This week was supposed to be the calm after the storm. Ha! The Nats immediately jumped to fill the hole that was sort-of left at catcher after they traded away Brian Schneider by signing Paul Lo Duca. This must have been an early Christmas gift for the bloggers since one could say a lot more about Lo Duca's acquisition than the "Younger, cheaper, and better in the long run! That's a good deal!" thoughts that pretty much summed up every Winter Meeting deal. While we were winding down the discussion on Lo Duca in came the Mitchell report yesterday where, surprise, Paul LoDuca is all over it. He's the gift that keeps on giving.
Does the Mitchell report change anything in your mind? Was the signing a good deal before the report? Is it a good deal today? Did anyone tell Nook Logan that you don't rub the HGH on your bat like pine tar? Are you ruined for baseball forever? (Sure hope not because that will make for a real short roundtable)
I'll start with my reaction to the Mitchell Report in general and then get to Lo Duca. I didn't really think that anything earth-shattering came out of that report. Sure, some names might have surprised some of us, but no one who's followed baseball at all for the last 20 years can be shocked that there has been widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs.
The Mitchell report was a classic case of an organization punishing itself in order to avoid a harsher punishment by an external body. In this case, Selig wanted to finally take his medicine over the steroids flap and get it all over with. Remember, when this Mitchell report was commissioned back in early 2006 Congress was hauling players up to testify left and right. Sosa, Palmiero and McGwire had memorably awkward/embarrassing performances on Capitol Hill and the writing was on the wall. Selig knew that if MLB didn't take action, Congress would, especially heading into an election year. So here we are. It will be interesting to see what, if any, lasting impact this report has on the game and on particular players.
More than anything, on a personal level I'm sad for baseball. A great game has been tarnished in the public eye. While I think the long-term damage to MLB will be minimal, and that this cathartic moment was necessary, it nonetheless hurts to see your heroes hauled up and pilloried by the court of public opinion.
I agree that nothing come out of the report that we didn't expect, except maybe that the whispering campaign against Clemens being made explicit. If there is a silver lining to the whole affair, it's that the report shifted the focus of steroids in baseball away from Barry Bonds and onto the sport as a whole. If the union is smart, they will put out a joint press release with the commissioner's office embracing the report's recommendations lock, stock, and barrel -- even if they reserve the right to criticize the naming of names.
One thing that bugs me though is the thought that records outside of the Steroid Era are any less tainted. Who's to say that Pete Rose's hit record, Rickey Henderson's stolen base record, or Nolan Ryan's strikeout record weren't accomplished with the help of amphetamines, for example. This is why I'm against the whole "asterisk" idea in general. This is an old argument though, so I'd rather no rehash it again.
I agree that the game has been tarnished but I think any shock or negative reaction from fans has already been registered years ago. I don't think we'll suddenly see lower attendance at MLB games or anything like that, but maybe I'd feel differently if any of my favorite players were on that list.
You make a good point that it is appropriate that the locus of this controversy has shifted from all-Barry, all-the-time to a more broad spectrum of players. What I also find interesting is who ISN'T on the list. Think of all the guys who are just as good as Bonds, Clemens and Tejada who, apparently, have not had to resort to performance-enhancing drugs to excel in the Major Leagues. I'm thinking of Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey, Jr., Randy Johnson, etc... It would be different if all or nearly all of the game's best players had achieved success because of drugs, but the names on the list are a mixed bag of the best players of our time and relatively mediocre guys like Nook Logan. We should find solace in the fact that so many have managed to excel without resorting to drugs. Of course, we can't know whether or not the Mitchell list is the definitive list of all drug users; indeed we must expect that it is only a subset.
Still, I think there are lessons to be drawn from youngsters who may be thinking that steroids and HGH are a one-way ticket to success. The message seems to be that there is simply no substitute for raw talent. You can take all the steroids and hormones you want but if you're not a skilled baseball player you will never make it to the top. This is why I have trouble with asterisk suggestions. Bonds may have been on the juice but he would have never hit anywhere near that number of home runs if he wasn't really good at hitting them in the first place. Clemens may have bought some of his remarkable longevity from drugs, but no drug can make a pitcher that dominant by itself.
I don't want to detract from getting to the impact of the report on current Nats, but for a future roundtable, I wonder if it wouldn't make an interesting diversion to discuss the impact on the Hall of Fame of the Steroid Era. If the bar for entry into the Hall for admitted or suspected juicers (Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, presumably Clemens) has been raised, is the converse also true? Has the bar been lowered for good-but-not-great players who are above suspicion? I'm thinking of guys like Thome, Schilling, Glavine, etc. (just to name a few).
The Hall of Fame voting will almost certainly be one at some point in the winter. The Nats can't keep signing/trading for interesting players every week...
You guys sound reasoned and fair about the report. No wonder you're not officially sports radio talking heads. I think my general feeling is one of disappointment over the whole steroid situation. Not over the players so much as with the helplessness baseball has to do anything about the past. You can pinpoint users, but not all and not specific time frames, and without that information you have to throw up your hands at the whole era.
Jamming's point about the amphetamines is fair, but the same thing applies. Not sure who, not sure when, oh well. I think the interesting thing we might see going forward is more of a push not to compare guys across eras. Any question of who is the best of all-time will inevtiably lead to steroid conversation which will then lead to uppers, the exclusion of blacks, the influx of asian players, etc. etc.
Of course this era is here and now so we're the ones who have to deal with it's consequences. One of which is having players on your team who are known "cheats". The Nats have one Paul Lo Duca, but he's a big one brought in not only for his offense ( I suppose) but to be a vocal leader. How's that working for ya now, Kasten?
I'm not really that bent up about him appearing on this report because I have zero emotional attachment to him as a fan at this point. The Nats just picked him up two days before the report, and now he's on the steroid list. Meh.
He's been brought in on a one-year contract to keep the catcher's spot warm for Jesus Flores. It will be a nice bonus if Lo Duca's offensive capabilities make him not be the automatic out that Schneider seemed to be at times last year, but he's really just passing through DC on the downside of his career. Look at his $5 million salary for 2008 as the price for bringing Jesus Flores along slowly instead of tossing him right into the starting role. Seems like a good deal to me. Much has been made of Lo Duca's alleged clubhouse malfeasance and now he's allegedly a steroid cheat, but Jim Bowden is paid to put together a winning ballclub, not hand out merit badges.
I feel similarly about Nook Logan. So he's an HGH cheat, huh? Oh well. He is in all likelihood finished as a Nat after a lackluster 2007 campaign and an offseason that has brought a surplus of outfielders as it is: Dukes, Pena, Kearns, Milledge, Langerhans are all in the mix. I already had a low opinion of the Nook's abilities, so his exposure as an HGH cheat doesn't change much.
All this being said, I definitely felt a sense of relief as I scanned the list that none of the "core" Nats players were named. I would be disappointed as hell if Ryan Zimmerman, Chad Cordero or Nick Johnson had turned up on that list, because I like those guys and wouldn't want to be given a reason not to. I would have felt the same way about Brian Schneider and Ryan Church. We Nats fans are lucky in that our only real current connection to this mess is a journeyman catcher who's unlikely to be around for more than a season or two.
It's a relief but it's not a surprise. There are only 34 active players in the report and the majority of those came from Radomski, who was understandably focused on NY given his position with the Mets. This is only one path for PEDs and it happened not to go through the Nats area. Plus the Nats are a young team that got younger this offseason. A lot of these guys have been subject to the more strict minor league policy that's been around since 2002.
As for Lo Duca the player, it's funny because I find myself becoming the mirror universe version of 2007 Harper (I should grow a goatee or at least get a cool scar). Last year tossing a decent amount of money at a veteran player was what I wanted to see. This off-season though, I've gotten behind the youth movement. Now there is enough talent here to try to play out a season with what's on hand and not have a strong chance of a ~65 win season. Now I would have preferred to sign someone that would have made Flores a part-timer not a back-up.
Oh well, I guess it's Lo Duca or bust (or Lo Duca busted) in 2008. Things could be worse.
I'm ambivalent with LoDuca. I do think that Flores could use more seasoning. At the same time, I think we could have gotten similar production and defense for less money and without the steroid/gambling/women baggage by going after Estrada, Olivo, Damian Miller, or any of a number of lfree-agent eague-average catchers. The best thing that can be said about LoDuca is that the Nats are only on the hook for one year.