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The responses to the Jon Lester Vaseline “controversy” are pretty familiar

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I don’t think there is anything to make of the Jon Lester Vaseline controversy than what has been made. Maybe he had something on his glove, but MLB can’t prove it, the Cardinals aren’t pursuing it and the most this will ever amount to — and probably the most it should amount to — is a bit of fun and chatter-fodder this morning.  Even if something was amiss, no one has much of an incentive to pursue it anyway, and it’s all gonna die before the first pitch of Game 2.

Which it probably should. Again: absent more evidence or something more conclusive, it’s not a big deal. It’s something fun to talk about. Nothing more.

But I am getting a bit of a chuckle at how the responses to this little incident are playing out, as some of them are quite familiar.  Here’s a broad sampling of the various responses I’ve seen. And I don’t mean to single out these tweeters — some of them are my friends — they’re just what I happened to see.

  • Let’s go after the accuser:
  • Sure, maybe something was going on, but EVERYONE does it.
  • Even if he is doing it, it didn’t help him. He would have accomplished what he accomplished anyway.

Sound familiar? They do to me. Because we see these defenses play out in the PED arguments all the time. And they never really fly there.

We saw the line of reasoning in Abraham’s tweets way back in 1998. That’s when Steve Wilstein of the Associated Press pointed out the andro in Mark McGwire’s locker. He was dismissed at best, vilified at worst, not because of what he was saying but because he, in the minds of some, lacked the standing to say it. Depending on how hard someone went after Wilstein, it was either irrelevant or shameful.

As for the “attention-seeking,” We saw this hurled at Jose Canseco, who was dismissed as an attention-seeker when he first announced his intention to out the PED users and later when he wrote his book. Which, yes, Canseco was an attention seeker, but that didn’t make him wrong.

The other two are more recent and, to me anyway, more familiar. Because heck, I make those arguments all the time! I say stuff like “why are we so hard on hitters who took PEDs when pitchers did too?” And “Maybe Barry Bonds took PEDs, but it’s not like he wouldn’t have been a Hall of Famer without them.”  They’re the same arguments as “the Cardinals put goop on balls” and “Lester didn’t need the goop to win” stuff.

When I offer those arguments, though, I’m usually shot down by others with some variation of “just because everyone does it doesn’t make it right” or “even if the guy would have been a Hall of Famer without PEDs, he still cheated and cheating is wrong.” Which is kind of funny when you think about it, given how non-critical people are being of that line of reasoning with respect to doctoring baseballs.

Look, I’m not suggesting that whatever Jon Lester did — if he even did anything — is awful or terrible. Indeed, I’m inclined to let it all go simply because (a) lots of pitchers doctor baseballs and (b) whatever he was doing last night, it didn’t really change anything.  But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t, technically, cheating if he had some substance on his glove. If he had goo on the glove he was very much cheating, for whatever that’s worth.

I am just sort of amused at how the sorts of defenses used for one sort of cheating — PED use — are considered illegitimate by many but are immediately trotted out when another sort of cheating — spitallin’ — presents itself for discussion.

Breaking Down the Today’s Game Hall of Fame Ballot: Lou Piniella

TORONTO - JULY 9:  Manager Lou Pinella of the Cincinnati Reds looks on during batting practice prior to the1991 All-Star Game at the Toronto Sky Dome on July 9, 1991 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
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On Monday, December 5, the Today’s Game committee of the Baseball Hall of Fame — the replacement for the Veterans Committee which covers the years 1988-2016 — will vote on candidates for the 2017 induction class. This week we are looking at the ten candidates, one-by-one, to assess their Hall worthiness. Next up: Lou Piniella

The case for his induction:

He notched 1,835 wins, made seven postseason appearances, a won a World Series as a manager. That win total is good for 14th all time. Of the 13 men ahead of him, 12 are already in the Hall. The only who isn’t is Gene Mauch, who was under .500 for his career. Connie Mack and Bucky Harris are in that crowd and they were under .500 too, but Mack is kind of a special case as the all-time wins leader and Harris, well, I dunno, he hung around forever and the Veterans Committee was a different beast back in the 1970s. Point is, if you have Piniella’s win total and you’re over .500, as Piniella is, you’re probably getting in, at least eventually.

A lot of those wins came in some good places and at some good times, adding some psychological weight to that record. Taking the 1990 Reds to the World Series and beating the heavily favored A’s was a great story and, as the Reds’ last title for 26 years and counting, stands as a more memorable accomplishment than doing it someplace else. Likewise, his next job, in Seattle, coincided with the franchise’s best seasons thanks to the emergence of Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson and Edgar Martinez under Piniella’s command. Mariners’ history fundamentally changed during the Piniella era and he will always be associated with that. Oh, and his 2001 team set the single season record for wins with 116. He made two playoff appearances with the Cubs too. That’s been eclipsed by the 2016 team’s exploits, but it was a pretty big deal at the time.

It’s also worth noting that Piniella likewise had a very fine playing career, with 18 seasons of 109 OPS+ hitting, a Rookie of the Year Award and a couple of World Series rings on his resume. That’s not enough by itself to get him in the Hall, but he presents a nice total package as a Baseball Man Supreme who has been thought highly of for close to 50 years now.

Oh, one other thing: he was colorful. He had a temper and a repuatation as kind of a red ass, with a good number of on-the-field incidents which stick in people’s minds. That sort of thing doesn’t necessarily make someone a good manager or a good person, but Piniella has been seen as a guy who mellowed with age and, at various times in his career, showed that he had a sense of humor about all of that stuff which makes it play a heck of a lot better. For Hall of Fame purposes, it certainly plays a heck of a lot more memorably.

The case against his induction:

His years in Tampa Bay weren’t all that great and, by the time his days in Chicago were over there was a sense that he was sort of running on fumes and padding that win total to get him into that top 14. In both places Joe Maddon eventually came along and did better things and, in some cases, undoing some bad things Piniella did. Some believe he should’ve won another pennant or two and, yes, some of those Mariners teams disappointed in the postseason. Some people look less amusingly on his temper tantrums over the years and, I suppose, one could characterize them a bit more sinisterly than I did above without being too dramatic.

Would I vote for him?

I think so. As I mentioned in the George Steinbrenner entry, when it comes to managers and executives, I put a lot of weight on whether one could tell the story of baseball in a guy’s era without mentioning his name. Piniella is no Joe Torre, Bobby Cox of Tony La Russa in that regard, but he’s pretty close to that group in terms of the figure he cut in the game and, as I mentioned, he’s critical to the story of a couple of franchises. Certainly the Mariners but also the 1970s Yankees as a player and, possibly, the 1990 Reds. I tend to be a softer Hall of Fame touch than a lot of people, so I get that people may disagree, but I’d put him in.

Will the Committee vote for him?

Hard to say. On the one hand, Piniella feels like the sort of baseball man that gets rewarded by the Veterans Committee. On the other hand, the Veterans Committee took ages to vote in some other notable managers such as Whitey Herzog, suggesting that maybe Piniella will have to wait. This is the first year for the new composition of the Veterans Committe, however, so it’s hard to say if they’ll be tougher or easier graders. He may be the hardest call of all of the guys on this year’s ballot.

Twins hire James Rowson as their hitting coach

BOSTON, MA - June 4: The Minnesota Twins logo is seen during the fifth inning of the game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on June 4, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
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The Minnesota Twins have announced that they have hired James Rowson as their hitting coach.

Rowson was the minor league hitting coordinator for the New York Yankees for seven of the last nine seasons, interrupted by a short stint with the Chicago Cubs as minor league hitting coordinator. He also worked at the minor league levels with the Los Angeles Angels. He played in the minors for the Seattle Mariners and Yankees.

Rowson replacesTom Brunansky, who was hitting coach for the past four seasons.