Before you call for stiffer drug penalties please think about what just happened

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Within 12 hours of Ryan Braun — described by one national columnist as a “cockroach” — getting unprecedented discipline and going down without even bothering to fight, the calls have already started for baseball to get even tougher. Just this morning I have seen multiple calls for automatic lifetime bans, contract-voiding provisions and all manner of draconian proposals. These calls are couched in the assumption that Ryan Braun somehow got off easy and that, because of that, Major League Baseball is still somehow not doing enough to stop PEDs.

This is nothing short of madness. It’s auto-piloted rage, flown in from 2006, and offered with all spleen and no thought.

Ken Rosenthal lays all of this bare in his excellent column this morning, which I implore you to read.  The short version: Baseball, in the space of a few short months, investigated and suspended a major star with the largest-ever penalty for first-time discipline. It did so without a test. It did so in such a way that union publicly implored the player not to fight and the player, in fact, did not fight.  It did so with the vocal approval of many current players who, just a few short years ago, would have said nothing and probably would have supported their union’s efforts to fight to the death.

We have experienced a complete paradigm shift with respect to performance enhancing drugs in baseball. One in which there is no truly acceptable defense to cheating and which the league is empowered by all stakeholders to root it out.

Yet, in light of that, people think the system is a joke. That the penalties need to be increased. That baseball isn’t doing enough? Jesus, people, do you see what baseball just did?

Juan Soto steals the show, powering Nationals past Astros 5-4 in World Series Game 1

Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images
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Nationals outfielder Juan Soto stole the show on Tuesday night in Houston, going 3-for-4 with a double, a homer, three RBI, and a stolen base to power his team past the Astros 5-4 in Game 1 of the World Series.

The Astros jumped on Max Scherzer for two runs in the bottom of the first inning to open the scoring. Scherzer allowed the first two batters he faced to reach on a single and a walk, then struck out the next two batters before allowing a two-strike, two-out, two-run double to Yuli Gurriel. Given the way Gerrit Cole has pitched all year long, two runs seemed like plenty.

Cole did not have his best stuff on this particular night. Ryan Zimmerman answered with a solo home run to center field with two outs in the top of the second inning, cutting the deficit to 2-1. Juan Soto would absolutely obliterate a Cole offering for a solo homer of his own in the fourth inning, tying the game at two apiece. Soto became the fourth player in baseball history to hit a World Series home run before his 21st birthday.

The Nationals hung a three-spot in the top of the fifth against Cole, putting their first two batters on base thanks to a walk and a single. Adam Eaton brought home the go-ahead run with a line drive single to right field. Soto followed up by scorching a line drive off of the wall in front of the Crawford boxes to plate two more runs, padding the Nats’ lead to 5-2.

The two runs the Astros got in the first inning would be all they would get off of Scherzer, though they did make him labor in every inning. Scherzer ultimately threw 112 pitches over five innings, yielding five hits and three walks with seven strikeouts.

Patrick Corbin worked a scoreless sixth, working around a one-out single. His usage out of the bullpen likely means he starts Game 4, not Game 3. Manager Dave Martinez handed the ball to hard-throwing right-hander Tanner Rainey for the seventh inning, but it didn’t work out. Rainey gave up a leadoff home run to George Springer to make it 5-3. Springer has now homered in five consecutive World Series games, breaking a tie with Reggie Jackson and Lou Gehrig to set a new major league record. Rainey got into yet more trouble, issuing back-to-back one-out walks to Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman, forcing Martinez to use Daniel Hudson a little earlier than anticipated. Hudson, however, was able to wriggle out of danger in the seventh.

Hudson wasn’t as fortunate in the eighth inning as the Astros continued to claw their way back. Pinch-hitter Kyle Tucker led off with a single, advanced to second base on a deep fly ball to center fielder Victor Robles. Springer brought Tucker home on a fly ball to right-center field that bounced high off of the fence, very nearly becoming a game-tying two-run homer. He settled for an RBI double. Hudson got José Altuve to fly out before handing the ball to lefty Sean Doolittle, who got Brantley to line out to end the inning.

In the ninth, Doolittle returned to the bump to close out the game. He struck out Bregman, got Gurriel to fly out to center, and Correa did the same to end the contest. Nationals take Game 1, 5-4 over the Astros, earning their first World Series victory in franchise history.

Cole, by the way, was still able to complete seven innings. The right-hander threw 104 pitches, allowing the five runs on eight hits and a walk with six strikeouts. He allowed more than one run for the first time this postseason, and more than two runs for the first time since August 28 against the Rays. The Astros lost a game he started for the first time since July 12 against the Rangers.

The Nationals, big underdogs entering the World Series, now have a 1-0 series lead over the Astros, successfully vanquishing Cole. The two sides will meet again for Game 2 on Wednesday night. Justin Verlander will oppose Stephen Strasburg.