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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.

Wade Davis? Greg Holland? Who needs ’em?

KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 21: Joakim Soria #48 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the eighth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Kauffman Stadium on August 21, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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The story of the two-time defending AL champion and current defending World Series champ Kansas City Royals cannot be told without talking at length about their bullpen.

In 2014, Wade Davis, Greg Holland and Kelvin Herrera formed a shutdown brigade that not only made it next to impossible for the opposition to mount late rallies, but managed something which seemed utterly impossible before 2014: they turned Ned Yost into a tactical genius. Indeed, the only time Yost got criticism at all that fall was when he messed with the autopilot formula that had that three-headed monster handling the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.

Much the same happened in 2015, of course, despite Holland’s sharp decline and eventual injury. Davis and Herrera continued their dominance. They were joined by Ryan Madson and a cast of other effective relievers who, along with timely hitting, great defense and good health, helped propel the Royals to the title.

This year had not been quite the same story. Holland has been out all year and Davis, while effective when he’s pitched, has missed time due to injury. As has longtime contributor and presumptive next-man-up Luke Hochevar. Herrera is basically still Herrera, but Ned Yost has been presented with a decidedly different set of choices. Lots of choices and Ned Yost don’t always go together well, but lately that hasn’t mattered.

Last night the Royals’ bullpen came in to a close game and tossed three scoreless innings. That set a franchise record with 32 straight scoreless frames, besting the previous record set back in the club’s inaugural season in 1969. The streak is a huge part of why the Royals have won nine games in a row.

Unlike the success of 2014-15, the streak is not a three-man show. As Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star notes, eight different relievers have appeared for Kansas City during the streak, with Joakim Soria and Matt Strahm leading the crew with five and a third innings pitched. Herrera has tossed five scoreless. Otherwise it’s been a group effort with even Peter Moylan offering a couple of scoreless frames. And here you thought Moylan was, I dunno, gearing up for the upcoming Brisbane Bandits season. Nope.

The Royals are still not, in my view anyway, a lock to make the postseason. It’s a a crowded field right now. They’re seven and a half back in the AL Central and four back in the Wild Card with a bunch of teams in front of them. But they’re certainly playing themselves back into the conversation. They’re interesting. And they’re doing it in much the same way they’ve done it the past two years. Only with different dudes doing the do.

Video: Mookie Betts made a ridiculous throw last night

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Mookie Betts was an infielder once upon a time and the knock on him both then and since his move to the outfield was that maybe his arm was not fantastic. As an infielder there was talk that he was better suited to the right side than the left. As an outfielder people were saying that, with work, his arm could be average and/or serviceable. Not bad, of course, but not anything to write home about.

Maybe we need to reassess that, because last night he uncorked one from right field that would make Dwight Evans says “dang, man.”

 

And the throw mattered, as Kiermaier represented the tying run in a game that, at the time, the Sox were leading 2-1.

Betts is a dangerous middle-of-the-order bat at age 23. And now he shows that he’ll nail a fast runner with a frozen rope if he has to. The guy is going to win an MVP award some day. And maybe not just one.