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.

Report: Dexter Fowler will take a physical in St. Louis on Friday

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Dexter Fowler #24 of the Chicago Cubs reacts after lining out during the third inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Update (8:51 PM EST): The deal is in place, according to Heyman.

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Update (8:27 PM EST): Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals made an “over-the-top offer” to Fowler to ensure he’d sign.

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Frank Cusumano of KSDK Sports reports that free agent outfielder will take a physical in St. Louis on Friday. Presumably, that means that Fowler and the Cardinals have gotten pretty far along in negotiations.

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports recently reported that Fowler was looking for $18 million per year. The Blue Jays reportedly made an offer to Fowler in the four-year, $16 million range several days ago. The Cardinals’ offer to Fowler, if there is indeed one, is likely somewhere between the two figures.

Fowler, 30, is coming off of a fantastic year in which he helped the Cubs win their first World Series since 1908. During the regular season, he hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 home runs, 48 RBI, 84 runs scored, and 13 stolen bases in 551 plate appearances.

Fowler rejected the Cubs’ $17.2 million qualifying offer last month. While the QO compensation negatively affected Fowler’s experience in free agency last offseason — he didn’t sign until late February with the Cubs — his strong season is expected to make QO compensation much less of an issue.

Braves acquire Luke Jackson from the Rangers

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 16:  Relief pitcher Luke Jackson #53 of the Texas Rangers  throws during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astros at Globe Life Park on September 16, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. Texas won 14-3. (Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images)
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Tommy Stokke of RanRag Sports reports that the Braves and Rangers agreed to a trade. According to ESPN’s Keith Law, the Braves will receive pitcher Luke Jackson from the Rangers in exchange for pitchers Tyrell Jenkins and Brady Feigl.

Jackson, 25, is under team control through 2022. He has logged only 18 innings in the majors, yielding 14 runs on 22 hits and eight walks with three strikeouts. While Jackson has struggled with control, the Braves likely see upside because his fastball sits in the mid- to high-90’s.

Jenkins, 24, is also under team control through 2022. The right-hander made eight starts and six relief appearances in his first major league season in 2016, putting up a 5.88 ERA with a 26/33 K/BB ratio over 52 innings.

Feigl, 25, was an undrafted free agent and was signed by the Braves in 2013. The lefty underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015 and briefly rehabbed in rookie ball this past season.