When it comes to MLB’s anti-PED efforts, “the process is selective”

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There is a lot to chew on in William Rhoden’s New York Times column about Alex Rodriguez and the Biogenesis mess.  Some of it even I, a pretty reliable defender of players being accused of using PEDs, can’t sign on to.

For example, I do not think that anyone, no matter how overreaching MLB becomes, will actually “root” for A-Rod. He’s basically impossible to root for, even if you do want to see that he is given due process and a fair shake.

I also don’t believe that he or the MLBPA should mount an appeal simply for the purposes of challenging the credibility of evidence against him. Maybe it makes sense to appeal — especially if the discipline leveled is overly-harsh — but the calculation to appeal or not should mostly be one that serves the pragmatic interests of the player involved, not one of principle alone.

Finally, I doubt Rhoden’s theory that, if A-Rod does appeal, that he’d have more people rooting for him than he thinks. It’s pretty lonely in the “defend A-Rod” camp. Believe me, I know from experience.

But if it is lonely there it’s for a reason Rhoden also outlines. An idea with which I agree 100%: Baseball has pretty consciously sought out villains in its anti-PED efforts and is pretty content to let A-Rod be the villain here. That, as Rhoden notes, “the process is selective.”

Rhoden notes that, despite hundreds of players using PEDs in the 90s and early 2000s, baseball was happy to allow big power hitters like McGwire, Sosa and Bonds to be the face of PEDs. I’ll add that MLB’s primary anti-PED effort of those years — The Mitchell Report — did almost nothing to reduce or combat PEDs and almost everything to change the PED conversation from “how do we stop them” to “what are the big names doing them?” We all acknowledge that real risk of PEDs is when players are the margins are forced out by PED users taking their roster spots or are coerced by that dynamic into doing them themselves, yet we still focus on the big stars who would be in the league anyway.

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So it is with A-Rod. Maybe he is orders of magnitude worse than any other Biogenesis offender. We have to take MLB’s word on that for now. But it’s also a fact that MLB is quite adept at hanging big names out to dry for the purpose of making them, as opposed to Bud Selig or the game’s overall culture or drug testing system, the face of the problem.

Cole Hamels done for year after just 1 start for Braves

Cole Hamels triceps injury
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ATLANTA — After making just one start for the Atlanta Braves, Cole Hamels is done for the season.

Hamels reported shortly before the start of a four-game series against the Miami Marlins that he didn’t feel like he could get anything on the ball. The left-hander was scheduled to make his second start Tuesday after struggling throughout the year to overcome shoulder and triceps issues.

The Braves placed Hamels on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Sept. 18,, but that was a mere formality. General manager Alex Anthopoulos already contacted Major League Baseball about replacing Hamels in the team’s postseason player pool.

“Cole knows himself and his body,” Anthopoulos said. “You trust the player at that point when he says he can’t go.”

The Braves began Monday with a three-game lead in the NL East .and primed for their third straight division title.

Even with that success, Atlanta has struggled throughout the shortened 60-game series to put together a consistent rotation beyond Cy Young contender Max Fried and rookie Ian Anderson.

Expected ace Mike Soroka went down with a season-ending injury, former All-Star Mike Foltynewicz was demoted after just one start, and Sean Newcomb also was sent to the alternate training site after getting hammered in his four starts.

The Braves have used 12 starters this season.

Anthopoulos had hoped to land another top starter at the trade deadline but the only deal he was able to make was acquiring journeyman Tommy Milone from the Orioles. He’s on the injured list after getting hammered in three starts for the Braves, giving up 22 hits and 16 runs in just 9 2/3 innings.

“There’s no doubt that our starting pitching has not performed to the level we wanted it to or expected it to,” Anthopoulos said. “I know that each year you never have all parts of your club firing. That’s why depth is so important.”

Hamels, who signed an $18 million, one-year contract last December, reported for spring training with a sore shoulder stemming from an offseason workout.

When camps were shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, Hamels was able to take a more cautious approach to his rehabilitation. But a triceps issue sidelined again before the delayed start of the season in July.

The Braves hoped Hamels would return in time to provide a boost for the playoffs. He also was scheduled to start the final game of the regular season Sunday, putting him in position to join the postseason rotation behind Fried and Anderson.

Now, Hamels is done for the year, his Braves’ career possibly ending after he made that one appearance last week in Baltimore. He went 3 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on three hits, with two strikeouts and one walk in a loss to the Orioles.

Hamels reported no problems immediately after his start, but he didn’t feel right after a bullpen session a couple of days ago.

“You’re not going to try to talk the player into it,” Anthopoulos said. “When he says he isn’t right, that’s all we need to hear.”

Atlanta recalled right-hander Bryse Wilson to replace Hamels on the 28-man roster. The Braves did not immediately name a starter for Tuesday’s game.

With Hamels out, the Braves will apparently go with Fried (7-0, 1.96), Anderson (3-1, 2.36) and Kyle Wright (2-4, 5.74) as their top three postseason starters.

Hamels is a four-time All-Star with a career record of 163-122. He starred on Philadelphia’s World Series-winning team in 2008 and also pitched for Texas and the Chicago Cubs.

Last season, Hamels went 7-7 with a 3.81 ERA in 27 starts for the Cubs.