A lot of Hall of Famers walk around the Winter Meetings, and a common question they’re asked is what they think about PED users like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens making it into the hall of Fame. Andre Dawson was one of them, and Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post asked him about the PED generation heading to Cooperstown.
His bright line — which, even if I disagree with, I can respect as intellectually valid, is that people who broke rules shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame. But he creates problems for himself when he tries to parse their performance as opposed to their character and talks about those players about whom we are uncertain:
“Nobody can say when these individual started doing it. But all of a sudden late in your career you become twice as good a ballplayer as you were maybe in your first 5 to 10 years? That just doesn’t happen. That’s not the way it works.”
Andre Dawson went from 20 home runs to 49 in his 12th year in the league. That just doesn’t happen either, does it?
Of course it does. Because the run scoring context of the game changes all the time. In 1987, when Dawson won the MVP award — an award without which, he probably would not have made the Hall of Fame — baseball had what is widely believed to be a juiced ball. There are many who believe that, in addition to everything else that happened from the early 90s through the mid 2000s (i.e. steroids and smaller ballparks), the ball was again juiced as well. It is documented that it happened in the 1930s too.
If you’re anti-PED as a matter of ethics, fine, make your stand there. But the idea that people putting up unexpected numbers and having late-career surges, etc. is, by definition, unnatural, you just don’t understand the history of the game. And Andre Dawson himself is as great an example of that as anyone.
Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.
While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.
When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.
Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.
More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.
Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)
It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.