I noted that fans on Twitter have come to assume Chris Davis is using steroids every time he hits a homer but now we have a well-known sportswriter — Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times — doing it too. Oh, he couches it in the “hey, maybe he’s clean, we just don’t know!” language all of these guys have come to use, but make no mistake: Rick Telander is accusing Chris Davis of using steroids:
People might wonder what the fallout from the baseball’s Steroid Era is.
Try this: Amazing Orioles slugger Chris Davis (in town to play the White Sox) is on pace to hit 61 home runs — Roger Maris’ golden number — and what he gets as a reception instead of cheery anticipation is a lot of raised eyebrows. The first thing that goes through any informed fan’s mind when he or she sees a 6-3, 230-pound muscleman come from almost nowhere and suddenly start ringing the home-run bell is steroids.
He throws in some casual speculation of Miguel Cabrera too. Then he notes that Davis has had a three-month span of homers which is similar to one Rafael Palmeiro once had and stings it with “Palmeiro? Yep, a previously disgraced ’roider.”
Once again it’s worth reminding ourselves that when a blogger said stuff nowhere near as pointed as this a few years ago he was excoriated by the national professional sporting press. Now guys like Telander do it every time a slugger who was not previously thought of as A-list hits some homers and no one cares. Jose Bautista got this treatment a couple of years ago. Davis is getting it now. And these hacks continue to sit there and act like they have earned the right to be gatekeepers of the sport we love. Like they’re some esteemed authority whose judgment should be presumed to be sound.
Baloney. You don’t have to assume Chris Davis is taking some banned substance. You can watch him play well and enjoy it. You really can. If something comes up later, welp, it comes up later and we can reassess what we think about Chris Davis’ accomplishments. But to simply assume like Telander does that everyone who plays this game well must be a cheater is misery personified.
(link via BleedCubbieBlue)
In Major League Baseball, players are routinely pressured to play through injury and pain. Sometimes it’s just a minor ache, and sometimes it’s a very serious injury. The pressure comes from everywhere: the players themselves, their peers, coaches, front offices, media, and fans. Players who develop a reputation for landing on the disabled list are described as “soft” and “fragile.” Players who battle through the pain get talked about as “gritty” and “dedicated.”
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Cardinals are trying to encourage their players to be more honest about their health. The culture surrounding this is tough to change, but manager Mike Matheny wants his players to come to him if “anything that is off.” As Goold notes, Alex Reyes and Matt Bowman revealed they were, in Bowman’s words, not “entirely forthcoming.” Carlos Martinez said he pitched tentatively because he was “scared” of re-injuring himself. Matheny also called pitcher Michael Wacha “a great liar” when talking about his arm health.
Matt Carpenter has also played through injury and takes pride in it. He’s an example of the old mentality the club is trying to pierce through. Caarpenter said, “I’m a believer in if you’re getting paid to do a job and you’re capable of doing the job — even if it’s 85 percent of your best — I feel you have the obligation to be out there. That is the mentality I’ve always used. I could have very easily, at times last year, sat on the [disabled list], but I felt like I could still go out and do my job.”
Goold points out that players approach dealing with health issues differently depending on where they’re at in their careers. A young player who just got called up has pressure to stay in the big leagues and appear in games, so he may not want to address a health issue. A player who has already secured a multi-year contract may have less pressure on him and thus may be more willing to come to the trainer’s room.
I’ve long believed that player health will be the next arena in which front offices will separate themselves from the pack. Analytics had been that battleground for a while, but with every club now having an analytics department in some capacity, front offices will have to find value in new ways. Limiting the amount of time that players miss due to injury would be a significant boost for a team and it will start with players being forthcoming about what’s bothering them rather than trying to fight through pain.