Bartolo Colon

Bartolo Colon’s success is really bothering some people

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Bartolo Colon has pitched magnificently this season. He leads the AL in wins, is sporting a 2.89 ERA and is pounding the strike zone like crazy, allowing only one walk per every nine innings pitched. This, apparently, is something baseball should be embarrassed by. Why? Because he tested positive for synthetic testosterone last year  Paul Gackle of the San Francisco Examiner:

If the deadline for submitting the All-Star Game rosters were today, Colon should be a shoe-in to make the American League pitching staff, which would be colossal embarrassment for the commissioner’s office. It would suggest one of two things: PEDs don’t, in fact, enhance athletic performances, so what’s the big deal? Or he’s still cheating and he’s beating the system.

But let’s be clear here. Gackle is not seriously entertaining the former option:

Baseball wants us to believe that it’s capable of tidying up the sport, putting an end to the guessing game over who is cheating and who is clean. It caught Colon, Melky Cabrera and another 18 players connected to a Miami-area clinic, and those players reportedly could be suspended in the next few weeks. Colon’s season is, however, raising more doubt over whether testing can keep pace with the evolution of PEDs.

Let’s be clear, I’m not accusing Colon of cheating. He could be another rubber arm, like Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson, as far as I’m concerned. But I will say that his performance is evidence that 50-game suspensions won’t cut it if baseball really wants to crack down on PED users.

No, he is accusing Colon of cheating. By definition he is, for the direct conclusion he draws from Colon’s success this year is that baseball’s drug testing doesn’t work and that Colon’s success is an embarrassment and then spends time comparing Colon to Pete Rose and the game-throwers of the Chicago Black Sox and proposes suspending players for two years for PEDs.

Look, I have no idea what Bartolo Colon is doing to be successful in 2013. But It’s not like he wasn’t a top-flight pitcher for many, many years before shoulder problems derailed him. A late-career bump — especially one that isn’t accompanied by some massive increase in velocity and an uptick in strikeout rates — is not anything historically unprecedented. The notion that he’s back on banned substances and eluding drug testing is not impossible, but it is an argument that requires more evidence than other possible explanations such as “good pitcher has good season” or “synthetic testosterone is not some magic super power-bestowing substance,” or “throwing pitches in the strike zone and relying on your defense is good strategy.”

Gackle has no interest in marshaling any such evidence, however. He, like so many others, is merely interested in turning a somewhat complex matter of science and biology, turning it into a matter of good and evil and thus taking the laziest possible approach in order to get his column inches in.

Buddy Carlyle named the Braves new replay assistant

Buddy Carlyle
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The Braves have been terrible with respect to replay challenges this year. Almost improbably terrible. Fredi Gonzalez has challenged calls seven times and he’s been unsuccessful on all seven challenges. Given how these things work, it’s likely because he’s getting bad advice from the Braves employee designated to watch the replays and suggest when challenges should be made.

Now Gonzalez is going to have a new guy in that role. A familiar name too: Buddy Carlyle, who Mark Bowman of MLB.com reports, will join the Braves as a coaching assistant who will handle the replay review decisions.

Carlyle, of course, spent nine seasons as a major league pitcher and nearly 20 as a professional overall. Most recently with the Mets last season before calling it a career. He pitched for the Braves as well, from 2007-09.

Now he’ll provide a new and, hopefully, more discerning set of eyes for the Braves’ replay operation.

Garrett Richards needs Tommy John surgery, Andrew Heaney has UCL damage too

Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Garrett Richards throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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Bad, bad news for the Los Angeles Angels: their best starter needs Tommy John surgery and their most promising young starter has UCL damage as well.

Jeff Passan reports that Garrett Richards has a torn right ulnar collateral ligament and is expected to need Tommy John surgery. Richards was scratched from today’s start due to fatigue and dehydration, but Passan says they found the UCL tear while examining him yesterday. Richards is the Angels’ ace, having won 13 games in 2014 and 15 games a year ago. So far this year he a 2.34 ERA in six starts.

Heaney, meanwhile, has damage to his left ulnar collateral ligament, Passan reports. He was diagnosed with a flexor muscle strain after he was placed on the disabled list following his first start of the season, but this is obviously more serious. Unlike Richards, the plan at the moment is for Heaney to rehab rather than go under the knife. Sometimes that works. Often it doesn’t and Tommy John happens later. We’ll see.

These twin blows are huge and terrible for the Angels, who already had serious depth issues basically everywhere on the roster. The conventional wisdom before the year started was that, if everything broke right and everyone stayed healthy, they could possibly contend in an often volatile AL West, but that they didn’t have a big margin for error. This is a lot of error. The Angels are 13-15 and four games out in the division as it is. Without two starters on whom they were counting big, it’s hard to see how the rest of the Angels’ season isn’t going to be a total slog.

Willie Mays gets a cable car named after him

Major League Baseball hall of famer  Willie Mays, who spent the majority of his career as a center fielder with the New York and San Francisco Giants, smiles as President Barack Obama honors the 2012 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants baseball team, Monday, July 29, 2013, during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. The team beat the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 World Series, their second championship since the franchise moved to San Francisco from New York in 1958. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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This is not exactly stunning news, but it’s Willie Mays’ 85th birthday today and any excuse to talk about Willie Mays is a good one. Happy Birthday, Willie!

The pretext is a story in the San Francisco Chronicle about how The Greatest Baseball Player of All Time (my view anyway) is getting an iconic cable car named after him. An icon named after an icon, I guess. The cable car is, appropriately, number 24.

Next month I’m taking my kids on vacation to California and we’re spending a few days in San Francisco. It’ll be a shame when I tell them we have to cancel half of a day’s plans while I make them wait for one particular cable car to come by so they can take my picture with it, but that’s just what they have to deal with given that I’m their dad.

Carlos Gomez calls out a hit piece-writing columnist

Houston Astros' Carlos Gomez (30) reacts after hitting a double in the second inning of a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
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Yesterday I wrote about a column written by Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle. It was about Astros outfielder Carlos Gomez, who has had a poor start to the year.

The column, as I noted, was a hatchet job, blaming Gomez for the Astros’ problems despite the fact that Gomez is by far from the biggest of the Astros’ problems. It was particularly bad in that it presented an unedited bit of broken English from Gomez which seemed calculated to cast Gomez in a bad light. Many journalists were critical of Smith in this regard, noting that he could’ve used a translator, could have paraphrased or could’ve done some mild correction via brackets, as is often done with quotes from non-native English speakers.

Last night Gomez took to Twitter to call out Smith himself:

It’s possible to write a column about how a player hasn’t lived up to expectations without being an insensitive jackass. It’s possible to do so even in the sharpest of ways. Smith didn’t do that, however, and didn’t make an effort to try, it seems. Gomez is right to take issue with it. And I suspect that Gomez’s teammates and organization take issue with it too. Which likely doesn’t bode well for Smith getting cooperation from others in the Astros family.