Sammy Sosa was crazy like a fox

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There’s an article up at the New York Times about the 2005 steroid hearings before Congress. Good stuff that attempts to put it all in perspective at the end of the decade. But I still gotta take issue with one often-repeated sentiment about those hearings:

Sosa said he had never taken steroids and suggested that he was not all
too familiar with speaking English, lending some comedy to the
proceedings.

Take it for what it’s worth, but it’s not true that Sosa denied taking steroids before Congress. He said “To be clear, I have never taken illegal
performance-enhancing drugs.” He said “I have not broken the laws of
the United States or the laws of the Dominican Republic.” He said “I have been
tested as recently as 2004, and I am clean.”

Those statements — and
many others he made during his testimony — allow for the possibility
that he used substances that were legal in the Dominican Republic that
would have been illegal to use in the United States. Those substances could have been steroids of various stripes. We don’t know for sure because no one on that Congressional committee asked the basic sorts of followup questions that even junior lawyers are trained to ask. It was a big show to them, not a serious legal proceeding.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that Sosa wasn’t trying to give the impression that he hadn’t taken steroids. Clearly he was trying to walk a very, very thin line between admitting using PEDs and committing perjury. It won’t get him any popularity votes, but he did, technically speaking, pull it off, and by doing so he was able to avoid any sort of perjury beef when his name popped up on the list last summer.

And though it is now characterized as “comedy,” the reason he was likely able to pull it off: his Spanish testimony.  Those distinctions — I didn’t take illegal PEDs; I didn’t break the laws of the D.R. or the U.S. — were fairly subtle.  They could have been easily messed up if he spoke in his second language instead of his native tongue. No matter how funny you found it, Sosa’s decision to testify in Spanish was pretty smart from a legal perspective.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.