So who's the Hall of Fame 'roider Tom Boswell mentioned last night?

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Note to Ken Burns and PBS: I’d be much more willing to watch “The Tenth Inning” if it wasn’t airing on a night when multiple games with playoff implications were going down. Thanks.

Second note to Ken Burns and PBS: if what my friends are saying is true and “The Tenth Inning” spends a bunch of time on the Jim Leyritz game of the 1996 World Series, I’m probably going to delete it from my DVR before I have a chance to watch it this weekend. Because, really, I never want to see that again. If a highlight that even looks like Jim Leyritz vs. Mark Wohlers comes on my TV I get nauseous as it is, so the last thing I want to do is watch George Will and Doris Kearns Goodwin and God knows who else waxing eloquently about it over some evocative mandolin music. Thanks again.

But some people are watching “The Tenth Inning,” including our friend lar from Wezen-Ball.  And he notes this morning that the most interesting thing from last night’s episode was when Washington Post columnist Tom Boswell said that he once saw a player — who is now in the Hall of Fame — drink something in the clubhouse which the player called “a Jose Canseco milkshake.” Which could have been Slim Fast and B vitamins for all we know, but since Boswell was talking about it during a segment about steroids, he clearly took it to mean that the thing was chock full of PED-ly goodness.

Based on the clues Boswell gave to the player’s identity — a guy who (a) is already in the Hall of Fame; and (b) who hit more home runs after Jose Canseco
arrived in the league than he ever had before — lar tries to figure out who it was.  I won’t give it away but his number one suspect is a guy about whom people have whispered in the past and whom would certainly have benefited from proximity to Jose Canseco.

But back to Boswell.  I recently spouted off about making evidence-free accusations of PED-use, and I stand by such spouting. But in this case, Boswell has apparently been sitting on evidence of a Hall of Famer using what Boswell believed to be PEDs for over 20 years.

I know that Boswell reported as early as 1988 that Jose Canseco used steroids — and his reports were basically ignored by all but a handful of booing fans that fall — but why haven’t we heard anything about this Hall of Fame player before now? Given all that has transpired in the past decade, wouldn’t information about a Hall of Famer’s PED use have been extremely relevant to the national discussion? I’m not saying Boswell just tell the mikshake story and leave it at that, but why not interview the player about it? Why not do some more reporting on it? Why wasn’t this out there before last night?

I won’t accept “what happens in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse” as an answer here. Because if what everyone who goes on about steroids says is true, they damn nigh destroyed the national pastime. In such an instance a reporter seems more than justified — indeed, he seems obligated — to followup on what he saw in the clubhouse and get the story out there. If not in 1988, then certainly by 2002 when the steroid story broke big.

But that didn’t happen. What has happened, if what Boswell says is true, is that a PED user was elected to the Hall of Fame by baseball writers who currently believe that the world will end if a PED user is elected to the Hall of Fame. Mr. Milkshake has a plaque in Cooperstown, but because of the perceived need to keep the Hall of Fame pure, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Mark McGwire won’t get one anytime soon.

I don’t have a problem with PED users in the Hall of Fame and I wish Mr. Milkshake all the best. But I do have a problem with double standards. If what Boswell says is true, a steroid user is in the Hall. If it were widely known that a steroid user were in the Hall — and the world didn’t end because of it — it would necessarily change the way that other steroid users such as Bonds and company were treated when they came up for a vote. Or, at the very least, it would lay the hypocrisy of the electorate bare should it continue to bar the door to the Hall for those guys.

I don’t think we should out guys simply for the sake of outing them, but this seems important to me. People should know which member of the Hall of Fame was a PED user if, indeed, one is. Boswell should follow up on this or, maybe better, someone should follow up on this in his stead using Boswell as a source.  It’s not just a matter of journalism at this point. It’s a matter of history.

Nick Markakis: ‘I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?’

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Earlier today, the Braves inked veteran outfielder Nick Markakis to a one-year deal worth $4 million with a club option for the 2020 season worth $6 million with a $2 million buyout. Though Markakis is 35 years old, he’s coming off of a terrific season in which he played in all 162 games and hit .297/.366/.440 with 14 home runs and 93 RBI in 705 trips to the plate. Markakis had just completed a four-year, $44 million contract, so he took a substantial pay cut.

Per David O’Brien of The Athletic, Markakis asked his kids where they wanted him to play and they said Atlanta. O’Brien also asked Markakis about the pay cut. The outfielder said, “I’m not mad at all. I play a kids’ game and get paid a lot of money. How can I be disappointed with that?”

This seemingly innocuous comment by Markakis is actually damaging for his peers and for the union. Baseball as a game is indeed a “kids’ game,” but Major League Baseball is a billion-dollar business that has been setting revenue records year over year. The players have seen a smaller and smaller percentage of the money MLB makes since the beginning of the 2000’s. Furthermore, Markakis only gets paid “a lot of money” relative to, say, a first-year teacher or a clerk at a convenience store. Relative to the value of Liberty Media, which owns the Braves, and relative to the value of Major League Baseball itself, Markakis’s salary is a drop in the ocean.

That Markakis is happy to take a pay cut is totally fine, but it’s harmful for him to publicly justify that because it creates the expectation that his peers should feel the same way and creates leverage for ownership. His comments mirror those who sympathize first and foremost with billionaire team owners. They are common arguments used to justify paying players less, giving them a smaller and smaller cut of the pie. Because Markakis not only took a pay cut but defended it, front office members of the Braves as well as the 29 other teams can point to him and guilt or shame other players for asking for more money.

“Look at Nick, he’s a team player,” I envision a GM saying to younger Braves player who is seeking a contract extension, or a free agent looking to finally find a home before spring training. “Nick’s stats are as good as yours, so why should you make more money than him?”

Contrast Markakis’s approach with Yasmani Grandal‘s. Grandal reportedly turned down a four-year, $60 million contract offer from the Mets early in the offseason and settled for a one-year, $18.25 million contract with the Brewers. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Grandal said on MLB Network, “I felt like part of my responsibility as a player was to respect the guys that went through this process before I did. Guys like Brian McCann, Russell Martin, Yadier Molina, These are guys who established markets and pay levels for upper-tier catchers like me. I felt like I was doing a disservice if I were to take some of the deals that were being thrown around. I wanted to keep the line moving especially for some of the younger guys that are coming up … to let them know, if you’re worthy, then you should get paid what you’re worth. That’s where I was coming from.”

Grandal’s comments are exactly what a member of a union should be saying, unapologetically. The MLBPA needs to get all of its members on the same page when it comes to discussing contracts or labor situations in general publicly. What Markakis said seems selfless and innocent — and I have no doubt he is being genuine without malice — but it could reduce the bargaining power players have across the table from ownership, which means less money. They are already being bamboozled, at least until the next collective bargaining agreement. They don’t need to be bamboozled any more.