Must-click link: a career minor leaguer talks about the PED pressure felt by the non-superstars


While most of you like to call me a steroids apologist, the fact of the matter is that I am not pro-steroids. I am anti-hysteria and distortion. I am also against a baseball writing community that overwhelmingly thinks that the most worrisome and therefore most newsworthy aspect of PEDs in baseball is what it means for the record books and the Hall of Fame when there are far more important implications of PED use.

If you don’t believe me, allow me to quote myself from April 2007 — the very month I began blogging about baseball on a regular basis. It was around that time — months before the Mitchell Report came out — that Kirk Radomski was making news and the names of some marginal players to whom he dealt were coming out.  I opined then that, once we know more about PEDs in baseball, we’ll see that it’s likely a bigger problem among those marginal players — the guys trying to crack the bigs or hang on; the 26th man in the organization who feels he need that extra oomph — than it is among superstars:

I don’t say this in an effort to minimize the steroid problem. Indeed, minor leaguers and players who aren’t superstars constitute the vast majority of professional ballplayers. If my theory holds, the problem could be far greater than that which is portrayed by sportswriters who like to caricature only the most prolific sluggers as juicers. If I’m right, our concern over records and the Hall of Fame would seem pretty petty in comparison to the scores of regular Joes who are ruining their health as they walk the line between a lifetime of comfort and a job at a warehouse. Players that the steroid moralizers in the media almost uniformly ignore.

Now, I got a few things wrong back then, of course. I probably underestimated the number of superstars who used PEDs and I hilariously lumped Alex Rodriguez in with the non-users because that’s the best information anyone had back then. But I think the dynamic still holds: it’s a way, way bigger moral problem for a marginal player to feel like he has no choice but to take steroids than it is  for an already great baseball player to feel like he should take steroids to break some records.

This doesn’t mean that the superstars aren’t cheaters if they take PEDs and it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be held to account. What I’m getting at is that, in the great baseball conversation about PEDs, we should not care nearly as much as we do about records and legacies and we should care far more about what PEDs are doing down at the lower levels of baseball.  We should spill way less ink about who we think “the real Home Run King” is — as if that matters — and think way harder about those frequent minor league suspensions and what they mean to the people who are faced with the choice to take dangerous drugs or wind up out of baseball.

Against that backdrop is this excellent column from Eric Knott. Knott pitched 11 years in the minors and 24 games in the majors. He is the quintessential borderline guy who, if he had an extra couple of miles per hour on his heater, may have stuck.  But he didn’t get those miles per hour, and he didn’t try PEDs in an effort to do so.

Knott gives a fascinating, clear-eyed and detailed rundown of the environment in baseball during the height of the Steroid Era, as well as what factored into his decisions about whether to use.

It’s an absolute must-read. There’s more useful information in this piece than anything that can be found in the Mitchell Report or the latest bombastic anti-PEDs screen from Johnny Sportswriter.

Phil Nevin: managerial candidate for the Nats, Mariners, Marlins and Padres

Phil Nevin

Phil Nevin retired following the 2006 season so he was too early to join the trend of All-Star players who, rather than simply wait around for a big league managerial job to be handed to them, actually went and managed in the bus leagues for a while.

He started in independent ball, jumped to the Tigers’ Double-A team and then Triple-A team and then, for the past two seasons, managed the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A club in Reno. In short, the man has paid his dues and has had good reviews from his players everywhere he’s been. So this is not too much of a surprise:


The Padres feel like the most natural fit given that Nevin’s best seasons came with the club and given that he makes his home just outside of San Diego. But all of those jobs are fairly desirable, either for personal reasons or because they’re fairly talented clubs who underachieved in significant fashion this year. Nowhere to go but up, right?

No hearing today: Chase Utley to be eligible once again

Chase Utley
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Chase Utley‘s suspension is quickly turning into a more theoretical than actual thing.

Following his Sunday suspension for sliding into Ruben Tejada and breaking Tejada’s leg, Utley appealed. Per the Collective Bargaining Agreement players are eligible pending appeal, and because MLB, the union and Utley’s agent could not get together for a hearing yesterday he was eligible for last night’s game. Of course he didn’t play.

Now, Tim Brown of Yahoo hears from a source that there will be no hearing today either.

This is simultaneously interesting given how much of a to-do the whole matter has become and boring given how, in reality, Utley is a pretty unimportant piece of the Dodgers roster at this point and his presence or absence will, in all likelihood, not affect any game on a level even approaching the manner in which he affected Game 2.

Clayton Kershaw on short rest: an OK idea if Mattingly has a quick hook

Don Mattingly

Last night, as Brett Anderson was being tattooed by Mets batters, I wondered when we’d see Don Mattingly amble out of the dugout to take the ball from him. Turns out he didn’t. He let Anderson finish the third inning having given up six runs and turned it over to the pen for what was essentially a mop-up job.

Maybe that was defensible. Maybe Mattingly realized that, even though the Dodgers would end up scoring more than six runs on the night, the game was already out of hand. Sort of a gut thing, maybe. Let’s not dwell too much on that except to say that Mattingly’s hook was not terribly quick given that his pitcher was having issues.

His hook had better be quicker tonight.

Clayton Kershaw is going on short rest. Historically, pitchers haven’t done too well on short rest in the playoffs. But Kershaw, who pitched on short rest in both the 2013 and 2014 NLDS, has been generally OK. He has, at the very least, given the Dodgers a chance to win.

In Game 4 of the 2013 NLDS against the Braves he allowed two runs — unearned — in six innings. He didn’t figure in the decision in that one — it was the infamous “Craig Kimbrel standing in the bullpen but not being used as the Braves’ season effectively ended in the eighth inning for some reason” game — but the Dodgers advanced to the NLCS.

Last year’s NLDS appearance against the Cards was less-than-stellar. On regular rest he was beat up badly in Game 1, allowing eight runs in six and two-thirds. Then, in Game 4, he came back on only three days’ rest. And, for a while, he pitched well, allowing zero runs through six innings on 94 pitches. Normally Kershaw can go longer than that, but on short rest? Seemed like a bad idea to send him out for the seventh. Mattingly sent him out for the seventh, however, and eight pitches and a Matt Adams home run later the Cards led 3-2 and the Dodgers’ season was over.

Don Mattingly doesn’t have a lot of options tonight and didn’t really have them even before burning Alex Wood last night. He has to use Kershaw and it’s the right decision to do so. Go with what brung ya and go with your best. But he needs to remember that his best on short rest isn’t the same as his best at other times. He should plan for, at the outside, six innings from Kershaw. Indeed, he should be ecstatic if he gets six. A reasonable plan would be for less and to have a reliever ready to go at basically any time in the game.

The Dodgers’ entire season is on the line tonight and Mattingly’s job may very well be on the line too. If he’s on his keister in the dugout watching Kershaw put two men on with nobody out in a close game, he may as well just tender his resignation right then and there.