Friday, April 11, 2008

Coming clean

Another Pirate from the '90s went on the record about PED use this week. Ed Sprague, a third baseman who was the Pirates' All-Star representative in 1999, admitted in an interview with the Stockton Record on Thursday that he used amphetamines (against the law then and now) and androstenedione (legal at the time, but since banned) during his playing career, and that he also used a corked bat during a game. I don't want to excerpt it, because the whole thing is worth reading.

I'm pretty impressed by Sprague's frankness here. Nothing is going to help people come to terms with the PED issue in baseball more than honest dialog, and Sprague is one of only a few guys to talk about using PEDs who wasn't either confessing after being caught or throwing someone else under a bus to avoid some type of sanction. It doesn't seem like he had any ulterior motive for speaking out right now; he just gave honest answers to whatever questions a local reporter felt like asking him. Similarly, he didn't try to abrogate the moral authority for his decision by blaming someone else. He's currently a coach at the University of the Pacific, and I hope he doesn't get in trouble for doing the right thing here. His players can learn a lot more from someone willing to be up-front about the pros and cons of PEDs than from someone who'd rather pretend that the issue doesn't exist.

This is also another blow against the errant notion that only huge stars use PEDs. Before the Mitchell Report came out, I lost track of the number of Pittsburgh fans who jumped to the conclusion that our players were axiomatically clean because the teams they played on were too bad to have been chemically enhanced. In reality, mid-level players and scrubs have just as much incentive to use PEDs as stars, if not more.

On the lighter side of PED use, I thought that this article from the Huntsville Times about Braves prospect Jordan Schafer, recently suspended for using HGH, was pretty funny when viewed selectively in the light of recent events:
Jordan Schafer was muddling in mediocrity in 2005, struggling to reach base as a first-year minor leaguer.

That's when the Atlanta Braves prospect made an $80,000 investment he called "the best thing I've ever spent my money on."
"I wouldn't be where I am today without it," he said. "At first, I just went up there and swung."

He went from a moderate prospect to leading all of minor-league baseball with 176 hits last season. Already a talented defensive center fielder, he torched Single-A pitching, rising from the 27th-rated prospect in Atlanta's system to No. 1, according to Baseball America.

Now 21, he was among the top players in the Arizona Fall League this offseason and hit over .300 this spring with the big-league Braves before being joining Double-A Mississippi.

"He's electric," said Mississippi manager Phillip Wellman. "He's got all the tools."
After an adaptation period, Schafer believes he has found the formula to reach the majors."

He's actually talking about a ProBatter pitching simulator (like the one the Pirates bought this spring), but I still thought it was pretty funny.

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