argument

Heyman and Olney fight about the Red Sox and it’s a good, good thing

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As we noted yesterday, Jon Heyman took the curious tack of accusing the Red Sox of being cheap or small market or something and suspecting that the team owners are spending money on their soccer interests or whatever.  It was fairly silly, and no shortage of bloggers have weighed in on just how silly it is.

But it’s not just the bloggers. Buster Olney took to Twitter this morning to tear that line of reasoning to shreds:

He later said in reply to another person that “The Red Sox have made mistakes in the past, but they can’t be accused of being cheap.”  Which is 100% correct.

I find this all rather interesting, simply because it’s so rare that you see two of the big name baseball columnists in direct disagreement like this.  But it’s not just interesting for gossipy purposes.

One of the things you see in the political blogosphere and mainstream media is a willingness for pundits and commentators to engage each other directly. It doesn’t need to be nasty, though sometimes it is.  What it does more broadly speaking, however, is it allows for ideas and arguments to be tested, honed and refined. It helps put lie to baloney rather quickly and, ultimately, the readers are all better served.

We don’t see that too often in sports writing, at least in a way that includes the big names like Olney and Heyman.  Rather, there’s this sort of fierce deference most of the time, with a commentator voicing what may be baloney and no one else of stature questioning it that much.  It’s almost seen as rude to do so. And if you do it, you’re considered something of a bomb-thrower.

I wish we had more of it in baseball writing.  A culture in which fierce debate can be had about these kinds of things without someone considering it a faux pas and without people blocking one another on Twitter* and what have you.  A culture of discourse in which it is business, not personal, and in which strong debate and opinion can be aired without everyone getting all upset about it.

Maybe that never happens because people tend not to view sports as being as important as politics. But I wish we could see more dust kicked up than we do. Ultimately knowledge and insight is advanced and disseminated in a much better fashion that way and the baloney is less able to flourish like it does.

 

NoteEvan Grant of the Dallas Morning News said today that Heyman blocked him Why would he do that?  Why would anyone secure in their arguments and place in the world do that to a colleague?

Marlins acquire starter Dan Straily from the Reds

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 3: Dan Straily #58 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch during the first inning of the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park on September 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
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The Miami Marlins have acquired starting pitcher Dan Straily from the Cincinnati Reds. In exchange, the Reds will receive right-handed pitching prospects Luis Castillo and Austin Brice and outfield prospect Isaiah White.

For the Marlins, they get a solid starter who logged 191.1 innings of 113 ERA+ ball last year. Straily has moved around a lot in his five big league seasons — the Marlins will be his fifth club in six years — but it was something of a breakout year for him in Cincinnati. The only troubling thing: he tied for the league lead in homers allowed. Of course, pitching half of his games in Great American Ballpark didn’t help that, and Miami will be a better place for him.

Castillo is 24. He split last season between high-A and Double-A — far more of it in A-ball — posting a 2.26 ERA over 24 starts. Austin Brice is also 24. He pitched 15 games in relief for the Marlins last year at the big league level with poor results. He seemed to blossom at Triple-A, however, after the Marlins shifted him to the pen. White was a third round pick in the 2015 draft. He played low-A ball as a minor leaguer last year, hitting .214/.306/.301.

A mixed bag of young talent for the Reds, but stockpiling kids and seeing what shakes out is what a team like the Reds should be doing at the moment. For the Marlins: a solid mid-to-back end starter who may just be coming into his own.

Have Hall of Fame Voters actually made the PED thing More complicated?

Sammy Sosa
Associated Press
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The story coming out of this year’s Hall of Fame balloting is that the BBWAA voters are finally easing their antipathy toward players with performance enhancing drug associations.

Jeff Bagwell — the subject of unconfirmed PED rumors — made the Hall! Pudge Rodriguez, who was named in Jose Canseco’s book and who had a . . . curious physical transformation around the time PED testing came online, made it on the first ballot! Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, whose PED use was well-documented, saw their vote totals advance above the 50% mark, making their future elections look more likely!

It’s an interesting development, and one I’m obviously pleased with, but I wonder if the BBWAA’s new approach to PED guys, while far more forgiving than it used to be, has actually become more complicated in practice.

I ask this because I look way, way down the ballot and I still see Sammy Sosa scraping by with around 8% of the vote. I ask this because I still see Gary Sheffield at 13%. I ask this because when Mark McGwire was on the Today’s Game ballot in December, no one really stumped for him at all. I ask this because, even though Bagwell and Mike Piazza got in eventually, they still had to go through a lot of hazing first and I suspect, if they hit the ballot for the first time again tomorrow, the same arguments and delay would occur with respect to their cases.

In light of that, what I suspect has happened has not been a wholesale surrender of the anti-PED voters. Rather, I think it has been a transformation. One in which a moral test — did he use PEDs or not? — has been discarded as a threshold question and a scientific/physiological test — would he have been great even without the PEDs? — has replaced it. In essence, voters are becoming “PED discounters” in the aggregate. Making calculations as to whether a guy was, in their mind, a creation of PEDs or not.

Such an approach explains these new voting patterns as well as those in recent years.

  • Ivan Rodriguez may have been called out by Canseco and may have noticeably shrunk over an offseason, but his calling card was his defense behind the plate and voters, I suspect, have told themselves that such a thing is not PED-aided.
  • Bonds and Clemens may have been PED users, but each of them was undeniably talented and, if you discount for the PED use, hey, they’re still all-time greats.
  • Sammy Sosa’s case rests disproportionately on homers and, as everyone knows, PEDs = instant dingers, so no, he’s not gonna cut it.

And so on.

As I said, I’m glad that the strict moral test — did he use or not? — is losing its hold on Hall voters. But I do not think the “did PEDs make him who he was test?” is a good approach either. Baseball writers are in no better a position to assess the physiological and performance enhancements caused by pharmaceuticals than they are to be judges of character and morality. Given the identities of players confirmed to be PED users, the old eye test implicit in these cases is famously faulty (Neifi Perez, anyone?). The idea that PEDs only affect home run totals — and not, say, the ability for a player to take the abuse of the catcher position for 21 seasons — is crude and ignorant.

I suppose it’s naive to expect voters to completely disregard PEDs in their assessment of players. It’s a bell that cannot be unrung. But while we may, thankfully, be moving away from a moral test with respect to drugs, it’s been displaced by a scientific test that is no more reasonable in practice.