I’m still laughing at the fact that the same people who have been on my case for years for my suggestion that not all cheating is dastardly — and that, maybe, we should judge the effect and intent of people breaking the rules before castigating them — either minimizing what Michael Pineda did last night or claiming that his real transgression was the obvious manner in which he used the foreign substance as opposed to the fact that he used a foreign substance.
The analogy that some are using — I saw Tom Verducci use it on the Dan Patrick Show anyway — is that Pineda was “doing 56 in a 55.” This is simply wrong. The rule against foreign substances on baseballs is designed to keep pitchers from getting an unfair advantage over hitters by giving them better stuff on the ball. In this it is no different than any other rule designed to stop cheating in order to get an unfair advantage, be it corked bats or, yes, PEDs. All of those, we usually agree, are serious transgressions against a level playing field. Say, going 90 in a 55. And it’s no less of a ticket if you go 90 in a 55 in a Buick than if you do it in a Cadillac.
Moreover, the “everyone does it” thing we’ve been hearing since last night never seems to wash when I mention that, when Barry Bonds played, everyone was doing PEDs. Not sure why it washes now. Maybe there shouldn’t be a rule against pine tar for pitchers — I’d really like MLB to examine whether it’s necessary and whether the claim that all pitchers use it to “get a better grip” is really why they use it — but until the rule is off the books, it’s still a violation and shouldn’t be getting the eye-rolls it’s getting now. Or, if it does, other rules violations that “everyone does” and that have innocent motivations even if there are some competitive benefits (say, HGH for recovering from injuries) should be getting the same treatment.
Maybe the first step to all of that is to actually cut through what I suspect — but can’t really know for sure — is a heavy dollop of B.S. when it comes to the “I just use it to get a grip on cold nights; I don’t want to hit any batters” excuse no one seems to want to criticize. Well, no one except an actual major league pitcher who knows a thing or two about this stuff:
I don’t think using pine tar is a capital case — ten games is probably right, I suppose — but it is against the rules. And why now, after so many years of having people bleat about how hitters trying to get advantages over pitchers threatened the very soul of baseball, I don’t have a ton of patience for people saying pitchers trying to do the same thing is no big deal.
Steve Gilbert of MLB.com reports that the Diamondbacks and outfielder A.J. Pollock have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year extension. The deal is worth $10.25 million, per ESPN’s Buster Olney.
Pollock was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter. The 28-year-old requested $3.9 million and was offered $3.65 million by the Diamondbacks when figures were exchanged on January 15. It wasn’t much of a gap, but the two sides were ultimately able to find common ground on a multi-year deal. Pollock will still be under team control for one more year after this new deal expires.
Pollock is coming off a breakout 2015 where he batted .315/.367/.498 with 20 home runs, 76 RBI, and 39 stolen bases over 157 games. He ranked sixth among position players with 7.4 WAR (Wins Above Replacement), according to Baseball Reference.
The Blue Jays and 2015 American League Most Valuable Player Josh Donaldson have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a two-year, $29 million contract, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca.
Donaldson was arbitration-eligible for the second time this winter. He filed for $11.8 million and was offered $11.35 million by the Blue Jays when figures were exchanged last month. It wasn’t a big gap, but since the Blue Jays are a “file and trial” team, they bring these cases to an arbitration hearing unless a multi-year deal can be worked out. As opposed to last winter, they were able to avoid a hearing this time around. Donaldson was originally a Super Two player, so he’ll still have one year of arbitration-eligibility once this two-year deal is completed.
The 30-year-old Donaldson is coming off a monster first season in Toronto where he batted .297/.371/.568 with 41 homers while leading the American League with 123 RBI.
Brandon Belt filed for $7.5 million and was offered $5.3 million by the Giants when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. That’s a pretty sizable gap. While there’s still a chance that an agreement will be worked out at the last minute, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that an arbitration hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.
The Giants haven’t gone to an arbitration hearing since 2004, when they lost to catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Schulman hears from one person involved that because of the gap between Belt and the Giants, there’s a real chance this will break that string and require a hearing.
Belt batted .280/.356/.478 with 18 home runs and 68 RBI over 137 games in 2015, but he dealt with concussion symptoms for the second straight season. An arbitration hearing could bring some unpleasant conversation to the surface.
The Padres have inked veteran utility player Skip Schumaker to a minor league contract, per FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
Schumaker, who turned 36 last week, has spent the last two seasons with the Reds. He batted .242/.306/.336 with one home run and 21 RBI over 131 games last season while making starts between all three outfield spots and second base. Cincinnati cut ties with him in November after declining a $2.5 million club option for 2016.
While Schumaker had to settle for a non-guaranteed deal here, it would be no surprise to see him land a bench job with the Padres come Opening Day.