Rays prospect Tim Beckham was suspended for 50 games yesterday for a second positive test for a “drug of abuse,” which is baseball’s parlance for a non-PED recreational drug of some kind. Marc Topkin hears it was marijuana. If so, this suspension — and more generally, the logic behind it — is really dumb.
Look, I’m not the guy handing out pamphlets at Hemp Fest or leading any legalization rallies because that’s really not my style, but the fact that we’re suspending guys for 50 games for weed is kind of silly. Partially because marijuana is demonstrably less dangerous than alcohol and — to beat this drum again — baseball doesn’t give a rip about alcohol.
But it’s also dumb because it demonstrates a pretty big double standard in how baseball treats minor leaguers and major leaguers. As Kevin Goldstein noted yesterday, it’s a shame that Beckham wasn’t on the Rays 40 man roster because guys on the 40 man — unlike common farm hands — are not subject to random testing for pot.
Now, personally, if I ran a baseball organization, I wouldn’t want my players smoking weed because, man, I’ve known a lot of pot smokers and they’re kind of lazy. This is high level athletics, son, so for god’s sake take care of yourself. Quit eating all of that Taco Bell, turn off that horrible jam band music and focus on the task at hand. But I don’t think that anyone smoking pot is an offense equivalent to that of cocaine use or, in the context of competitive sports, PED use.
Beyond my personal preferences, however, this does lead to a serious question about how marijuana fits into baseball’s drug anti-drug regime: specifically, does baseball consider marijuana use to be a serious transgression? If so, why aren’t big leaguers tested for it? If not, why are minor leaguers tested for it?
There are many absurdities when it comes to baseball and drugs. Maybe we need to start talking about them more.
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.
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.
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.
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.