Jeff Bagwell

So what should you do if you suspect a Hall of Fame candidate did steroids?


This morning I opined about the voters who leave Jeff Bagwell off their ballots because they suspect he did steroids. In the piece I explained what I took to be the thought process of such voters: either they know nothing about his PED use but merely have a hunch or else they know something but can’t publish it because it wouldn’t pass editorial muster.

My conclusion — as I’ve said many times before — was that such a state of affairs is an illegitimate means upon which to base one’s Hall vote.  Put up or shut up, you know.  My friend Rob Neyer — after dropping the winning phrase “Calcaterrian whatfor and whatnot” — took issue:

I wonder if Craig’s legal background isn’t tripping him up here, just a bit. He’s saying, I think, one of two things (or perhaps both):

1. A voter who hinges his decision about a particular player on the use of PEDs should consider only documented evidence; there’s no room for hearsay, or statistical oddities, or visual impressions;

2. If a voter does have some worthwhile evidence, he’s not allowed to write about the voting decision unless he’s also willing to discuss that evidence.

While I believe Bagwell should be in the Hall of Fame, I’ve never quite understood the argument that a Hall of Fame voter — if he thinks steroid use is germane — should ignore every scrap of evidence that doesn’t appear in the Mitchell Report or wherever.

I’ll grant that a voter can’t just ignore the hearsay.  And to be clear: I know there’s hearsay out there.  Last winter I spoke to a writer who, while not a Hall of Fame voter, covered baseball during Bagwell’s prime.  He said that there is a lot of stuff floating around about Bagwell out there. People talk. No one ever says they saw Bagwell using anything first hand, but lots of people know someone who says they did. Or knew some guy whose brother did. That kind of thing. I think such evidence should be ignored and I would ignore it myself, but not everyone agrees and, no, you can’t un-hear that.

But I do think it is incumbent upon those who do consider that kind of evidence germane to say so if they write about their votes or else simply not write about it.  Why? Because when they go from merely whispering about it among friends to executing one of the duties of their profession based on that evidence they are necessarily making an accusation. A far less factually-based accusation than those they’ve excoriated others for making in the past.

They may not believe they are, but they are. Read any writer who makes a point to ding Bagwell because of “uncertainties” and tell me that they’re not making him a steroid suspect.  And not just because he was a power hitter of his era, because they’re not giving the same treatment to many other players.

I agree with Rob that voters will consider such things. But if they do so, they cannot ignore the fact that the single biggest question among members of the media and the public with respect to the steroids era is who was doing it and who wasn’t. And via their public, defacto accusations that Bagwell used PEDs, they’re putting him in a group of people who have been, rightly or wrongly, rendered pariahs. I think doing so requires more than that hearsay we’re discussing.

I’ll grant that about 95% of my rhetoric on this topic is about how people should not vote such a way for such and such a reason.  But in light of Rob’s piece, I have to admit that what bothers me about it is less the vote itself and more about what the vote means.  It means being assumed to be guilty.  And sorry, my legal background does trip me up when it comes to that sort of thing, even if the Hall of Fame is not a court of law.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.