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.
With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.
For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.
Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.
Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.
Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.
The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.