Baseball has never been "pure"

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Bill Simmons has an interesting column up:

We’re going with a one-question mailbag this week, courtesy of Phil
D. from Montclair, N.J.: “What was the purest baseball era, from a
statistical perspective?”

Honestly, Phil? That’s like asking, “Who’s the purest actress in an
X-rated movie?” Every baseball era has been tainted to some degree. But
if there is no era, maybe we can find a window. A four- or five-year
stretch will do. Two years, even. Hell, I’ll settle for an All-Star
break. Okay, let’s begin.

He dismisses the 19th century for being too primitive and the dead ball
era for much the same reasons. The interwar period and the rest of the
40s are out because of segregation and WWII. The 50s and 60s are also
eliminated due to the gradual nature of integration (a point many
neglect, but a good one all the same — the game really wasn’t fully
integrated until the 60s) and the insanely pitching-friendly
environment. The 70s and early 80s start to look better, but AstroTurf,
odd pitcher usage and cocaine kill it for him, and of course the
1993-present era is out due to steroids. That causes him to settle on
the narrow time frame of 1988-1992 as the most “statistically pure”
period in baseball history.

And he may be right, even if the definition of “pure” is a bit
unclear and maybe not that useful. What is useful, however, is Simmons’
highlighting the fact that, at just about every single point in
baseball history, there was something, be it drugs, or rules, or racist
policies or whatever, that altered the statistical and competitive
landscape. Some of them — and I’m thinking segregation here — were
borne of even more malice than the cheating of the steroids era.

Simmons’ observation puts lie to the notion, so popular in recent
years, that the steroids era’s greatest evil was that it somehow
sullied a heretofore pure record book. There was nothing pure about it,
and certainly nothing consistent about it. Lefty Grove would have been
a Hall of Famer whenever he played, but there’s no escaping the fact
that a lot of the guys he got out wouldn’t have been able to sniff the
big leagues if black players had been allowed in the game. Bob Gibson
would likewise be celebrated, but his 1.12 ERA in 1968 would never have
happened if he was pitching from a modern mound in a modern retro-park.
We talk about baseball’s wonderful continuity all of the time, but
things have changed in radical ways over the years, and no one has ever
presented any evidence to convince me that steroids impacted things any
more radically than did high pitchers’ mounds, huge strike zones,
segregation and dead balls.

So, yes, let us continue to disapprove of and sanction those who
break the PED rules, but please, let’s put an end to the talk that
baseball has been irrevocably tainted, because it quite clearly has
not.

Orioles are eying Welington Castillo as their primary catcher target

BALTIMORE, MD - SEPTEMBER 25: Welington Castillo #7 of the Arizona Diamondbacks warms up prior to taking an at bat against the Baltimore Orioles in the second inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 25, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
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A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.

Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.

For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.

Report: Phillies agree to minor league deal with Daniel Nava

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 12:  Daniel Nava #12 of the Kansas City Royals bats during the game against the Oakland Athletics at Kauffman Stadium on September 12, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.

Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.