Check out the change to MLB's drug testing

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Check out the change to MLB's drug testing

From Comcast SportsNetPARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. (AP) -- Major League Baseball will test for human growth hormone throughout the regular season and increase efforts to detect abnormal levels of testosterone, a decision the NFL used to pressure its players.Baseball players were subject to blood testing for HGH during spring training last year, and Thursday's agreement between management and the Major League Baseball Players Association expands that throughout the season. Those are in addition to urine tests for other performance-enhancing drugs.Under the changes to baseball's drug agreement, the World Anti-Doping Agency laboratory in Laval, Quebec, will keep records of each player, including his baseline ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone, and will conduct Carbon Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometry (IRMS) tests of any urine specimens that "vary materially.""This is a proud and a great day for baseball," commissioner Bud Selig said following two days of owners' meetings. "We'll continue to be a leader in this field and do what we have to do."The announcement came one day after steroid-tainted stars Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa failed to gain election to the Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility.Commenting on the timing, Selig noted the drug program changes had long been in the works "but it wasn't too bad, was it?"Selig reflected on how far baseball had come on performance enhancing drug issues."This is remarkable when you think of where we were 10, 12, 15 years ago and where we are today," he said. "Nobody could have dreamed it."Baseball began random drug testing in 2003, testing with penalties the following year and suspensions for first offenders in 2005. Initial penalties were lengthened from 10 days to 50 games in 2006, when illegal amphetamines were banned. The number of tests has gradually increased over the past decade.Selig called the latest change a "yet another indication how far this sport has come."Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for economics and league affairs, said each player will be tested at least once."Players want a program that is tough, scientifically accurate, backed by the latest proven scientific methods, and fair," union head Michael Weiner said in a statement. "I believe these changes firmly support the players' desires while protecting their legal rights."Selig praised the cooperation of the players association, once a staunch opponent of drug testing, in agreeing to the expansion."Michael Weiner and the union deserve credit," Selig said. "Way back when they were having a lot of problems I didn't give them credit, but they do."Christiane Ayotte, director of the Canadian laboratory, said that the addition of random blood testing and a "longitudinal profiling program makes baseball's program second to none in detecting and deterring the use of synthetic HGH and testosterone."She said the program compares favorably with any program conducted by WADA.HGH testing remains a contentious issue in the National Football League. At a hearing last month, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, accused the NFL players' union of trying to back out of HGH testing."Other professional sports leagues, including the National Football League, must also implement their own robust testing regimes," Cummings and committee chairman Darrel Issa said in a statement Thursday. "Major League Baseball's announcement increases the pressure on the NFL and its players to deliver on pledges to conduct HGH testing made in their collective bargaining agreement that was signed two years ago."NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Thursday "we hope the MLB players' union will inspire the NFLPA to stop its stalling tactics and fulfill its commitment to begin testing for HGH. If the NFLPA stands for player health and safety, it should follow the lead of the MLB players' union and end the delay."NFLPA spokesman George Atallah says the union is not backing out of anything but was looking to resolve scientific issues surrounding the tests. HGH testing is part of the 10-year labor agreement reached in 2011 but protocols must be agreed to by both sides."If the league had held up their commitment to population study, we could have been first," Atallah said.At the time of last month's congressional hearing, NFL senior vice president Adolpho Birch called the union's insistence on a population study to determine whether current HGH tests are appropriate a delay tactic that threatened that league's leadership in drug testing matters."Major League Baseball and the players' union have moved a long way from the inadequate policies that were in place when Congress first addressed ballplayers' use of steroids." said Henry Waxman, ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.NOTES:Owners approved the transfer of control of the Cleveland Indians to Paul Dolan, son of owner Larry Dolan. Paul Dolan is the team's chief executive officer.

The pros and cons of Rafael Devers' promotion

The pros and cons of Rafael Devers' promotion

BOSTON — Rafael Devers is here and there’s a bundle of reasons to be excited. There’s reason, too, to be skeptical. 

Here is a look at the potential pros and cons, depending on Devers’ success. We’ll start with the good as the 20-year-old top prospect heads to the big leagues for the first time.

PROS

Infusion of energy

In the same way a trade can bring a boost of morale, so too can the promotion of a top prospect. It’s new blood walking through the door, either way. There’s help for a group of hitters — and by extension, pitchers lacking run support — who need to see a lift from the front office. Sox manager John Farrell previously acknowledged the sense of anticipation leading up to the trade deadline. The mood heading into Devers’ first game should be an exciting one.

Production

Virtually anything is better than what the Sox have had offensively at third base. Devers’ minor league hitting has been a spectacle. They wanted to see how he adjusted to Double-A pitching and he did so admirably. He walked into Triple-A and kept raking, with three hits in his final game. The ceiling is very high.

Trade leverage

Theoretically this applies to Devers directly. If the Sox wanted to deal him, he’d be worth more as a big leaguer with some success. But if we believe everything the Sox say, they don’t want to trade him. They’d be crazy to do so. Leverage, then, comes in another form. Those teams that the Sox have talked to about third-base help, or hitting help, in general now get a message from the Sox of “Hey, we don’t need you.” Potentially, any way.

Feet wet for the future

A taste isn’t always a good thing, but it often is. One way or another, the Red Sox have to hope that Devers’ first stint in the big leagues lays the groundwork for the future. Growing pains might be inevitable but in some way, the sooner he can go through them, the better. If he comes off the bench at times, that’ll be a new experience he can have under his belt, although you wouldn’t expect he’ll need that skill too much early in his career.

Prospects saved, or repurposed

It’d still be a stunner if the Sox don’t make a trade at the deadline. It just wouldn’t be the Dombrowski way to stay idle. But Devers’ arrival might allow for a different allocation of resources. Whatever prospects the Sox were willing to put toward a third-base upgrade could go toward another bat, or a reliever or both.

CONS

Uncertainty

This is the biggest concern. Even if Devers rakes for the first week and thereby convinces the Red Sox they don’t need to trade for a third baseman, what does one week really tell them? A month isn’t really enough, either, but it would have been a lot better. (There is always the possibility of a trade in August.) Devers is still missing what the position has been missing all along — a known quantity. Someone with a major league track record, someone who can provide as much certainty as can reasonably be found.

Public about-face

Promoting Devers to the majors for the purposes of evaluation ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline would have been wiser at the start of July. He was raking after two months at Portland. It’s clear the Sox didn’t intend to move Devers with this kind of speed. They’ve adjusted on the fly, which is necessary sometimes, but Dombrowski said on July 14 — the day Devers was moved to Triple-A — that "I don't want to put it on his back that we're counting on him in a pennant race.” Didn’t take long for that to change.

Defense

Devers made four errors in 12 games at Pawtucket and has 16 in 72 games between there and Portland. One scout who has seen Devers doesn’t think he’s ready defensively yet. From there, it’s worth noting the context at this position: how chaotic third base has been for the Sox this season. Basic plays were not made for a time, and that’s how Deven Marrero ended up with a job. A drop off in defense is fine, but repeated errors on routine plays won’t work, particularly at a position where the Sox have already lived those woes.

Development

It’s a natural worry for a 20-year-old kid: if he doesn’t do well, can he handle it mentally? He wouldn’t be in the big leagues if the Sox didn’t think so. At the same time, you run the risk of a slow-down for a player who was chugging right along. Devers is poised to share time for now, which means he may well come off the bench, something he hasn’t had to do.

Loss of leverage

If Devers looks bad for a week — as in, truly overmatched — the Sox aren’t going to have any better position for a trade for an established infielder or bat. If anything, the potential trade partner would gain ground.