Craig Calcaterra

Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander (35) pitches against the Miami Marlins in the first inning of an interleague baseball game, Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Miami. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
Associated Press

Justin Verlander thinks first time PED users should get a lifetime ban

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Ken Rosenthal of Fox has a story today in which he talks to multiple players and league and union officials about the state of drug testing and performance enhancing drugs in baseball.

The big takeaway here, I think, is that players openly and sharply talk about their frustration with PED users now in ways they never would’ve years ago. We saw this change begin after the Mitchell Report and as the MLBPA membership began to agree to and then, later, agitate for harsher penalties for drug users. What was once a taboo subject around which players carefully tread is now something against which they actively campaign.

That, more than home run totals and the number of tests and suspensions handed out, tell you about the state of PEDs in the game. They still exist, of course. Players still get suspensions and, as Rosenthal’s report notes, no testing regime will ever be perfect. Partially because cheaters are always ahead of the testers, partially because no testing can be frequent enough to get some drugs due to how short a period the stay in one’s system. So a lot of the talk is about how to live in a world that, while imperfect, is still pointed in the right direction and shows how little tolerated PEDs are by players.

Some, however, still want the system to be tougher. Justin Verlander, for example, tells Rosenthal that a one strike and you’re out approach is the way to go:

“How do you clean it up? Maybe more severe punishments,” Verlander said.

“If there is proven intent to cheat — i.e. you tested positive or it’s found that you were taking an illegal substance, PEDs, and trying to cheat the system, trying to go around it — I think it should be a ban from baseball.

“It’s too easy for guys to serve a suspension and come back and still get paid.”

I doubt that could ever fly, either legally or practically. While guys lie all the time now, a false positive is always possible in a drug testing scenario. And mixups and cross-contamination of supplements, etc., can occur too. Now baseball uses a zero tolerance approach which does not interest itself with the intent or the why of it. Probably for good reason as that would be a very difficult thing to determine and would lead to a lot of litigation. Under Verlander’s proposal, every positive test would lead to a protracted legal battle about intent. It would simply be unworkable.

Still, interesting to see the sea change in player sentiment about all of this in the past several years.

Tim Lincecum is still out there, wandering the Earth

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There are a handful of well-known big leaguers still out there looking for work, but Tim Lincecum intrigues more than any of them. Probably because he was a back-to-back Cy Young Award winner who then fell off a cliff and that kind of dynamic is both hard to get one’s heard around but impossible to ignore.

Lincecum isn’t close to signing anyplace, though. Jon Heyman reported yesterday that he’s throwing on the San Francisco Giants’ practice fields in Scottsdale now, but that we shouldn’t look into that as it’s mostly just a courtesy to a longtime member of the club. In reality, Lincecum is just working out in Arizona, still, throwing simulated games — Heyman says he’s working on a rotation schedule, doing 70-pitch sim games — and that the long-teased “Tim Lincecum Showcase” is going to eventually happen. Heyman has been promoting it so long I think Bill Graham was originally involved. It was gonna be at the Fillmore West or the Cow Palace, maybe.

Anyway, he’s still out there, wandering the desert. I can’t help but hope he latches on someplace soon. He was one of my favorites when he was on his game. And the idea that someone can have it all and be on top of everything to suddenly just lose it and then wander like that is fascinating to me.

And That Happened: Wednesday’s Scores and Highlights

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann delivers to a Kansas City Royals batter during the first inning a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Wednesday, April 20, 2016. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Associated Press
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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Tigers 3, Royals 2: Jordan Zimmermann won his third game, allowing no runs into the seventh inning. On the season as a whole he’s allowed no runs in his first nineteen and a third innings. So far he’s looking like the free agent pickup of the year.

Athletics 5, Yankees 2Kendall Graveman pitched strongly into the seventh. He also got to bat because the A’s gave up their DH when third baseman Danny Valencia got hurt. He hit cleanup, actually. Struck out on three pitches and after the game said it was the first time he had batted in eight years. The A’s will likely keep him for a while but think of how many pitchers who come up with an AL team and take the same path as Graveman, not hitting for close to a decade, and then get traded to the NL and are suddenly expected to bat because of the NL’s allegedly superior style of play. The Yankees, meanwhile, kind of stink in the early going.

Brewers 10, Twins 5Aaron Hill, Chris Carter and Domingo Santana all hit homers. Another Minnesota star was in the news yesterday. It may be someone you all know well:

 

Congratulations, dude.

Orioles 4, Blue Jays 3: A walkoff passed ball in the 10th inning gives the O’s the game. It happened when a slider from Joe Biagini got past Toronto catcher Josh Thole, allowing Caleb Joseph to score from third. That’s one you don’t see every day. That’s one you might not see in 10,000 days.

Phillies 5, Mets 4: Yet another walkoff in extra innings, this one more conventional, as Peter Bourjos hit an infield single with two outs in the 11th. He was batting in the ninth slot, as batting pitchers eighth has become quite a trend these days, being used by the Phillies for the first time in 37 years. Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda hit back-to-back homers and Neil Walker had four hits for the Mets; winning efforts in a losing cause. Kind of like the Browncoats in “Firefly.” You can’t take the sky from them.

Red Sox 7, Rays 3: Mookie Betts hit a two-run homer and David Ortiz drove in three runs with a pair of doubles. Rick Porcello was key, though, allowing three runs and six hits in seven innings, striking out nine and walking one. The Sox needed the innings more than anything given how taxed the bullpen was after Tuesday night’s all-hands-on-deck game following Joe Kelly‘s early exit.

Dodgers 5, Braves 3: Justin Turner drove in the go-ahead run in the 10th. He had help via a rookie mistake from Braves center fielder Mallex Smith, who tried to make a diving catch of Turner’s hit and ended up kicking it away. Chase Utley scored from second on the play, but he had been waiting to tag up if necessary. If Smith just lets it fall in front of him and the left fielder who was also converging, the old man doesn’t make it home. Maybe it doesn’t matter — the Dodgers scored one more time after that — but it was some help the Dodgers didn’t need. Help the Dodgers got from their own ranks: six  relievers combining to allow only one hit over six and a third.

Nationals 3, Marlins 1: Another great team bullpen performance here, where four Nationals relievers combined to pitch seven innings after starter Joe Ross left the game in the first inning with a blister. Yusmeiro Petit led the charge, allowing one run in four innings as the fist guy up after Ross went down.

Rangers 2, Astros 1: Cole Hamels hit the first two batters he faced in the game. It wasn’t a Dock Ellis “do the do” sort of thing, as Hamels was just off, but he settled down and won his tenth straight decision. Rougned Odor hit a two-run homer for all of the Texas offense.

Padres 8, Pirates 2Drew Pomeranz notched a career-high 10 strikeouts while Matt Kemp homered and both Melvin Upton Jr. and third baseman Adam Rosales made some great plays on defense. Two in a row for San Digeo off of Pittsburgh, guaranteeing them their first series win of the year.

Diamondbacks 2, Giants 1: THAT’S the Zack Greinke we’ve been expecting: one run on six hits in six and two-thirds as he outduels Madison Bumgarner. Both Dback runs came on a Wellington Castillo homer in the seventh. Indeed, all of the game’s scoring came in the seventh, truly making a pitcher’s duel until that moment the shots were fired.

Reds 6, Rockies 5: The Reds pen blew a three-run lead in the eighth but Tucker Barnhart hit a walkoff single to salvage the game. A long replay review of a missed bag/maybe missed bag by a Rockies baserunner in the seventh cost Colorado a run, however, and that loomed pretty large too.

Cardinals 5, Cubs 3: The Cardinals salvage one thanks to two two-run innings early on, seven strong innings from Carlos Martinez and Randal Grichuk robbing Anthony Rizzo of a home run with an over-the-wall catch in the first inning. The game was delayed 3 hours, 21 minutes by rain in the middle of the seventh. The time to actually play the game was 2 hours, 40 minutes. Quite a long day at the ballpark.

White Sox 2, Angels 1: Chris Sale allowed one run — unearned — on two hits over seven. Sale has four wins. The Chisox have ten. Sale has started off strong like this before but it’s the Sox’ best start in a decade.

Mariners 2, Indians 1: Taijuan Walker pitched a mini-Sale, allowing an unearned run over six innings. Walker has owned the Indians. Too bad for him he doesn’t pitch in the AL Central.