I don’t mean to make this post into a Manny Ramirez referendum — we’ve had plenty of those in the past few days — but in his defense of Ramirez’s Cooperstown credentials, Allen Barra raises a point I have yet to see addressed when he says “Manny paid his debt the first time and is paying an even bigger one now. That should be all that matters to HOF voters.”
A lot of the ire I’ve seen at guys like McGwire, Clemens and Bonds is based on the fact that their drug use rendered baseball an uneven playing field and strongly encouraged if not demanded that other players take PEDs too if they wanted to keep their jobs. While I don’t think this should keep them out of the Hall of Fame for reasons I’ve explained in the past, it is a legitimate criticism to say that guys like them helped foster and perpetuate the Steroid Era, and that that was a bad thing.
But do the same arguments hold for players in the post-testing era? Maybe not Manny himself — it’s fairly naive, I think, to believe that Ramirez began taking PEDs in 2009 — but for a hypothetical PED user who debuted in 2007, say, has a Hall of Fame career and then tests positive for PEDs in, like, 2023, just before he retires. What do we do with that guy? Has he still committed some unforgivable moral transgression that demands the door to Cooperstown be shut, or is he treated like a pitcher who was suspended for intentionally beaning a guy or a batter for corking his bat? A guy who broke the rules and the norms of the game, but who was dealt with within the framework of the system and paid his dues to baseball society? A guy who did no more to pressure other players to use than any other rule breaker does to pressure others to follow suit because there’s an institutional deterrent in place.
I guess this is a broader ethical question. Are PEDs a different kind and degree of wrong, even in the post-testing era, or were they so bad before precisely because there was no enforcement against their use, leading to a wild west environment? A lot of Hall of Fame voters have already staked out a position on this, either saying that they were and are an unequivocal evil or saying that they were bad because they created an inherently unfair era.
Going forward, it seems, these people will need to be clear and, hopefully, consistent on this matter.
Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.
Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.
Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.
It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.
After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.
The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.
Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.
The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.
Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.
Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.
After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.
According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.
The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.