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.

Video: Adrian Beltre belts a walk-off home run on Monday against the Athletics

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 25:  The Texas Rangers celebrate the two-run walk off homerun by Adrian Beltre #29 against the Oakland Athletics at Globe Life Park in Arlington on July 25, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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The Rangers found themselves in a 5-1 hole after three innings against the Athletics on Monday, but scratched out some runs in the middle innings. That allowed them to enter the bottom of the ninth inning trailing by only one run, 6-5, facing A’s closer Ryan Madson.

Adrian Beltre, who hit a solo home run in the seventh inning, stepped to the plate with a runner on first base and two outs. He was the Rangers’ last hope to keep the game alive. The veteran third baseman swung at Madson’s first pitch, a 96 MPH fastball, and drilled it to left-center field for a walk-off two-run home run.

Beltre now has nine walk-off home runs in his career. While the 37-year-old isn’t quite the offensive dynamo he was even two years ago, his numbers are still respectable. He’ll head into Tuesday’s action batting .281/.334/.468 with 16 home runs and 63 RBI in 392 plate appearances.

Jay Bruce: “This is such a fleeting game. It’s so unforgiving.”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 25:  Jay Bruce #32 of the Cincinnati Reds swings and watches the flight of his ball as he hits a two-run homer against the San Francisco Giants in the top of the fourth inning at AT&T Park on July 25, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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Outfielder Jay Bruce was the catalyst in the Reds’ 7-5 victory over the Giants on Monday night, drilling a pair of two-run home runs. It’s good timing for the Reds, as the trade deadline is six days away. The Reds might prefer to get a prospect or two for Bruce rather than pick up his $13 million club option for 2017 or buy him out for $1 million and let him walk into free agency.

It was only a year ago that it seemed like the Reds would have to settle for next-to-nothing to get rid of Bruce. He posted career-lows across the board in 2014, including a .654 OPS and 18 home runs. He improved last season, returning to 26 home runs, but came with an uninspiring .729 OPS.

This year is another story. Bruce is currently hitting .272/.326/.564 with 23 home runs and a league-best 77 RBI. He’s on pace to set career-bests in a lot of categories if he’s able to stay healthy.

Bruce was honest about his resurgence, though, admitting that he doesn’t know why he’s so much better this year as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

This is such a fleeting game. It’s so unforgiving. You’re never settled. You’ve never got it. You’ve never figured it out. It’s like a puzzle that never has all the pieces to it. You might get close and feel pretty good about your progress, but you never are going to have the puzzle put together.

Bruce, who welcomed a child into the world back in April, also discussed the difficulties of hearing his name bandied about in trade rumors once again.

It’s harder this year. I have a family I have to focus on now. Logistically, it’s much more intricate. I know the skit. I know how it goes. But it will be nice when it’s passed because we’ll have a plan of attack on whether my family is staying where they are in Cincinnati or elsewhere.

This is a point of view that is not often covered. This time of the year can be very difficult for players who may be traded, as they await a phone call that could send their lives into upheaval. It may mean being away from their families for three months. It means living out of a hotel room or finding a place to live on very short notice. Even Bruce’s comments about his success this year are illuminating about the mental strain of the game.

As usual, great reporting by Buchanan. His full article is worth your time.