There were a bunch of notable events around the baseball world yesterday and I thought it would be relevant to discuss them in more detail. Today's batch of news features Ryan Braun, Chris Carpenter, Bud Norris rumors, and a top prospect list.
Ryan Braun Linked to PED Clinic:
Personally, I am so, so, so sick of discussing anything steroids related. I'm tired of the holier than thou attitude thrown at players after any link, no matter how small, to a performance enhancing substance or to anyone once affiliated with PED's. I'm completely baffled (and a little frustrated) that it's so much of an issue in baseball and a relative afterthought in football and basketball.* And I've had just about enough of the 'discovery-denial-public outcry-eventual mea culpa' procedure these events usually trigger.
*- It's a few years old, but NBA commissioner David Stern once said that he didn't think PED's were an issue in the NBA. I'm with him: I can't imagine that a player slogging through his fourth game in four states in five nights would be tempted by a greenie either.
The fact is that ultra-competitive athletes (a label pretty much every major leaguer would anoint himself with) are wired to seek competitive advantages. That doesn't mean they all take PED's, but steroids do offer a tangible method to potentially boost an athlete's performance, and it's not surprising that a number of players are attracted to them. Given this and the inevitability of medical advancements, it's apparent that PED's are going to be a part of the sport's landscape for a long time.
That doesn't mean baseball shouldn't test and suspend players for drug usage: owners, fans, and players in the aggregate all want to eliminate drug use and if a certain proportion of players want to renegade against that common goal, I have no problem with baseball handing them a hefty suspension. But the moral outrage and the Hall of Fame hysteria over drugs are, frankly, ridiculous in the broader scheme of things and at this point, I can't get worked up about players doping. It's silly to think that PED's will ever go away and I'm not going to get surprised every time someone gets caught with drugs, no matter how notable or obscure the player in question may be.
As for Braun, he's denying that Anthony Bosch (the operator of the Miami-based clinic accused of providing steroids to a number of major leaguers, including Braun and Alex Rodriguez) gave him with any substances and arguing that he merely used Bosch as a consultant in his (successful) appeal to overturn a drug suspension last winter. I have no idea about the validity of these claims, but if his legacy was already in warm water after his positive test last year, it's safe to say that the temperature is now boiling. Whether he gets suspended or not (and given the scant evidence against him at this point, that doesn't look like an imminent possibility), he's now been linked to PED's twice. Does that tarnish his reputation at all? Up to you I guess. I'm both inclined to believe him until he's proven guilty and relatively ambivalent about the entire debacle.
Chris Carpenter likely out for 2013, possibly facing retirement:
After gutting his way through a litany of injuries over the past several seasons, Carpenter reportedly can't throw a ball right now, and will likely need extensive surgery to have any hope of getting back into playing shape. Carpenter was already pitching through the kinds of maladies that pushed Sandy Koufax towards an early retirement (the Joe Strauss article I linked to above alludes to the rib he's already had removed, as well as persistent numbness and bruising in his arm and hand) and at thirty-seven years old, Carpenter has expressed an interest in retiring while he can still "lift his children."
It's an understandable sentiment to say the least. If this is it for Carpenter, he exits with a Cy Young, two World Series titles, and a well-deserved reputation as one of the best big game pitchers in the game's history.*
*- On that note, I wonder if Carpenter might present a Jack Morris-type case for Hall of Fame voters down the line. For me, as great as he undoubtedly was from 2005-2011, he's well short of induction standards. WAR isn't the end all be all in HOF discussion, but it's nearly impossible for a pitcher with 32 career WAR to have a HOF case. For me, at least.
But, between his dominance when healthy, playoff record, and a number of intangibles (staff ace, clubhouse leader, etc.) I wonder if he might get enough bonus points from certain voters to generate a discussion. We'll see.
Keith Law's top 100 prospects came out:
In happier news, ESPN prospect guru Keith Law unveiled his top 100 prospects yesterday. Today he's releasing his top 10 prospects for each American League team and I heard through the grapevine that he'll be offering up plenty of commentary along with his list. It's all pay-walled, but Law alone is worth an insider subscription, if you have the means.
As a teaser, I'll note that he ranked four Mariner prospects: Taijuan Walker (9), Mike Zunino (15), Danny Hultzen (66), and Nick Franklin (69). Brandon Mauerer landed on his 'just missed' list.
In his chat yesterday afternoon (free and worth reading), he alluded to James Paxton's age (23) and high walk rate (over 4.5 BB/9) in double A last year as reasons for why he missed the cut.
Bud Norris might be on the trade block:
If you, like me, thought the Astros' midseason fire-sale that culminated in 107 losses last year indicated that the shelves were finally empty in Houston, you were wrong. Jed Lowrie was dealt to Oakland earlier this week and now starter Bud Norris might be on the block as well.
Norris is more decent than great: he had a 4.65/4.23/4.12 pitcher slash (ERA/FIP/xFIP) last season, all of which were similar figures to his career norms. Basically, he's good for about a win and a half per year with a chance for more if he ever gets his pesky walk rate (3.80 BB/9) under control. I'm not betting on that happening, but given the dire straits the Mariners find themselves in with their rotation, they would be wise to explore acquiring Norris anyways. His three remaining arbitration years ensure that he won't come free, but his modest production at the big league level suggests that it wouldn't cost the Mariners an arm and a leg to acquire his services.