Steroids: why does the NFL get a free pass?

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Headline to a column written in the Philadelphia Daily News: “NFL seems to have better handle on steroid problem than MLB.”

The keyword is “seems.” According to the article, steroid use was de rigueur in the NFL back in the 80s in a way that it has never been alleged to be in baseball. Ex-lineman Brian Baldinger:

“I remember the first day of training camp, going into Player X’s
dorm room when the vets showed up,” says Baldinger, who played 11 NFL
seasons for the Cowboys, Eagles and Indianapolis Colts. “A brown bag
was dumped out on the bed full of syringes and you name it. And you
just kind of grabbed what you needed.

“It wasn’t like it is now, with baseball players saying, ‘Let’s get
the playing field even.’ Back then, it was understood that X-amount of
players, mostly linemen, that’s what they did [use steroids]. It wasn’t
looked at as a competitive advantage.”

In light of that culture the NFL, to its credit, instituted steroids
testing in the 1980s. And it has had some success. According to the
article, anonymous post-retirement surveys by a medical journal
indicated a 20.3% rate of steroid use among respondents in the 1980s
and a 12.7% rate currently. While it’s not unreasonable to assume that
the actual usage rate is higher simply because human nature does not
easily allow people to admit bad stuff, let’s just say that 12.7% is

So rates are lower, but is that any basis to claim — as the people
quoted in this article claim — that the NFL’s testing regime
represents success? 12.7% of current NFL rosters equals roughly 215
players. In the past four years, however, a total of 43
players have been suspended for violating the NFL’s PED policy, or
about 10 a year. I’ll spare you the math, but trust me when I tell you
that 10 a year is somewhat less than 12.7%.

Yet despite this — and despite the fact that the no one has ever
provided any data suggesting that as many as 12.7% of baseball players
are using PEDs at any given time in the testing era — football is held
up as having its PED house in better order than baseball. And that’s
before you apply the same “look how big those dudes are” logic to
football that is so often applied to baseball.

I won’t claim that baseball’s testing regime is perfect — it’s
actually less comprehensive on paper than the NFL’s — but I find it
incredible that the NFL is given a virtual free pass when it comes to
steroids while baseball’s drug problems are continually dragged out for
public ridicule and abuse.

Angels sign outfielder Rafael Ortega to one-year contract

Rafael Ortega
AP Photo/John Bazemore
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According to the official Twitter account of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the club has agreed to terms on a one-year major league contract with outfielder Rafael Ortega.

It’s worth the MLB minimum, which should be a little north of $507,000 in 2016.

Ortega was once considered a top prospect in the Rockies’ minor league system, but he has made only six total plate appearances at the big league level since signing out of Venezuela in 2008. The 24-year-old batted .286/.367/.378 with two home runs and 17 stolen bases in 131 games this past season for the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate in Memphis.

He’ll be in the running for an Opening Day roster spot next spring in Angels camp.

Report: Ben Zobrist’s price tag is currently four years, $60 million

Ben Zobrist
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Ben Zobrist will turn 35 years old early next summer, but that doesn’t seem to be putting too much of a dent in his free agent value.

According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the “sense among interested teams” is that Zobrist’s price is currently hovering around four years, $60 million and it “may go higher.”

There was a report from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal on Sunday stating that the Mets have made Zobrist their “No. 1” offseason target, and over a dozen other clubs have linked to him since the World Series ended. That’s the kind of attention you command when you can both hit — Zobrist posted an .809 OPS (120 OPS+) in 2015 — and also cover a range of positions defensively.

He makes sense for just about any club looking to contend in the coming seasons.

Wilin Rosario elects to become free agent

Wilin Rosario
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi
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Wilin Rosario was designated for assignment by the Rockies late last month. Now, according to Thomas Harding of, the 26-year-old former National League Rookie of the Year vote-getter has elected to become a free agent.

Rosario is a bad defensive catcher and wasn’t much better when the Rockies tried him at first base, but he should draw some interest from American League teams looking for a bench bat and part-time DH.

Rosario slugged 28 home runs for the Rockies in 2012 and he’s averaged 26 home runs for every 162 games over the course of his five-year major league career.

He boasts a .319/.356/.604 career batting line against left-handed pitching.

Orioles acquire Mark Trumbo from Mariners for Steve Clevenger

Mark Trumbo
AP Photo/Joe Nicholson

As first reported by Bob Dutton of the Tacoma Tribune and now confirmed by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Mariners have traded first baseman and corner outfielder Mark Trumbo to the Orioles in exchange for catcher and first baseman Steve Clevenger. There is also a second player headed to Baltimore in the deal.

This feels like an admission from the O’s that they’re not going to be able to re-sign Chris Davis, who is said to be looking for more than $150 million in free agency.

Clevenger was out of options and the Orioles have both Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph coming back at the catcher position. Wieters was due to become a free agent but accepted a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from Baltimore last month.

Trumbo has always been a low-OBP guy and he rates as a poor defender everywhere he has played, but the 29-year-old has averaged 31 homers and 96 RBI for every 162 games in his six-year major league career. Camden Yards is a much better place than Safeco Field for him to show that power.