Random HGH testing to take place

January 11, 2013

> We may be looking at the end of the steroid era. MLB has finally decided to bring down the hammer, and in-season HGH testing is going to take place for the first time, starting in 2013.

Previously, testing only took place during Spring Training and the offseason, but now it’ll happen randomly during the regular season. The random timing of the testing brings about an element of surprise- in other words, players won’t know when they’re going to be tested, so they can’t juice up strategically and work around their testing dates (which they would have had prior knowledge of).

But this is definitely a positive for baseball. The doubts of the steroid era showed their true colors yesterday, as no one was inducted into the Hall of Fame for the first time since 1996. Players like Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds were never proven to have taken steroids, but the speculation was still out there, which was enough to keep them out of the Hall. This new rule should take that aspect away from the game (though it won’t show in the HOF voting for a few years to come).

> Now for an intriguing piece of Brewers news: the club brought aboard right-hander Kelvim Escobar with a minor league deal and an invite to Spring Training. Escobar hasn’t thrown a pitch in the Majors since 2009, and that was in just one start: he hasn’t pitched a full season since 2007.

2007 also happened to be Escobar’s career year, when he went 18-7 with a 3.40 ERA as a member of the Angels. For his career, he’s 101-91 with a 4.15 ERA (seven years with the Blue Jays, five in LA).

The odds of Escobar making the big league team at any point during the season are slim, barring a major injury to one or more of the Brewers’ starter prospects. But, at 36 years of age, he’ll still be a cool story to follow.

> The Brewers also avoided arbitration with Chris Narveson, one of the many starters competing for a spot in the rotation this spring. He received $840,000 in his first year of eligibility.

> The club outrighted Arcenio Leon to Triple-A yesterday after designating him for assignment earlier this week.

> Jonathan Lucroy is also going to play in the World Baseball Classic, joining Ryan Braun on Team USA.

> Minor moves: 

Giants: Signed Kensuke Tanaka to a minor league deal.
Nationals: Signed Ross Ohlendorf to a minor league deal.
Blue Jays: Claimed Tommy Hottovy off waivers from the Rangers; designated Chad Beck for assignment.
White Sox: Signed Jeff Gray, Ramon Troncoso, David Purcey, Bryan Anderson, Josh Bell, Steve Tolleson, and Stefan Gartrell to minor league deals.
Cubs: Re-signed Luis Valbuena to a one-year deal; signed Brent Lillibridge and Darnell McDonald to minor league deals.
Rays: Signed Craig Albernaz, Jason Bourgeois, and J.D. Martin to minor league deals.
Reds: Signed Nate Samson to a minor league deal.
Dodgers: Signed Matt Palmer to a minor league deal.

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No HOF inductees this year

January 10, 2013

> Not this year. Arguably the highest debated Hall of Fame election ever ended with no new inductees. The highest percentage a player received was Craig Biggio with 68%. Here are the rest of the results:

Craig Biggio- 68%
Jack Morris- 68%
Jeff Bagwell- 60%
Mike Piazza- 58%
Tim Raines- 52%
Lee Smith- 48%
Curt Schilling- 39%
Roger Clemens- 38%
Barry Bonds- 36%
Edgar Martinez- 36%
Alan Trammell- 34%
Larry Walker- 22%
Fred McGriff- 21%
Dale Murphy- 19%
Mark McGwire- 17%
Don Mattingly- 13%
Sammy Sosa- 13%
Rafael Palmeiro- 9%

(Players who received less than 5% were left off this list)

I’ve never really publicly expressed my opinion regarding the Hall of Fame, particularly with this ballot. But forget about steroids for a second: two players who did absolutely nothing to affect their playing careers- Joe Jackson and Pete Rose- are banned from the Hall of Fame for gambling. That alone makes me start to question the legitimacy of the Hall when two of the greatest players ever don’t even receive consideration (and if they did receive consideration, they’d be in in an instant).

Anyway, I guess if I were held at gunpoint and had to create a ballot, mine would include Biggio, Bagwell, Raines, Smith, Clemens, Bonds, and Schilling. There would probably be some edits if I actually took the time and sat down to think about it, but those are the first names that come to mind for me. Again, though, I’ve never been one to obsess over Hall voting.

> Ryan Braun is going to play for the US team in the World Baseball Classic in 2013 (he also participated in the 2009 game).

I’m probably not as opposed to this as others. It does bring about a higher risk of injury and cuts into Spring Training, but I’d much rather have a position player in the WBC than a pitcher.

> The recently-signed Mike Gonzalez thinks the Brewers are built to win.

> Minor moves: 

Rangers: Signed Lance Berkman (wow) and Jason Frasor to one-year deals; outrighted Eli Whiteside to Triple-A; designated Tommy Hottovy for assignment.
Mariners: Signed Mike Jacobs to a minor league deal; outrighted D.J. Mitchell to Triple-A.
Indians: Signed Nick Swisher to a four-year deal; designated Neal Thomas for assignment; signed Brett Myers to a one-year deal; signed Jerry Gil, Edward Paredes, and Scott Kazmir to minor league deals; acquired Quincy Latimore from the Pirates.
Dodgers: Signed Jeremy Moore and Alfredo Amezaga to minor league deals; signed J.P. Howell to a one-year deal.
Royals: Signed Blaine Boyer and Chad Tracy to minor league deals.
Orioles: Released Elvis Duran; claimed Luis Martinez off waivers from the Rangers.
Blue Jays: Claimed Chad Beck off waivers from the Pirates.
Yankees: Claimed Russ Canzler off waivers from the Indians; designated ex-Brewer Chris Dickerson for assignment.
Cubs: Signed Dontrelle Willis and Zach Putnam to minor league deals.
Red Sox: Signed Jonathan Diaz and Mark Hamilton to minor league deals.
Mets: Signed Omar Quintanilla to a minor league deal.
Pirates: Released Rick VandenHurk; acquired Jeanmar Gomez from the Indians.
Nationals: Re-signed Adam LaRoche to a two-year deal; signed Brandon Mann to a minor league deal.
Athletics: Re-signed Chris Resop to a one-year deal.
Rockies: Signed Manny Corpas to a minor league deal.


After Aoki’s workout, decisions still to be made

January 10, 2012

> Norichika Aoki’s long-awaited workout took place yesterday in Maryvale, Arizona, at the Brewers Spring Training complex. They didn’t release all that much info about it, except for the fact that it will take “a few more days to decide whether or not he fits the roster.” Which makes sense, considering the Brewers’ roster already has four proven MLB outfielders- Ryan Braun, Corey Hart, Nyjer Morgan, and Carlos Gomez. (Ok, maybe Gomez isn’t proven, but you get the point.)

But, judging by Brewers officials’ reactions to the workout, it really doesn’t sound like Aoki is anything special. GM Doug Melvin described him as “what you would expect from a player from Japan.” That’s pretty vague, because that could mean Ichiro-type material, or Tsuyoshi Nishioki-type material, and there’s a pretty big gap of talent between those two. However, Melvin didn’t specifically say how good Aoki looked during the workout, which leads me to believe it was average at best.

If it weren’t for the Braun situation, I would probably say the Brewers don’t need him (unless they’ve secretly put Morgan or Gomez on the trade market). Unfortunately, we won’t know whether or not Braun will be available for the first 50 games of next year until after the deadline to sign Aoki. If it were me, I would probably sign Aoki just in case Braun does get banned. But, if he doesn’t, then they could just trade someone like Morgan or Gomez (preferable Gomez), and keep Aoki as the fourth outfielder.

But I guess we’ll have to wait and see how this all turns out. This has been quite a stressful offseason so far…

> The Brewers signed utility infielder Brooks Conrad to a Minor League contract with an invite to Spring Training yesterday. Conrad hit just .223 with four homers and 13 RBIs in 92 games last year, and his defense is just pitiful. So, if you know this guys history, this isn’t a signing to get too excited about.

> As far as Prince Fielder rumors go- ever since I heard last week that the Nationals were almost a guarantee for him, there’s been absolutely nothing.

And, I know this sounds crazy, but at some point, Fielder might be tempted to come back to the Brewers for one more year. It might be his only chance for a job, in the end.

> Barry Larkin, a great defensive shortstop during his era and a career .295 hitter, was inducted into the Hall of Fame today, so congratulations to him.

Unfortunately, at least 10 of the players on next year’s ballot have been, in some way shape or form, involved with drugs (Barry Bonds, Roger Clements, etc.). So next year will definitely be a controversial ballot.

> And that’s about it. Thanks for reading, and feel free to leave your thoughts.