Following are opinions from Mille Lacs County Times editor-sports editor Gary Larson, reporter Luther Dorr, former Times intern Logan Marxhausen and sports fan Ben Johnson. Note: This feature is written on Monday each week.
•Question: At 7-4, right-hander Sam Deduno has emerged as the ace of the Minnesota Twins’ starting rotation. What are your thoughts on him and do you think he can settle in as a No. 2 or No. 3 guy in the rotation down the road?
-Dorr: His story is the best so far this year on a team that is struggling. He’s had good stuff before, couldn’t harness it, and now apparently has found a way to throw enough strikes to be effective. Yes, he could be a No. 3 guy on a good team, or maybe No. 2 on the Twins. Trouble is, who will be No. 1? Those of you who wanted Kyle Gibson here a couple months earlier may be having second thoughts, although he also has the stuff to be a winner. Watching Deduno pitch out of a jam last week where he had a runner on third with no outs was one of the highlights of the season, especially when he put his necklace in his mouth, clamped down on it, and struck out a hitter as he pitched out of that jam. If he does well the next two months, he certainly will be high in the rotation in 2014. Of course, some in the Twin Cities media would then lobby to trade him “while he’s got some trade value.”
-Marxhausen: Deduno has really come out of nowhere for the Twins this year. He was a minor league free agent who the Twins signed before the 2012 season, but didn’t retain him on the roster, so in actuality, he was able to sign with any team out there. After receiving no offers, he found a spot back with the Twins. He has had some injury problems early on, but he has improved dramatically since joining the club. Calling Deduno an ace is quite the stretch as much as Scott Diamond was the ace last season. In 2012, Diamond emerged as the only positive that came out of the pitching staff. He finished the season above .500 with a 12-9 record. This season he is not living up to last season’s prowess with a 5-9 record. Deduno is falling into the same format, but what he does next season will be the difference between the two. Both have the ability to eventually be solid pitchers and can definitely fill the void of a No. 2 or No. 3 guy in the rotation.
-Larson: I’m sure Twins fans enjoy watching Deduno pitch while the team’s opponents don’t. He has some flair and, while manager Ron Gardenire and pitching coach Rick Anderson are likely on edge when Deduno is on the mound, fans love that.
If Deduno’s success continues he could be the No. 2 pitcher on Minnesota’s staff next season. And, Scott Diamond as No. 3 and rookie Kyle Gibson at No. 4 could work out OK. IF the Twins delve into the free agent market or can make a trade for an ace to lead the rotation. Ending a three-year slump hinges on obtaining that ace.
Luther Dorr and Ben Johnson are former ace pitchers on high school and amateur teams and you’ll find their answers to this question very insightful.
-Johnson: I watched Deduno dominate the World Baseball Classic this spring and I was very impressed. I couldn’t believe it when the Twins started the season and he was assigned to AAA Rochester. Here he had just dominated some of the world’s best hitters in high-pressured games and now the Twins assign him to the minors. They did this while having one of the weakest pitching rotations in the majors. I’m glad he has finally proven his reliability in the majors. Deduno has electric pitches. His fastball moves all over and his curveball is nasty. Deduno’s pitching style doesn’t coincide with Rick Anderson’s philosophy of attacking the strike zone and not giving up walks but here is proof that if you let a guy just pitch and do not mess with “his” game, he can succeed. If you were to force Deduno to throw more strikes, I think he would lose movement on his pitches. He would worry more about getting it over the plate than getting movement on it. I think Deduno could easily be a solid No. 2 or 3 guy in the future for the Twins. Sadly enough, I think he will be our ace for the next two or three years because there doesn’t seem to be any other contenders for the No. 1 spot in the Twins system.
•Question: Last week Major League Baseball suspended Milwaukee Brewers star Ryan Braun for the rest of the season (65 games) for using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). It appears that several other stars are about to draw lengthy suspensions. Was Braun’s suspension too severe or not severe enough? How do you feel these suspensions will impact baseball?
-Dorr: The suspension was way too lenient. Braun should be suspended for next season also. Judging by the reactions of players, many feel the same way. Baseball has done a better job than other sports of trying to curb the use of PEDs but until contracts include a clause that allows teams to void a contract, or until that player is banned for life, there will still be abuses. Braun is being complimented by some for accepting the suspension but what’s the big deal? He has a contract that will pay him even more in 2014 and the $3 million he loses this year will be immaterial. On top of it, Braun lied about his use of PEDs, otherwise he wouldn’t have accepted the suspension. Milwaukee should dump him and other teams should refuse to sign him. And the same goes for others who will be implicated. Alex Rodriguez should be next. He’s also a bum.
-Marxhausen: Normally when a players is caught using PEDs, the scale for the suspension is 50 games for the first time testing positive, 100 games for the second time and lifetime ban for the third. In the case of Biogenesis, the ramifications are different. For someone whose name shows up on some Biogenesis documents, the suspension could be only five or 10 games because of the circumstantial evidence. But, for players like Alex Rodriguez, who has a long-time relationship with Biogenesis and tested positive for PEDs, penalties could be much harsher, such as a lifetime ban. If an appeal for a suspension ensues, MLB has to prove preponderance of the evidence that the player violated the Joint Drug Policy and that the punishment is just and reasonable. Braun affected many fans and players. His suspension was founded and reasonable as it fell under the policy set down through MLB rules and the collective-bargaining agreement with the players. This suspension was only the first and will keep future players from being less active with PEDs. Baseball will forever be affected since the steroid era started in the 1990s.
-Larson: Because of how vehemently and passionately Braun denied the charges when they first came out, I initially gave his responses some credibility. Those comments have come back to haunt him. His suspension should have been the 65 games, plus at least half of the 2014 season. Braun’s suspension, and any others on the horizon, will serve as a warning to current players and those coming up. However, it’s likely someone is perfecting a new PHD that’s less detectable and there will always be players looking for an edge.
-Johnson: In college, I did a research paper on steroids in baseball for an entry level required English literature class. During my research, I watched the entire two hour, 44 minute congressional hearing in 2005 and the four hour, 10 minute hearing in 2008 where congress decided to investigate the severity of steroids in baseball. In the hearings a handful of players such as Mark McGwire, Jose Conseco, and Roger Clemens, were asked a series of questions about steroids in baseball while under oath. With these videos, many articles, and many books, I concluded that steroids during the 1990s and early 2000s, were very prevalent. I would guess that at least 25 percent of all players used steroids and that up to 50 percent of players that had played in All-Star games had used steroids during this era. In the years that have followed the hearing in 2005, they have put a number of rules in place, such as testing and consequences for failed tests. I now think, after Braun’s suspension (and the suspensions of other players to follow), steroids in baseball will be taken more seriously. It is very sad as a lifelong baseball fan to have watched guys like McGwire, Braun, and Bonds break records and win MVPs when steroids were involved. How much did steroids help them? Along with quicker hand-eye coordination and improved strength, steroids also heal injuries much quicker and kept players like McGwire on the field. Guys like Mickey Mantle were forced to either sit out or play through injuries where McGwire healed much quicker. Steroid use put a healthy McGwire in the batter’s box more often and helped him hit more home runs. Was Braun’s penalty appropriate? I would like to see the strictest penalties possible for failed steroid tests because I don’t want to see any more records broke, MVP or Cy Young Award winners, or games won with the use of steroids.
Do you have an opinion on any of this week’s questions? Do you agree or disagree with the sportswriters? Let us know by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or a note to Mille Lacs County Times, 225 S.W. 2nd St. Milaca, MN 56353. Or comment online.