Daily Dose: Hamels, Phillies keep rolling

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Last week I wrote about why Cole Hamels’ disappointing win-loss record and bloated ERA misleadingly showed a big decline compared to last season when in reality he’s been nearly as good with just a lot less luck. Hamels was nice enough to make me look smart Tuesday night, hurling a complete-game, two-hit shutout for a 1-0 victory over the Giants.
Even with that masterful outing Hamels is still just 8-8 with a 4.26 ERA, but as noted last week nearly all of the underlying numbers that make up his performance are just as good and in some cases better than they were last year. He’s every bit the same stud as last season, Cliff Lee is 5-1 with a 1.80 ERA since joining him in the rotation, and the Phillies have now won 15 of 20 games.
While the defending champs look awfully scary after building a large enough lead to coast down the stretch, here are some other notes from around baseball …


* Monday’s trading deadline nearly came and went without any big action, but just as the clock was about to strike midnight the Dodgers made a pair of moves to pick up Jim Thome and Jon Garland for the final month. Thome is obviously a big name and put up big stats for Chicago with 23 homers and 74 RBIs in 107 games, but there’s no designated hitter in the NL and he hasn’t played first base regularly in years.
Immediately after the trade was announced Monday night Thome explained that he’s not physically capable of being anything more than an emergency option at first base and general manager Ned Colletti later confirmed that he’s being brought in strictly to serve as a pinch-hitter and possible DH for the World Series. That crushes Thome’s fantasy value while leaving James Loney’s mediocre upset intact.
* Along with sending marginal prospect Justin Fuller to the White Sox to get Thome as a bench bat the Dodgers also shipped a player to be named later that’s believed to be Tony Abreu to the Diamondbacks for Garland and enough money to cover his remaining 2009 salary and $2.5 million buyout for 2010. Abreu is an intriguing player now that he’s healthy again, but at that price the move was a no-brainer for L.A.
Garland recovered from a rough first few months to post a 3.45 ERA over his last 12 starts, but at 29 years old he’s well established as merely an innings eater. Garland is 8-11 with a 4.29 ERA and 83/52 K/BB ratio in 168 innings overall, has had an ERA under 4.20 just once since 2002, and features one of the worst strikeout rates in the league. Not a bad pickup for the Dodgers, but not worth much for fantasy teams.
AL Quick Hits: Carlos Carrasco was rocked in his MLB debut Tuesday, allowing five hits and a walk to the first six batters he faced … Michael Young will undergo an MRI exam after leaving Tuesday’s game with a strained hamstring … Sean Rodriguez will be a nice AL-only sleeper next season after coming to the Rays as the player to be named later for Scott Kazmir … On a related note, Andy Sonnanstine rejoined the rotation Tuesday in Kazmir’s old spot … Grady Sizemore may choose to have elbow surgery before the end of the year to guarantee that he’ll be ready for 2010 … Jose Guillen returned from the disabled list Tuesday after sitting out since mid-July with a torn knee ligament … Adam Jones exited Tuesday’s game with an ankle injury that looked relatively serious … Ken Griffey Jr. missed Tuesday’s game with a sore left knee … Carlos Pena blasted his MLB-leading 39th homer Tuesday to go along with just 38 singles.
NL Quick Hits: David Wright returned from the disabled list Tuesday after two weeks on the sidelines thanks to a Matt Cain beaning … St. Louis has reportedly extended closer Ryan Franklin’s contract through 2011 … Nate McLouth (hamstring) is slated to begin a rehab assignment Thursday at Single-A … Jose Contreras will make his Rockies debut Saturday … John Maine (shoulder) has begun a throwing program in the hopes of pitching again this season … In an effort to keep his workload in check, Mat Latos will be shut down for the year after making one more start Saturday … As expected, Jason Giambi joined the Rockies as a bench player Tuesday … Arizona acquired Kevin Mulvey from Minnesota as the player to be named later from Friday’s trade for Jon Rauch … Kyle Lohse (groin) threw a 40-pitch simulated game Tuesday and reported no problems … Johan Santana (elbow) and Oliver Perez (knee) both underwent successful surgeries Tuesday morning by the same doctor.

Joe Morgan is asking Hall of Fame voters to keep PED users out

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Hall of Famer Joe Morgan has never equivocated on his belief that users of performance enhancing drugs should not be allowed into the Hall of Fame. Whenever he has been interviewed on the subject he has been steadfast in his stance that PED users are not worthy of induction.

This week he has taken a further step: he has sent a letter to all of the Hall of Fame voters, asking them to keep PED users out.

In his letter — the entirety of which you can read over at Joe Posnanski’s blog — Morgan says “if steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.” By “we,” he’s clearly referring to Hall of Fame members. While he does not name any player he would like to see voters keep out, he spends a lot of time talking about how PEDs are bad for baseball, PED users cheated the game and how he and many other Hall of Famers do not want to see them elected. He invokes “youngsters” and refers to the Hall of Fame as “special” and speaks to the “sanctity” of election. It’s the moral argument against PED use we’ve been hearing for a good 15 years or so.

It’s also hopelessly naive and comes far too late in the game to be a useful plea.

As we’ve noted many, many times, there are already PED users in the Hall of Fame. Amphetamine users to be sure, but even if you want to give them a pass, there are steroid and/or HGH users too. In case you forgot about that, allow me to remind you about the time Hall of Fame voter Thomas Boswell appeared in Ken Burns’ “Baseball” documentary update “The Tenth Inning” and explicitly said that he personally witnessed a current Hall of Famer drink a PED-laden shake:

“There was another player now in the Hall of Fame who literally stood with me and mixed something and I said “What’s that?” and he said “it’s a Jose Canseco milkshake”. And that year that Hall of Famer hit more home runs than ever hit any other year. So it wasn’t just Canseco, and so one of the reasons that I thought that it was an important subject was that it was spreading. It was already spreading by 1988.”

Boswell tends to keep pretty silent about that come Hall of Fame voting time in December, but he has never backed off the claim either.

Less reliable, but still never refuted, were the stories of Patty Blyleven, former wife of Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven, who said that she knows of a Hall of Famer who took PEDs as well, and who continues to nonetheless publicly rail against PED use. There are likewise other Hall of Famers of whom baseball writers are strongly convinced — or know for a fact — took PEDs but about whom they’ve never reported because no one would go on the record about it or corroborate it in a way that satisfies prevailing journalistic standards. Go ask a BBWAA member about why it took Jeff Bagwell so long to get into the Hall of Fame. Or simply go back and read what they said about him a few years ago.

Going beyond those cases are the cases of a host of players — players who have been on the ballot for years —  about which we’ll never, ever know. Do we know for sure that any of the guys currently on the ballot who played before drug testing never took PEDs? Of course not. In light of that all Morgan can ask is for voters to keep players of an entire era out. Which is a completely unreasonable and unfair request.

In the absence of guidance from the Hall of Fame or Major League Baseball, BBWAA voters were somewhat inconsistent with alleged PED users for a time, but they’re beginning to coalesce around a set of rough standards:

  • If you tested positive for PEDs or were disciplined for PEDs after the testing program was fully online like Manny Ramirez and Rafael Palmeiro did, you’re not getting in. Figure Alex Rodriguez will fall in this group one day too;
  • If you were strongly and convincingly associated with PEDs in the pre-testing era like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the road you have to go down is going to be pretty bumpy, but you may, possibly, get in one day if you were an overwhelmingly great player;
  • If you were seen as one-dimensional like Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa and either admitted to PED use or were suspected of it, welp, sorry. We’ll leave why Sosa is suspected of it to another post.

All of this is will likely change slightly over time. Bonds and Clemens have recently gotten over the 50% voting threshold and could gain some steam with the voters. Alex Rodriguez was good enough and his post-career image rehabilitation has been such that he may get more support than most post-testing PED guys one day. Maybe McGwire and Sosa will get new looks down the road by some iteration of the Veteran’s Committee. After that, there aren’t a lot of guys who are seriously in the Hall of Fame discussion with credible PED claims against them.

Which is to say that history is sorting itself out, for better or for worse. Sorting itself out in a way that renders Morgan’s views on the matter — whether you consider them well-founded or otherwise — too little, too late and, given what we know and do not know about PED users, rather useless.