When it comes to MLB’s anti-PED efforts, “the process is selective”

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There is a lot to chew on in William Rhoden’s New York Times column about Alex Rodriguez and the Biogenesis mess.  Some of it even I, a pretty reliable defender of players being accused of using PEDs, can’t sign on to.

For example, I do not think that anyone, no matter how overreaching MLB becomes, will actually “root” for A-Rod. He’s basically impossible to root for, even if you do want to see that he is given due process and a fair shake.

I also don’t believe that he or the MLBPA should mount an appeal simply for the purposes of challenging the credibility of evidence against him. Maybe it makes sense to appeal — especially if the discipline leveled is overly-harsh — but the calculation to appeal or not should mostly be one that serves the pragmatic interests of the player involved, not one of principle alone.

Finally, I doubt Rhoden’s theory that, if A-Rod does appeal, that he’d have more people rooting for him than he thinks. It’s pretty lonely in the “defend A-Rod” camp. Believe me, I know from experience.

But if it is lonely there it’s for a reason Rhoden also outlines. An idea with which I agree 100%: Baseball has pretty consciously sought out villains in its anti-PED efforts and is pretty content to let A-Rod be the villain here. That, as Rhoden notes, “the process is selective.”

Rhoden notes that, despite hundreds of players using PEDs in the 90s and early 2000s, baseball was happy to allow big power hitters like McGwire, Sosa and Bonds to be the face of PEDs. I’ll add that MLB’s primary anti-PED effort of those years — The Mitchell Report — did almost nothing to reduce or combat PEDs and almost everything to change the PED conversation from “how do we stop them” to “what are the big names doing them?” We all acknowledge that real risk of PEDs is when players are the margins are forced out by PED users taking their roster spots or are coerced by that dynamic into doing them themselves, yet we still focus on the big stars who would be in the league anyway.

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So it is with A-Rod. Maybe he is orders of magnitude worse than any other Biogenesis offender. We have to take MLB’s word on that for now. But it’s also a fact that MLB is quite adept at hanging big names out to dry for the purpose of making them, as opposed to Bud Selig or the game’s overall culture or drug testing system, the face of the problem.

Yadier Molina will not enter contract negotiations during the 2017 season

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Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina is still open to extension talks during the last week of spring training. Once Opening Day rolls around, however, Molina has preemptively nixed any contract negotiations until the end of the 2017 season, when he’s scheduled to hit free agency.

Molina wants to stay with the Cardinals, or so he’s telling reporters, but he’s also “not afraid” to test the free agent market this fall should a deal fail to materialize. Via Goold:

I would love to stay, but at the same time I’m not afraid to go to free agency. I’ve still got many years in the tank. Believe me. I feel great. I feel like a 20-year-old kid. I’m not afraid to go to free agency.

The 34-year-old backstop is entering his final year under contract, though Goold points out that he has a $15 million option for 2018 that he can choose to decline in the event that it’s exercised by the team. He’s reportedly searching for a figure closer to those made by other top catchers like Buster Posey and Russell Martin.

The 2017 season will mark Molina’s 14th year in the Cardinals’ organization, building on a career that has spanned seven All-Star campaigns, nine postseason runs and two World Series championships in St. Louis. He batted .307/.360/.427 with eight home runs and a .787 OPS for the club in 2016.

Colby Rasmus could start 2017 on the disabled list

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Colby Rasmus isn’t ready to take outfield reps just yet. According to Rays’ manager Kevin Cash, that’s a red flag, one that could potentially postpone Rasmus’ debut as the club’s designated hitter and outfielder in 2017. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Rasmus will need to prove he can play a defensive position before getting cleared for the active roster, something which the veteran outfielder has yet to do this spring.

Rasmus, 30, signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Rays following his two-year run with the Astros. He batted a meager .206/.286/.355 with 15 home runs and a .641 OPS in 2016 and was shut down in late September with an unspecified hip/groin issue. Entering the 2017 season, he’s expected to work his way back to a full-time role after undergoing surgery to repair his core muscle and left hip labrum last October.

The Rays also finalized their one-year, $1.2 million deal with catcher Derek Norris on Saturday and will need to clear room for him on the 40-man roster. Topkin speculates that the move could send Rasmus to the 60-day disabled list, though the outfielder is not projected to miss more than a couple weeks of the regular season.