Gabe Kapler

Must-Click Link: Gabe Kapler has the smartest take on PED speculation you’ll ever see

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Everyone — and I mean everyone — should read Gabe Kapler’s essay about his decision not to use PEDs and his views on speculation about PED-using players over at Baseball Prospectus. It is easily the best take I’ve seen on the matter.

For PED hawks, there is an extremely useful lesson about the assumptions we tend to make about muscular or powerful players. Kapler was absolutely chiseled as a player and put on muscle to spare from the time he was drafted in the late rounds until he emerged as a power-hitting outfielder. But he explains in detail the emergence of his power, the reasons behind it and the pressures which led him to the point where “to take PEDs or not to take PEDs” was the biggest question in his life.  He didn’t, and if you throw him into the pile of “why should we believe you?” guys, you’ve simply not read the article and simply won’t believe anyone about anything ever.

At the same time, the folks who tend to defend PED-using players — folks like me — have a lot to take away from this as well. Kapler talks about the effect of testosterone on a player, the confidence-boost involved and the pressures one faces when one senses physical decline. It’s awfully hard to read that and to maintain a blithe “most PEDs have little effect” stance as some of us are prone to doing.

Given his balanced take, it’s not surprising that the two takeaway quotes from the whole piece are words that you rarely if ever hear from one person in the PED discussion. First:

In baseball, there isn’t a factor more responsible for success than confidence. I’ve never in my life had a player tell me different. If a man is stronger on the field and can recover more quickly, he’s inherently going to believe in his ability more. I submit that if anything, the value of PEDs to a player has been drastically underpublicized as opposed to overblown.

Then:

The men who have tested positive for PEDs include Ryan Franklin (skinny), Bartolo Colon (not skinny), Melky Cabrera(not muscular), Neifi Perez (skinny) etc. Do bodybuilders use steroids? Of course. Like the American population, users come in all shapes and sizes. Men in major league baseball who don’t use also vary greatly in body type … Until we have a positive test, an admission of guilt, an accepted suspension or some other unequivocally accurate anecdotal evidence, we’d be wise to assume innocence so as not to unjustly jeopardize the reputations of undeserving human beings.

The common denominator: don’t ignore the facts, especially when they are uncomfortable for you. If, like me, you believe that people go to crazy extremes to demonize those who take PEDs, don’t forget for a second that they are banned and are banned for a reason. If, like others, you believe that the PED problem is huge and awful for baseball, don’t forget that your convictions on the matter don’t give you actual information about who is using.

Just a fantastic read from someone with way more knowledge and experience on the matter than almost any of us will ever have.

Mariners sign reliever Joel Peralta

Joel Peralta
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Right-hander Joel Peralta has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Mariners that includes an invitation to spring training.

Peralta spent last season with the Dodgers and was limited to 29 innings by neck and back problems, posting a 4.34 ERA and 24/8 K/BB ratio. Los Angeles declined his $2.5 million option, making him a free agent.

He was one of the most underrated relievers in baseball from 2010-2014, logging a total of 318 innings with a 3.34 ERA and 342 strikeouts, but at age 40 he’s shown signs of decline. Still, for a minor-league deal and no real commitment Peralta has a chance to be a nice pickup for Seattle’s bullpen.

White Sox sign Mat Latos

Mat Latos
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Jerry Crasnick reports that the Chicago White Sox have signed Mat Latos.

Latos was pretty spiffy between 2010-2014, posting sub-3.50 ERAs each year.  Then the injuries came and he fell apart. He pitched for three teams in 2015 — the Dodgers, Angels, and Marlins — with a combined 4.95 ERA in 113 innings. And he didn’t make friends on those clubs either, with reports of clubhouse strife left in his wake.

In Chicago he gets a fresh start. It doesn’t come in a park that will do him any favors — Latos and U.S. Cellular Field don’t seem like a great match — but at this point beggars can’t be choosers.

 

Jason Castro loses arbitration hearing against Astros

Jason Castro
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Veteran catcher Jason Castro and the Astros went through with an arbitration hearing over a difference of $250,000 and the three-person panel ruled in favor of the team.

That means Castro will make $5 million this season rather than his requested amount of $5.25 million. This is his final year of arbitration eligibility, so the 29-year-old catcher will be a free agent after the season.

Castro showed a lot of promise early on, including making the All-Star team at age 26 in 2013, but since then he’s hit just .217 with a .650 OPS in 230 games. His power and pitch-framing skills are a valuable combination even within sub par overall production, so 2016 will be a key year for the former first-round draft pick.

Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Eminent Domain and the history of the Rangers Ballpark

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump addresses supporters at a campaign rally, Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, in Grand Rapids, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
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Eminent Domain — the right of a government to take/buy private property for public use — and its implications has always been a controversial topic. It became far more controversial in the 1990s and early 2000s, however,  as the practice, which is intended for public projects like roads and stuff, was increasingly used in ways to help developers and businesses.

The controversy came to a head in the 2005 case Kelo v. City of New London in which the Supreme Court held that general benefits a community enjoyed from economic growth — not just direct public works — qualified as a “public use” under the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The upshot: if someone had a good argument that a shopping mall would benefit the community, Mr. Developer and the government can force you to sell them their house.

This led to a HUGE backlash, with property rights people freaking out about what seemed like a pretty clear abuse of governmental power serving the interests of developers. Some 44 states have since passed laws outlawing the use of Eminent Domain for purely economic development. Some of that backlash has gone too far in the other direction, with some laws getting passed which not only required compensation to landowners if land was taken, but merely if land was diminished in value.  Like, if the government passes an environmental regulation which makes your private, for-profit toxic waste dump less lucrative than it was, the government has to pay you. It’s crazy stuff, really. And all of those laws notwithstanding, the topic continues to be a controversial one, with battles over what, exactly, is “public” what is a “public good” and all of that raging on. It’s rather fascinating. At least for boring nerfherders like me.

In the recent GOP presidential debate Donald Trump and Jeb Bush got into it on the topic, with Trump — a real estate developer, or course — defending the use of Eminent Domain to take land for economic development and Bush — a really desperate dude who at this point will take ANY position he can if it’ll give him traction — opposing it. In the days since they’ve continued to fight about it, with Trump charging Bush with hypocrisy since his brother, George W., was an owner of the Texas Rangers when they built their new ballpark with the help of Eminent Domain.

Ahh, yes. We finally get to baseball.

Today Nathaniel Rakich of Baseballot digs into that project and looks at how it all played out against the Eminent Domain debate. It touches on stuff we talk about a lot around here: are ballparks engines of economic development or merely for the enrichment of ballclubs? If they are built by a municipality, are they public goods? Wait, how can they be public goods if you can’t just walk into them for free? And the arguments go on.

It’s fascinating stuff showing, once again, that the real world and baseball intersect all the dang time and it’s handy to have a handle on just how, exactly, it does so.