Welcome back to The Wind Up! This week, we’re going to do all we can in order to avoid fantasy baseball talk. Instead, we’re going to focus on just about anything but. For starters, how long can Eric Thames stay hot? And why aren’t we testing Chase Headley, too? Do the Cubs need to learn how to lose all over again?
But lastly, and perhaps more importantly: It’s not even the end of April yet. Most, if not all of these players who are off to scorching starts will cool down. So in the meantime, enjoy it. Unless you’re the Toronto Blue Jays, who are in desperate need of a performance-enhancing boost. (No, no that kind. Geez).
Oh, too soon, Pirates fans?
Starling Marte, and the War on PEDs
I’m going to make one thing clear immediately: I couldn’t care less about players using PEDs. No seriously, I couldn’t. And I’d only reconsider my position if I were given copious amounts of money to do so (But then I’d just take the money and flip right back, like all the great villains do). Anyway, we’re definitely going somewhere with this. Oh, right… PEDs—yeah, couldn’t care less.
But what I do care about is this from Vice Sports Aaron Gordon, who caught up with Victor Conte—the founder of the infamous BALCO lab—in light of Starling Marte testing positive for nandrolone. That’s not as old-school PED as it gets, but it’s close. It’s also troubling for reasons detailed in said article:
“Conte said nandrolone is often detected when an athlete is taking another banned substance—likely testosterone—that was manufactured in an illicit laboratory that doesn’t adhere to strict quality standards and also makes drugs for bodybuilders, who, of course, aren’t subject to drug testing…”
And, this excerpt from CBS Sports own Jonah Keri (who writes for approximately 321,673 other places, in case you’ve never heard of him):
“Marte getting suspended for half a season is a mild drawback compared to another potential effect of black-market drug distribution: huge and extremely harmful side effects. Without the protections that come from reputable, well-funded labs, athletes diving into PED use risk doing serious harm to their health, moral implications aside.”
My worry doesn’t stem for Marte cheating and getting caught, but rather the possibility that he’s doing far more serious harm to himself than we realize. And before you get all preachy with a ‘Well whatever, it’s his choice, his problem’ retort, remember this: Starling Marte, and all other athletes, are still human beings. Moreover, Starling Marte seems like a pretty good guy. It’s okay to care about decent people, even if they cheat in a sport that has had issues with cheating for decades. In fact, it’s probably the humane thing to do. He isn’t the first, and won’t be the last.
But since it’s against the rules, it’s a genuine bummer that Starling Marte cheated. it really is.
But guess what? You don’t care that he cheated. You don’t care about that at all. I mean, you only care now because you know. There’s a solid chance that somebody within every organization—no matter the level—is gaming the system in some way. Or at least trying to. You’ll act all high and mighty for as long as you can until it happens to one of your own. That’s how it works. That’s how it’s always worked. It’s a tale as old as time.
Every Player Off to a Hot Start is Obviously Cheating
First, a primer: Some pitchers get upset when opposing batters flip their bat after a home run. Of course, in the game of baseball—key word being game—this is an entirely unreasonable reaction. Yes this is a job for these players, but also (and we’re really beating a dead horse here), it’s supposed to be fun. What’s wrong with players having fun? It’s nothing personal. It’s not at that pitcher’s expense. The opposing batter is really excited that he just did something good for his team. How about you pitch better next time?
Where am I going with this? Well on a comparable but much more ridiculous level, this type of reaction is common when players we wouldn’t normally expect to bust out do exactly that to start the season. Much like the pitcher who gets upset at an opposing hitter for his own mistake, a team gets upset at the opposition instead of figuring out what they’re doing wrong. The most recent example? John Lackey and Chris Bosio filling their diapers over the hot start of Eric Thames. It’s covered here and here from Brew Crew Ball and Grant Brisbee, respectively, so we won’t spend too much more time on it. Hell, I even mentioned it back on Monday.
Look, Brewers first baseman Eric Thames is off to a ridiculously scorching start. He just slugged his league-leading eighth home run of the season Thursday night against the St. Louis Cardinals. He’s slashing .415/.500/.981/1.481 with a .566 ISO and 287 wRC+ over a 15-game sample. But that’s just it: it’s only been 15 games. He will cool down. Pitchers will adjust, and so on. So can we please stop with this? Especially the Cubs, who just won it all last season. Especially the Cubs, who have had to deal with their own share of baseless accusations (Jake Arrieta) in the very recent past.
It’s stupid and lazy, and you all should know better. Don’t turn into the Cardinals so quickly.
Also, using Lackey’s and Bosio’s logic, here’s who else needs to be tested:
- Chase Headley: Career .264/.344/.404/.748 hitter, off to a white-hot start of .396/.500/.646/1.146.
- Avisail Garcia: Career .264/.316/.394/.711 hitter, currently slashing .423/.483/.654/1.137.
- Zack Cozart: Career .249/.293/.390/.683 hitter, now hitting .400/.481/.667/1.148 to start the season.
Of course, the list of hot starts is a lot longer than those three chaps (See also: Castro, Starlin). But also, Headley, Garcia and Cozart have combined for just seven dingers. Thames currently has eight all by himself. And if we’ve learned anything, it’s that only power hitters take PEDs. Obviously. Isn’t that right, Dee Gordon? You and your NINE career home runs and .364 slugging percentage from roughly 2,400 plate appearances certainly scream juicer.
Just stop it.
Some Hot Takes to Close Out Your Work Week
- It is clear that through 15 games, the Toronto Blue Jays are the worst team in baseball. No, not by record, silly. They’re actually that bad.
- Bryce Harper is extremely overrated and I would never want him on my team.
- Eric Thames is going to break Barry Bonds’ single-season home run record.
- Kyle Hendricks is going to finish with an ERA over 5.00.
- It’s April 21st. Settle down.