MLB’s 2015 Hall of Fame Inductees: Everybody’s Suspect
It’s hard to celebrate Hall of Fame inductees these days because to tell you the truth, none of us know if they used PEDS or not. The public focuses on a handful of prominent position players who have either been caught using PEDS or they were deceived into submitting to a test years ago for using a substance that wasn't even on MLB's drug radar at the time.
Lately, the BBWAA has been filling up the Hall of Fame with pitchers (Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux) and Managers (Tony LaRussa, Joe Torre, Bobby Cox) who have all played with and benefited from PED users.
We don’t know if the 2015 HOF inductees; Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson and Craig Biggio ever juiced. There were rumors that Biggio’s Houston team was rampant with steroids and PEDs. Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte (an admitted PED user) played with The Killer B’s and they all had great success, going to the World Series in 2005. All of these worthy HOF inductees played about 20 seasons which is way above the average and had success late in their careers, which we now know can allegedly be attributed to the advantages of PEDs for the purpose of anti-aging and quick recovery from injuries.
All of these players were legendary (Biggio borderline), but I have a problem with how few pitchers are questioned when the advantages of using PEDs is obviously equal for both hitters and moundsmen. More than enough pitchers -- elite ones -- have been caught for me to make a logical assertion that the problem was rampant and you can’t ignore possible cheats because MLB wants to make you believe that only the very best hitters of that era juiced.
Pedro was undersized as a pitcher but he almost threw a buck MPH. His was surgery on the mound with a chin-checker for those acting funny style and hovering all up on his plate. He was at times, as dominant as any pitcher in the game and he gave the NY Yankees Dynasty fits.
Randy “The Big Unit” Johnson was probably the most menacing mound force since Bob Gibson. His 6-foot-10 frame made his 100 MPH heater seem even faster. He was durable and wild and unhittable on many occasions. You won’t see another Big Unit in your lifetime. He had the height of Moses Malone and the fastball of Nolan Ryan. Nobody got comfortable when he was pitching pills off the rubber.
John Smoltz was a very good starter, who became a great closer and then at the age of 38, became a super solid starter again. Am I to question the reasons for his effectiveness at 40 years of age? He’s never been implicated in any PED business so I have to fall back on straight accusations, but it’s odd how we ignore red flags in the careers of pitchers and “chosen” favorites such as Biggio, but vilify anybody who’s been labeled (with or without proof) a juicer.
The less important juicers get to fade into the background with their MLB money and rep in tact. The witch-hunted ones such as Alex Rodriguez, can have a three-homer game at age 39 and then hit another blast on his 40th birthday and still be ignored and treated as a villain for past “alleged” misdeeds.
Kudos to all of MLB’s 2015 Hall of Famers. The names are gold-plated and definitely celebrity-stated. With the exception of Biggio (who does have the magic mark of 3,000 hits) all of the chosen hurlers are all-time greats. I just hope they are all as pure as the BBWAA and The Hall of Fame are legitimizing them to be.
DYNAMIC DUO ON THE RISE
Arte Moreno dished some heavy paper out a few years back to bring Albert Pujols to LA. He also dished a grip to get Josh Hamilton here. Hamilton couldn’t stay sober and his California experience was forgettable at best. Pujols, considered the game’s elite slugger when the Angels signed the former St. Louis Cardinals legend to a 10-year, $254 million deal back in 2011, was coming off three MVPs and a couple of rings in the National League. He was easily averaging 40 bangers a season in Da Lou, but he slugged just 75 homers in his first three seasons with the Angels, none of which resulted in a playoff appearance for LA until last season. Word on the MLB streets was that Arte Moreno’s lavish spending had been a bust. No, it was just a slow roller that needed some tweaking and a prolific spark named Mike Trout.
At one time, it was Hamilton and Pujols, who were supposed to lead the Angels to their first World Series title since 2002, when Mike Scioscia led a bat-happy Angels squad to the c’hip. Instead, the emergence of Trout has been a game changer and it has obviously aided Pujols’ resurgence. With Trout batting third, Pujols has been really cleaning up and has 29 homers in his first 95 games, which is more than he had in any season since joining LA. Trout’s evolution continues to amaze as he’s gone from a powerful leadoff guy with exceptional speed to a bonafide three-hitter with elite power. Trout leads all of baseball with 31-homers and Pujols is second. The biggest change is in the standings. After two third-place finishes in 2012 and 2013, the Trout-Pujols attack led the the Angels to 98 wins and the first Division title since 2009 last season. Unfortunately they got swept out of the building in three games by the Royals, but it didn’t knock their hustle too much. Currently, LA has a 55-43 record and a first-place yoke hold on the AL West. Revenge is definitely on the brain.
The duo is being compared to the most prolific 1-2 punch of the last 15 years in Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz.
They're also looking to become the first teammates to hit 50 homers since that historical race to pass Babe Ruth in 1961 between Yankee sluggers Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris.
It’s finally coming together for LA. And to think, there were rumors swirling in early 2013 that skipper Scioscia -- one of the game’s treasures at the position -- was on the chopping block. (We told the Angels they were buggin’).
Good thing they let things play out and in 2012 the world’s greatest baseball gift fell from the heavens in the form of Mike Trout. A presence so emphatically dynamic and great that he overshadows the anointed MLB phenom Bryce Harper in every aspect of the game. He’s given Pujols’ career the boost it needed and lengthened his effectiveness for another three years, which only leaves the Angels on the hook for about three years of watching old man Albert's skills totally deteriorate to nothing as they eat that cake they gave him. If they can get seven solid seasons out of Pujols, who turns 36 in January and win a World Series, then the money was well spent after all.
You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet
The Kansas City Royals almost shocked the world and took a championship back home last season. If not for the outer-orbit pitching of Madison Bumgarner and usual postseason dominance of San Francisco, "KC and the Funtime Band" would have been the story of the year. After an offseason to digest and regroup, the Royals are back and better than ever. They are eight games up in the American League Central Division and have asserted themselves as the "Big Dawgs" of that division. The heartbreak of last year's WS loss is now shaping up to be a much-needed WS test and with the trade acquisition of Reds ace Johnny Ceuto on Sunday, KC won’t go into this season’s playoffs an ace short of victory.
Kansas City has the best record in the American League since losing to San Francisco in Game 7 of the World Series last October. But they know they aren’t playing for regular season glory and Yordano Ventura has underperformed this year and Jason Vargas will miss the rest of the season after he injured his elbow last week — so pitching help became the order of the day.
Cueto is a masterful hurler who -- when healthy -- is on par with anyone. He won 20 games in 2014 and 19 games in 2012. If he can be that true ace, sky's the limit for Ned Yost’s boys in blue.
"I'm excited about my next chapter," Cueto said with Reds catcher Brayan Pena serving as his translator. "I know they play baseball very good. I'm excited because I know it's going to be good for my career and good for the team."