As BBWAA voters try their hardest to ensure that no filthy steroids users sneak into the Hall of Fame, it’s probably a good idea that they go back and read the Mitchell Report. As they do, they should pay special attention to this passage on page 28:
In 1973, a Congressional subcommittee announced that its staff had completed an “in depth study into the use of illegal and dangerous drugs in sports” including professional baseball. The subcommittee concluded that “the degree of improper drug use – primarily amphetamines and anabolic steroids – can only be described as alarming.”
Steroids. In 1973. Senator Mitchell went on:
Subcommittee chairman Harley O. Staggers called on professional sports leagues to adopt “stringent penalties for illegal use. … In response, Commissioner Kuhn issued a statement announcing that, as a result of its education and prevention efforts, baseball had “no significant problem” with drug use, and he referred to recent private comments by chairman Staggers who reportedly “commended baseball’s drug program as the best and most effective of its kind in sports.”
No significant problems, says Commissioner Kuhn. Great testing program, says Congressman Staggers. This at the height of amphetamine use in baseball, just prior to the cocaine explosion, and after anabolic steroids were already specifically mentioned by Congress as being a problem in all sports, baseball included. This is the same Commissioner Kuhn, mind you, who was elected to the Hall of Fame less than two weeks prior to the Mitchell Report’s release in 2007. And of course there’s this:
[Tom] House, later an accomplished pitching coach with Texas and now co-founder of the National Pitching Association near San Diego, said performance- enhancing drugs were widespread in baseball in the 1960s and ’70s.
The upshot of all of this is that if anyone thinks for a second that there isn’t already a player in the Hall of Fame who used steroids, they’re deluding themselves. There almost certainly is. In light of this, the moral stance currently being taken by the writers is even more ridiculous than it seems on the surface.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.
The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.
Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.
Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).
Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.
Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.
Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.