Jeff Bagwell

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

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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.

Chapman has trouble remembering convo with Cubs management about off-field behavior

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CHICAGO — Star closer Aroldis Chapman joined the Cubs on Tuesday, arriving to a mixed reaction in Chicago and saying he couldn’t remember what management told him about off-field expectations and behavior.

After Chapman’s awkward introductory news conference, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein insisted Chapman understands what the Cubs expect of him after an offseason domestic violence incident.

When the Cubs announced the trade with the New York Yankees on Monday, the team released a statement from Chairman Tom Ricketts saying they were aware of his 29-game suspension to begin the season under Major League Baseball’s new domestic violence policy.

Ricketts said he and Epstein talked by phone with Chapman before the deal was completed and “shared with him the high expectations we set for our players,” adding that Chapman was “comfortable” with them.

But when asked repeatedly about that phone conversation before Tuesday’s game against the crosstown White Sox, Chapman said through an interpreter that he couldn’t recall details because he was taking a nap at the time the call came in.

The question was asked several more times. A Cubs spokesman once asked the question himself to the interpreter, coach Henry Blanco.

“It’s been a long day,” Chapman said. “Trying to remember.”

Asked again several minutes later during the group interview if he could now remember what Ricketts said, Chapman shook his head.

“I still don’t remember,” he said in Spanish.

Epstein called it a misunderstanding and that Chapman was “pretty nervous” as he faced seven cameras and more than two dozen reporters.

“I was on the call, Tom was on the call, Aroldis was on the call and Barry Praver, his agent, was on the call. It happened and it was real,” Epstein said before the Cubs’ 3-0 loss to the White Sox.

Chapman was accused of choking his girlfriend and firing eight gunshots in the garage of a Florida home in October. The woman later changed her story and no charges were filed.

“You learn from the mistakes that you make,” Chapman said.

The case caused the Los Angeles Dodgers to back out of an offseason trade for Chapman. Cincinnati eventually traded him to the Yankees, and after his suspension, the 28-year-old Cuban converted 20 of 21 save chances for New York.

The Cubs have long boasted of stocking their roster with high-character players, helping earn the “lovable losers” label they’ve carried for decades since their last World Series title in 1908.

But the Cubs (59-40) have retooled their roster under Epstein and have the best record in the major leagues despite Tuesday’s loss in which Chapman didn’t pitch. Chapman, who threw a 105 mph fastball last week, fills perhaps the team’s largest hole as he replaces Hector Rondon as closer.

The Cubs sent four players to the Yankees, including shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres, to get one of the game’s top relievers. Epstein said they wouldn’t have made the deal if not for the phone call he and Ricketts had with Chapman.

“Tom laid out the exact same standards that he lays out to everyone in spring training,” Epstein said. “He said, extremely clearly, `Look, Aroldis, I tell all the players this in spring training and it’s important you hear it and I need to hear from you on this. We expect our players to behave. We hold our players to a very high standard for their behavior off the field. And we need to know you can meet that standard.’

“Aroldis said `I understand. Absolutely, I can.'”

The Cubs activated Chapman before Tuesday’s game and designated left-hander Clayton Richard for assignment.

Reaction to Chapman’s acquisition in Chicago has been tepid. While there were supportive fans on talk radio, the Chicago Tribune carried a front-page column Tuesday criticizing the move. The back of the Chicago Sun-Times tabloid read “Spin City” over a picture of Epstein.

Chapman said he expected a “good reaction” from Cubs fans. He was also asked during the 20-minute meeting with reporters in the visiting dugout at U.S. Cellular Field if we would consider working with organizations looking to prevent domestic violence. Chapman said no.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon defended Chapman.

“He did do a suspension, he has talked about it, he’s shown remorse,” Maddon said. “Everybody else has the right to judge him as a good or bad person. That’s your right.

I want to get to know Aroldis. I think he could be a very significant member and he’s got the potential, yes, to throw the last out of the World Series. And if he does, I promise you I will embrace him.”

Report: Padres working on trading Andrew Cashner

ST. LOUIS, MO - JULY 21: Starter Derek Norris #3 of the San Diego Padres pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals in the first inning at Busch Stadium on July 21, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Jon Morosi of FOX Sports and MLB Network reports that the Padres are working to trade starter Andrew Cashner. He notes that a deal may be consummated before he takes the hill for Tuesday’s start in Toronto against the Blue Jays. The Marlins, Orioles, and Rangers have had reported interest in Cashner.

Cashner is 4-7 with a 4.79 ERA and a 61/27 K/BB ratio in 73 1/3 innings. He missed over three weeks between June 11 and July 2 due to a strained neck.

The right-hander is earning $9.625 million this season and will be eligible for free agency after the season.