Oh my stars and garters, what if an All-Star tests positive for drugs!

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That’s the short version of Bob Nightengale’s latest column in which he reminds us how the Republic ended last year when Melky Cabrera won the All-Star Game MVP award before his drug suspension. And how, thanks to Biogenesis looming over everything, it could happen again.

Nightengale’s concern here is at about a 20 on a ten point scale, referring to Cabrera’s MVP award as “a punch line for an otherwise glorious season.” I think it’s stretching it to even call it a footnote, but if Nightengale wants to say it turned 2012 into a joke he’s welcome to his opinion. Fact is every player in the All-Star Game is tested for drugs at some point every year. It’s quite possible that any player — not just four random ones currently in the news — could be suspended for drugs at any time. That’s a feature of the system, not a bug. If that feature is something which ruins seasons for him he probably needs to find another line of work, because it’s going to happen again. That’s how it works when you test players for drugs.

I don’t think Nightengale really thinks that, though. I think that, rather, he’s playing the Melky/All-Star Game angle up because it allows him to mix in (a) a Manny Ramirez digression that has zero to do with the All-Star Game or, beyond the yuks of it all, baseball relevance in 2013; and (b) extended quotes from Don Hooton of the Taylor Hooton foundation about the evils of steroids, all in the service of writing a large, point-free “steroids are bad, mmkay” ramble.

The Hooton stuff makes me sad. Taylor Hooton, in case you were unaware, was a high school baseball player who committed suicide several years ago. He was also taking steroids at the time and his parents have decided that the steroids caused his suicide. He also happened to have suffered from low self-esteem and was taking an anti-depressant (Lexapro) which has been linked to an increased risk of suicide, but that part is usually left out. The Hootons — and most baseball writers — have determined that the suicide was caused by the steroids alone and they are widely quoted on the matter whenever PEDs in baseball returns to the news.

When one sees a quote from Mr. Hooton in these stories one’s heart can’t help but go out to him and the tragedy which befell his son and his family. One can’t escape the fact, however, that Mr. Hooton’s experience and views on the matter, however tragic, are wholly irrelevant to Major League Baseball, its drug testing program and the All-Star Game. Even if you accept Don Hooton’s explanation for the cause of his son’s suicide, Taylor Hooton was a teenager playing high school sports, facing wholly different sorts of pressures and incentives than professional athletes do. His foundation is the recipient of funds and support from Major League Baseball, but he not part of baseball’s drug enforcement regime.  As such, when Mr. Hooton opines on the All-Star Game and Manny Ramirez and suggests that baseball’s collectively-bargained PEDs penalties are insufficient, one struggles to find a point.

But hey: if the column gets one more person emotionally agitated over PEDs in baseball, mission accomplished, right?

Nationals GM Rizzo won’t reveal length of Martinez’s new contract

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WASHINGTON — Dave Martinez spoke Saturday about managing the Washington Nationals for “many, many years” and over the “long term” and “quite some time,” thanks to his contract extension.

Sharing a table to a socially distanced degree with his manager on a video conference call to announce the new deal – each member of the duo sporting a 2019 World Series ring on his right hand – Nationals GM Mike Rizzo referred to the agreement’s “multiyear” nature, but repeatedly refused to reveal anything more specific in response to reporters’ questions.

“We don’t talk about terms as far as years, length and salaries and that type of thing. We’re comfortable with what we have and the consistency that we’re going to have down the road,” said Rizzo, who recently agreed to a three-year extension of his own. “That’s all we want to say about terms, because it’s private information and we don’t want you guys to know about it.”

When Martinez initially was hired by Rizzo in October 2017 – his first managing job at any level – the Nationals’ news release at the time announced that he was given a three-year contract with an option for a fourth year.

That 2021 option had not yet been picked up.

“The partnership that Davey and I have together, our communication styles are very similar. Our aspirations are similar, and kind of our mindset of how to obtain the goals that we want to obtain are similar. I think it’s a good match,” Rizzo said. “We couldn’t have hit on a more positive and enthusiastic leader in the clubhouse. I think you see it shine through even in the most trying times.”

The Nationals entered Saturday – Martinez’s 56th birthday – with a 23-34 record and in last place in the NL East, which Rizzo called “a disappointing season.” The team’s title defense was slowed by injuries and inconsistency during a 60-game season delayed and shortened by the coronavirus pandemic.

World Series MVP Stephen Strasburg threw just five innings because of a nerve issue in his pitching hand and players such as Starlin Castro, Sean Doolittle, Tanner Rainey, Adam Eaton and Carter Kieboom finished the year on the IL.

“This year, for me, we didn’t get it done. We had a lot of bumps in the road this year. But I really, fully believe, we’ve got the core guys here that we need to win another championship,” Martinez said. “I know Mike, myself, we’re going to spend hours and hours and hours trying to fill the void with guys we think can potentially help us in the future. And we’ll be back on the podium. I’m really confident about that.”

Rizzo was asked Saturday why the team announces contract lengths for players, as is common practice around the major leagues, but wouldn’t do so in this instance for Martinez.

“The reason is we don’t want anybody to know. That’s the reason,” Rizzo said, before asking the reporter: “How much do you make? How many years do you have?”

Moments later, as the back-and-forth continued, Rizzo said: “It’s kind of an individual thing with certain people. I don’t want you to know what I make or how many years I have. Davey doesn’t want you to know. And I think that it’s only fair … when people don’t want certain information out there, that we don’t give it.”

There were some calling for Martinez to lose his job last season when Washington got off to a 19-31 start. But Rizzo stood by his manager, and the team eventually turned things around, going 74-38 the rest of the way to reach the playoffs as an NL wild-card team.

The Nationals then beat the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals to reach the World Series, where they beat the Houston Astros in Game 7.

Washington joined the 1914 Boston Braves as the only teams in major league history to win a World Series after being 12 games below .500 during a season.

“Everything from Day 1 to where he’s gotten to now, he’s grown so much. He’s really become one of my favorite managers of all,” three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer said after helping Washington win Saturday’s opener of a doubleheader against the New York Mets. “Davey really understands how to manage a clubhouse, manage a team. We saw it in the postseason. He knows how to push the right buttons when everything is on the line.”