Philadelphia Phillies v San Francisco Giants, Game 3

A Hall of Fame voter still needs more information about Barry Bonds’ PED use?


I understand the idea of wanting to be more informed about things before making a Hall of Fame vote.  To want to have a fuller picture of the PED-era before casting votes for certain players.  I am not a fan of those who accuse with no evidence, but I do have some sympathy for people who genuinely wonder if certain players may have taken PEDs when, really, we don’t know that much about it with respect to some of them.

But even if you subscribe to that view, I don’t know how you can say we don’t know enough about Barry Freakin’  Bonds.  Yet Mark Purdy of the Mercury-News wants to know more, and he won’t vote for Bonds — or anyone else from that era, it seems — until he knows more.

Maybe I just followed this more closely than he did, but it’s not like there is a dearth of info on Barry Bonds’ drug use. I mean, multiple books have been written about it. Purdy himself sat through the entire Bonds perjury trial and heard more than anyone would want to know about it. He was no more than 30 feet away from live witnesses talking about Bonds’ testicular atrophy for crying out loud. Does he really think there is more that we need to probe here? And yes, I do believe it would literally take a probe to learn anything more about Barry Bonds’ body.

But that’s his position and he’s sticking to it. Here’s another position he has:

I have advocated an amnesty proclamation from MLB and Cooperstown. For a one-year period, former players would have the ability to tell the truth about their steroid use with no punishment or ramifications from baseball or the Hall of Fame. That way, voters would be able to make better judgments and make their selections without any angst.

Amnesty? From what? There are already zero punishments or ramifications from baseball or the Hall of Fame for these guys. They are eligible. Some are still playing. Some are coaches and managerial candidates. They’re all listed on the ballot when their time comes. Baseball has decided that they are every bit a part of the fraternity as anyone else is.  What would some phony-baloney offer of amnesty provide for them that they don’t already have?

I suppose Purdy believes that it would give them some sort of cover from the wrath of the writers who look askance at PED guys. Fat chance. The writers who look askance at PED guys tend to take the following approach to the sort of information Purdy thinks would clear the air:

1. We want more information! Shlabotnik needs to come clean!

2. Fine, Shlabotnik has apologized, but it raises more questions!

3. That in-depth interview in which Shlabotnik answers all the questions was so self-serving it makes me sick!

And, of course, these are the same people who consider a drug testing regime that catches people to be evidence that drug testing is a joke. You could provide daily CT-scans, fluid samples, lie detector tests and oaths from God Himself and a certain segment of writer is going to think it insufficient. There is no pleasing them, and the last thing baseball players should do is to try.

And Purdy has already shown himself to be one of that sad, never-satisfied crew. Last year, on the eve of the Bonds verdict, he wrote a column in which he wrung his hands about Bonds’ legacy in San Francisco. He worried in light of the allegedly new revelations of the trial, what the team and the city and the fans do with Bonds if he was found not-guilty. Or, for that matter, if he was found guilty. He, in quite familiar fashion, made it sound like there was some crisis afoot.

Except, as I demonstrated at the time, all of his concerns had long been answered. The city, the fans and the team all embraced Bonds despite already knowing all of the things Purdy suddenly considered damning, and knowing them for years. It was a non-issue to everyone except Mark Purdy by then, despite his claims that there were Important Unsettled Matters.

The lesson here: Mark Purdy, and many like him, are professional hand-wringers. He used the word “angst” above, and it’s pretty apt. He has an angst about PEDs in baseball that will never, ever go away no matter what he learns and no matter what information comes to light. Which means one of two things: either Purdy is simply not and never will be comfortable with PEDs in baseball, or else he’s cynically saying that there are uncertainties and concerns when there are not in order to kick up a morally indignant fuss in a column.

If it’s the former, it’s OK Mark, let it go and just don’t vote for these guys ever. Lots of voters feel that way and just because I disagree with you on that, at least it’s a defensible position.

If it’s the latter, though, cut the crap, will ya?

Jessica Mendoza and Chris Archer were great in the booth

Jessica Mendoza
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Not news: Jessica Mendoza, who has been excellent on all of the ESPN broadcasts she has done since taking over for Curt Schilling, was excellent last night too.

She was great on the nuts and bolts, continued to show that she can describe hitting mechanics better than most color commentators — way more of them seem to be more comfortable talking about pitching — and was a seamless presence in the booth in terms of flow, timbre and all of the aesthetic aspects of broadcasting. If she has a fault thus far it’s that she leans on some cliches about hitters’ mindsets and desire to win sometimes. This puts her in with approximately 100% of all other color commentators in baseball now and throughout the history of baseball, of course, so it’s not really a demerit.

Ultimately, the true test of a good commentator is whether they (a) add insight; and (b) do so without distracting or upstaging the game. In this Mendoza is superior to most commentators in baseball and clearly superior to the “stop and listen to me” brand of analysts the major networks have employed on national broadcasts in recent years.

Indeed, the best compliment I think I can give Mendoza is that she was — in the literal sense, not the judgmental sense — unremarkable. Meaning: during the game and after there was nothing she said or did that was worthy of the highly-critical remarks almost every broadcaster gets, going back through Schilling, Kruk, Harold Reynolds Tim McCarver, Joe Morgan and everyone else ESPN and Fox have forced upon us in their history doing playoff baseball. I’m on Twitter during most playoff games and sometimes the broadcaster bashing is more interesting than the game. Mendoza gives the would-be bashers very little material.

At least those who would bash on the actual merits. There remains a group of deadenders who are irked by her very presence in the booth because she is a woman. The New York times rounds up some of the less mouth-breathery types today, but God knows there are many, many worse. Some of them even in professional media. At least for now. Whether you choose to ignore those people or choose to engage them — which, their dead end opinions notwithstanding can be a useful exercise in my view — know that they are out there being miserable and sexist as God and the First Amendment intended them to be.

While there are many who slam Mendoza on the faulty premise that she lacks credentials and experience in the booth, there was one person in the ESPN booth last night, at least for a while, who was a total TV noob. His name was Chris Archer. He pitches a bit for the Tampa Bay Rays. And lo and behold, he was pretty damn good himself.

Archer needs some polish for style — he has a lot of “ummms” and “uhhhs” about him — but his analysis is both sharp and quick. Meaning he was RIGHT ON the points when he needed to be without any of the usual prompting guests in the booth need from the play-by-play guy. At one point he even flowed into play-by-play and did a pretty good job of it.  Chris: if that pitching stuff doesn’t work out, you have a bright, bright future in television.

So, on the first night of the playoffs, there were no complaints about the broadcast. Mostly because the broadcasters weren’t the stars of the show. The game was. And it was complemented nicely by a couple of good voices.

And John Kruk.

NL Wild Card Game: Cubs vs. Pirates lineups

Jake Arrieta

Here are the Cubs and Pirates lineups for tonight’s Wild Card game in Pittsburgh:

CF Dexter Fowler
RF Kyle Schwarber
LF Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
3B Tommy La Stella
2B Starlin Castro
C Miguel Montero
SS Addison Russell
SP Jake Arrieta

Cubs manager Joe Maddon wanted Tommy La Stella in the lineup over Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan, so he starts at third base and Kris Bryant shifts to left field. Bryant started just four games in left field all season, compared to 136 starts at third base. Also of note: After batting Addison Russell ninth–behind the pitcher–116 times this season Maddon has him in the more traditional eighth spot tonight.

RF Gregory Polanco
3B Josh Harrison
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Starling Marte
C Francisco Cervelli
2B Neil Walker
SS Jordy Mercer
1B Sean Rodriguez
SP Gerrit Cole

Pedro Alvarez started 119 games at first base for the Pirates and with right-hander Jake Arrieta on the mound he was the presumed starter tonight, but instead manager Clint Hurdle has benched the 27-homer slugger in favor of utility man Sean Rodriguez. Alvarez is vastly superior to Rodriguez offensively, especially versus a righty, but he’s also very shaky defensively. During the regular season Rodriguez started a grand total of one game at first base against a right-hander, so this qualifies as a hunch by Hurdle.