pete rose getty

One PED-fueled, record-breaking felon is good. The other PED-fueled, record-breaking felon is bad


My favorite thing about PED hysterics is how they totally freak out when one compares PED cheats to spitballers, bat-corkers and amphetamine poppers, claiming it to be apples and oranges and an illegitimate exercise in moral equivalency. Yet they themselves  love to compare gambling on baseball to PED use. And do so in an effort to absolve the gamblers.

Not all gamblers of course. They’ll tell you that the Black Sox scandal remains the worst thing to ever happen to the game. Shoeless Joe Jackson should be let off the hook because he was in “Field of Dreams” and stuff, but the rest of them cast a dark, dark shadow. Oh, and of course they make a special exception for Pete Rose. They love Pete Rose and will do anything they can to minimize or ignore his transgressions.

We’ve seen lots of this before. The claim usually goes that, yeah, what Pete Rose did was bad, but the PED cheaters are way, way worse, so we should now view him in a new light. Usually there is an effort to equate his gambling on baseball (and tax evasion and association with drug dealers and, oh yeah, his PED use, which enabled him to break the all-time hits record) as merely an understandable product of his competitive nature. And as evidence of that they’ll claim — despite the absence of evidence and despite the irrelevancy of the claim — that Rose only bet on the Reds to win. And then, when they’re done doing that, they will pivot to A-Rod or Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens to tell you how comparatively evil they are.

The latest to do so is Bill Madden of the Daily News. Who is no fan at all of Barry Bonds coaching at Giants camp last week. Indeed, he is so upset that he has made a series of assumptions and leaps, telling us what he is sure people he did not interview for his column are thinking. Neither Giants GM Brian Sabean and managing partner Larry Baer “were anywhere to be found,” at Giants camp last week Madden says, strongly implying that they disapproved of Bonds’ presence and didn’t want to be associated with it. Which is ridiculous given that both Sabean and Baer gave comments last week strongly supporting the decision to bring Bonds back as an instructor. And that, absent their approval, Bonds would not be there. I suppose Madden could have called those two to ask them to comment again, but if he did so it’d negate a few sentences of his little temper tantrum of a column.

But the worst part of it all is not that bit of disingenuousness. It’s the Keith Hernandez-caliber stretch it takes Madden to make the comparison in the first place. Indeed, it’s the very headline and premise of the piece:

It was indeed a strange coincidence that Bonds should end his seven-year exile at the same time Rose’s ban for betting on baseball is now coming up on its 25th anniversary . . .

source: APNo, it is not a strange coincidence. It’s two completely unrelated things which say nothing and mean nothing to one another. Their being thrown together in this column is 100% a function of Madden trying to beat his pro-Rose and anti-Bonds drum, not some necessary comparison that can or must be inevitably made by virtue of simple observation. This is a quintessential example of the sort of dog-wagging narrative-building one often sees from the more hacky elements of the sporting press. The ones who make it more about themselves and their preoccupations than the events they are endeavoring to describe and critique. And if you think this isn’t about Madden and his ink-stained brethren, think again:

And no doubt with the Hall of Fame in mind, Bonds was all nicey-nice with the reporters he held in contempt during his playing days, reminding me of the famous line by legendary New York baseball writer Frank Graham, about ’20s Yankee outfielder Bob Meusel, who shunned the writers most of his career until finally deciding to oblige them in his last season: “He’s learning to say hello, when it’s time to say goodbye.”

Rose, meanwhile, is “one of the great ambassadors of baseball,” according to Madden. It’d be really interesting if Madden could cite any of Rose’s great acts of baseball diplomacy. Personally, I’ve read three different books about the guy and I can’t recall any ambassadorial accomplishments. Maybe that refers to his delicate handling of the paternity suit he was slapped with in the late 70s? The expert negotiations he led prior to his tax evasion conviction? His summit meetings with the steroids dealer with whom he shared a home for a time? The sage way he handled his home plate collision with Ray Fosse, which seriously disrupted the latter’s career? Pete Rose may not be in the baseball Hall of Fame, but if there is an ambassador’s Hall of Fame — say, in Geneva — I figure he must have a plaque there.

Of course none of that is here nor there, and Madden knows it. His distaste for Barry Bonds and his affection for Pete Rose are all you have to know in order to know where he’ll come down on all of this. To know that he hates one great but drug-fueled superstar who broke one of baseball’s signature records thanks to PEDs and was later convicted of a felony yet loves a different great but drug-fueled superstar who broke one of baseball’s signature records thanks to PEDs and was later convicted of a felony. If you can’t see the differences there, well, you’re just not as enlightened as Bill Madden.

I suppose Madden might say I’ve made his point for him. That there is no difference, so why can’t Rose coach too? Such a claim wouldn’t pass the smell test for me given how clearly Madden wishes that Bonds were not allowed to be anywhere near a baseball field. He’d have them handled differently just like baseball is handling them differently, only he’d reverse who is banned and who isn’t. For my part, I’m having a really hard time seeing how either Bonds or Rose could do much harm as a guest hitting instructor. Hell, it’d almost be worth it to see Rose squeeze into a uniform again. Hopefully his 1970s-style double-knits.

I doubt we’ll ever get there. But if we do, it will be because of baseball’s consideration of Pete Rose and Pete Rose alone. It will not require some intellectually dishonest and transparently personal argument about how bad the PED guys are.

Angels sign outfielder Rafael Ortega to one-year contract

Rafael Ortega
AP Photo/John Bazemore
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According to the official Twitter account of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the club has agreed to terms on a one-year major league contract with outfielder Rafael Ortega.

It’s worth the MLB minimum, which should be a little north of $507,000 in 2016.

Ortega was once considered a top prospect in the Rockies’ minor league system, but he has made only six total plate appearances at the big league level since signing out of Venezuela in 2008. The 24-year-old batted .286/.367/.378 with two home runs and 17 stolen bases in 131 games this past season for the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate in Memphis.

He’ll be in the running for an Opening Day roster spot next spring in Angels camp.

Report: Ben Zobrist’s price tag is currently four years, $60 million

Ben Zobrist
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Ben Zobrist will turn 35 years old early next summer, but that doesn’t seem to be putting too much of a dent in his free agent value.

According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the “sense among interested teams” is that Zobrist’s price is currently hovering around four years, $60 million and it “may go higher.”

There was a report from FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal on Sunday stating that the Mets have made Zobrist their “No. 1” offseason target, and over a dozen other clubs have linked to him since the World Series ended. That’s the kind of attention you command when you can both hit — Zobrist posted an .809 OPS (120 OPS+) in 2015 — and also cover a range of positions defensively.

He makes sense for just about any club looking to contend in the coming seasons.

Wilin Rosario elects to become free agent

Wilin Rosario
AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi
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Wilin Rosario was designated for assignment by the Rockies late last month. Now, according to Thomas Harding of, the 26-year-old former National League Rookie of the Year vote-getter has elected to become a free agent.

Rosario is a bad defensive catcher and wasn’t much better when the Rockies tried him at first base, but he should draw some interest from American League teams looking for a bench bat and part-time DH.

Rosario slugged 28 home runs for the Rockies in 2012 and he’s averaged 26 home runs for every 162 games over the course of his five-year major league career.

He boasts a .319/.356/.604 career batting line against left-handed pitching.

Orioles acquire Mark Trumbo from Mariners for Steve Clevenger

Mark Trumbo
AP Photo/Joe Nicholson

As first reported by Bob Dutton of the Tacoma Tribune and now confirmed by CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Mariners have traded first baseman and corner outfielder Mark Trumbo to the Orioles in exchange for catcher and first baseman Steve Clevenger. There is also a second player headed to Baltimore in the deal.

This feels like an admission from the O’s that they’re not going to be able to re-sign Chris Davis, who is said to be looking for more than $150 million in free agency.

Clevenger was out of options and the Orioles have both Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph coming back at the catcher position. Wieters was due to become a free agent but accepted a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from Baltimore last month.

Trumbo has always been a low-OBP guy and he rates as a poor defender everywhere he has played, but the 29-year-old has averaged 31 homers and 96 RBI for every 162 games in his six-year major league career. Camden Yards is a much better place than Safeco Field for him to show that power.