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.
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.