Distillery

Greetings from the last day of the Winter Meetings

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We watched and waited yesterday to see if the Mega Deal would go down. We waited to see if Josh Hamilton or Zack Greinke would sign anywhere. None of that happened, so we did what everyone else does at the Winter Meetings: we went out. But this was no ordinary outing. This was an Important Mission. Why? Because it involved fine distilled spirits and the making thereof.

In our party: a couple of guys here at the Winter Meetings for the trade show. One is Daniel Cruz of Anchor Brewing and the other is Brian Casterline of B-R Carts and Kiosks, Inc. Daniel is is Anchor’s Marketing Manager and it is his mission to get as many ballparks as possible to carry Anchor’s fine brews. Brian is the managing partner in the design department at B-R, and it is his mission to design and then sell the latest in beer and hot dog carts. If Daniel and Brian are successful in their mission, beer and hot dogs will be delivered unto us more efficiently.

So, what I’m saying here is that Daniel and Brian are doing God’s work.

source:  We met Daniel and Brian through my friend Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated and they, in turn, introduced us to Corsair Distillery. Corsair is a craft distillery here in Nashville, and over the course of the week I’ve managed to try a couple of their products. It’s fine, fine stuff, so when we were given the chance to take a private tour, we jumped on it. Daniel, Brian Jay and I went downtown to the distillery, which is housed in the ancient and beautiful factory that once built the Marathon automobile. It’s a cool and funky space now, with a tap room serving fantastic microbrews and other fun things.  There’s also a cat that prowls the distillery and he is, without a doubt, the luckiest cat in the world.

At the end of the private tour, when we had the chance to taste and then purchase some of those fine products, we  jumped all over that too. I’m taking a couple bottles of their Triple Smoke whiskey home today — think of it as an American version of single malt scotch — and I couldn’t be happier. After that we went to City House (it was actually our second time there this week) and had fantastic noms.

Then it was back to the Opryland for the nightly mingling with the movers and shakers in baseball.  The most interesting person I met last night: Jim Leyritz. Yup. In a bar of all places. But — and this is extremely important given what has happened in his life in recent years — he was not drinking, which was encouraging. He looks good too, and people tell me that he’s taking care of himself. Glad to see him doing well with the second chance he has been given. Less glad that, when I stopped him and told him that his home run in the 1996 World Series friggin’ killed me, he smiled as if he enjoys thinking about that more than anything else in the world. Grumble.

The night wound down with front office executives, agents, managers, some players, vendors from the trade show, some fans and some scribes like me sharing drinks and asking each other how that mega trade is going to work. Who will land Zack Greinke. Whether he will pan out or be a $161 million+ bust. We asked because, really, none of us know those things. The people who do — the general managers and their assistants — are all holed up in hotel suites someplace with their cell phones and laptops and not really mixing with everyone else. Which really means that the Winter Meetings have been turned on their head from what they were 15 or 20 years ago when all of the deals were done in the hotel bar and all of the rest of us were holed up someplace else.

Last day today. The only scheduled thing of note for fans is the Rule 5 draft.  We’ll provide updates of that later. And, obviously, of anything and everything else going down.

For my part, it’s approximately 12 hours until I will be home in my living room and able to try some of that Triple Smoke …

Marlins acquire starter Dan Straily from the Reds

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 3: Dan Straily #58 of the Cincinnati Reds throws a pitch during the first inning of the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park on September 3, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
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The Miami Marlins have acquired starting pitcher Dan Straily from the Cincinnati Reds. In exchange, the Reds will receive right-handed pitching prospects Luis Castillo and Austin Brice and outfield prospect Isaiah White.

For the Marlins, they get a solid starter who logged 191.1 innings of 113 ERA+ ball last year. Straily has moved around a lot in his five big league seasons — the Marlins will be his fifth club in six years — but it was something of a breakout year for him in Cincinnati. The only troubling thing: he tied for the league lead in homers allowed. Of course, pitching half of his games in Great American Ballpark didn’t help that, and Miami will be a better place for him.

Castillo is 24. He split last season between high-A and Double-A — far more of it in A-ball — posting a 2.26 ERA over 24 starts. Austin Brice is also 24. He pitched 15 games in relief for the Marlins last year at the big league level with poor results. He seemed to blossom at Triple-A, however, after the Marlins shifted him to the pen. White was a third round pick in the 2015 draft. He played low-A ball as a minor leaguer last year, hitting .214/.306/.301.

A mixed bag of young talent for the Reds, but stockpiling kids and seeing what shakes out is what a team like the Reds should be doing at the moment. For the Marlins: a solid mid-to-back end starter who may just be coming into his own.

Have Hall of Fame Voters actually made the PED thing More complicated?

Sammy Sosa
Associated Press
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The story coming out of this year’s Hall of Fame balloting is that the BBWAA voters are finally easing their antipathy toward players with performance enhancing drug associations.

Jeff Bagwell — the subject of unconfirmed PED rumors — made the Hall! Pudge Rodriguez, who was named in Jose Canseco’s book and who had a . . . curious physical transformation around the time PED testing came online, made it on the first ballot! Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, whose PED use was well-documented, saw their vote totals advance above the 50% mark, making their future elections look more likely!

It’s an interesting development, and one I’m obviously pleased with, but I wonder if the BBWAA’s new approach to PED guys, while far more forgiving than it used to be, has actually become more complicated in practice.

I ask this because I look way, way down the ballot and I still see Sammy Sosa scraping by with around 8% of the vote. I ask this because I still see Gary Sheffield at 13%. I ask this because when Mark McGwire was on the Today’s Game ballot in December, no one really stumped for him at all. I ask this because, even though Bagwell and Mike Piazza got in eventually, they still had to go through a lot of hazing first and I suspect, if they hit the ballot for the first time again tomorrow, the same arguments and delay would occur with respect to their cases.

In light of that, what I suspect has happened has not been a wholesale surrender of the anti-PED voters. Rather, I think it has been a transformation. One in which a moral test — did he use PEDs or not? — has been discarded as a threshold question and a scientific/physiological test — would he have been great even without the PEDs? — has replaced it. In essence, voters are becoming “PED discounters” in the aggregate. Making calculations as to whether a guy was, in their mind, a creation of PEDs or not.

Such an approach explains these new voting patterns as well as those in recent years.

  • Ivan Rodriguez may have been called out by Canseco and may have noticeably shrunk over an offseason, but his calling card was his defense behind the plate and voters, I suspect, have told themselves that such a thing is not PED-aided.
  • Bonds and Clemens may have been PED users, but each of them was undeniably talented and, if you discount for the PED use, hey, they’re still all-time greats.
  • Sammy Sosa’s case rests disproportionately on homers and, as everyone knows, PEDs = instant dingers, so no, he’s not gonna cut it.

And so on.

As I said, I’m glad that the strict moral test — did he use or not? — is losing its hold on Hall voters. But I do not think the “did PEDs make him who he was test?” is a good approach either. Baseball writers are in no better a position to assess the physiological and performance enhancements caused by pharmaceuticals than they are to be judges of character and morality. Given the identities of players confirmed to be PED users, the old eye test implicit in these cases is famously faulty (Neifi Perez, anyone?). The idea that PEDs only affect home run totals — and not, say, the ability for a player to take the abuse of the catcher position for 21 seasons — is crude and ignorant.

I suppose it’s naive to expect voters to completely disregard PEDs in their assessment of players. It’s a bell that cannot be unrung. But while we may, thankfully, be moving away from a moral test with respect to drugs, it’s been displaced by a scientific test that is no more reasonable in practice.