Minor leaguers to be tested for HGH. This is all PR, by the way

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Major League Baseball announced a few moments ago that it will immediately begin testing for HGH in the minor leagues.  That sound you hear is a thousand writers and commentators preparing their “good for baseball for finally getting tough” column/blog post/TV talking head spot.  Don’t buy a bit of it.

For starters, this is not news. It was leaked back in February that this would be happening. Now it is happening. Anyone who calls this move “surprising” is not really following PED stories.

More significantly, the HGH test baseball will be using is the same one mentioned back in February: the test a British rugby league used to catch one of its players.  What will likely be left out of these new columns is that (a) the rugby player was the first one in several years of alleged HGH testing to ever be caught; and (b) he was only caught because testing officials received a tip the night before that the player had received a big honking shipment of HGH. If the rugby league was really using the test, it never caught anyone through random testing.

Which can be explained by one of two things, neither of which speak well of the test in question: (1) the test gives almost universal false negatives; or (2) because HGH’s duration in the blood stream — 24-48 hours according to most experts — is too short for random testing to ever work. Shoe leather and stool pigeons are the only way anyone has ever been caught for using HGH, and that’s likely to remain the case.

Finally, because Major League Baseball does not have the stomach to engage the MLBPA on implementation of the test, the testing will be limited to the minor leagues and will likely stay that way for the foreseeable future.

The upshot: No one except the most clueless will ever be caught by this test and the big league players from whom the PED hawks think we need protection will never be tested.  Other than that, fabulous.

At least, if you like exercises in public relations.

The Nationals expect Bryce Harper to test free agency

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Earlier this week at the Winter Meetings, Scott Boras said that he and the Washington Nationals had had preliminary discussions about a contract extension for Bryce Harper. Harper, of course, can become a free agent following the 2018 season and is widely expected to command the largest contract in baseball history.

While that may have given some Nationals fans hope that no other team would get the chance to bid on him, the Nationals are of the view that they have no shot to sign Harper before he at least tests the free agent market. From USA Today’s Bob Nightengale:

A lot of this seems like mutual posturing, doesn’t it? Boras trying to make it appear as though the he and Harper are giving the Nats a fair hearing and the Nats trying to make it appear as though, no matter what they do, Harper is going to hit the market. I tend to believe, personally, that Boras and Harper are hellbent on testing the market, but it’s possible that there is some number that the Nats can offer to head that off, right? Maybe?

Either way: big year ahead for Harper.