Roundtable: All Star Break Edition
With the All Star break on us and news slowing somewhat for the next few days, we decided to gather to our keyboards and have another chat among our writers. As usual, we chatted about some of the bigger stories of the last week around baseball, including the All Star Game, Chris Davis, and the inescapable BioGenesis mess.
Obviously one of the hottest topics right now is the leak that BioGenesis suspensions are coming, and potentially as soon as after the All Star break. There’s been a lot of different information swirling around about them in the last week, so it’s been hard to get a firm grasp on what exactly is going to happen, but what do you think about how this mess has gone on?
Jeff Reese: As someone who has stated a few times that I don’t give a damn what someone decides to ingest, I find this potential decision to be infuriating. It’s one thing to collectively decide to have testing for certain substances, but to suspend players based off of suspicion of use, no matter how strong the suspicion may be, I find that to be extremely distasteful. I smiled when Braun got out of his suspension last year.
John Verburg: Truth be told, I really haven’t dove into the BioGenesis situation all that much. At this point, I am just reserving judgment since I frankly have no idea what information or proof MLB has at this point. In general with these things, it seems as if where there is smoke there tends to be fire, but I’m tired of the whole episode. The only way any of this nonsense truly stops is if you start kicking these guys out of the game for good on a second offense, regardless of the name.
Evan Rentschler: I’m with Jeff on the subject of non-analytic positives. Suspending someone based on possession/purchase of a PED or solely on the basis of witness testimony is highly problematic. One thing I find specifically troubling about BioGenesis is that Bosch’s testimony has been effectively coerced, as he’s only testifying to avoid an MLB lawsuit that would cripple his business and his finances. That kind of pressure can cause people to do and say just about anything, and I expect it to be raised constantly by the players under scrutiny and their legal counsels. I’m also troubled by the attempt to treat this as two offenses so that 100-game suspensions can be applied, and hope to see that cynical bid foiled.
In broader terms, more and more players support discipline for PED use, and I have no problem with suspensions based on failed drug tests. I don’t agree with banning players over this, and consider that sort of extreme measure to be counter-productive. Should we know who is using in order to place a mental asterisk next to their accomplishments? Sure. Is it irksome to clean players that they’re competing for playing time and a paycheck against someone who may be juicing? No doubt. But I refuse to get hysterical over PEDs and the idea that they’re ruining the sport. The sooner this is over the better, for the players, the sport, and the fans.
Al Skorupa: I don’t understand why Major League Baseball seems so intent on dragging itself through the mud. What’s the goal here? Are teams pushing for these suspensions (nope)? This all could have been forgotten. I understand the principle behind this and all PED suspensions involved… but the information here seems pretty sketchy. Also, is there an element of the media or the fans that’s pushing strongly for this? Would anyone condemn baseball if they concluded they didn’t have the evidence to pursure this further? I don’t know why MLB as an organization would want to pursue this so doggedly when the major results are to a) anger the MLBPA; and b) make baseball as a sport look bad. I find it hard to imagine another major sport doing this.
Conor Dowley: I don’t have much to add to what’s already been said, aside to note this: at this point, after everything that’s happened in the public eye, there’s no good way for this to turn out for MLB.
On an (unfortunately) related note, the baseless accusations of steroid use by Chris Davis reached a fever pitch last week, resulting in Davis having to make a public statement on the matter. Will this sort of needless drama ever go away?
Jeff: God, I hope so.
John: Probably not. I can tell you from living in an area where Tigers fans reside, I’ve heard it quite a bit. Frankly, it’s a lot of nonsense from people that just don’t know the history of a guy that has always had massive power. The guy has turned himself into a good hitter, with a lot of physical strength in a small park. Add it up, and it’s a lot of home runs.
Evan: This is probably the third good reason to eliminate PED use: it ends baseless accusations against players who probably aren’t using. That said, the idea that we can go around tarnishing someone’s name in the absence of evidence, erring on the side of guilt until innocence is proved, is despicable. That has nothing to do with PEDs or the people using them and everything to do with the pathology of fans and media members who have became deranged on the topic. Mostly I feel terrible for Davis. It’s extremely disheartening that a stretch of performance that should be of boundless satisfaction to him has instead been turned against him. I give him credit for handling it as gracefully as he has.
Al: It’s tremendously unprofessional and irresponsible for media members, players or managers to suggest things like that. It’s entirely unfair for random fans with no insight to do so on twitter as well.
Conor: I hate that Davis has ever been dragged in to this mess. It’s not like he’s some nothing hitter who suddenly got huge and started hitting bombs. Power has never, ever been his problem: consistent quality contact was. He showed signs of turning that around last season, and this year he’s looked fantastic at the plate. At this point, any player having a breakout season of any kind will be fair game for accusations, and it’s painfully ridiculous that we’ve reached such a point.
Is there any way to fix how ridiculous the All Star Game process has become?
Jeff: The MLB ASG really doesn’t appeal to me. The Futures Game will be the only event that I watch, and I would assume that the casual fan is much more interested in the ASG than someone like me would be (hell, I watch very little regular season baseball at the major league level).
John: I don’t particularly care about the All Star game or its process at all. Even with home field advantage on the line, I still don’t pay attention. I think the All-Star should be, and is for kids who love the game, but I would much rather have my hometown players at home resting instead of potentially injuring themselves in a game that is slightly more than an exhibition.
Evan: I care so little about the ASG that I’m not even sure what process issues are being bruited about! I think it’s silly that the outcome determines home field advantage in the World Series, and it too often rewards half a season of performance, but most All-Star Games bore me, so why should baseball’s be different?
Al: I find it hard to get worked up about the All Star Game. It’s entirely impossible to take it seriously at this point. The same goes for the MVP, Cy Young and other awards. I’d say the process needs a total makeover… perhaps with a committee of experts narrowing down the choices. Bill James has suggested that in the past for things like Gold Gloves and it makes sense. On the other hand, these things are mostly for the fans.
Did the Blue Jays make a mistake in not signing Phil Bickford, or was the mistake in drafting him at #10 in the first place?
Jeff: I’m a little bit shocked that they couldn’t come to an agreement. Top 10 felt a bit rich for Bickford, and to see him shun slot money was definitely unexpected. This just helps illustrate the point that I always try to hammer home: value is subjective and not solely monetary in nature; draftees may put a high price tag on foregoing college baseball. More goes into a decision than simply how to maximize your draft bonus. As for the Jays, it certainly hurts when you don’t sign your first round pick. Luckily for them they managed to ink Jake Brentz (who I didn’t expect to be signable for 6 figures) and to a lesser extent Rowdy Tellez. That lessens the blow of losing a year of development on a pitcher that they obviously liked.
John: I almost don’t want to answer this question, because I just believe this whole slotting system is stupid. Toronto shouldn’t have touched Bickford if they weren’t willing to match his number of $4.25M when that is well over the slot they were allotted. The Jays obviously misjudged Bickford, and it’s surprising that Bickford would pass that money up considering he wasn’t a first rounder until later in the spring. The bottom line is, if Bickford wants to experience college, and pass up a bunch of money that very well might not be there in three years, that is his prerogative.
Evan: Can I cop out and answer “both?” Bickford seemed like an overdraft at that slot, but if you’re going to take a guy Top 10 then you need to sign him,and part of that is having a rock solid idea of his asking price and willingness to ink the contract. Jeff beat me to the punch in bringing up the Brentz signing. I had him as a phenomenal upside arm who wasn’t light years behind Bickford in terms of ceiling, so to get him for what amounted to a song in draft dollars was a coup.
As both Jeff and John point out, college commits can be tough to break, and the Jays have already gone through this once recently when they rolled the dice on the 21st pick and lost Beede to Vanderbilt. That, for what it’s worth, is about the earliest I’d have popped Bickford as well, so if forced to choose I’d probably elect the overdraft as the bigger gaffe of the two. Why not just take Reese McGuire, who went four spots later and who was known to have been covered by the Jays as much as any prep player they followed this year? I don’t pretend to know what went on in negotiations, but the surest way to avoid that issue is to draft the right guy.
Al: With the new rules and the system in place there’s a stronger emphasis on not swinging and missing like this. All the same, these things happen. We are dealing with teenagers here. As Jeff mentioned they had a good backup plan in place being able to throw money at Brentz and Tellez, so they deserve some praise on that end.