When is Ron Villone going to apologize to Mark McGwire?

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Ron Villone headshot.jpgEventually people will start playing baseball again and all of this will be forgotten. Until then we’ll have old timers like Fergie Jenkins saying silly things like this:

Ferguson Jenkins says Mark McGwire owes an apology to all those pitchers who gave up his home runs. The Hall of Fame ace sent an open letter* to The Associated Press
this week, telling the former home-run king: “You have not even begun
to apologize to those you have harmed.”
“How many pitchers do you think he ended their careers by hitting numbers of home runs of them?”

“You have yet to apologize to all the pitchers you faced while juiced,”
Jenkins wrote. “You altered pitchers’ lives. You may have shortened
pitchers careers because of the advantage you forced over them while
juiced. Have you thought about what happened when they couldn’t get you
out and lost the confidence of their managers and general managers? You
even managed to alter the place some athletes have achieved in record
books by making your steroid-fueled run to the season home run record.”

Best tidbit from the story: STATS LLC researched and found out that 51 pitchers gave up  homers to McGwire in what
turned out to be their final major league seasons, including Bert Blyleven and Donnie Moore.  I can only assume that Murray Chass and that crowd will now change their Hall of Fame vote for Blyleven and start blaming Donnie Moore’s suicide on McGwire.

Of course what STATS LLC has not done is analyze how many home runs McGwire hit off pitchers who were juicing.  For example, he hit two dingers off of Roger Clemens in his career, so I assume he need not apologize there. He hit five off Ron Villone, who was named in the Mitchell Report. Other Mitchell Report alumni who served up home runs to McGwire: Kevin Brown, Jim Parque, Darren Holmes and Steve Woodard.

Given how cursory and incomplete the Mitchell Report was, and given that pitchers have, if anything, been overrepresented in positive PED tests since 2004, there are no doubt many, many more to whom McGwire need not apologize. I’d compile a list of pitchers who should apologize to McGwire — ‘roiders who struck Mac out and prevented him from hitting home runs — but that would be a pretty extensive undertaking.

How about this: instead of wasting our time telling everyone who should apologize to whom, we just drop this pathetic, sanctimonious game, accept that the era in which Mark McGwire played was rotten with steroid users and figure out how to put it all in historic context?  Or is that too immature?

*Open letter?! Arrrrgghh!

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.