I’m a huge fan of Ken Rosenthal the reporter. I think he works harder than anyone in the business and, more than anyone, when he passes on a nugget of news, you can bet that it’s going to pan out. Personally speaking, he’s always been gracious with me despite the fact that I’ve been critical of him from time to time.
That criticism comes when Rosenthal takes off the reporting hat and puts on the commentator hat, where I think he frequently gets things wrong. Things like this:
McGwire, then, faces a choice. Resign as hitting coach and
return to seclusion before even tinkering with one swing — a copout. Or
hold an actual news conference — his six-minute effort at the
Cardinals’ winter warmup hardly qualified — and concede that, sure,
steroids helped him in some way . . . All anyone wants to hear is Big Mac acknowledge the drugs made a difference in his performance. Any other explanation insults our collective intelligence.
If it’s so damn obvious, why does Rosenthal or anyone else need to hear it? Does Rosenthal demand that ballplayers who look to the sky after crossing the plate admit that their grandmother’s ghost didn’t really help them hit the homer? Does he demand that Fernando Valenzuela admit that breathing through his eyelids did not help him win all those games? Does he demand that Wade Boggs come to grips with the efficacy of eating fried chicken before ballgames?
It’s undeniable that steroids helped Mark McGwire in some capacity. We can’t know how much, of course, but it’s ridiculous to think that they didn’t help at least somewhat. Indeed, Rosenthal himself concedes that he doesn’t need Mark McGwire to tell us that. Nevertheless, he persists with this “McGwire must say it himself” stuff. Rosenthal even crafts what he feels would be an acceptable confession by McGwire. It contains nothing new and nothing that doesn’t obviously follow from what McGwire has said and what our own reason can easily supply. At any rate it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Rosenthal doesn’t need any more information than McGwire has already provided in order to assess the situation thoroughly.
But this isn’t about McGwire failing to provide enough information. This is not about coming clean. In demanding that McGwire admit what Rosenthal already knows to be true, this is about penance. Rosenthal demands that McGwire prostrate himself before him and the assembled baseball media and say exactly what they want him to say. If he cannot, he should be cast out of the church of baseball.
Personally, I don’t think it’s the media’s job to provide anyone absolution. If that’s what Rosenthal is interested in doing I suggest he follow Grant Desme’s example and go to seminary school.
During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.
The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.
The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.
The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.
It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:
We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.
While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.
Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.