Steroids keep popping up, taking some of the shine off what should be one of the greatest baseball seasons in my lifetime. The MLBPA finally responded to Bud Selig’s proposal from April, sounding willing to increase penalties, but not to the level that Selig suggested. There’s a pretty well-defined middle ground between MLB and the players, a middle that may be moot once Congress gets done with the Supreme Court Justice nomination process.

Penalties seem both very effective and not effective at all, but that’s not baseball’s fault, it’s ours. When Ryan Franklin tested positive, no one noticed. He served his 10 games and went back to being a league-average pitcher. Rafael Palmeiro, seemingly just as guilty as Franklin, has now received what could arguably be a lifetime suspension. Mike Morse? Jorge Piedra? Alex Sanchez? It’s only news–and only a penalty–if anyone knows who you are. The double standard is having an effect. I got a call from a player asking me questions that show that while usage isn’t an epidemic, it’s still problematic. I never thought a major leaguer would ask me how he could get steroids and growth hormone and which ones wouldn’t stay in his system long enough to re-test. I’ll have more on this soon, and I’ll once again call on baseball to do more than the NFL is doing.

Speaking of the NFL, did anyone catch their opaque “don’t get caught in the dark” PSA on steroids? I honestly had no idea what the commercial was talking about until the last line, and even then the message was lost.

My suggestion–and I’m talking to you, Arn Tellem–is to get Rafael Palmeiro looking at the camera during the playoffs, just as he did six months ago in Washington. He should say he used steroids, he was wrong, and that they should be out of baseball. He should be sincere, at least as sincere as he seemed at the Congressional hearings. Step up to the plate one last time, Raffy.

Powered by Son of a Witch, on to the injuries…

  • There was a lot of response to the thoughts about Johnny Damon and how his shoulder might affect things if the Red Sox make the playoffs. Damon, for his part, has been cured in some kind of miracle. Overnight, Damon suddenly says he has no problems with his shoulder, no pain, no weakness. While friend of UTK “MGL” pointed out that Damon’s arm wouldn’t affect the run expectancy by much, playoffs or not, I still want to see my third-base coaches testing Damon’s arm if I’m playing the Sox. Damon will certainly get a chance sometime in the next five important games to prove he’s healthy–or not.
  • The one thing I notice about the Mariners and their pitchers is not that they have a load of players injured; everyone notices that. What I notice is that they have a tendency to bring pitchers back, just to see them reinjure themselves. Gil Meche left his last start after just two innings with “shoulder fatigue,” though he certainly looked to be in pain as he left the field. I don’t know if the medical team is just more aggressive, if they’re being overruled by the field staff or what, but I do know that it’s another data point that the Mariners should be researching.
  • The Angels still don’t have a playoff rotation sorted out. Jarrod Washburn is on the edge of being left off the roster due to his continued forearm problems. Tests showed that the problem isn’t in his elbow, as it was with Mike Hampton, but that it’s more along the lines of what Troy Percival has, minus the surgical risk. Washburn, a free agent after the season, is hoping to pitch once more this season, but that only looks likely if the Angels can clinch by mid-week. The Angels want to set their rotation and rest the bullpen, something made harder if Washburn starts and comes out quickly.
  • Rich Harden won’t get a start Tuesday night, mostly due to the standings. Harden is going to be available for relief, at least for Tuesday. An A’s loss eliminates them and would result in Harden being shut down. Assuming that the A’s have been up front about Harden’s injury, he should be fine with a couple months’ rest. If it’s more and surgery is needed, even then he should be fine for spring training. The Harden and Ben Sheets injuries show how context decides treatment in sports medicine.
  • Jeff Brantley said on “Baseball Tonight” that Trevor Hoffman won’t be effective in the playoffs because his change-up won’t be as unexpected. You can know that Hoffman relies on his change-up, as he has his entire career, and you still can’t do anything. The arm action that Hoffman has is so ideal that I think you could put it up on the Jumbotron that the change is coming and it wouldn’t help. Brantley also said that hitters were more patient due to more complete scouting during the playoffs. I can’t dispute this, but would love to see statistics prove or disprove this one.
  • Dmitri Young has conveniently shut down with a hamstring injury just two days after triggering his option for next season. Sources with the Tigers don’t question that there is a leg injury, though they are questioning if this is Young’s way of pushing Alan Trammell out the door. His continued varying leg problems make him unlikely to play the field and unlikely to be worth the eight million he’ll get next season. The Tigers also shut down Roman Colon and appear to be a team abandoning a sinking ship.

  • Quick Cuts: Off-season timetables are always tough to judge. At what point could a player have been in a game? It’s impossible to tell unless they play winter ball. This year we have an additional complication. Many players will be participating in the World Baseball Classic … What is it with Florida-based teams? In 24 hours, both Miguel Cabrera and A.J. Burnett threw Jack McKeon under the bus … Jeremy Reed‘s disappointing season is over due to a wrist problem … Ken Griffey Jr. had a pair of successful surgeries on his legs Monday … Roger Clemens has an interesting rehab regimen for his hamstring. He was in Vegas at a show over the weekend with his family … Chad Pennington, Takeo Spikes and Rodney Harrison. Whew, I’ve got some work to do for the Black and Blue Report, weekly at Football Outsiders … Has a player ever had a quieter chance at 20 wins than Chris Capuano? Mike Maddux doesn’t get the credit he deserves.

Back tomorrow. Now where’s my Barry Bonds home run ball …

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