The Jose Bautista smear campaign continues

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Jose Bautista hit his 19th home run last night, helping power the Blue Jays past the Yankees. The game and its aftermath is making me want to take a walk down memory lane.

For instance, remember back in 2009 when speculating that an unusual spike in a player’s performance could be steroids-related would get you torn a new one by virtually every credentialed writer in baseball and featured in a public pillorying on ESPN for your lack of journalistic ethics?

Wait, maybe I dreamed that, because there is no way that could have happened and this article in the Daily News could still appear without a similar outrage. That would be crazy!

Bautista is the power-hitting sensation the sport desperately needs these days.

Let’s hope he’s clean.

Sorry, but even in this drug-testing era, it’s impossible not to be suspicious when someone suddenly starts hitting the ball to the moon in his late 20s. Unfortunately, steroids forever hardened us to the romance of a late-bloomer like Bautista, especially when baseball still has no test for human growth hormone … Bautista is a great story. Let’s just hope he’s legit.

One more walk down memory lane: remember when, back in 2003 or so, baseball writers used to say that unless and until there is steroid testing in baseball, everyone will be under suspicion?  How then, is it possible, seven years after the imposition of steroid testing, for them to still be under the same suspicion?  Is there absolutely no basic, prima facie presumption of innocence? Is there not anything apart from the mere hitting of some home runs, that is required before this kind of skepticism and innuendo is warranted?

Bryce Harper will not be discussing his impending free agency with the media

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Bryce Harper is entering his walk year and it is widely expected that the Scott Boras client will, indeed, test out free agency next fall rather than engage in any substantial way with the Washington Nationals about a contract extension. There were some “casual conversations” between the parties in the early fall of 2017, but the Nats came away from that, quite reasonably, believing that Harper, who stands to land the largest contract in baseball history, will shop around.

For his part, Harper met the media on his first day of spring training workouts and let everyone know that, no, he does not plan to answer questions about his potential free agency every day between now and November. From MASN:

“Just want to let you guys know I will not be discussing anything relative to 2019, at all,” said Harper. “I’m focused on this year. I’m focused on winning and playing hard, like every single year. So if you guys have any questions about anything after 2018, you can call Scott and he can answer you guys.”

Makes sense. The alternative would be for Harper to give the same canned “I’m only focused on our next game” responses in front of his locker 150 times this summer, and that doesn’t serve anyone.

Thinking back to any other impending free agent’s comments about his free agency, I can’t remember a story along those lines which was worth much of anything. The genre generally consists of headlines which oversell an innocuous or offhand comment from a player as a means of guessing where his head is at with respect to his current team. I can’t think of any story in which a player, during his walk year, said something that concretely and definitively signaled his intensions in free agency one way or the other.

Reporters covering the Nationals who are curious as to how Harper feels about his current team at any given time would be better served just observing and inferring, with particular attention paid to how Harper and his teammates view the Nats’ competitive position as the season goes on, how they react to trades and stuff like that. There’s a lot of guesswork in all of that, but it sure beats trying to get a media savvy player like Harper to admit, after going 1-for-4 against the Phillies, where he plans to spend the next seven to ten years of his professional life.