Or at least an alleged one.
By way of disclaimer: I don’t offer this in my usual spirit of pumping up baseball at the expense of the NFL. This is way too serious a matter for that. And I hope like hell that the allegations here aren’t true. But if they are — if even part of them are — this would be a major, major story. One that could be far more serious for the NFL than the concussion thing:
A new class action has been filed against the NFL alleging that the league illegally used prescription pain-killers to mask injuries and to allow players to keep playing. The named plaintiffs include Bears Hall of Fame defensive end Richard Dent and former Bears quarterback Jim McMahon.
The allegations include claims that teams would conceal the diagnosis of injuries from players, pump them up with drugs and send them back on the field. Injuries like actual broken bones. McMahon claims that his teams doing them led him into a severe prescription drug addiction. Mike Florio has context about the legal hurdles the players have before them and talks about the complexities of it all here. Given Mike’s legal background, if this story is of interest to you, be sure to follow at PFT.
In any event, if these allegations are borne out, it makes Biogenesis, BALCO and any other drug scandal we’ve seen in sports look like child’s play. I mean, it’s one thing when some rogue athletes willingly take some things they shouldn’t in an effort to get healthy again following an injury. It’s another thing altogether for the league itself to be involved in a pattern of behavior in which players are given drugs for the specific purpose of getting injured bodies back on the field before they have a chance to get healthy. Against their will and without their knowledge if the allegations here are true.
Here’s hoping that, unlike with any of the other drug scandals in sports, this one is treated with the amount of gravity it is actually owed.
To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.
So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”
When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.
Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.