Do you remember the big scandal in Major League Baseball this summer? As many as a dozen players were suspended for ties with a company called Biogenesis, the implication being that the players were taking Performance Enhancing Drugs.
Back in August I wrote about how the issue will continue because it is not being considered a team AND player problem. Here is another example of what I meant. One of the players suspended for 50 games was Jhonny Peralta, and over the weekend he signed a new contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, reportedly for more than $50 million.
I understand those who claim that Peralta served his penalty and therefore ought to be able to sign any contract that the market will bear. Peralta is certainly within his rights to seek whatever contract value he desires. My point is that clearly the penalties in place are not a deterent.
PED use will continue in professional sports so long as there not a sufficient reason not to use them. The problem that I see is that being caught using PEDs is becoming too accepted by all parts of baseball. While the commissioner and MLB can put on a big show about doing something, and really, isn't the whole A-Rod thing just a big show, in reality nothing is truly being done.
If you really want to stop PEDs then teams and players both need to have consequences that matter. A player caught should lose their free agency rights for at least a year, a team who has a player caught should lose the right to sign free agents for a year.
Last night the Detroit Tigers traded Prince Fielder and gave $30 million to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler. The main reason for the trade, as I see it, is to free up first base for Miguel Cabrera. What we learned in 2013 is that the Tigers cannot afford to have their best hitter, who just happens to be the best hitter in baseball, not in the line up and 100% healthy. Fielder only plays first base, so unless he was willing to DH or learn a new position, there really was no position for him on the team.
Fielder could have made the trade much more difficult for the Tigers had he produced down the stretch in 2013 when Cabrera was injured. With nobody picking up the slack for Miggy, and the Cleveland Indians breathing down their neck, Jim Leyland was forced to keep Miggy in the line up when he should have been sitting to heal up for the playoffs.
Another big factor was Fielder's performance in the playoffs, he is a career .194 hitter in the playoffs, Ian Kinsler is a career .311 hitter in the playoffs with nearly as many at bats. Through in Fielder's less then stellar play at first base, his horrible base running, and his indifferent attitude and that all made it very easy for the Tigers to trade him.
Omar Infante has been the Tiger's best second baseman in the last two years, but Kinsler is an upgrade. The questions the trade raises for the Tigers is who will play third base, and how will they replace Fielder's bat in the line up? I think you want to keep Cabrera at third, though Kinsler could possibly be slotted in that position. Martnez could move up to fourth, but I like him at fifth. What this suggests to me is that the Tigers need to pick up a home run hitting left fielder.
Most see the trade as positive for enabling the Tigers to re-sign Max Scherzer. There has been talk of the Tigers trading Scherzer, mostly because of fear they won't have enough money to sign him, but also because some wonder whether Scherzer will be able to repeat his 2013 performance. I say that pitching is such a crap shoot you are better off sticking with what you know than taking a chance with an unknown. The Tigers need to keep Scherzer and Verlander on their staff while everyone else could be expendable.
Another factor is the bullpen, particularly the closer. If Dombrowski does not upgrade the bullpen, he will have failed to do so in two off seasons, meaning he really has not found the final piece to get the Tigers to a World Series championship. In my opinion, if there is no upgrade of the bullpen the Tigers have to give serious thought about making a change at General Manager. With the talent on the Tigers it will simply be inexcusable for Dombrowski to not address what is their most glaring weakness.
Fortunately, the baseball offseason has really just begun and their is a lot of time left for Dombrowski to make more changes.
The Chicago Cubs have replaced former manager and Milwaukee Brewer hitting coach Dale Sveum with the bench coach of the San Diego Padres, Rick Renteria. The Padres hit .245 as a team in 2013, with no player hitting better than .300. Team ERA was 3.98. The Padres had a 76-86 record in 2013 and finished 16 games behind the Dodgers.
In short, Renteria has experience with a team like the Chicago Cubs but it is not clear that he has the ability to make such a team better. Frankly, I am disappointed by this hire and don't see this as an improvement over the previous manager. The Theo Epstein era in Chicago, and with it the fate of the Cubs, has taken a huge step backwards in my opinion. Not impressed.