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.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).