The 2000s in a nutshell

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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?

Josh Johnson retires from baseball

PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 21: Josh Johnson #55 of the San Diego Padres poses during Picture Day on February 21, 2014 at the Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
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Oft-injured pitcher Josh Johnson is retiring from baseball, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick is reporting.

Johnson, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2013. The right-hander underwent his third Tommy John surgery in September 2015 but wasn’t able to bounce back.

Johnson spent most of his career with the Marlins, but also pitched for the Blue Jays in the big leagues, as well as the Padres in the minors. He retires with a career 3.40 ERA, 915 strikeouts across 998 innings in the majors, and two All-Star nominations. Johnson led the National League with a 2.30 ERA in 2010, finishing fifth in NL Cy Young Award balloting. One wonders what he could have accomplished if he was able to stay healthy.

Report: Angels close to a multi-year deal with Luis Valbuena

HOUSTON, TX - JULY 08:  Luis Valbuena #18 of the Houston Astros hits a three run walkoff home run in the ninth inning to defeat the Oakland Athletics 10-9 at Minute Maid Park on July 8, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
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The Angels are nearing a multi-year deal with free agent third baseman Luis Valbuena, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. It’s believed to be a two-year contract with a third-year option.

Valbuena, 31, hit .260/.357/.459 with 13 home runs and 40 RBI in 342 plate appearances in 2016. He missed most of the second half with a hamstring injury, for which he underwent surgery in late August.

Valbuena has played a majority of his career at third base, but also has extensive experience at second base and has racked up innings at first base and shortstop as well. He won’t play every day for the Angels, as Yunel Escobar lays claim to third base and C.J. Cron first base, but he will give them flexibility and a left-handed bat off the bench.