Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times details a report quietly released by Major League Baseball a couple of weeks ago in which it was revealed that, in the 2010 offseason, only 10 percent of major league baseball players were given drug tests. These tests constituted just three percent of all drug tests given by baseball in 2010.
These offseason rates are significantly lower than the offseason rates seen in the NFL and Olympic sports and, given that players’ normal routines involve using the offseason for more intense workouts than they do during the regular season, it represents a pretty big loophole. Both the union and the league told Schmidt that offseason testing is an item on the agenda for the new Collective Bargaining Agreement which will be negotiated this year.
The biggest question I have is, practically speaking, how can you increase this frequency in anything approaching a fair way? Some players live two miles from the team’s spring training headquarters all winter long. Some live in the middle of nowhere, Mississippi. Others live in Japan, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. Unlike the NFL — in which there are numerous pre-scheduled offseason activities like minicamps — there is no time when ballplayers are truly accessible to their team in such a way as to make offseason drug testing a truly random or even arguably comprehensive thing.
Fox Sports Detroit has named Matt Shepard their new full-time play-by-play guy for Tigers games. Shepard will work with analysts Jack Morris and Kirk Gibson, who will split time.
This is the move in response to former longtime announcers Mario Impemba and Rod Allen getting suspended and later fired following an in-booth altercation in Chicago last September. The two of them, who weren’t exactly friends, reportedly fought over a chair, with conflicting reports of how serious the fight was. An anonymous witness said Allen put Impemba in a choke hold. Allen recently gave an interview in which he denied that and said it was only some pushing and shoving. Either way, it ended their 16-year team-up for Tigers games.
Shepard has worked for Fox Sports Detroit for nearly 20 years, doing fill-in play-by-play for the Tigers — he replaced Impemba for the last few weeks of last season — and for Detroit Pistons games. Gibson has been a part time analyst for the network for the past couple of seasons, splitting time with Allen. Morris has done Tigers, Blue Jays and Twins games over the years, sometimes even splitting time between the Twins and Tigers, which is rather unusual.
Shepard is pretty good at his job. While Tigers fans liked and were familiar with Impemba, there won’t be a falloff in quality. Gibson makes some good analytical points and has a surprisingly sharp and biting sense of humor about him, but his gruff and monotone delivery is not everyone’s cup of tea. You get used to it. Morris is not my cup of tea — he tends to do a lot of the “back in my day” stuff former players often do — but I’m pretty sure he could recite the dictionary on TV in Detroit and a lot of Tigers fans would tune in. Such is life.