Congressman doesn’t believe Palmeiro lied


Rafael Palmeiro’s positive drug test may forever doom his Hall of Fame case, but to the extent that those who would vote against him do so by virtue of his finger-wagging performance in front of Congress, this may be of interest:

The former head of the Congressional subcommittee that Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Jose Canseco testified in front of told FanHouse that Palmeiro indeed may not have knowingly used steroids despite a positive test days after he recorded his 3,000th hit—a benchmark that typically ensures entry to the Hall of Fame. Palmeiro will find out Wednesday if he’ll be a first-ballot selection as the Baseball Writers’ Association of America reveals if anybody reached the 75% threshold for induction.

“I feel bad for him,” said Tom Davis, a retired Virginia Congressman who now is director of Federal Government Affairs for Deloitte & Touche. “I believe that he didn’t know he was taking steroids. I think he told the truth. We conducted an investigation and that was the conclusion our investigators came to.”

My guess — and it’s only a guess — is that Palmeiro was more negligent than he was duplicitous. I think he was part of a culture in which guys were simply not all that critical about supplements, shots and whatever else they were using, to the extent that many of them didn’t know and didn’t really care all that much about the specifics. “Here, Raffy: take this. It’s B-12.”  Sure, he thought, because he never thought all that much about it at all. He wasn’t locked in a bathroom stall twirling his mustache and chortling about how he had pulled one over on Congress.

Not that this exonerates him in the slightest. In the post-testing era every player has an obligation to know what it is they’re taking, and one can’t be let off the hook simply because they were willfully ignorant or deluded about what went into their bodies.  I’ve never seen a single suggestion that Palmeiro’s test was a false-positive. Absent anything like that, it’s implausible to say that he wasn’t using a banned substance.

But it may impact our characterization of the guy. He’s made out to be evil by so many. In large part because of that image of him wagging his finger.  True evil is rare, however, and I’m pretty doubtful Palmeiro fits that description.  He was just uncurious and careless.  In my mind, that’s a venial sin, not a mortal one.

The Marlins are using Jose Fernandez’s death to head off criticism of their teardown

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There are certain facts about the Miami Marlins that are basic and clear. Among them:

  • Jose Fernandez died in September of 2016;
  • Marlins owner Jeffery Loria, who was by all accounts very close to Jose Fernandez, took it hard;
  • Despite losing the ace who was supposed to anchor the staff for years to come, Loria decided against a teardown that offseason because there was a lot of talent on the roster and trying to patch holes and compete made sense to him;
  • During the ensuing offseason, the Marlins signed a number of players;
  • Those players failed or got hurt and now the Marlins are engaged in a total rebuild and have traded away players in an effort to slash payroll.

Those things cannot be disputed. Nevertheless, I do not think it’s unfair to say that this framing off all of those facts, via anonymous sources speaking to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, is totally bogus:

The death of pitching ace Jose Fernandez in 2016 triggered a series of costly roster decisions that the Marlins’ new owners are having to contend with now.

There is no shortage of ‘what ifs’ with how it all played out.

But this much is clear: according to sources with knowledge of internal discussions at the time, a number of players with prohibitive salaries wouldn’t be on the Marlins now if previous owner Jeffrey Loria had listened to the advice of his top baseball people back then.

These “top baseball people” are mostly still with the Marlins, including president of baseball operations Michael Hill, so it’s impossible to separate the historical account of this from present day spin. Which is to say that this article is, without question, fueled by Marlins officials looking to deflect fan anger at their decisions this offseason by holding up the tragic death of Jose Fernandez as a shield against criticism.

“Hey, we know you don’t like that we traded away our best players and continue to look to slash talent,” they are basically saying, “but, please, blame God and fate and Jose Fernandez’s poor decisions and Jeff Loria’s emotions and anything else! Do not blame the baseball operations department of the Miami Marlins!”

It’s emotionally manipulative crap, and whoever supplied this line to Spencer ought to be ashamed of himself.

The emotional components aside, whatever the advice these sources gave to Loria at the time about the need to rebuild then and to not sign players heading into 2017, it was rejected. Once that occurred, like all subordinates, they were required to go out and make good decisions with their overarching marching orders. To the extent they are claiming that extending Martin Prado, signing Edinson Volquez, Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa and trading for Dan Straily were bad moves, they hold responsibility for that too. Loria was a lot of things, but he was not out there handling the day-to-day transactions. If the Marlins signed bad players to bad contracts, the people now looking to be excused of that hold a great deal of responsibility.

Even if we put THAT aside this is a crap line of reasoning. Spencer clearly notes that the idea to give Martin Prado his three-year, $40 million extension was agreed to in principle before Fernandez’s death, even if it was officially signed after. For another, Volquez only cost the Marlins $9 million last year, which should not be bank-breaking for an average pitcher, which Volquez basically was before his injury. He’s on the hook for $13 million this year, much of it presumably covered by insurance. Ziegler and Tazawa are owed a combined $16 million. Given the injuries and ineffectiveness of these guys, no, they are not good contracts, but they also amount to less than $30 million in commitments, again, offset by insurance. They should not break the back of a competently-run organization, even if it’s a low revenue one like the Marlins.

I get it, Marlins executives: you’ve got new bosses who have mandated that you slash payroll. You’ve caught all kinds of hell for it and no one likes catching hell. But (a) the mandate has way, way, way more to do with the new owners’ debt service obligations from their highly-leveraged acquisition of the team than it does the death of Jose Fernandez; and (b) the decisions you made in the wake of Fernandez’s death are your responsibility and you don’t get off the hook for them by making an emotionally manipulative appeal.

Do better, guys. This is pathetic even by the historically pathetic standards of the Miami Marlins.