Oh my stars and garters, what if an All-Star tests positive for drugs!


That’s the short version of Bob Nightengale’s latest column in which he reminds us how the Republic ended last year when Melky Cabrera won the All-Star Game MVP award before his drug suspension. And how, thanks to Biogenesis looming over everything, it could happen again.

Nightengale’s concern here is at about a 20 on a ten point scale, referring to Cabrera’s MVP award as “a punch line for an otherwise glorious season.” I think it’s stretching it to even call it a footnote, but if Nightengale wants to say it turned 2012 into a joke he’s welcome to his opinion. Fact is every player in the All-Star Game is tested for drugs at some point every year. It’s quite possible that any player — not just four random ones currently in the news — could be suspended for drugs at any time. That’s a feature of the system, not a bug. If that feature is something which ruins seasons for him he probably needs to find another line of work, because it’s going to happen again. That’s how it works when you test players for drugs.

I don’t think Nightengale really thinks that, though. I think that, rather, he’s playing the Melky/All-Star Game angle up because it allows him to mix in (a) a Manny Ramirez digression that has zero to do with the All-Star Game or, beyond the yuks of it all, baseball relevance in 2013; and (b) extended quotes from Don Hooton of the Taylor Hooton foundation about the evils of steroids, all in the service of writing a large, point-free “steroids are bad, mmkay” ramble.

The Hooton stuff makes me sad. Taylor Hooton, in case you were unaware, was a high school baseball player who committed suicide several years ago. He was also taking steroids at the time and his parents have decided that the steroids caused his suicide. He also happened to have suffered from low self-esteem and was taking an anti-depressant (Lexapro) which has been linked to an increased risk of suicide, but that part is usually left out. The Hootons — and most baseball writers — have determined that the suicide was caused by the steroids alone and they are widely quoted on the matter whenever PEDs in baseball returns to the news.

When one sees a quote from Mr. Hooton in these stories one’s heart can’t help but go out to him and the tragedy which befell his son and his family. One can’t escape the fact, however, that Mr. Hooton’s experience and views on the matter, however tragic, are wholly irrelevant to Major League Baseball, its drug testing program and the All-Star Game. Even if you accept Don Hooton’s explanation for the cause of his son’s suicide, Taylor Hooton was a teenager playing high school sports, facing wholly different sorts of pressures and incentives than professional athletes do. His foundation is the recipient of funds and support from Major League Baseball, but he not part of baseball’s drug enforcement regime.  As such, when Mr. Hooton opines on the All-Star Game and Manny Ramirez and suggests that baseball’s collectively-bargained PEDs penalties are insufficient, one struggles to find a point.

But hey: if the column gets one more person emotionally agitated over PEDs in baseball, mission accomplished, right?

Blue Jays sign Danny Espinosa to minors deal

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Free agent middle infielder Danny Espinosa signed a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays, the team announced Saturday. The deal includes an invite to spring training, where Espinosa is scheduled for his first split-squad game against the Orioles this afternoon.

Espinosa, 30, was inked to another minor-league deal with the Yankees in January. The veteran infielder was competing for an infield job until the team picked up second baseman Neil Walker on a one-year, $4 million deal last Monday. Prior to his release, he slashed .160/.276/.320 with one home run through his first 12 games with the Yankees this spring. He didn’t fare much better in the majors last year, either, batting a cumulative .173/.245/.278 with six home runs and a .523 OPS in 295 PA for the Mariners and Rays.

Blue Jays starting shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is still dealing with a bone spur in his heel and has officially been ruled out for Opening Day, which could clear a path for Espinosa to claim a starting role in Toronto. Of course, he won’t be the only candidate under consideration — Yangervis Solarte and Aledmys Diaz are still in the mix as well, though no final decision appears to be made just yet.