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.
MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.
Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.
The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.
Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.
The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.
He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.