Everyone was doing steroids! Except when it was only the superstars!

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Frank Deford, the journalist who is concerned that the hard-hitting, fact-based investigative journalism of his day is going to disappear because lazy, fact-free assertions are rewarded on the Internet, made some lazy, fact-free assertions in his latest weekly NPR rant:

I’ve been surprised to learn that some baseball writers have declared that they’ll vote for Bonds and Clemens because they were the best players in an era when drug use was widespread — ergo if there’s a lot of guilt going around, then nobody should be assigned guilt.

Of course, we do not know how many baseball players took steroids, but it certainly never involved more than a small percentage. It was never, for example, like the Tour de France where drugs were as common as toothpaste. But what the baseball writers must not forget is that the dopers did not just pad their own statistics. They keep score in games; by definition, sports are zero sum. By taking unfair advantage, the druggies hurt the players who played fair.

This is my favorite bit from the sanctimonious Hall of Fame Protection Force.  They’ll slam an entire era of baseball as illegitimate due to a distortion of the game by players who were gobbling up ‘roids like candy in one argument, and then in the next they’ll claim that the superstars were the bad seeds because they were screwing all of those clean players — in DeFord’s case here, the vast majority — from their proper due.

I do not doubt for a second that there were clean players who were hurt by the Steroid Era. But these guys were not going to be taking Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens’ place. They were hurt because other 20-25th men on the roster were taking things, keeping them out of jobs.

Yes, you can extend that and say that the superstars doing what they did caused it all to trickle down, making those 20-25th men do it too, but you can’t then also say that “a small percentage” of players were doing it.  It was very likely widespread, and in no case was confined to the Hall of Fame-threatening superstars, no matter what DeFord’s convenient (for today) assumptions happen to be.

Also: DeFord’s headline was stolen from Neil Young and that makes me mad.

Steven Matz to skip next spring training start with elbow issues

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Mets’ left-hander Steven Matz will miss his Grapefruit League appearance on Monday after experiencing soreness in his left elbow, according to a report by Mike Puma of the New York Post. Matz reportedly first felt discomfort in his elbow on Wednesday after pitching four innings against the Marlins, but a medical evaluation revealed no structural damage.

Still, it’s unsettling news for the 25-year-old, who is coming off of an injury-riddled 2016 season. Matz pitched to a 3.40 ERA, 2.1 BB/9 and 8.8 SO/9 during his sophomore campaign with the Mets, but his success was hampered by a bevy of shoulder and elbow issues that culminated in season-ending surgery to remove bone spurs from his left elbow.

Comments from Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson indicated that while the club doesn’t believe anything is significantly wrong with Matz’s elbow this time around, the setback could have an impact on his chances of cracking the Opening Day roster. Until he’s cleared to return to the mound, the club is expected to take a longer look at rotation candidates Robert Gsellman, Zack Wheeler and Seth Lugo.

Video: Andrew Toles hammers grand slam in Cactus League win

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Dodgers’ left fielder Andrew Toles crushed his first spring training home run on Saturday afternoon. With the bases loaded and a two-run deficit hanging over their heads in the fourth inning, Toles stepped up to the plate against Oakland right-hander Jesse Hahn and unloaded a grand slam on the second pitch he saw.

Third baseman Justin Turner was quick to follow up with a solo jack of his own, bringing the score to a comfortable 7-4 lead by the end of the fourth. Another three-run outburst in the fifth and an eighth-inning RBI single by Austin Barnes raised the final score to 11-6… which, coincidentally, was the same score the Reds used to defeat the Athletics’ second split-squad lineup on Saturday (albeit with a few more RBI walks than grand slams).

Toles, 24, is approaching his sophomore season with the Dodgers in 2017. He slashed .314/.365/.505 with three home runs and an .870 OPS in his first major league season in 2016 and is expected to platoon with the right-handed Franklin Gutierrez in left field this year.