Columnist calls for enhanced drug testing, chooses to discredit results of drug testing

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Christine Brennan’s latest column for USA Today decries the fact that Bartolo Colon is in the All-Star Game. Why? Because he tested positive for PEDs last year:

Colon, and every other performance-enhancing drug user in baseball, should never be allowed to become an All-Star, or win any MLB award. No Cy Young, no MVP, no batting title, no nothing. It doesn’t matter that he was caught and suspended last year, not this year. (Although with the reported Biogenesis suspensions still looming, the year is young.) The bottom line is, you don’t suddenly become a non-cheater once your suspension is over.

It’s her right to believe that someone who cheats once must always be cheating, regardless of what the drug tests say. But it is curious coming from Brennan, because for at least six years now her PED hobby horse has been all about getting Major League Baseball to adopt the USADA’s drug testing regime. How one can call for enhanced testing while simultaneously dismissing the results of drug testing (and while failing to point out how MLB’s drug testing program is lacking) is a neat trick, but I guess I can’t understand it given that I’m not a trained journalist living in a major city.

But the worst part of this column is how it completely misrepresents the role of the union with respect to baseball’s drug problem. Brennan says:

Because as much as MLB’s leaders try to clean up their game, the players’ union lags years behind, fighting harder for the cheaters than it does for the players the cheaters shove off All-Star teams and awards dinner stages, and out of record books … Why the players’ union doesn’t speak out for people like [Matt] Moore is mystifying. It will fight harder for Colon and his alleged Biogenesis buddies — Nelson Cruz, Jhonny Peralta, Everth Cabrera, Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez, et. al. — than it ever will for the poor non-cheating players who continue to quietly accept their fate.

She may have had a point a decade ago when the union was still hostile to drug testing, but she’s completely ignoring current reality. On multiple occasions over the past several years the union has agreed to stiffer drug testing penalties and enhanced testing. Indeed, just this past winter they ratcheted things up significantly adding unannounced HGH testing and testosterone baseline tests, the likes of which Brennan herself has long called for. That baseline testing, by the way, is being supervised by the WADA, which Brennan said in 2007 must get involved and which she herself considered to be the gold standard of anti-doping efforts. Moving goalposts is hard work, of course, so maybe she was just distracted and forgot that she wrote that column.

She is also ignoring the fact that every public statement the union makes on drug matters acknowledges the importance of the drug testing program. And that players and the union have repeatedly and increasingly given voice to their desire for a clean game and the protection of players who do not use performance enhancing drugs.

All of that would get in the way of a good, outraged column, of course. So I totally understand why she ignores it.

Blue Jays shut down Steve Pearce for the rest of 2017

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The Blue Jays have shut down left fielder Steve Pearce for the remainder of the season following a lingering case of lower back stiffness. Pearce has not appeared in a game since September 8, when he was forced to exit in the first inning after experiencing back pain during his at-bat. Per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca, he’s scheduled to return to Florida next week, where he’ll receive epidural injections to address the pain.

Pearce, 34, impressed in his first season with Toronto. He battled through a calf injury during the first half of the season and finished the year with a modest .252/.319/.438 batting line, 13 home runs and a .757 OPS through 348 PA. By September, the Blue Jays started testing the waters with outfield prospect Teoscar Hernandez, who shouldered the bulk of the starts in left field after Pearce was sidelined with back issues.

With the Blue Jays all but eliminated from playoff contention, however, there’s no rush to get Pearce back to the outfield. He should be in fine shape to compete for another starting role in spring, and could face stiff competition from Hernandez if the rookie continues building on his .278 average and three home runs this month. The veteran outfielder is slated to receive the remaining $6.25 million on his contract in 2018 and will be eligible for free agency in 2019.

Brewers’ Julio Mendez remains hospitalized after hit by pitch

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Brewers’ minor league infielder Julio Mendez remains in “critical but stable condition,” club GM David Stearns announced Friday. Back in August, Mendez suffered a cardiac event after he was inadvertently struck by a ball from the Angels’ Austin Krzeminksi during a game between the rookie-level affiliates. The 20-year-old was removed to a Phoenix-area hospital for treatment following the incident and has recently been transferred to a hospital in his native Venezuela.

Mendez was in his fourth season with the Brewers’ organization. He spent the majority of his 2017 run with the rookie-level AZL Brewers, slashing .255/.294/.355 with 10 extra-base hits, 16 RBI and four stolen bases over 119 plate appearances. He currently holds a career .241/.324/.309 batting line, 33 extra bases and a .633 OPS through 668 PA.

Baseball is still on the back burner, however, as Mendez appears to have made little progress nearly a month following the hit by pitch. Thoughts go out to his family during this difficult time.