Shaughnessy compares steroids to Hitler. I think.

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Shaughnessy1.jpgThank God we finally have Dan “the voice of reason” Shaughnessy’s take on the McGwire business.  Take it away, Dan:

Why wouldn’t a guy cheat? Steroids made McGwire rich and famous. The
performance-enhancing drugs probably will cost him Cooperstown, but
‘roids got McGwire where he wanted to go. Is there a Triple A
ballplayer who’d say no to artificial help if it would elevate him to
the big leagues? Is there a fringe big leaguer who’d resist an
opportunity to become a full-blown star with a long-term contract?

See, Shaugnessy is dead-on with this. There were clear, rational incentives to take steroids. Ask yourself: if you thought taking steroids would make the difference between an $80 million net worth at age 40 and selling cars for a living at age 40, wouldn’t you do it? If you said no, you’re either in an infinitesimally small minority or you’re lying.

Yet despite being perfectly able to grok the incentives in play, Shaugnessy (and many others) still paint steroids users as heartless cheaters and fraudsters, not just in the effect of their actions, but in their very intent. How someone can acknowledge that taking steroids was a perfectly rational thing to do on the one hand, but call them monsters on the other is puzzling to me.

Start with Big Mac. Does anyone believe him when he says he did not do
this to gain strength? Does he expect us to nod and agree when he says
that he would have been just as good without the stuff? Sorry. The “I
just did it to get back on the field” defense is the juicer’s version
of “the dog ate my homework.” Nobody is buying.

As I asked yesterday, why do you have to buy? Who cares?  And if Shaughnessy doesn’t agree with my take on this, the least he could do is to read his SI colleague Posnaski’s take on what forgiveness really means (note: it’s way less significant a thing than Shaugnessy makes it out to be). It’s frankly brilliant.

If this junk didn’t help McGwire hit 70 home runs in 1998, why was he
compelled to apologize to members of the Maris family Monday?

I would bet the lives of my children that Shaughnessy would have raked McGwire over the coals if he hadn’t apologized to the Maris family, so seeing him use that as sword against him now is rich.

Please, let’s have no more baseball players telling us that steroids
don’t help with hand-eye coordination. That’s not the point.
Professional hitters are able to square up the baseball.

Wait, I thought “professional hitters” were mediocre journeyman who hit the ball the other way in a manner that makes the color commentator say “that’s a nice piece of hitting right there.”  I’m so confused!

We all cringe when Bud Selig says that the steroid era “is clearly a thing of the past.” Bud sounds like Neville Chamberlain before World War II.

Ooh! Analogies! I aced this part of the LSAT. Let’s play:  Selig is to Neville Chamberlain as ballplayers who take steroids are to (a) kittens; (b) rainbows; (c) hugs; or (d) Adolf Hitler at Munich. So glad to see Shaughnessy is keeping things in perspective here.

Tony La Russa needs to stop enabling McGwire. Barrister Tony is simply
too smart to believe the things that come out of his own mouth. Tony
helps no one when he says he didn’t know anything about this until
Monday.

As was the case with Canseco, I can’t help but agree with Shaughnessy here.  Of course, if you combine this observation with his earlier acknowledgment of the incentives in play, and marry it up with the fact that baseball knew that McGwire was taking steroids as early as 1993, you would think that the rhetoric would be less weighted against the players.  It was a big systemic problem and very few people’s hands were clean. Let’s level out the criticism a bit, then, shall we?

He has been held out of the Hall because of steroids and that’s not
likely to change. So what happens when Bonds’s name appears on the
ballot? A-Rod? Clemens? Sosa? Are they all out, or will the voting
membership eventually bend on cheaters because there are so many of
them and, well, it was “the Steroid Era”?

I still don’t get how, on the one hand, someone can say that the whole era is tainted and that no player is beyond suspicion — Shaughnessy says “they’re all dirty!” — yet can’t acknowledge that some players were still head and shoulders above everyone else.  Sure, McGwire and Bonds and their fellow travelers had help, but so too did Larry Bigbie and David Segui.  Is it that hard to acknowledge comparative greatness, steroid use notwithstanding? Maybe McGwire and Palmiero are tough cases — who knows what they would have done without steroids — but does it really take a leap of faith and a denial of your morality to say, hey, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and A-Rod are Hall of Famers?

Dock them slightly for character issues if you must, but in this I’m of the same mind as Rob Neyer, who notes that if, 20 or 30 years from now we have a Hall of Fame that doesn’t include the undeniably best players of their time, you have a pretty useless and irrelevant Hall of Fame.

OK, that’s all the Shaughnessy I can stomach for one morning.

2017 Preview: Chicago White Sox

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Chicago White Sox.

After a couple of years of an all-in approach with a core of Chris Sale, Jose Abreu, Melky Cabrera, Todd Frazier, Adam Eaton and friends, Rick Hahn and the White Sox finally decided to tear it all down. And they tore it all down pretty productively, actually, dealing Sale and Eaton for a boatload of prospects, leading with Yoan Moncada, who has hit .287/.395/.480 with 23 home runs, 100 RBI and 94 stolen bases in 187 minor league games.

They also picked up righthander Michael Kopech who hits triple digits on the regular, one-time top prospect and still-promising Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and 2016 first-round pick Dane Dunning. They all join existing young talent like Tim Anderson, Carlos Rodon, Zack Collins, Carson Fulmer and Alec Hansen. The system, she is stocked.

 

In addition to all that new talent, the Sox have a new manager in Rick Renteria. What he’ll have to work with at the big league level is somewhat spotty, however, and could change pretty radically as the season wears on.

Still in house: Carols Quintana, Frazier, Cabrera and David Robertson, all of who are likely on the trading block (we know Quintana is). Hahn will entertain offers for anything not nailed down which, in this case, means anyone over the age of 25 or so. We could give a blow-by-blow of the offense, the pitching and the defense like we normally do here, but if you’re an obsessive White Sox fan you know that stuff already and if you’re not, all you really need to know is that between those inevitable departures and the loss of their ace in Sale and their best position player in Eaton, last year’s 78-wins are gonna seem like a distant memory.

Beyond trading stars for prospects, the White Sox have signaled that they’re in non-compete mode in other ways as well. New in the fold: Derek Holland, Peter Bourjos and Geovany Soto. Veterans who do a task or two well, go about their business and, if they have a super nice year, can get dealt at the deadline. In short, the lifeblood of a rebuild, not the stuff of greatness. There’s nobility in fulfilling that role even if there aren’t a lot of wins to be found in it.

Where are some wins to be found? Jose Abreu had a down year in 2016 and could be better this year. Both Holland and James Shields are capable of better years than they had last year. Indeed, it’d be close to impossible for Shields to be worse. They’ll have Carlos Rodon, who took a step forward last year and could be poised for a breakout. Quintana and company will be around until July most likely before they’re traded and before Hahn begins to call young dudes up for second half cups of coffee.

And that’s what this season is about, really. The cups of coffee. Seeing what the Sox have in their young talent, particularly Moncada, who has little left to prove in the minors, even if he spends some more time there and Rodon, who is already a key part of the big club. They may lose just as many games or more than they lost the past couple of seasons, but they’ll do it with more interesting players who fans can imagine being better in a White Sox uniform one day. And, heck, if someone develops a bit more quickly than expected, it could actually lead to good baseball. At least here and there.

Prediction: Fourth place, American League Central.

The Braves cave, a little anyway, on their outside food policy

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On Friday the Atlanta Braves announced a new policy for outside food, prohibiting ticket holders from bringing in their own. This was a reversal of their old policy — and the policies of the majority of teams around the league — which allowe fans to bring in soft-sided coolers with their own food and beverages, at least as long as the beverages were sealed.

The Braves claimed that the policy change was “a result of tighter security being put into place this season throughout the league,” but this was clearly untrue as no other teams are cracking down on outside food like this. If there are new security procedures, everyone else is able to accommodate them without an opportunistic crackdown on fans bringing in PB&J for their toddlers. It seemed more likely that this was a simple cash grab.

Today the Braves have reversed the policy somewhat:

While they’re looking for kudos here, this is likewise an admission that the “security” stuff was bull because, last I checked, security procedures aren’t subject to popular referendum and aren’t changed when people complain. What really happened here, it seems, is the Braves, for the first time in living memory, were called out by the public for their greed and realized that even they have some responsibility to not be jackasses about this sort of thing.

Still, a gallon bag policy is not the same as it was before. You could bring coolers into Turner Field and still can bring them into most parks around the league. But I guess this is better than nothing.