Friday, December 14, 2007

American League Central Update (Mitchell Report Edition)

Chicago White Sox

While four ex-Sox players were listed in the Mitchell Report, Jim Parque had the longest tenure with the South Siders. Former Mets trainer Kirk Randomski indicated that Parque -- while at the time in question was with the Devil Rays -- wrote him two checks totally $4,800 for human growth hormone. In the Chicago Sun-Times, Parque vehemently denies (which as you will see will be a trend for these ballplayers) any allegations that he took HGH in any form. Much like Bonds's flaxseed oil defense, Parque says that the money was for Randomski to acquire ‘‘a bunch of supplements, some creatine, vitamins, some stuff to increase my red-blood-cell count and some herbs from South America that were supposed to help with my injuries.’’

Prior to the alleged date of receiving the PEDs (performance enhancing drugs) Parque was 31-34 with both the White Sox and Devil Rays following October 18th, 2003 dated check he has no wins or appearances in a major league game (a handful in Triple-A Tacoma in 2007 though).

‘‘Either someone isn’t telling the truth, or steroids really don’t work because I was throwing 80, 81 mph before the report said I took them, and I was throwing 80, 81 mph after I allegedly took them,’’ Parque told the press. It may be arguing semantics with Parque, but he was actually accused of taking HGH and not steroids. At times mistaken for one in the same, HGH is proven to help recovery rather than improve strength which is was anabolic steroids do. Therefore an increase in miles-per-hour might not be an good variable when looking for someone on growth hormones. What seems to sell this to me is that Parque in 2003 was coming off his third straight season of being injured, possibly desperate to maintain a steady paycheck, Parque probably turned to find something that might speed his recovery.

Cleveland Indians

Paul Byrd's outing might be the freshest in people's minds considering the attention it garnered when the news was released shortly after his game 6 start against the Red Sox and caused chaos in the Indians clubhouse before being beaten by the Sox in game 7. Cleveland Plain-Dealer's Paul Hoynes has the complete list of the Mistake by the Lake's ties to the scandal. Juan Gonzales might have best story: While at a Toronto airport on October 4th, 2001, a duffel bag containing syringes and steroids was discovered by authorities. Gonzales claimed it was his trainers. His trainer claims it was Juan's.

Even though Gonzales most likely began juicing while with Texas (a hotbed of suspected juicers including Palmerio and Rodriguez), the numbers he produced in Cleveland at 31-years-old were outstanding. Too outstanding. In 140 games, Gonzo hit 35 home runs and batted .325/.370/.590. In a time when the league was slugging .429, Gonzales was slugging .161 higher than the American League average. Gonzales was an All-Star and Silver Slugger. The Indians cakewalked their way to a 91-71 record for the Central title. Also on that squad connected to the Mitchell Report was back-up catcher Tim Laker and Steve Woodard. That same year the 33-year-old second baseman Roberto Alomar hit 20 home runs with a line of .336/.415/.541 (he slugged like a designated hitter). While not named in the report, Alomar had contact with Rafael Palmerio for three consecutive seasons in Baltimore. The temptation was there.

Detroit Tigers

Gary Sheffield is one of the high profile names from the report, but nothing new is revealed. "Game of Shadows" had far greater accounts as to when, where and why Sheffield was purchasing what he claimed was "vitamin". In 2003, the year he was connected to Victor Conte and BALCO, Sheffield slugged .604 in comparison to the league average of .433. His offensive production helped add 5.3 wins to the 101-win Atlanta Braves. While not currently connect to steroids, he has since slipped into being injury-prone.

From the Mitchell Report: "At the end of the 2004 season, a clubhouse employee was cleaning out the Detroit Tigers locker room when he found a black toiletry kit that was locked. He and another Tigers employee opened the bag and found unused syringes and vials that they determined were anabolic steroids. They did not report the incident. The employee said that he could not remember who the bag belonged to." This is a difficult task for the clubhouse employee because three players on this team were listed in the report (Rondell White, Nook Logan and Fernando Vina ) while one seems to have all the symptoms (Ivan Rodriguez). On a terrible 79-win team, these four players contributed 38 win shares*. (I am tempted to use an asterisks next to the win shares of all steriod/hgh players from here on out).

Kansas City Royals

The Royals right now are keeping up with the major league pace of placing a large investment into a player that has links to PEDs. The Astros are up there as well by trading 5 prospects for the accused Miguel Tejada. After signing a lucrative contract with Jose Guillen to a 3-year $36 million dollar deal, the Royals found out immediately they had damaged goods (even though it was also common knowledge prior to his signing). These steroid/hgh players should be running the risk of having their contracts revoked due to false advertisement. Jason Giambi toed that line two seasons ago when it was reported that he was an admitted steroid user. Speculation had the Yankees nullifying his contract due to the reports, ultimately they decided against it. Prior to 2003, Guillen was an average outfielder being shipped around the league. In 2003, Guillen set a career high for slugging at .569, significantly higher than his previous best of .430 while with the Devil Rays, and since then his performance has been relatively consistent (minus an injury shortened season in 2006 with the Nationals).

Did the Royals sign him expecting him to perform at that level? Obviously so or they would not have sank $12 million a year into him. If I am a general manager, I would be sure to insert language that speaks directly to the past use of PEDs in the contract and if it comes to fruition that the player in question is indeed guilty of either hgh or steroids, the amount of pay per season is automatically adjusted in the favor of management. Needless to say, there are some organizations that would take advantage of this safety net however it would protect the small-to-mid market teams that overextend themselves by signing a player like Guillen who may not replicate his production now that he is not juicing.

Mitchell-Boston Ties

Of the AL Central for a moment, I am not sure I actually believe this. The Boston Red Sox claim that they had no prior knowledge of Brendan Donnelly involvement with PED when they cut him a few hours before the release of the Mitchell Report. According to Red Sox spokesperson John Blake the organization "didn't get anything until Mitchell released it at 2 o'clock. So there's no way that anybody had any inkling that Donnelly would be mentioned in that report." The validity of the report has been broched upon before. In this specific case it involves Sen. George Mitchell, who also is a director of the Boston Red Sox, and a last minute decision by Theo Epstein to non-tender Donnelly. While Donnelly had been injured since June 10th and Boston has been relatively good at shedding dead weight, Mitchell, who has an involvement with a team and a report with club officials, might obliged to slip some information that would make the decision that much easier to make. Here's what we do know: New Englanders cheat. Maybe it is that Southie mentality, but since Video Tape Gate, I wouldn't be surprised if that tidbit about Paul Byrd wasn't a well-timed leak too.