Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times details a report quietly released by Major League Baseball a couple of weeks ago in which it was revealed that, in the 2010 offseason, only 10 percent of major league baseball players were given drug tests. These tests constituted just three percent of all drug tests given by baseball in 2010.
These offseason rates are significantly lower than the offseason rates seen in the NFL and Olympic sports and, given that players’ normal routines involve using the offseason for more intense workouts than they do during the regular season, it represents a pretty big loophole. Both the union and the league told Schmidt that offseason testing is an item on the agenda for the new Collective Bargaining Agreement which will be negotiated this year.
The biggest question I have is, practically speaking, how can you increase this frequency in anything approaching a fair way? Some players live two miles from the team’s spring training headquarters all winter long. Some live in the middle of nowhere, Mississippi. Others live in Japan, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. Unlike the NFL — in which there are numerous pre-scheduled offseason activities like minicamps — there is no time when ballplayers are truly accessible to their team in such a way as to make offseason drug testing a truly random or even arguably comprehensive thing.
The Nationals will be many people’s favorites in the NL East this season. Not everything is looking great, however. For example, their ace — defending NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer — can’t even throw fastballs right now.
The reason: the stress fracture he suffered last August is still causing him problems and Scherzer is unable to use his fastball grip without feeling pain in his right ring finger. He will throw a bullpen session tomorrow, but will only use his secondary stuff.
Scherzer has not been ruled out for Opening Day — the fact that he is throwing some means that his timetable isn’t totally on hold — but you have to figure, at some point, not being able to air things out and use his heater will lead to some problems in his spring training routine.
File this under “man, that would’ve been cool.” Or, if you’re a Tigers fan, file it under “man, that would’ve signaled several years of misery.” However you fall on the matter, however, know that, according to Jon Heyman, the Dodgers inquired about trading for Justin Verlander over the winter.
It never went anywhere, but it’s not like it was silliness for the Dodgers to ask. As you may recall, the Tigers were reported to be willing to listen to offers on any and all players back in November, as GM Al Avila contemplated a tear-down. That never came to pass — the Tigers had a quiet offseason and are keeping the team together to make another run at the playoffs with the Verlander/Miguel Cabrera core — but it couldn’t hurt to ask.
Verlander, who is coming off a resurgent season which saw him return to form as one of baseball’s best pitchers, has 10-5 rights, allowing him to veto any trade. He’s married to an actress/model, however, owns a home in L.A., and the Dodgers are a clear contender, so there’s a good chance he would’ve allowed such a trade to happen. Heck, dude even loves pitchers batting, so a chance to do it all the time would be right up his alley.
The bigger issue likely would’ve been Verlander’s $28 million salary. The Dodgers already pay the luxury tax so taking on that commitment would cost them more than the sticker price. And, of course, if the Tigers are going to ever give up one of the best players in franchise history, it would take the motherlode of prospects to do it.
So, no, a Verlander-to-L.A. trade wasn’t ever a strong possibility. But even the slight possibility seems exciting in hindsight. It was a boring as hell offseason.