Tainting MLB: Will PED use ever be stopped?

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Tainting MLB: Will PED use ever be stopped?

Since 1965, there has never been a Baseball Hall of Fame ceremony without a living inductee.

Ever since Vietnam and The Beatles were front-page news, there’s always been someone for fans to pat on the back, a highlight reel of plays to relish and a fresh debate over who is and isn't standing on stage at Cooperstown -- every year for nearly 50 years, except this past weekend.

The “Steroid Era” has turned America’s pastime into a sport passed its prime. The true turning point was some years ago when so many players and executives with an inkling of suspicion could have done something, but looked the other way.

And now, we have reached a crescendo.

The likelihood of guys named Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro and Sammy Sosa getting “the call” is about the same as Pedro Cerrano taking a curveball the opposite way -- not likely. With almost 600 votes cast by members of the Baseball Writers Association this year, not one player garnered the requisite 75 percent. Clemens (214 votes, 37.6 percent) and Bonds (206 votes, 36.2 percent) led the group of alleged users.

It's rather funny -- in an I-can’t-believe-you-fell-for-that sort of way -- as I look back on the time when my naivety left me. I can still recall the fondness of the summer of 1998 and how much I enjoyed picking up a newspaper every day to follow the home run chase between Sosa and Mark McGwire.

As much as it pains me to say, from then until now, it seems performance-enhancing drugs have become part of the game. PEDs are about as synonymous with baseball as they are with cycling, which is saying a lot. No player is safe from conjecture and as a spectator it is nearly impossible to suspend disbelief with any player -- experience is a keen teacher.

I want to avoid a proverbial witch hunt as much as the next guy, but please tell me your unbridled thoughts on the Orioles' Chris Davis hitting nearly 40 home runs before the All-Star break. Whether he’s clean or not -- I truly want to believe he is -- I’ve been jilted and jaded by so many Ryan Brauns and Alex Rodriguezs that I’m reaching critical mass.

Are some of the alleged cheaters still HOF worthy? Absolutely. If you’ve ever read the ground-breaking bestseller "Game of Shadows," it documents that Bonds started using PEDs following the 1998 season after watching McGwire break Roger Maris’ home run record. Prior to that, Bonds won three MVP awards, eight Gold Gloves, seven Silver Sluggers and made eight All-Star appearances. Was Clemens using performance enhancers when he fanned 20 batters in a start en route to the 1986 MVP as a 25-year-old? My better judgment says no, but no one knows for sure.

You could argue that the biggest problem is not baseball’s inability to find the perpetrators and what they’re using. I'm starting to seriously believe that PEDs cannot be stopped. Science continues to evolve and the "good guys" are seemingly one step behind. There will always be another BALCOs or Biogenesis as long as there are players who will utilize their seedy services.

The problem is Major League Baseball's drug policy. The risk of being caught is not greater than the reward of a multi-million dollar contract. Lengthen the suspensions and incorporate a hard and fast monetary penalty. Can there be too stiff a penalty? Pete Rose was banned from the game for life for the most egregious of infractions, but which is worse?

It’s at the point where you’re numb to the list of names, places and timelines of who did what and when. We owe it to ourselves, better yet, baseball owes its consumers a continued push to evolve beyond “we’re doing our best” and eradicate the dregs that have left America’s game so sullied.

Phils lose LHP in Rule 5 draft, exit winter meetings balancing present with future

Phils lose LHP in Rule 5 draft, exit winter meetings balancing present with future

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – The winter meetings ended Thursday morning with the Phillies sitting out the Rule 5 draft. The Phillies’ roster was at the 40-man limit and that prohibited the team from making a pick.

The Phils did lose one player in the draft as reliever Hoby Milner was selected by the Cleveland Indians. 

Milner, who turns 26 in January, is a left-hander who recently switched to a side-arm delivery. He had a 2.49 ERA in 49 games at Double A and Triple A in 2016.

Milner was eligible for the draft because he was not protected on the 40-man roster last month. The Indians selected him for $50,000. He must stay in the big leagues all season or be offered back to the Phillies for $25,000.

Andrew Pullin was a player the Phillies feared losing, but they hung on to the lefty-hitting outfielder. Pullin, 23, hit .322 with a .885 OPS between Single A and Double A in 2016. A late-season elbow injury prevented Pullin from playing in the Arizona Fall League and factored into the Phillies’ decision to leave him unprotected.

The Phillies selected one player, infielder Jorge Flores, in the minor-league phase of the draft. Flores had been in the Toronto system.

The Phils lost one player, 25-year-old pitcher Jairo Munoz, to Tampa Bay in the minor-league phase. Munoz pitched in the low minors in 2016.

With the winter meetings behind them, Phillies officials will head back to Citizens Bank Park to complete the construction of their 2017 roster. So far this winter, the Phils have re-signed starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson and added outfielder Howie Kendrick and relievers Joaquin Benoit, Pat Neshek and David Rollins.

Remaining on the Phillies’ to-do list is adding a backup infielder – Andres Blanco could return – and deciding whether to pursue a veteran hitter to play a corner outfield spot or give an opportunity to a young tandem such as Roman Quinn and Aaron Altherr. 

General manager Matt Klentak spoke often during the week about that balance he is trying to strike between improving the 2017 club while keeping intact long-range goals.

“Successfully balancing the present and the future is the single greatest challenge that a baseball operations department faces,” Klentak said. “We’ve talked about it all offseason. The decisions that we are making right now about giving playing time to a young player that has cut his teeth in Triple A and needs that opportunity to take the next step as opposed to a shorter-term solution from the outside – that’s one of the main challenges that we’ve run into this offseason.”

Time will tell which way the Phillies go on this matter. 

MLB Notes: Aroldis Chapman rejoins Yankees on 5-year, $86 million deal

MLB Notes: Aroldis Chapman rejoins Yankees on 5-year, $86 million deal

OXON HILL, Md. -- Aroldis Chapman found a spot in a most familiar bullpen -- a very rich spot, too.

The hard-throwing closer reached agreement to return to the New York Yankees on Wednesday night with the highest-priced contract ever for a relief pitcher, an $86 million deal for five years.

A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that the contract was pending a physical. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet complete.

Once it's done, the 28-year-old lefty whose fastballs routinely top 100 mph would shatter the previous richest contract for a reliever -- that was the $62 million, four-year deal Mark Melancon signed with San Francisco just a couple days ago during the winter meetings.

Chapman was acquired by New York from the Cincinnati Reds last offseason, then missed the first 29 games of the season due to a domestic violence suspension from Major League Baseball. The Cuban was traded to the Chicago Cubs in late July and helped them win the World Series, becoming a free agent when it was over.

Chapman went 4-1 with 36 saves and a 1.55 ERA in a combined 59 games for the Yankees and Cubs. He struggled some in the postseason as the Cubs beat Cleveland for their first championship since 1908.

With the Yankees this season, Chapman teamed with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances in one of the most dominant bullpens in baseball history. Miller was later traded to Cleveland, but Betances is still with New York.

Earlier this week, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said the team was interested in both Chapman and fellow free agent closer Kenley Jansen. The Yankees had already made one deal at these meetings, signing slugger Matt Holliday, before paying a lot more to bring Chapman back to the Bronx.

Fox Sports first reported the agreement.

Rangers: Gomez reaches deal to stay with team
OXON HILL, Md. -- Carlos Gomez is staying with the Texas Rangers.

The outfielder agreed to an $11.5 million, one-year contract, a deal subject to a successful physical.

"Many of the objectives of the Rangers for Carlos go beyond one year," his agent, Scott Boras, said Wednesday. "Certainly Carlos really enjoyed the team and the environment and feels he's got a great chance to win. So I think both parties' objectives were met by that deal."

Gomez, who turned 31 last weekend, figures to play center as general manager Jon Daniels structured an outfield that includes Shin-Soo Choo in right and Nomar Mazara in left. Ian Desmond left Wednesday for a $70 million, five-year deal with Colorado.

Gomez batted just .210 with five homers in 85 games this year for Houston and was released by the Astros in August. He signed with Texas and hit .284 with eight homers and 24 RBIs in 33 games. An All-Star in 2013 and '14 with Milwaukee, Gomez has a .257 average and 116 home runs in 10 big league seasons.

"J.D. was very clear from the onset about them wanting Carlos back, and we've had communication since the season's end to pursue that," Boras said. "So it was something in our minds and in their minds. It was just a constant dialogue."

AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.

Red Sox: Sale not worried about being ace
BOSTON -- New Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale says he isn't worried that he might not be the ace of the pitching staff after being traded from the White Sox to Boston.

The 27-year-old lefty told reporters on Wednesday, "We play for a trophy, not a tag."

Sale was traded to the Red Sox on Tuesday at the baseball winter meetings. He was the top starting pitcher on the market, and the Red Sox gave up touted prospect Yoan Moncada as part of a package to land him.

Sale has been an All-Star for five straight seasons and finished in the top six of the Cy Young Award voting each time. He joins a staff that already includes 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello and '12 winner David Price (see full story).