Blue Jays' Melky Cabrera hits a two run double against the Yankees during the first inning of their MLB spring training baseball game in Dunedin

It’s spring training for PED moralists, too

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Hey, not everyone can show up in March with their PED outrage in mid-season form. Scott Ostler is going to need to get a few more reps in after this performance:

Among the things that ain’t what they used to be: the shame and disgrace of being busted for steroids.

Exhibits C and C: Bartolo Colon and Melky Cabrera.

They’re both back in baseball – although Colon has five games left on his suspension – and will be earning nice paychecks, without having to go the Hester Prynne route (look it up, you lazy kids!) where you wear your sins forever.

[snip]

Cabrera’s salary, what could have been and what now is, is about business, not morality. Same with Colon.

It’s hard to tell exactly what Ostler is arguing other than oblique outrage. Colon and Cabrera have done — or will have done, in Colon’s case — their time and paid the price, according to MLB’s drug policy. And that’s where the buck should stop.

Despite Ostler’s insistence that players caught using performance-enhancing drugs don’t wear a “scarlet letter”, some most certainly do. After an impressive 2007 season at the age of 42, Barry Bonds and his agent stated loud and clear he still wanted to play and would take the Major League minimum salary after earning $15.5 million the final year of his contract with the Giants. $390,000 for a player coming off of a season in which he hit 28 home runs and posted a 1.045 OPS? Somehow, every single GM in baseball passed.

Was it his age? Proneness to injury? Jamie Moyer earned $1.1 million last season at the age of 49 after recovering from Tommy John surgery. In his age 40-47 seasons, Moyer had an aggregate 4.40 ERA. If Moyer could land a job, why couldn’t Bonds? It was the “scarlet letter”. Not every player wears one, but it certainly isn’t non-zero as Ostler implies.

And yes, Cabrera and Colon will collect paychecks and get ample playing time in 2013 after getting caught using performance-enhancing drugs. As is their collectively-bargained right as Major League Baseball players.

Many sportswriters’ tunes would quickly change if they themselves had to endure the level of punishment — sports McCarthyism, in a nutshell — they consistently call for with scathing column after scathing column. Speed to the ballpark to get into the clubhouse sooner to break that sizzling piece of news? Banned from the press box for life.

Gerrit Cole set to begin throwing program

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 24:  Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates sits in the dugout in the second inning during the game against the Houston Astros at PNC Park on August 24, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
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During the Pirates’ FanFest on Saturday, right-hander Gerrit Cole announced that he is back up to full health after being shut down with elbow inflammation in September. Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Cole said he’ll start a throwing program on Monday as he works on regaining his form for the 2017 season.

The 26-year-old pitched through 116 innings for the Pirates in 2016, delivering a 3.88 ERA and 2.5 WARP before landing on the disabled list in June with a triceps strain and again in August with elbow inflammation. It was a steep drop for the right-hander, who saw a considerable spike in his ERA and BB/9 rate and struggled to strike out batters at the 8.7 mark he managed in 2015.

The upside? Inflammation was the worst of Cole’s issues in 2016, and while the newfound health issues didn’t help his case for an extension, a more serious injury doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.

The White Sox wanted Astros’ top prospects for Jose Quintana

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 27:  Jose Quintana #62 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at U.S. Cellular Field on August 27, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
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The Astros, Braves and Nationals came sniffing around White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana during the Winter Meetings, but each appeared to find the Sox’ asking price well beyond what they were willing to give up for the starter. On Saturday, Peter Gammons revealed that the White Sox had floated Francis Martes, Kyle Tucker and Joe Musgrove as a possible return for Quintana.

It’s a strategy that worked well for Chicago in the past, most recently when they dealt Chris Sale to the Red Sox for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, among others, and flipped Adam Eaton to the Nationals for a trio of pitching prospects. Astros’ GM Jeff Luhnow didn’t appear eager to sacrifice some of his core talent to net a high-end starter, however, and told the Houston Chronicle’s Jake Kaplan as much on Wednesday:

We’re prepared to trade players to improve our club right now. […] We’re just not prepared to trade away players that are core to our production in 2017, and those are sometimes the players that are required to get these deals done.

While Lunhow was speaking specifically to the inclusion of third baseman Alex Bregman in future deals, it’s not unrealistic to think that top prospects Francis Martes and Kyle Tucker would also be considered instrumental to the Astros’ plans for the next few seasons.

Martes, 21, currently sits atop the team’s top prospect list on MLB.com. The right-hander blazed through his first full season in Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 3.30 ERA and career-best 9.4 K/9 over 125 1/3 innings in 2016. Tucker, meanwhile, profiles as the Astros’ second-best prospect and made a successful jump to High-A Lancaster last season, slashing .339/.435/.661 in 69 PA. Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove is the only player left off the top prospect list, but he got off to a decent start with the club in 2016 as well, going 4-4 with a 4.06 ERA and 3.44 K/BB rate in 62 innings during his first major league season.