I think I’ve read two dozen decade-in-baseball retrospectives in the past week, but they all seem to come back to this nugget, articulated today in the Star-Ledger’s version:
The 2000s were dominated by steroids and everything we learned about
them: how widespread they were, who juiced, who was responsible and how
it impacted the game. Year after year, what happened on the field was
overshadowed by the latest steroid-related development . . .
. . . Yet while we became more cynical about the game, we were no less
captivated by it. The 2000s were marked by record attendance and
all-time high revenues. It was the first decade since the 1960s in
which there was no work stoppage.
And you can’t just dismiss that as a business thing or a function of new ballparks. The revenue and attendance was driven, undoubtedly, by fan interest and demand. People are buying tickets to those ballparks and watching those regional cable network broadcasts.
The fact that the game has seen such an uptick in interest and revenue despite the PED stuff just strengthens my belief that steroids, while a problem that absolutely had to be addressed, are/were nowhere near as large a problem for the game as they are typically made out to be and that perspective about it all is starting to ooze back into people’s thinking.
We’ll start to see tangible evidence of this going forward. Maybe with things like Mark McGwire’s Hall of Fame vote totals, which I think will see a modest increase this year that will continue over time, as he wears a batting coach’s uniform every day and writers realize that he’s not a Martian. Maybe with a bit less shock and outrage as another name or three from the famous steroid list is released this spring, as it inevitably will.
Maybe the turn of a decade is an arbitrary point in time, but it does feel like we’ve reached a turning point of some kind, doesn’t it?
MASN’s Roch Kubatko is reporting that the Orioles have “some level” of interest in free agent outfielder Denard Span. The Nationals did not make a $15.8 million qualifying offer to Span, which means he doesn’t come attached with draft pick compensation unlike other free agents such as Alex Gordon and Dexter Fowler.
Span, who turns 32 in February, hit a solid .301/.365/.431 with five home runs, 22 RBI, 38 runs scored, and 11 stolen bases, but took only 275 plate appearances due to back and hip injuries. He underwent season-ending hip surgery in September but is expected to be ready to participate in spring training.
The Mets and Royals have also reportedly shown interest in Span’s services.
ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Blue Jays are on the prowl for relievers with closing experience. Ryan Madson is one of the names on their list.
Madson, 35, had a career rebirth with the Royals in 2015. He signed a minor league deal with the club that paid him a salary of $850,000 if he made it back to the majors. Due to a plethora of arm injuries, Madson hadn’t pitched in the majors since Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies. For the Royals, he wound up becoming a crucial member of the bullpen, finishing with a 2.13 ERA and a 58/14 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings.
While Madson allowed five runs in 8 1/3 post-season innings, he pitched well when it mattered most, as he hurled three scoreless frames in three appearances in the World Series against the Mets.
Madson has closing experience, with 55 career saves. 32 of them came in 2011 when he took over the closer’s role from Brad Lidge.
After signing Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, and trading for Jesse Chavez, the Jays have bolstered their rotation but it was reported on Saturday that interim GM Tony LaCava is still focused on upgrading the pitching staff.
ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that free agent pitcher Trevor Cahill is looking for a one-year, bounce-back deal. The Pirates are one of the potential teams he is considering.
It’s no surprise that the Pirates are on Cahill’s list. Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage has garnered a reputation as a miracle worker after turning around the careers of a handful of pitchers, including Edinson Volquez, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ. Volquez parlayed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Pirates into a two-year, $20 million deal with the Royals last December. Liriano signed with the Pirates on a one-year, $1 million contract and turned that into a three-year, $39 million deal. Happ, dealt to the Pirates from the Mariners at the most recent trade deadline, just signed a three-year, $39 million contract with the Blue Jays.
Cahill, once a highly-regarded pitching prospect, has scuffled over parts of seven seasons in the majors. The 27-year-old owns a career 4.13 ERA with a 754/427 K/BB ratio in 1,083 2/3 innings. Cahill had some brief success after signing with the Cubs as a free agent in mid-August, compiling a 2.12 ERA in 11 appearances out of the bullpen.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Blue Jays have narrowed their search for a new general manager down to two candidates: current interim GM Tony LaCava, and Indians vice president of player personnel Ross Atkins. Former Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos resigned last month.
LaCava was promoted to interim GM on November 2 and has already made a handful of moves along with new president Mark Shapiro. The club acquired Jesse Chavez in a trade and signed pitchers Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ to multi-year deals.
Atkins worked under Shapiro in the Indians organization for 15 seasons, so it is no surprise that he is a finalist for the open GM position.