Bill Shaikin has a column up today in which one of Roger Clemens’ lawyers argues for Clemens’ induction to the Hall of Fame. Shocker, I know. But apart from him, this passage piques my interest:
Clemens is one of the headline attractions in what could be the most divisive election in Hall of Fame history. The first-time candidates include Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mike Piazza and Sammy Sosa, each of whom has been linked to performance-enhancing substances.
Clemens, Bonds and Sosa’s PED resumes are pretty well-known, but Piazza has not been publicly cast into their league. The relevant data points:
- He admitted in 2002 to using androstenedione early in his career, but andro was not banned in baseball until 2004;
- Murray Chass has gone on an unhinged one-man crusade (see here, here, here and here), saying that since he saw that Piazza had acne on his back, he had to be a ‘roider.
That’s it. That’s the alpha and omega of Piazza being “linked” to PEDs.
I don’t know if Piazza did anything besides andro. Maybe he did. Lots of star players of his generation did. Maybe that autobiography of his that comes out next February will say so. Maybe someone with actual first-hand knowledge of it will lay the evidence out for us.
But as Hall of Fame voters sit here today, all they have is legal andro use and Murray Chass’ back acne, which has been discredited by dermatologists as any sort of dispositive evidence. I have this feeling that alone is going to be enough for a huge number of Hall of Fame voters to withhold their vote for Piazza, despite him being ridiculously, over-the-top qualified for first ballot induction.
The Astros have reportedly agreed to terms with free agent DH/outfielder Carlos Beltran for a one-year, $16 million contract, per ESPN’s Buster Olney. The deal includes a complete no-trade clause, according to a report from Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
Beltran elected to return to the Astros after fielding offers from the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Red Sox. He appeared in Houston during the second half of 2004, batting .258/.368/.559 with 23 home runs in 399 PA and making his first postseason run to the tune of a .435 average and eight homers as the Astros battled their way through to a seven-game loss in the Championship Series. Beltran also played with Houston manager A.J. Hinch and bench coach Alex Cora in separate stints with the Royals and Mets, which the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan cited as possible influences in the Astros’ decision to pursue the free agent.
In 2016, Beltran split the season between the Yankees and Rangers after getting dealt at the deadline for a package of right-handed pitching prospects. He was stationed in right field for the majority of his time in New York, but was almost exclusively utilized as a designated hitter over 52 games in Texas. Between the two clubs, he batted an impressive .295/.337/.513 with 29 homers and earned his ninth career All-Star designation to boot.
The veteran slugger is expected to fill a similar role on the Astros, who need a full-time DH but could use some additional support in the outfield corner. Olney envisions a lineup with Beltran in the five-spot, per an earlier report:
Catcher Welington Castillo was non-tendered by the Diamondbacks on Friday, making him one of 35 additional players to enter the free agent pool. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported that Castillo was drawing interest from the Rays, among a bevy of major league clubs, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s David O’Brien added that the Braves have “some interest” as well.
The Rays’ trifecta of catchers — Curt Casali, Luke Maile, and Bobby Wilson — did little to inspire confidence behind the plate in 2016, and with top free agent Wilson Ramos sidelined after suffering a torn ACL in September, it makes sense that they’d explore more affordable options. Castillo profiled well at the plate during his first full season with the Diamondbacks, slashing .264/.322/.423 with 14 home runs in 457 PA. Behind the dish, he placed third among all qualified major league catchers with seven DRS (Defensive Runs Saved), though his league-leading 10 passed balls weren’t anything to write home about.
Unlike the Rays, the Braves have a serviceable catching platoon in Tyler Flowers and Anthony Recker. Beyond that, their catching depth is fairly shallow despite the recent addition of former Mariners’ outfield prospect Alex Jackson. Jackson, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mark Bradley, has not played behind the plate since high school, though GM John Coppolella is reportedly interested in trying him there again. A.J. Pierzynski is also rumored to be seeking a deal elsewhere in free agency, which could open the door for a multi-year deal with Castillo.