Last week at the winter meetings Roch Kubatko of masnsports.com wrote that the market for free agent first baseman Prince Fielder might be softening after speaking with GM Dan Duquette. From the outset, this statement seems innocent and straight-forward enough. However let’s play devil’s advocate for just a moment; what if it wasn’t so straight-forward? (Incidentally it’s conspiracy-theory things like this where people like me make their living.) I don’t want to overthink things here because I feel that sometimes I have a tendency to do just that. However…
…news broke on Saturday night about Ryan Braun of the Brewers testing positive for steroids. You see where I’m going with this? If not, here’s the deal; obviously PED’s were in the Brewers’ clubhouse. Whether or not any of Braun’s teammates knew that he was juicing is another story. However isn’t there the possibility that other guys knew given that it’s an unwritten code that you don’t out your teammate for doing that. The bigger question is whether or not Braun was the only guy in the clubhouse doing PED’s. More specifically, isn’t there a chance that Prince Fielder might have been doing them also?
Again, I’m playing devil’s advocate here. In all sincerity I don’t think that Prince Fielder is juicing. I would mention that his HR totals have been fairly consistant through his career, but so have Braun’s. Big bops aren’t necessarily the best measuring stick anymore with how advanced steroids have become. More than anything else, I try my best to be as fair as I can; I don’t want to say that Prince Fielder is guilty by association. Furthermore, I do believe in the pillar of innocent until proven guilty. Until yesterday the idea that Ryan Braun would have been a juicer would have never crossed my mind, and the same still goes now for Prince Fielder.
However just because I’m willing to say that Fielder’s probably clean doesn’t mean that courting GM’s are going to follow suit. According to multiple reports, Braun tested positive for steroids back in October. So while the news leaked yesterday, is it not possible that it was known amongst baseball circles prior to that? Honestly, I would have thought that the market for Fielder would have been much more hopping than it’s been. So…is it possible that people are hesitant to talk to Fielder now?
Anything’s possible folks. Ten years ago obviously nobody would have cared one way or the other. However steroids is such a black mark upon the player, team, and the sport now, that I’m not sure if there wouldn’t be some hesitancy on the part of GM’s to bring him in. Honestly, it would be the Orioles’ luck that they would sign a player like that to a big contract and he’d test positive for steroids. So it’s certainly possible that Dan Duquette was onto something when he said that the market was softening on Fielder. It also could have been because the number of teams that are looking to sign him is fewer than one would have thought.
Again let me unequivocally say that I don’t think Prince Fielder juices, and I certainly don’t want to judge him guilty by association. However the fact is that he was in a clubhouse that had a juicer. This is unfortunately what happens when steroids become involved with a player. Jose Canseco seemingly passed the needle around the Oakland A’s clubhouse in the late 80′s, and even Baltimore’s own Brian Roberts tried steroids once as a result of Larry Bigbie (who played for the O’s at the time).
I personally believe that Fielder will get his money, and again I don’t think that he’s guilty of anything short of knowing and playing with Ryan Braun. However that doesn’t necessarily mean that courting GM’s wouldn’t use what appears to be an unrelated situation to their advantage in getting Fielder at a discount. Let’s also keep in mind that Fielder’s father was one of the best hitters in the 1980′s-90′s. I remember seeing videos of Prince working out with Cecil Fielder at Tiger Stadium when he was about 12 or 13. He was able to hit the ball out of the park even back then; in other words he’s always had power. But again, if a GM can get someone like him on a discount due to circumstances as such, why not?
I’ll go into this issue a bit more later in the week, however steroids is a black mark on baseball itself. Even after seeing guys like McGuire, Palmeiro, and Bonds tarnish their legacies, a 50 game suspension apparently isn’t enough to disuade people like Ryan Bruan from using them. So why can’t MLB up the ante a bit and hold the teams themselves accountable?
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