Bartolo Colon’s success is really bothering some people

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Bartolo Colon has pitched magnificently this season. He leads the AL in wins, is sporting a 2.89 ERA and is pounding the strike zone like crazy, allowing only one walk per every nine innings pitched. This, apparently, is something baseball should be embarrassed by. Why? Because he tested positive for synthetic testosterone last year  Paul Gackle of the San Francisco Examiner:

If the deadline for submitting the All-Star Game rosters were today, Colon should be a shoe-in to make the American League pitching staff, which would be colossal embarrassment for the commissioner’s office. It would suggest one of two things: PEDs don’t, in fact, enhance athletic performances, so what’s the big deal? Or he’s still cheating and he’s beating the system.

But let’s be clear here. Gackle is not seriously entertaining the former option:

Baseball wants us to believe that it’s capable of tidying up the sport, putting an end to the guessing game over who is cheating and who is clean. It caught Colon, Melky Cabrera and another 18 players connected to a Miami-area clinic, and those players reportedly could be suspended in the next few weeks. Colon’s season is, however, raising more doubt over whether testing can keep pace with the evolution of PEDs.

Let’s be clear, I’m not accusing Colon of cheating. He could be another rubber arm, like Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson, as far as I’m concerned. But I will say that his performance is evidence that 50-game suspensions won’t cut it if baseball really wants to crack down on PED users.

No, he is accusing Colon of cheating. By definition he is, for the direct conclusion he draws from Colon’s success this year is that baseball’s drug testing doesn’t work and that Colon’s success is an embarrassment and then spends time comparing Colon to Pete Rose and the game-throwers of the Chicago Black Sox and proposes suspending players for two years for PEDs.

Look, I have no idea what Bartolo Colon is doing to be successful in 2013. But It’s not like he wasn’t a top-flight pitcher for many, many years before shoulder problems derailed him. A late-career bump — especially one that isn’t accompanied by some massive increase in velocity and an uptick in strikeout rates — is not anything historically unprecedented. The notion that he’s back on banned substances and eluding drug testing is not impossible, but it is an argument that requires more evidence than other possible explanations such as “good pitcher has good season” or “synthetic testosterone is not some magic super power-bestowing substance,” or “throwing pitches in the strike zone and relying on your defense is good strategy.”

Gackle has no interest in marshaling any such evidence, however. He, like so many others, is merely interested in turning a somewhat complex matter of science and biology, turning it into a matter of good and evil and thus taking the laziest possible approach in order to get his column inches in.

Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph: “We suck”

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As I mentioned in the recaps this morning, Baltimore lost its 107th game last night, tying its 1988 mark for the most losses in Orioles history. They will certainly break that record and will almost certainly blast by the all-time franchise loss record of 111, set by the 1939 St. Louis Browns. That team only played a 154-game schedule so the O’s likely won’t be the worst team in the franchise’s 118-season history by winning percentage, but it’ll be close enough.

Over at The Athletic Dan Connolly reports that one Oriole, catcher Caleb Joseph, is well aware of how bad the Orioles are and he is not mincing words about it:

“I’m not a loser. So, to be associated with that severity of losing is embarrassing. It’s shameful really . . . I don’t blame [fans] at all [for not attending games]. We suck.”

That last bit was in response to Matt Olson of the Athletics coming up to him before a recent game, noticing how many empty seats there were in Camden Yards and asking Joseph if it was always like that. Let that sink in: a player for the Oakland Athletics who, year after year, have some of the worst attendance in baseball, is shocked at how poorly Baltimore is drawing.

As for Joseph, he spends a lot of time talking about how the attitude is all wrong with the Orioles, how there does not seem to be any accountability and how things weren’t like that when he came up back when the Orioles were winning. Which, well, yeah.

Baseball players often attribute winning and losing to whatever attitude is prevailing around the clubhouse. Maybe that’s true on greatly underachieving teams or borderline teams that aren’t catching the breaks, but it seems far more likely that winning makes teams happy and instills camaraderie while losing makes teams sad and makes people look inward. Players tend to get the causation wrong about all of that because, I suspect, they don’t want to admit that they’re not as talented as the competition so it has to come down to some motivational or mental defect. Which, if that makes a player feel better, fine, but these O’s weren’t going to win many games even if they came in with smiles on their faces while singing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” out of their rear ends every day. They just aren’t good.

Whatever you think of all of that, one thing is clear: the O’s need to clean house in a major, major way.