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.
In light of the Astros’ deal for veteran designated hitter Carlos Beltran on Saturday, the Yankees are thought to be intensifying their pursuit of free agent Edwin Encarnacion, reports Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The Yankees never made an official offer to Beltran, but remain in need of a DH/first baseman to give them a little more power outside of a Tyler Austin–Greg Bird combo in 2017.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, are reportedly withdrawing their interest when it comes to the Encarnacion sweepstakes. According to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, they will look for a hitter to beef up their lineup without taking a “big plunge” on the 34-year-old.
Encarnacion enjoyed another All-Star run with the Blue Jays in 2016, hitting at a .263/.357/.529 clip with 42 homers and a league-leading 127 RBI in 702 PA. He’s expected to command a significant contract in free agency, and agent Paul Kinzer said that a potential deal is unlikely to be finalized before the Winter Meetings as Encarnacion is not close to agreeing to any offer. Interested teams include the Blue Jays and the Astros, though Beltran’s signing appears to have effectively taken Houston out of the running for the slugger.
The Nationals are trying to go big this offseason, and FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal notes that they are still in trade talks for White Sox’ left-hander Chris Sale and Pirates’ center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Both players figure to command a big return, as Sale delivered another Cy Young-worthy performance in 2016 and, despite a downturn in his production rate, McCutchen is still one of the more coveted sluggers in the National League.
In 2016, Sale led the league in complete games, with six, and turned in a 3.34 ERA and 5.2 fWAR in 226 2/3 innings. While teams have been sniffing around the White Sox’ ace since the trade deadline, the club is expected to maintain a high asking price — so high, said FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, that it may keep the left-hander in Chicago for the foreseeable future.
According to Heyman, four other teams are reportedly in the mix for Sale, including the Red Sox, Astros, Rangers, and Braves, though parts of Rosenthal’s tweet hinted that the Red Sox were maintaining their interest in hopes of striking a more affordable deal. Should the Nationals pursue a deal for Sale, it’s likely that they’d have to move shortstop/center fielder Trea Turner, which they appear reluctant to do.
McCutchen, meanwhile, is also drawing interest around the league after batting .256/.336/.430 with 24 home runs in 675 PA during 2016. He didn’t appear to lose much power in his eighth season with the Pirates, but took considerably fewer walks and struck out at a career-high clip.
The Nationals were said to be in the lead for McCutchen on Thursday, and there was some expectation that the club would wrap up a trade for the center fielder by the non-tender deadline on Friday. FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi pointed out that the Rangers were also talking to the Pirates, however, and no deal has come to fruition as of yet.