braun getty

Fans care about PEDs … sometimes

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NPR has a story about the polling relating to fans attitudes about PEDs in Major League Baseball. Their look at the polls shows that, among other results, 60 percent of those surveyed said it matters to them “a lot” if baseball players use steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs. Twenty nine percent said it matters to them “a little.” Only 9 percent said it matters “not at all.” There are some other results in there too which suggest thinking in keeping with that.

I’m kinda dubious. I obviously write a lot about PEDs because I find it interesting and important, but based on my interaction with readers and baseball fans in general — not just the vocal ones who comment — I’m not sure there is anything approaching a consensus of this among fans.

I think fans care a great deal and have very strong opinions about PEDs when the matter is placed before them. Like, when the story like the one we’ve been tracking the past couple of days first breaks and/or when they are asked specifically about PEDs.  I do not, however, think that PEDs are an issue that fans care about all that much in the day-to-day of their baseball fandom. I don’t think that it consumes anyone or changes their opinion about baseball in general. Yes, people say it does. They say it has soured them. But those anecdotal responses are simply not borne out in any tangible way when you look at attendance, revenue, TV ratings or people’s overall attitude about the game.

I also think there is a heavy dose of provincialism among fans when it comes to PEDs. If an already loathed player like Barry Bonds or Alex Rodriguez is implicated, yes, they hate PEDs. If a player on their team’s rival is implicated, oh man, that guy is a disgrace. If their own player is implicated, however, it’s amazing how fast they’ll tell you that PEDs don’t matter, that the guy is the subject of a conspiracy, that he’d still be an All-Star, that “everybody does it” or any other number of other things which seek to diminish the problem. I’ve noticed this in a major, major way in Brewers fans who, in my experience anyway, will go to some pretty extreme lengths to defend Ryan Braun or to otherwise diminish the allegations against him.  They’re even bigger Braun apologists than I am.

Not that this is surprising or even bad. It’s just like any other issue in baseball. Fans hate beanballs until their pitcher starts throwing them. They think stealing a base when you’re up by ten runs is low rent unless their team does it. The opposition’s showboating player is a classless hot dog, their showboating player is just filled with joy and enthusiasm and all the good stuff of life. Go back and look at Tony La Russa’s record of taking offense at violations of unwritten rules by opposing teams and not really noticing them when the Cardinals did it.

Which isn’t to say that people don’t have actual moral and ethical beliefs about players taking PEDs. It’s just that they’re not nearly as deep as people may say when asked a point blank question about it by a person taking a survey. Their convictions on it will ebb and flow depending on the news cycle. Or their fandom. Or if the guy was already thought of as an S.O.B. And no matter the case, there is nothing to suggest that PED stories have any large overall negative impact with respect to how people view the game.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

Screenshot 2016-02-07 at 10.16.43 AM
Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.