Lance Armstrong

The imminent Lance Armstrong PED hubub will be instructive

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My steroids bailiwick is pretty much limited to baseball, so I view the latest stuff about Lance Armstrong as a civilian. I don’t know much about it other than to say that (a) cycling is apparently rotten with PEDs; and (b) any criminal investigation led by Jeff Novitzky should be viewed with extreme dubiousness given his track record.  But no, I have no clue if Armstrong took steroids and, aside from the ecological implications of 50 million people throwing away their “Livestrong” bracelets at once, I really don’t care.

But Buster Olney raises a baseball-related question about it this morning:

Should Armstrong be viewed in the same light as Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Palmeiro and other ballplayers linked to PEDs?

Of all the cases of the baseball players, Armstrong’s most resembles that of Clemens — in the face of a lot of evidence, Armstrong, like Clemens, has angrily denied use of performance-enhancing drugs, while attacking the credibility of his accusers. If Clemens and Armstrong have been lying, they are bald-faced, unrepentant lies.

And while Clemens has never had the warm and fuzzy image that Armstrong has, as the cyclist has helped lead the fight against cancer, the pitcher — like Armstrong — has done a whole lot of philanthropic work.

It’s a tough question.

I tend to think that most of the outrage about steroids in baseball is based on the notion that baseball was somehow pure and golden and symbolic and all of that counterfactual barfy stuff, and as such the people who have brought the outrage over it have done so out of a sense of misplaced betrayal, not because the ‘roiding is such a grave transgression in and of itself.  Cycling certainly isn’t like that.

But of course, Armstrong transcended cycling a long time ago, in part because of his dominance, but also because of his inspirational story. Beating cancer. Honing his body to ridiculous levels of efficiency. Dating Sheryl Crow and Kate Hudson when that meant something.

In light of that, if the PED allegations against him pan out, I would guess that Armstrong gets some pretty rough treatment, especially in the cycling world (France will probably issue a shoot-to-kill order).  But I also guess that all of his anti-cancer work and the fact that he has transcended the relative backwater that is international cycling, mainstream America will view him as a flawed but still-worthy figure.  He’ll get smacked around a whole hell of a lot, but he won’t be demonized like Clemens and Bonds have been.

Report: Cardinals are scouting Cuban outfielder Luis Robert

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 25: Baseballs sit in the St. Louis Cardinals dugout prior to a game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on April 25, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by David Welker/Getty Images)
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According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Cardinals are keeping an eye on outfield prospect Luis Robert. The 19-year-old left his native Cuba last November and is expected to command interest from multiple MLB teams as he approaches free agency. Goold adds that the Cardinals sent scouts to evaluate Robert’s workouts in the Dominican Republic as recently as last week.

There’s still a good chance that the club won’t get a shot at signing him; as Craig mentioned last month, it seems likely that Major League Baseball won’t declare Robert a free agent until after June 15. By July 2, the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s policies on international bonuses will go into effect, handcuffing teams with the maximum penalty for bonuses to a $300,000 signing figure for any available international prospect. It’s designed to effectively take away those teams’ abilities to sign additional international talent, and the Cardinals have already spent a reported $9.35 million in bonuses on Venezuelan outfielder Victor Garcia, Cuban outfielders Jonatan Machado and Randy Arozarena and Cuban right-hander Johan Oviedo.

Until the cutoff in mid-June, the Cardinals are likely to continue actively scouting other international talent, including Robert. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez quotes an anonymous National League scouting director who describes Robert as the No. 2 talent behind Japanese wunderkind Shohei Otani. The 19-year-old hit .286/.319/.397 with a .716 OPS during a 16-game run in the Canadian-American League in 2016, following up an impressive three-year tenure with the Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series from 2013-2015.

Cubs extend Pedro Strop through 2018

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Pedro Strop #46 of the Chicago Cubs reacts during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported over the weekend that the Cubs and reliever Pedro Strop agreed to a contract extension. He’ll remain with the Cubs through 2018 and the new deal includes a club option for the 2019 season as well. Per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Strop will earn $5.85 million in 2018 and the club option is worth $6.25 million with a $500,000 buyout. The two sides already avoided arbitration earlier this month, agreeing on a $5.5 million salary for the 2017 season.

Strop, 31, has been a very reliable reliever for the Cubs over the last three years. He has a combined 2.65 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 69 walks over 176 1/3 innings in that span of time.

The Cubs replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, so Strop and Hector Rondon will be bridging the gap to Davis this coming season.

Strop joined the Cubs along with Jake Arrieta in the July 2013 trade that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles. That trade panned out well for the Cubs.