restoration was needed.

It was in this environment that MLB, whether intentionally or unintentionally, rode the back of the steroid/PED users in an attempt to restore the sport’s image. McGwire and Sammy Sosa battled for the single-season home run record. Roger Clemens dominated the sport from the mound, winning back-to-back Cy Young awards. Ken Caminiti was a surprising MVP. Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez slugged their teams into prominence. MVPs Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada were central to yet another Oakland A’s resurgence. And then Barry Bonds took over baseball. All of this occurred in a decade, 1994-2003, but didn’t stop in 2003.

The sports’ image was improving and popularity was on the increase, but there were ominous clouds on the horizon. There was an investigation into BALCO Labs and their influence on MLB. Then the Mitchell Report was issued, detailing the use of steroids in Major League Baseball and it named names. Steps were taken but they were minor, almost baby steps. More needed to be done, but could MLB do it? Would they do it?

One thing is clear about building a house on shifting sand: it doesn’t matter how nice the house looks when it begins to rain and flood. Ironically Major League Baseball gambled on restoring the game’s image by allowing their players to do things that stretched the bounds of athletic integrity. Rotten apples spoiled the pie.

Instead of restoring their image, MLB has tarnished it even further. Records and achievements from the mid ’80s and onward are all suspect. Also, everyday baseball things like hitting streaks or good seasons come into question. Now there’s another storm about to break. I wonder if honest players feel like Ray Schalk, the catcher for the Black Sox so many decades ago, must have felt: am I the only honest player in the game?

I took my family out of town on July 19th, the day that incredible storm touched down in Ontario. When I had the chance, I parked the car where a tree wouldn’t hit us if it was blown down by that wind. Then we waited for better weather. It looks as if MLB is finally taking a hard line on the cheaters. Perhaps sunny days are on the horizon.

Wes Kepstro

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AL East Prospect Report – July 31, 2013

Hitters:

BAL AAA Schoop, Jonathan 2B, 1-4, .268, HR (5)
BAL HiA Davis, Glynn CF, 1-3, .232, 2B (12)

BOS HiA Betts, Mookie 2B, 1-3, .239, 2B (3), 2 BB (7), SB (8)
BOS HiA De La Cruz, Keury LF, 2-6, .284, 3B (5), 2 SB (14)
BOS SS Lin, Tzu-Wei SS, 2-5, .254, 2B (8)

NYY AA Heathcott, Slade CF, 1-4, .258, 2B (19), BB (31)
NYY AAA Neal, Thomas RF, 1-4, .319, 2B (17)

TB LoA Goeddel, Tyler DH, 2-5, .241
TB LoA Toles, Andrew CF, 3-5, .318, 3B (13), CS (15)
TB R Edwards, Spencer SS, 2-5, .172, 2B (3)
TB SS Goetzman, Granden LF, 1-3, .200, 2B (4), SB (11)
TB SS Young, Tyler 3B, 2-4, .196

TOR LoA Smith, Dwight LF, 2-4, .268, SB (18)
TOR R Dean, Matt 1B, 2-4, .278, 2B (7), HR (3)
TOR R Nay, Mitch 3B, 1-4, .295, HR (3)
TOR SS Thon, Dickie Joe SS, 2-5, .261, 3B (3)

Pitchers:

BAL AA Drake, Oliver 2 0 0 0 1 3 1.64
BAL AA Wilson, Tyler 6 7 3 3 0 5 2.53
BAL HiA Davies, Zach 5.1 5 3 3 1 9 3.72

BOS AA Ranaudo, Anthony 6.2 4 4 4 1 7 2.95
BOS AAA Wilson, Alex 1 2 1 1 1 1 4.63
BOS MAJ Workman, Brandon 6 6 1 1 1 9 3.54
BOS SS Buttrey, Ty 4 5 1 1 3 3 2.23

NYY HiA De Paula, Rafael 5 2 1 1 3 8 5.86

TB LoA Snell, Blake 6 4 1 1 2 7 3.94
TB R Mujica, Jose 3 1 0 0 0 2 2.33

TOR LoA Norris, Daniel 4 6 3 3 1 6 5.55
TOR R DeJong, Chase 4 5 0 0 0 7 3.13

Blue Jays Rumours – Trade Deadline Day – July 31, 2013

Not sure if the Blue Jays will be major players but I will update the various rumours throughout the day involving the team, division and league.

Blue Jays Interesting in Angels 2B Howie Kendrick?

In recent days, the Blue Jays have expressed geniune interest in Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick, according to Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.  While the Blue Jays aren’t buyers in the traditional sense, they are looking at ways of addressing needs for 2013 and beyond.

Kendrick, 30, will earn the prorated portion of $8.75MM in 2013, $9.35MM in 2014, and $9.5MM in 2015 before hitting free agency.  This season, Kendrick is hitting .301/.344/.446 with eleven homers and is looking stronger than he did in 2012.

QUICK TAKE: Given the lack of production from any of the Blue Jays 2B this season and the refusal to move Brett Lawrie from his more natural 3B position this would be something to watch.  Not sure what the price would be however.

Blue Jays Not Discussing Justin Morneau?

The latest on Twins first baseman and 2006 AL MVP Justin Morneau

  • The PiratesOrioles and two unidentified teams have shown interest in Morneau recently, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The Rangers don’t appear to be a fit, as they’re seeking a right-handed bat, and the Yankees are content with Lyle Overbayas a lefty swinging option at first base.
  • Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets that the Twins are willing to eat some of the remaining $4.6MM on Morneau’s contract if it means receiving a decent return.
  • Reports from earlier today stated that Morneau wasn’t a fit with the Orioles due to his contract and lack of production.

QUICK TAKE: There were reports from other Blue Jays bloggers linking the Jays with Morneau but I do not see that as a fit at this time.  Perhaps in the off-season but it would definitely not be worth giving up a prospect for him right now.

Could Blue Jays & Rangers Be Discussing Big Trades?

As the Rangers expand their search for offense, they’ve called the Blue Jays about Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, according to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports (Twitter link). The Blue Jays aren’t interested in dealing either slugger, however, Knobler adds.

Even the newly-acquired Matt Garza could be in play for the Rangers, tweets Rosenthal.  He notes that as they aggressively seek offense, it’s not unusual for the Rangers to make creative proposals.

TUESDAY: The Rangers are willing to listen on anyone, report Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, including shortstop Elvis Andrus.  The Rangers have not have any substantive trade conversations involving Andrus, however, cautions Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM.  The team is known to be aggressively seeking a bat, especially given the possibility of Nelson Cruz being suspended. Bowden says they’re focused more on outfielders than DH types.

At .250/.310/.289 in 458 plate appearances, the 24-year-old Andrus has not done much offensively this year.  In theory, the Rangers could trade him and replace him with 20-year-old rookie Jurickson Profar.  Andrus signed an eight-year, $120MM extension with the Rangers in April, which includes opt-out clauses after the 2018 and ’19 seasons as well as a 2023 vesting option that becomes a player option upon a trade.  The Cardinals would seem to be a logical fit for Andrus.

QUICK TAKE: One would think the Rangers have called the Blue Jays about Jose Bautista.  I wonder if the price could get to the point that Alex Anthopoulos would seriously consider moving him?

Would Ian Kennedy Be Intriguing To Blue Jays?

28-year-old Diamondbacks righty Ian Kennedy is having an off year, but could be a popular trade target since he’s under team control through 2015 as an arbitration eligible player.  The latest:

UPDATE: The San Diego Padres have acquired Ian Kennedy for Joe Thatcher and a minor league player.  I think this was an excellent low cost addition to the Padres rotation.

Detroit Tigers Calling Blue Jays About Relievers

The Tigers have been in contact with the Blue Jays regarding bullpen arms, tweets Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.  It was previously reported they were talking to the Giants about Javier Lopez, and the Jays have their own veteran southpaw in Darren Oliver.

AL East Prospect Report – July 30, 2013

Hitters:

BAL AAA Avery, Xavier CF, 1-4, .213, 2B (8)
BAL AAA Schoop, Jonathan 2B, 3-4, .268, HR (4)

BOS AAA Bogaerts, Xander 3B, 2-4, .279, 2B (6)
BOS AAA Bradley, Jackie CF, 2-5, .277
BOS AAA Holt, Brock SS, 3-4, .264
BOS HiA De La Cruz, Keury LF, 2-4, .283, CS (6)

NYY HiA Williams, Mason CF, 2-5, .277

TB HiA Brett, Ryan 2B, 1-4, .340, HR (4), BB (14)
TB HiA Hager, Jake SS, 2-4, .270, 2B (13), BB (31)
TB HiA Vettleson, Drew RF, 2-5, .279
TB LoA Goeddel, Tyler 3B, 2-5, .239, SB (25)

TOR AAA Robinson, Clint 1B, 1-4, .080, 2B (2)
TOR LoA Hawkins, Chris LF, 3-4, .221, 2 3B (5)
TOR LoA Lopes, Christian 2B, 2-4, .258, 2 2B (20)
TOR LoA Nessy, Santiago C, 1-4, .225, 2B (11)
TOR R Lugo, Dawel DH, 1-4, .287, 2B (8)
TOR R Nay, Mitch 3B, 1-3, .296, 2B (7), BB (14)

Pitchers:

BAL R Bray, Jake 1 1 0 0 0 0 0.00
BAL SS Johnson, Steve 3.2 2 0 0 1 2 3.00

BOS HiA Pena, Miguel 6 5 3 3 4 2 4.87
BOS MAJ Britton, Drake 2 0 0 0 0 2 0.00
BOS R Ball, Trey 0.2 1 2 0 1 1 0.00
BOS SS Mercedes, Simon 5.1 5 2 2 2 7 2.98

NYY HiA Mitchell, Bryan 5 5 3 3 2 4 4.78

TB AAA Montgomery, Mike 6.2 5 5 4 5 2 4.26
TB HiA Rivero, Felipe 7.1 3 1 1 2 4 3.92

TOR HiA Ybarra, Tyler 1 2 1 1 0 3 2.01

AL East Prospect Report – July 29, 2013

Hitters:

BAL LoA Lorenzo, Gregory CF, 2-3, .219, SB (26)

BOS AAA Bogaerts, Xander SS, 2-4, .273
BOS AAA Holt, Brock 2B, 2-4, .255
BOS HiA Betts, Mookie 2B, 2-4, .246, BB (4)
BOS HiA De La Cruz, Keury LF, 1-5, .281, HR (7)

NYY AA Heathcott, Slade CF, 1-3, .258, HR (7)
NYY AAA Murphy, J.R. C, 2-5, .290, 2B (13)
NYY AAA Neal, Thomas RF, 3-5, .321, 2B (16)
NYY HiA Sanchez, Gary C, 2-4, .259

TB HiA Vettleson, Drew RF, 2-5, .277
TB LoA Martin, Brandon SS, 2-4, .244
TB LoA Toles, Andrew CF, 4-5, .314, 2B (25), CS (14)
TB MAJ Myers, Wil RF, 2-4, .328, 2 HR (7); Has been key part of Rays hot streak

TOR R Lugo, Dawel SS, 2-3, .288, HR (5)

Pitchers:

BAL AA Rodriguez, Eduardo 4 7 6 6 3 2 5.88
BAL AA Schrader, Clay 1 3 2 1 0 0 4.62
BAL AAA Belfiore, Mike 1.1 2 2 2 1 3 4.02
BAL MAJ McFarland, T.J. 2.2 3 2 2 1 1 4.13

BOS HiA Owens, Henry 7.2 4 4 4 3 7 2.92
BOS LoA Kukuk, Cody 6 5 1 1 2 5 3.65

TB AAA Odorizzi, Jake 7 2 0 0 2 7 3.38
TB MAJ Torres, Alex 1 1 0 0 0 1 0.29

TOR AA McGuire, Deck 5 8 5 4 2 2 5.51; supposed to be our major league ready arm
TOR HiA Sanchez, Aaron 0.2 2 5 5 4 0 3.93
TOR R Del Rosario, Yeyfry 1 0 0 0 0 3 3.14
TOR R Labourt, Jairo 6 4 0 0 1 6 1.23
TOR R Tirado, Alberto 5 2 0 0 0 4 1.32

AL East Trade Rumours – July 29, 2013

With the trade deadline approaching I will try to review the latest rumours making the rounds around baseball with an emphasis on the American League.  Check back often for the latest from MLBTR and other sources.

-The aggressive Orioles are “even willing to move” top prospect Dylan Bundy “for the right return,” sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  Perhaps any player can be moved for the right return, but Rosenthal’s report implies the Orioles are more willing to listen on Bundy than teams usually are on top prospects.

As Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports noted, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has the ability to be a game-changer, on the remote chance he gets an offer enticing enough to move Jose Bautista or Edwin Encarnacion.

QUICK TAKE: I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Blue Jays moved Jose Bautista if the trade landscape becomes out of control for the sellers.  While it would be painful to move him to an AL East rival if the Orioles were willing to start with Dylan Bundy the Blue Jays would have to at least listen.

-White Sox righty Jake Peavy might be the best starting pitcher traded between now and this Wednesday’s deadline.  He’s been well-informed of trade talks by GM Rick Hahn and indicated yesterday he expects a deal, packing his belongings from the clubhouse.  With Peavy under contract for 2014, the White Sox are asking more for him than the Cubs did for Matt Garza, according to Yahoo’s Jeff Passan.  The latest

The Red Sox are “very much in” the Peavy sweepstakes, tweets Passan.  With their motivation and available prospects, they’re in a strong position to acquire him.  Passan says Hahn is asking for every interested organization’s top prospect, including “complete non-starters” such as Xander Bogaerts of the Red Sox and Addison Russell of the A’s.  Executives believe the asking price will drop in advance of the Wednesday deadline.

In speaking with executives yesterday, Joel Sherman of the New York Post got the impression the Athletics are pushing hard for Peavy after finishing second for Garza.  Oakland “seems the most motivated,” writes ESPN’s Buster Olney.

QUICK TAKE: I wonder if Alex Anthopoulos would kick tires on Peavy?  Of course it would be with a focus on next season as I am sure AA is not going to be in full fire sale mode.  It is highly doubtful however as the trade deadline price tags can get ridiculous.

-The Tigers and Rangers have discussed the possibility of a deal that would send Joe Nathan to Detroit, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. Right now, though, the Rangers are asking a lot, and Morosi says there is “no momentum toward a deal.” As MLBTR’s Aaron Steen noted yesterdayJoakim Soria could close for the Rangers if Nathan were to depart. The Rangers could target the Tigers’ current setup man, Drew Smyly, if they were to deal Nathan, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports.

The Tigers are not trying to trade for Papelbon, Morosi tweets, but Luke Gregerson of the Padres is a possibility (Twitter links).

QUICK TAKE: The Blue Jays could definitely factor into the bullpen arms race for contenders if they decided that the price tags for a Steve Delabar, Aaron Loup, Darren Oliver or Casey Janssen were just too interesting.  I doubt Brett Cecil would become available but the price would have to be high one would think.

Blue Jays Series Recap – Jays Take 3/4 From Astros

I was able to take in the game on Saturday which was of course the only game the Blue Jays didn’t win in the series.  Josh Johnson looked awful and the fans let him know about it.  JP Arencibia continued to struggle and heard about it from the fans as well.  It’s been a while since I have updated the current record and run differential and I think it’s official – the Blue Jays aren’t making the playoffs this season.

CURRENT RECORD: 48-56, 5th place, 14.0 games out of first place, 9.0 games out of wild card (-24 run differential)

What to do with Josh Johnson?  Read my piece here.

Be sure to check out the daily AL East Prospect report.  Focusing on the five AL East farm systems and notable daily performances!  Marcus Stroman just tossed another gem.

Help show your support for a little Blue Jays blog by liking us on Facebook and chat about everything and anything by following along on Twitter!

Here are the quick recaps and boxscores: (click on game scores for the Yahoo! boxscore)

Game 1 – Blue Jays 4, Astros 0 – Mark Buehrle masterful.

Game 2 – Blue Jays 12, Astros 6 – Jays hit 5 HRs.

Game 3 – Astros 8, Blue Jays 6 – Josh Johnson absolutely dreadful.

Game 4 – Blue Jays 2, Astros 1 – Rasmus with winning single in bottom of 9th.

UP NEXT: Off to the west coast to face the tough Oakland A’s for a mid-week three game set (62-43, +63 run differential, 6-4 L10).


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