Josh Hamilton

Is Josh Hamilton losing weight a sign of … something?

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I’ll preface all of this by saying that the author of the piece I am about to link, Jeff Pearlman, is fully aware that he’s throwing something of a bomb here.  That said, unlike some others people, I do not believe Pearlman is throwing a bomb for the sake of throwing a bomb. He’s not being cute or coy here and he fully acknowledges the limits of his knowledge. These are simply questions which genuinely occur to him and, whether you agree with him or not, he isn’t afraid to ask them.

He also knows fully well that I and a lot of other people are going to have a problem with this. Indeed, I talked to him online after I read it late this morning and he knows fully well that I’m gonna take issue with it. Indeed, I’ve taken enough issue with Pearlman over the years that he and have come to talk on occasion about these sorts of things, and while they haven’t done much to bridge the pretty large gap we have when it comes to PEDs in baseball, it is enough to give me comfort that he’s not just trolling and that when Pearlman does throw bombs it’s because he believes in what he’s saying, not because he simply wants to create chaos. You can decide for yourself if you think that’s worth anything, but it means at least a little something to me.

With all of that said, let’s get down to brass tacks: Pearlman looks at Josh Hamilton’s 20 pound weight loss this offseason with suspicion:

First, to be clear: I don’t know if Josh Hamilton used PEDs. I’d long assumed he hadn’t, because the idea of an ex-drug addict taking, well, drugs didn’t make much sense to me … And yet …in the modern era of baseball, with all we know and all we’ve seen and all the recent news concerning Alex Rodriguez and Gio Gonzalez and Ryan Braun and numerous others, well … I’m just not so sure we can continue to take reports like this at face value … I don’t know if Hamilton’s using. I really don’t. But one must be skeptical.

Pearlman offers examples of curious weight gain and weight loss — Pudge Rodriguez’s weight loss maybe being the most memorable example for all of us — and my inference from this anyway is that there is suspicion to be had about Josh Hamilton it’s that he lost a lot of weight just as scrutiny and testing is being ratcheted up again.

His ultimate end: for someone to ask Hamilton and others “the hard questions” about such things. I’m not sure what the hard question is. I’m not sure why weight loss is a sufficient predicate for a question and/or accusation of PED use. As we note with silliness all spring, lots of players yo-yo in weight. Are we supposed to ask them all these “hard questions?”

Heck, it’s not even about giving someone the benefit of the doubt. It’s about what in the hell is supposed to create doubt in the first place. In the past people have looked at all sorts of things to create that doubt, and half the time it’s silly. Home run totals, without reference to park size or expansion. Head size, as if we are able to measure such a thing. Back acne as if it can only be caused by steroids. Failure to prove negatives, which is something only baseball writers seem to think is an acceptable expectation. Acting out in anger as if all anger = ‘roid rage. With Pearlman, it’s weight fluctuation. That’s not enough to say anything with certainty, he says. But it’s enough to prompt more questions. We are required he says — we must! — be skeptical.

I simply can’t buy that. At some point you have to assume that the game has a strong testing program and, barring something actually indicative of PED use, take its negative results at face value. Weight loss isn’t doing it for me. I’m not sure who else besides Pearlman it should actually do it for.

Dee Gordon reinstated from PED suspension

Miami Marlins' Dee Gordon celebrates after hitting a double against the Detroit Tigers in the ninth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Miami. Derek Dietrich scored on the double. The Tigers won 8-7. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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The Miami Marlins have reinstated second baseman Dee Gordon from his suspension.

Gordon, of course, has missed the last 80 games while serving his drug suspension. He’s coming off a minor league rehab assignment and will be the everyday second baseman for the contending Marlins. He was hitting .266/.289/.340 with three doubles, two triples, five RBI, 13 runs scored, and six stolen bases in 97 plate appearances when he was popped. He was replaced by Derek Dietrich, who hit a nice .275/.366/.398 with 22 extra-base hits, 30 RBI, and 26 runs scored in 314 PA in Gordon’s absence, so don’t expect a tremendous upgrade at second down the stretch, even if they get a nice upgrade in the utility and depth department.

To make room for Gordon, the Marlins designated utilityman and sometimes hero Don Kelly for assignment. Sad jams.

Chris Sale called “a competitor” for stuff that gets most guys called “head cases”

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Chris Sale #49 of the Chicago White Sox reacts during the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Chris Sale has had an eventful week.

On Saturday he was scratched from his start and subsequently suspended for five games for cutting up the 1976 throwback uniforms the team was scheduled to wear, making them unusable. That cost the team over $12,000 and cost the Sox their best pitcher hours before game time.

On Monday Sale gave an interview to Scott Merkin in which he apologized to fans and teammates and explained his rationale for the uniform shredding. Even if his act was over the top, there was a core of understandable motivation at least: Sale said he voiced his displeasure with the untucked jersey months ago and asked to not pitch on a night they’d have to wear them because he believed it would mess with his mechanics and/or mental state. The Sox didn’t heed his request and Sale took issue, as many probably would, with what he felt was the business of throwback jerseys taking precedence over on-the-field stuff.

Of course, there are still some pretty big problems here. Mostly having to do with the facts that (a) the Sox have people on staff who could’ve optimized his jersey any way he needed it to be optimized if he had asked; (b) ballplayers have been wearing throwbacks for a long time now and, even if they don’t like them, they tend to endure them; and (c) he’s a ballplayer who needs to suck things up sometimes like every single ballplayer ever has done. There are a ton of things ballplayers are expected to do which are insisted upon by the business folks. It’s part of the gig.

A little more seriously than that is the fact that Sale pretty publicly threw his manager, Robin Ventura, under the bus :

“Robin is the one who has to fight for us in that department,” Sale said. “If the players don’t feel comfortable 100 percent about what we are doing to win the game, and we have an easy fix — it was as easy as hanging up another jersey and everyone was fine. For them to put business first over winning, that’s when I lost it.”

An undercurrent to all of this is Sale being fairly obvious in voicing his desire to be traded.

Today Bob Nightengale of USA Today has a story about Sale’s week. It’s sourced largely by Sale’s friend Adam Eaton who defends Sale as a passionate competitor who just wants to win and how all of this stuff of the past week was about his desire to do so. The headline of the story buys in to all of that:

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We heard much the same along these lines when Sale blasted Sox brass following the Drake LaRoche stuff during spring training, going on an expletive-filled rant in a meeting behind closed doors but then bringing the same noise, albeit cleaned up, in front of reporters after it all became public.

Chris Sale is who he is, of course, and I’m not going to too harshly judge who he is. He’s an amazing pitcher and, as most athletes will tell you, the mental part of the game is almost as important or, maybe, even more important than the physical part. Asking Sale to be who he isn’t would probably be counterproductive in the long term.

But I am fascinated with the way in which someone who has behaved like Sale has behaved is described. He’s a “competitor” whose objectively disruptive and literally destructive behavior is explained away as merely a function of his desire to win. His friends on the team, like Eaton, are sought out for damage control and spin and his detractors, which there are likely some, aren’t quoted, even anonymously. He has publicly called out his manager as not wanting to win as much as he wants to please his bosses and he has likewise called out his manager’s bosses and has welcomed a trade, yet we aren’t seeing stories about how that’s a bad thing for the Sox’ clubhouse.

I don’t much care for that sort of stuff, actually, as I suspect most clubhouse controversy stories are somewhat overblown and overly dramatized. But those stories have been go-to tropes of sports writers for decades, and I am trying to imagine this sort of story about players who aren’t Chris Sale. Players who don’t have as friendly a relationship with the media as he has or who don’t have clubhouse allies who do. I feel like, most of the time, a story about a guy who who has done the odd things Sale has done both this week and last March would play a hell of a lot differently.

How does this all play of it’s Yordano Ventura? Or Yasiel Puig? Or Jose Fernandez? How does this play if it took place in the NBA and it was Kevin Durant who shredded up a bunch of short-shorts on 80s throwback night? How does it play if it’s Cam Newton?

I bet it plays differently.