Frank Deford

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


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.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
Leave a comment

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.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

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.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

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.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

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.