A day later, I have some perspective on Mike Morse‘s suspension. First, outside of baseball, no one seems to have noticed. This confirms what we thought after Rafael Palmeiro was suspended and the full weight of public scorn rained down on him: Fans wouldn’t have the same reaction in the case of a player of little reknown. No one cares that Morse took steroids. Mike Morse hasn’t broken records, he doesn’t have kids running around with his name on their jersey, and he isn’t heading to Cooperstown anytime soon.
Morse, however, is a truer face of steroids. Morse says that he took Deca-Durabolin, then Winstrol in late 2003, and tested positive twice in the minor leagues, then again in early 2005 under the MLB testing policy. The arbitrator found his case compelling, but positive is positive under the MLB policy and a compelling case gets bupkus.
Could Morse be facing triple jeopardy for one offense, as Peter Gammons put it? Yes, it’s quite possible. Larry Stone of the Seattle Times has a great, fact-based story that details Deca’s breakdown. I don’t buy the “one time use” story in the slightest, not coming from a minor-league team rife with use and with rampant tales of Morse’s involvement. While his defense is plausible, it’s hardly rock solid, if even a defense. Taking it at face value, Morse used steroids to rehab from injury, not to get better, and to continue his career, not bust down the door. We’ve seen this over and over across sports–the use of steroids is often just to get back to the baseline, either due to injury or overuse.
The more interesting part of this, apart from the lack of reaction, is what it teaches us. First, the minor-league testing policy is not related in any way to the major-league policy. A player can test positive a number of times (though not more than three due to recent changes), then come to the majors with a clean slate. Second, this process is painfully slow. Morse’s arbitration hearing was just after the All-Star break, and we’re just getting the decision. Perhaps the blame isn’t all MLB’s as some thought. Finally, Congress is back in session and will use the disconnect to ratchet up the penalties, using legislation rather than threats.
All in all, I have no sympathy for Morse, which is roughly the same amount I have for any of the violators and the few that have admitted their use. He chose to take steroids knowing they were against the rules and that he would be tested. I do feel that there should be something in the policy that allows for one offense to be just that, one offense. It’s hard to say how that would work–the suspension continues until the system is completely clear of the banned substance?–but we do know that the follow-up provisions for offenders could cause nightmare scenarios. I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m beginning to think that on one count, the naysayers may be right: Baseball isn’t doing a very good job with this. I’m just not sure that anyone else can do it better, but I’m open to ideas.
Powered by an industrial dehumidifier–don’t ask–on to the injuries…
- How do you simulate a game for Barry Bonds? Do you walk him three times and let him launch one into the bleachers? That’s not quite how it went Thursday for Bonds in what should be his final test. Despite being released by all medical personnel, the Giants wanted more. Bonds passed each test: running, throwing from the outfield, shagging flies and hitting. All reports were positive and Bonds figures to be back in the lineup this weekend. I’m not sure why there’s any delay. The Giants are now seven games back, and every game that Bonds plays gives the team a better shot of winning. That means that there’s something more, some piece of information that we’re missing in this story. I’m not saying there’s some wacked-out conspiracy, just that we often don’t know all the information taken into account and that’s obviously happening here, despite wall-to-wall coverage.
The Giants will also be dealing with an apparent groin injury to Jason Schmidt. He left Wednesday’s game, so we’ll be watching that closely.
- Sammy Sosa may have played his last game in Baltimore and, just maybe, his last in the U.S. Multiple sources believe that Sosa will head to Japan next season for a retirement-fund contract and a chance to hit as many home runs as Tuffy Rhodes, his former Cub teammate, did. Sosa’s toe is making progress, according to team sources, but Sosa was told that he would not be getting playing time in front of Walter Young and Jay Gibbons, so it was decided that it would be best for him to leave the team for now. Sosa plans a return, perhaps a victory lap/tip o’ the cap type appearance to show that he’s no Rafael Palmeiro. Say what you will about Sammy, he’s always been good for baseball.
- Hal McCoy broke the story on Ken Griffey Jr. and his strained foot. McCoy states that he has been told that Griffey has “pulled part of a tendon off the bone” in his foot. The injury, a partial avulsion, is very serious; a complete avulsion would be season-ending and would result in surgery. This is a surgery that Griffey is familiar with, having had one on the same right foot just two years ago. It’s unclear as yet if this is the same tendon. It also explains why Griffey’s injury appeared to be higher in the leg–the pain of the foot injury changed his gait, mimicking that of the trademark “hippity-hop” of a strained hamstring. Griffey’s season is in jeopardy, but even in a worst-case scenario, he’ll be ready for spring training next year.
- Just as the Giants are getting Barry Bonds back in a last, desperate push for the playoffs, the Padres are having to lean hard on their seven-game lead in the NL West. Jake Peavy will miss at least one start with an inflamed rotator cuff in his pitching shoulder. Peavy was not his normal expert self last Sunday and the Pads weren’t willing to risk their ace injuring himself further. Instead, Peavy will miss at least one start; if the team’s lead holds steady, he’ll miss two. They would give him one start during the last week, just to tune up and regain his confidence heading into the playoffs. Peavy is 12th in the latest PAP report and has lost efficiency this season as his strikeouts have gone up, adding six more pitches per outing over last year and five more over 2003.
On the flip side, Ramon Hernandez came back to the lineup just seven weeks after wrist surgery. I guess it will help his next contract if he goes to the playoffs with the Pads.
- Will Bartolo Colon be able to make his next start? The signs are mixed, as my Magic Eight Ball once told me. Colon has been describing continuing pain–not tightness, but pain–and the Angels have been wavering on that scheduled Saturday start. Despite that, the Angels used the likely replacement for Colon, Kelvim Escobar, in a relief appearance Tuesday. Mike Scioscia stated that he wasn’t afraid to use Escobar in any situation, something that has to be disconcerting for a fading bullpen staff. Expect Colon to make the start and leave early.
- I wouldn’t blame Paul DePodesta if he was curled up behind his desk in a fetal position right now. His team is already on its way to near record levels of injury days and dollars lost, and then comes this: Cesar Izturis will have Tommy John surgery. He was on the DL for a back problem when the elbow seemed to get worse. Izturis has a stretched and structurally unsound ligament, damaged by the lingering effects of an injury he suffered as a Little Leaguer. Unlike a pitcher, Izturis will be ready for spring training without noticeable effect. Maybe the Dodgers will have no injuries next season, just to even out the karma. Or not.
- The Braves bullpen hasn’t been this undecided since … well, I can’t find a time when Cox and Mazzone hadn’t put together a solid bullpen by this time at any stretch during their dynasty. Chris Reitsma, the guy who took over when Danny Kolb‘s shiny closerness wore off and found himself passed over for Kyle Farnsworth late last month, pulled up lame with a strained hamstring. As the bullpen sorts itself out in the last month, a period of time missed could cause things to shake into place without Reitsma in the mix. That’s something that could affect his value next year, heading into his last arbitration.
- It’s not often that we talk about two sore Astro pitchers and don’t mention Roy Oswalt. Oops, guess I just did. Oswalt’s fine, but Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte are dealing with small injuries, both more of the annoyance type than the problematic type. Clemens has his back and hamstring problems, Pettitte has a mild foot problem, and neither figures to miss their next start. Both will be watched closely and will likely be removed at the slightest suggestion of a problem. Context is important to note as well. Phil Garner is more likely to push his aces if the wild-card race remains close.
The Astros are also missing Morgan Ensberg. The slugging third baseman missed a couple games due to being hit on the hand by a pitch, but figures to be back on the field Friday.
- If you have Rich Harden penciled in for Sunday, get your erasers out. Harden’s rehab schedule included another session of long-toss on Wednesday and a 50-foot session with a catcher on Friday. That pretty much precludes his being available for the planned Sunday start and probably pushes him back until at least the following Wednesday. Assuming he follows something resembling a normal schedule, he’ll take the mound a couple days before his next start and show a full complement of pitches over a 30-40 pitch outing. I still don’t put it past Oakland to do something sneaky.
- Seriously, Kyle Lohse? Lohse apparently went after Ron Gardenhire’s office door with a bat. During the hissy fit, Lohse apparently injured a finger, though X-rays later showed no fracture. The door, on the other hand, was damaged but escaped serious harm when most of Lohse’s blows were high and outside.
- Lateral elbow soreness. That sounds ominous when discussing Jeremy Bonderman and his golden arm. Bonderman has been working on a new pitch and the twisting has caused a bit of soreness. Twisting new pitch? Sounds like Bonderman and pitching coach Bob Cluck are working on a circle change. That could be good news long-term, even with the short-term setback.
- Quick Cuts: Mike Piazza made good progress over the last few days. According to Newsday, Piazza will have a simulated game and could be back next week … Don’t be surprised if Chris Young is done for the season. So far, Buck Showalter is only saying he’s out for his next start. Young made nice steps forward this season … Gary Sheffield says “Barry Bonds doesn’t work harder than me.” No, but as good as you are, Gary, Bonds is more talented than you. Oh, and the hamstring’s no concern … This will sound silly, but my e-mail address has changed. Those of you that knew it need to know that and those of you that don’t still don’t. Either way, e-mailing me at email@example.com always works.
Be sure to listen to this week’s BPR. We have lots of great guests, including Gordon Edes of the Boston Globe, David Leonhardt of The New York Times, and Jim Bouton, the author of Foul Ball and the classic Ball Four. Go ahead and accuse me of East Coast bias.