If you believe some of the looser talk this week, you’d think that Mark McGwire was Igor to Jose Canseco’s Dr. Steroidstein and that no one juiced before the A’s got good in the late 80s. Nothing could be further from the truth, of course, as this handy-dandy PED timeline that ran in Sports Illustrated a couple of years ago makes clear. The highlights:
- In 1889, a 72 year-old French doctor injected himself with testicular fluid from dogs and guinea pigs and reports on his findings. Says it made him “feel years younger with renewed energy.” Parisian medical writer Daniel Le Shaughnessy compares him to Napoleon III and calls his actions akin to the worst atrocities of the Franco-Prussian war.
- A German scientist develops anabolic steroids in 1935. The guy later went on to win the Nobel Prize for his work in sex hormones (he got it in 1939; I don’t have time to go back and look, but I’m sure it was the biggest thing to happen in Germany that year). According to his Wikipedia page he joined the Nazi party in 1936, and according to the time line the Nazis and even Hitler himself did extensive experiments with the stuff. OK, I maybe need to apologize to Dan Shaugnessy on that Neville Chamberlain thing the other day;
- Sports Illustrated published a story in 1960 exposing the use of amphetamines, tranquilizers, cocaine and other drugs in elite sports. The writers of the article were apparently unaware that they are living in pure, golden age;
- Another SI story in 1969 about the imminent epidemic of performance enhancing drugs in sports. Mark McGwire is 6 years old at the time; Jose Canseco was 5. My God, they were precociously evil to have screwed with sports like that.
The other day I wondered might happen if one of Jose Canseco’s Hall of Fame teammates was discovered to have taken steroids. Now I’m wondering what might happen if one of Duke Snider or Early Wynn’s teammates did.
(thanks to reader Rays’ Fan for the link in the comments)
The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.
Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.
Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”
Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.
The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.