Associated Press

Pudge Rodriguez thinks baseball needs to put steroids in the past

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Hall of Famer-elect Ivan Rodriguez was in Rangers camp over the weekend. While there, he made a plea for baseball — specifically, the Hall of Fame and its voters — to bury the old PEDs hatchet:

“I think these are things baseball needs to put in the past,” Rodriguez said when asked about players from the Steroid Era. “It’s time to think about the game of baseball. There are others who should be in the Hall of Fame, as well. They had great careers. Why not?”

I can’t decide if Pudge is a poor messenger here or, maybe, the most effective messenger for this sentiment possible.

On the one hand, he is widely thought to have used PEDs. There has never been any substantiation of him using PEDs and the only accusation of it came from Jose Canseco, but I’d guess more than half of the baseball fans who followed his career and the Steroid Era believed he used for a couple of reasons. Primarily, changes in his physique and production once drug-testing was implemented. As such, many people may scoff at him asking for the PED guys to be let into the Hall of Fame.

On the other hand . . . he’s going into the Hall of Fame. If you were to grant the assumptions of those fans who suspect him of using, it means a PED guy is heading into Cooperstown. He wouldn’t be the first if he does, indeed, fit that bill, but he may be the most conspicuous. And, somehow, the Heavens aren’t falling. A lot of fans love it, in fact, and we’ve all been able to think back about a career that was pretty damn remarkable and fun to watch.

So, even if you think Pudge is a user, does he not have a point? What is his induction costing anyone? What would Barry Bonds’ induction? Or anyone else’s?

 

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.