Quote of the Day: Steve Phillips on steroids

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Sirius/XM radio has what seems to be part of some continuing employment plan for former GMs, and the latest enrollee is former Mets’ GM Steve Phillips. Yes, the man who was fired from the Mets for poor performance, fired from ESPN for shtupping the help and who sat on the deck of AOL FanHouse as it sank below the water line has landed in satellite radio. Good for him!

Anyway, last week Phillips was discussing the Barry Bonds trial on his show, and he had this to say:

“Thank God for steroids. It brought the game back from extinction.”

Um, yeah.

Look, I’m not going to deny that the home run explosion of the late 90s-early oughts helped the game a bit. I think it’s safe to say it did. But really, extinction?  And does Phillips really think that the game wouldn’t have rebounded regardless?

In fact, I’ve seen multiple things cited for baseball’s post-strike comeback in the 1990s. The wild card, creating broader fan interest in pennant races. The return to prominence of the New York Yankees and the reinvigoration of their rivalry with Boston. Heck, some people even think that Cal Ripken breaking Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games record was the turning point.

Or maybe there wasn’t a turning point. To the contrary, it seems that attendance trends show that the labor strife in the mid-90s was really an interruption of already-rising attendance numbers which began in the late 80s. The strike brought a trough, but after it was over, the trend in attendance continued upward at more or less the same rate as seen before the strike.

But even if you don’t buy that, it’s safe to say that just as steroids don’t fully explain the power increase of the period — thank smaller ballparks, weight training, equipment advances, smaller strike zones, thinning pitching talent and perhaps even a livelier ball for it too — they don’t explain baseball’s increasing appeal over the past 20 years either.

But hey: it makes for great talk radio to claim otherwise.

(link via BTF)

Report: Diamondbacks acquire Steven Souza from Rays; Yankees land Brandon Drury

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Update (6:35 PM ET): This is a three-team deal also involving the Diamondbacks, per Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. The Diamondbacks will receive outfielder Steven Souza from the Rays and second baseman Brandon Drury will head to the Yankees. Lefty reliever Anthony Banda will go to the Rays, Piecoro adds. The Diamondbacks will also receive prospect Taylor Widener from the Yankees, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post. MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert adds that the Rays will get two players to be named later from the D-Backs.

Souza, 28, is earning $3.55 million in his first of three years of arbitration eligibility, so the Rays are presumably saving money in moving him. Last season, Souza hit a productive .239/.351/.459 with 30 home runs, 78 RBI, 78 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases in 617 plate appearances. Souza’s arrival almost certainly pushes Yasmany Tomas out of a starting gig.

Drury, 25, has played a handful of positions in his brief major league career. Last year, he played second base in Arizona, batting .267/.317/.447 with 13 home runs and 63 RBI in 480 PA.

Banda, 24, made his major league debut last season, posting an ugly 5.96 ERA with a 25/10 K/BB ratio in 25 2/3 innings. The peripherals suggest he pitched better than his ERA indicated.

Widener, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the 12th round of the 2016 draft. This past season with High-A Tampa, he pitched 119 1/3 innings and posted a 3.39 ERA with a 129/50 K/BB ratio. MLB Pipeline rated Widener as the 14th-best prospect in the Yankees’ system.

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Robert Murray of FanRag Sports reports that the Rays will acquire second base prospect Nick Solak from the Yankees. The Yankees’ return is presently not known.

Solak, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the second round of the 2016 draft. He spent last season between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, hitting a combined .297/.384/.452 with 12 home runs, 53 RBI, 72 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases.

MLB Pipeline ranked Solak as the eighth-best prospect in the Yankees’ system and the fifth-best second base prospect in baseball, praising him for his ability to hit line drives as well as his speed.