More than just a sweep for surging BoSox

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The Yankees finally retaliated.

Following two more plunkings tonight, CC Sabathia had decided enough was enough.  Josh Beckett hit Derek Jeter in the elbow in the top of the first and Alex Rodriguez in the hip in the in the fourth.

After A-Rod limped to first, Sabathia, working with the Yankees up 2-0, picked his target, hitting David Ortiz in the right thigh with a 97-mph heater in the bottom of the fourth.  It was just the second time Yankees pitchers had ever hit Ortiz, the first time coming eight years ago in the ALCS.

Warnings were issued, but it seemed like the Ortiz HBP made it case closed for both teams, and there were no repercussions after Beckett hit Curtis Granderson in the foot with a breaking ball in the fifth.

The Yankees had made their statement.  And then they went about blowing the game.

Sabathia cruised through six innings, allowing just two hits, but the Red Sox exploded for seven runs on nine hits in the seventh.

Ortiz, hitting for the first time since the plunking, started the rally with a single and then closed it with a two-run double.  The Red Sox added one more run in the ninth and won 8-3.

The victory gave them consecutive three-game sweeps at Yankee Stadium.  They’re 8-1 against the Bombers this year.  Three times now Beckett and Sabathia have matched up, and the Yankees have lost those games by a combined score to 18-3.

At least the Yankees did score for the first time off Beckett tonight.  After Jeter was hit by the pitch to start the game, Granderson homered, giving the Yanks the 2-0 lead they held most of the way.  They couldn’t dent Beckett from there, though, coming up with just three more hits against him.

With the win, the resiliant Red Sox moved two games up in the AL East.  Their ownership of the Yankees is the big reason why.  They’ve dominated the Bombers so thoroughly that Mariano Rivera has appeared in just one of the nine contests so far, coming into the May 15 loss with the Yankees down 7-5.

Fortunately, the Yankees don’t have to beat the Red Sox to make it to the postseason.  They have the AL’s third-best record despite their struggles.

Still, one wonders whether the Yankees could look a whole lot different by the time to two teams play again on Aug. 5.  Jorge Posada could be gone.  Derek Jeter might be batting at the bottom of the order.  Phil Hughes should be back, though perhaps not the 2010 Hughes the Yankees are hoping for.

But what the Yankees really need is for Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira to show for these games.  Teixeira has gone 4-for-33 against Boston this season.

Things are very well set up for Boston now.  The middle of the order looks devastating.  The duo of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek behind the plate is working out just fine all of a sudden. And even though Beckett is the only one of the team’s top four starters pitching as hoped, the Red Sox lead the AL with 36 wins.  There’s no more confident team in baseball at the moment.

Joe Morgan is asking Hall of Fame voters to keep PED users out

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Hall of Famer Joe Morgan has never equivocated on his belief that users of performance enhancing drugs should not be allowed into the Hall of Fame. Whenever he has been interviewed on the subject he has been steadfast in his stance that PED users are not worthy of induction.

This week he has taken a further step: he has sent a letter to all of the Hall of Fame voters, asking them to keep PED users out.

In his letter — the entirety of which you can read over at Joe Posnanski’s blog — Morgan says “if steroid users get in, it will divide and diminish the Hall, something we couldn’t bear.” By “we,” he’s clearly referring to Hall of Fame members. While he does not name any player he would like to see voters keep out, he spends a lot of time talking about how PEDs are bad for baseball, PED users cheated the game and how he and many other Hall of Famers do not want to see them elected. He invokes “youngsters” and refers to the Hall of Fame as “special” and speaks to the “sanctity” of election. It’s the moral argument against PED use we’ve been hearing for a good 15 years or so.

It’s also hopelessly naive and comes far too late in the game to be a useful plea.

As we’ve noted many, many times, there are already PED users in the Hall of Fame. Amphetamine users to be sure, but even if you want to give them a pass, there are steroid and/or HGH users too. In case you forgot about that, allow me to remind you about the time Hall of Fame voter Thomas Boswell appeared in Ken Burns’ “Baseball” documentary update “The Tenth Inning” and explicitly said that he personally witnessed a current Hall of Famer drink a PED-laden shake:

“There was another player now in the Hall of Fame who literally stood with me and mixed something and I said “What’s that?” and he said “it’s a Jose Canseco milkshake”. And that year that Hall of Famer hit more home runs than ever hit any other year. So it wasn’t just Canseco, and so one of the reasons that I thought that it was an important subject was that it was spreading. It was already spreading by 1988.”

Boswell tends to keep pretty silent about that come Hall of Fame voting time in December, but he has never backed off the claim either.

Less reliable, but still never refuted, were the stories of Patty Blyleven, former wife of Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven, who said that she knows of a Hall of Famer who took PEDs as well, and who continues to nonetheless publicly rail against PED use. There are likewise other Hall of Famers of whom baseball writers are strongly convinced — or know for a fact — took PEDs but about whom they’ve never reported because no one would go on the record about it or corroborate it in a way that satisfies prevailing journalistic standards. Go ask a BBWAA member about why it took Jeff Bagwell so long to get into the Hall of Fame. Or simply go back and read what they said about him a few years ago.

Going beyond those cases are the cases of a host of players — players who have been on the ballot for years —  about which we’ll never, ever know. Do we know for sure that any of the guys currently on the ballot who played before drug testing never took PEDs? Of course not. In light of that all Morgan can ask is for voters to keep players of an entire era out. Which is a completely unreasonable and unfair request.

In the absence of guidance from the Hall of Fame or Major League Baseball, BBWAA voters were somewhat inconsistent with alleged PED users for a time, but they’re beginning to coalesce around a set of rough standards:

  • If you tested positive for PEDs or were disciplined for PEDs after the testing program was fully online like Manny Ramirez and Rafael Palmeiro did, you’re not getting in. Figure Alex Rodriguez will fall in this group one day too;
  • If you were strongly and convincingly associated with PEDs in the pre-testing era like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the road you have to go down is going to be pretty bumpy, but you may, possibly, get in one day if you were an overwhelmingly great player;
  • If you were seen as one-dimensional like Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa and either admitted to PED use or were suspected of it, welp, sorry. We’ll leave why Sosa is suspected of it to another post.

All of this is will likely change slightly over time. Bonds and Clemens have recently gotten over the 50% voting threshold and could gain some steam with the voters. Alex Rodriguez was good enough and his post-career image rehabilitation has been such that he may get more support than most post-testing PED guys one day. Maybe McGwire and Sosa will get new looks down the road by some iteration of the Veteran’s Committee. After that, there aren’t a lot of guys who are seriously in the Hall of Fame discussion with credible PED claims against them.

Which is to say that history is sorting itself out, for better or for worse. Sorting itself out in a way that renders Morgan’s views on the matter — whether you consider them well-founded or otherwise — too little, too late and, given what we know and do not know about PED users, rather useless.