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.

Rangers sign Josh Hamilton to a minor league deal

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The Texas Rangers have signed Josh Hamilton to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training.

Not at all surprising. The Rangers released Hamilton last August, but that was simply to make some room on the 40-man roster. His season was already toast due to the surgery he underwent to repair lateral and meniscus cartilage in his left knee which had the added bonus of revealing that he had an ACL injury as well, which required reconstruction. At the time of his release both he and the Rangers made noises about him coming back on a minor league deal in 2017.

Hamilton turns 36 in May. The smart money has it that his big league career is over, but Hamilton would be silly to retire given that he is owed $30 million this coming season. That the Angels are paying $26.41 million of that makes it far less painful for the Rangers as well. If he can hit in the spring, hey, let him DH some and pay him low money. If not, no skin off of anyone’s nose. He can request a release on April 1 if he hasn’t made the big league roster.

A-Rod to host a reality show featuring broke ex-athletes

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Alex Rodriguez’s transition into retirement has featured a serious move into the business world. He has gone back to school, worked seriously on investments and has started his own corporation. Yes, he’s set for life after making more money than any baseball player in history, but even if his bank account wasn’t fat, you get the sense that he’d be OK given what we’ve seen of his work ethic and savvy in recent years.

He’s going to be getting another paycheck soon, though. For hosting a reality show featuring athletes who are not in as good a financial shape as A-Rod is:

Interesting. Hopefully, like so many other reality shows featuring the formerly rich and famous, this one is not exploitative. Not gonna hold my breath because that’s what that genre is all about, unfortunately, but here’s hoping A-Rod can help some folks with this.