The big news in the baseball world last night was that 2011 National League MVP Ryan Braun tested positive for synthetic testosterone and now faces a 50 game suspension pending appeal. There's too much righteous indignation from the media about this, but the prominent Internet writers that are quick to point this out are also going a bit overboard, particularly those that are embracing the idea that because the effect of steroids on the game can't be proven mathematically, that performance enhancing effects for ballplayers using PED's actually don't exist beyond a placebo effect.
This is foolish, and unscientific. There isn't a controlled study on the performance enhancing effects of steroids because physicians and scientists find it unethical to perform said research. Mathematical studies that show that power spikes during the time frame in question aren't out of the MLB's historical ordinary spend a lot of time and effort to ultimately prove absolutely nothing either way, without a more exact understanding how rampant (or not) PED use was during the periods in question. Skepticism is fine, but the evangelical denial of steroids' effects this in turn becomes really isn't.
There is one interesting quote from Dan O'Dowd in a Denver Post article about the Albert Pujols contract, in reference to a similarly scoped Troy Tulowitzki extension reached a year ago:
"...With Tulo, for example, we talked about everything. What if we change directions as a team? How will you handle good years and bad years? What if your skill level changes and we have to discuss a position switch?"
Within a year of Tulowitzki signing, the Rockies have changed direction, I don't think there can be any debate about that with three starters and a closer being traded away in the last six months (most in the last two weeks,) and another starting position player still on the block. At least Tulo was warned of that possibility. The next interesting part, of course, is that he's also been prepped for a possible position switch down the road. There's no reason to think about it now, but if Tulowitzki's skills decline and somebody like Trevor Story is ready to break in three years from now, maybe the transition won't be as awkward as the one we're seeing right now with Hanley Ramirez in Miami.
Speaking of one of those players traded, Ian Stewart's collapse last season remains a bit of a mystery. He does do a bit of finger pointing about it, however.
"I was never really a big change of scenery guy," Stewart said in response to a question. "I always felt like I fit in great with the Rockies when I was there. It just didn't seem like all the time I was always given the best opportunity to play."
Entitled to the end, Stewart still might not quite get it. I have little doubt that over a full season of at bats that his production would have been better than the small sample of misery we saw from him, but given how terrrible that start was, I have full confidence that it would have still been nowhere close to enough for an average team, let alone the contender the Rockies were thought to be heading into 2011. There isn't some special aura that surrounds MLB players who deserve full time at bats, with dozens of similar players seeking a handful of positions, a player has to produce to earn and keep a full time job in this business. Protracted slumps like Stewart's in 2011 can be devastating to a team, and to the franchise as a business. Stewart needs to understand that aspect, particularly now that he's in a large market where patience for struggling ballplayers is going to be in even less supply.
On the player acquisition front, all has been quiet while Rockies top free agent wishes Michael Cuddyer and Hiroki Kuroda make their decisions, and as we learn which teams were bluffing in trade demands leading up to tomorrow's non-tender deadline.
With the Yankees making a one year, $12 million offer to Kuroda, and the Red Sox about as interested, it seems highly unlikely that the Rockies would be the team to entice Kuroda to pitch for them next season. Cuddyer, on the other hand, seems a larger possibility as long as St. Louis doesn't make a similar overture to the OF/1B. However, even Cuddyer seems leaning to choose to remain in Minnesota unless Colorado or another team chooses to waste money extravagantly on him. The player simply isn't worth going too far out on a limb for with an alternative like Josh Willingham being nearly as good (or, if you're a firm believer in statistical projections, even better.)
Look for more trades today and tomorrow, however as teams make their decisions on who they feel they can afford in 2012. Joe Saunders is an obvious bluff by Kevin Towers, after Trevor Cahill was acquired there's no need or point in paying Saunders' expected 2012 salary for the D-backs, he'll be moved by tomorrow for relatively cheap. Meanwhile, Brian Sabean didn't even try to feign that Jeff Keppinger or Mike Fontenot were worth anything to a potential trading team by saying one or the other would be cut Monday.
Martin Prado and Jair Jurrjens, on the other hand, are interesting cases because they are valuable enough that you can't be sure if Frank Wren is bluffing or not in his apparent disinterest in anything but pie-in-the-sky offers. If Atlanta does have a budget to get under by moving one or the other, Wren's done a decent job of hiding that fact while building interest. That said, despite the decent poker face, he doesn't seem to be getting what he wants on the table for either player as other GM's like O'Dowd wait out the possibility that he'll have to move one or the other by tomorrow for a lowball offer that they've already given.