We don’t go easy on ballplayers who use PEDs because they’re “our heroes.” Quite the opposite

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I linked to Jeff Pearlman’s radio interview and post about how he feels Mark McGwire should be banned from baseball because he took PEDs back in the 90s and early 2000s when he was playing. There has been considerable reaction to his thoughts on that, mostly negative.

Pearlman responds to that at his blog. He’s quite upset that people aren’t as upset about it. And he thinks he knows why: fans worship athletes and let them get away with murder.

He says that McGwire and Bonds unconscionably destroyed records but “[t]o the athlete worshiper, none of that matters.” He goes on to say that even though sports is a fun diversion, “kids are watching” and “accountability means something” and for that reason “heroes can be called out, even if it hurts.”

I disagree with the very premise. As I said the other day, the idea that athletes are or should be heroes is simply foreign to me. Thus the notion that I and those who think like me go easy on PED users because we’re star struck or because we worship athletes is totally wrong. I get less outraged than most on the topic specifically because they are not heroes. Because they are ordinary people with ordinary human flaws.

This does not excuse them. If there are punishments rightfully due to them, they should receive them. But it does render moral outrage at their failings to be inapt, to say the least.

About those punishments and sanctions: Pearlman says this:

Stephen Glass never worked in journalism again. Myriad accountants and lawyers and doctors—once found guilty of violating serious professional bylaws—are done. Yet, in sports, coaches always say, “In America, we give second chances.” Yeah, if you hit home runs.

Yes. But that’s because The New Republic and journalism as a whole was very clear to Mr. Glass before he started working that plagiarism and fabrication was a fireable and, essentially, banishable offense. Lawyers and doctors have specifically set-out bylaws that detail the rules to be followed and the punishment to which they will be subject if they do not. It’s very, very clear.

Pearlman, on the other hand, would banish McGwire for conforming to norms of his profession at the time. Norms that, however odious they may seem to us now, existed and were strongly reinforced by the system in which he played when he did so. And even now, when those norms no longer apply, there are specifically set-out penalties for violating the rules. They do not include banishment for life unless someone has three offenses and they in no way apply retroactively. His comparison, then, is totally out to lunch.

But back to McGwire: No matter how angry he makes some people, he does not mean anything more to me than any other entertainer or celebrity does. The home run record is a statistic, not a sacred thing. Others may disagree with that, which is their right, but that’s on them. For my part, my lack of outrage on the subject is not because I believe them to be special or untouchable. It’s quite the opposite.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.