Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Ryan Zimmerman, HGH and Al Jazeera


Well, if he's been juicing you could have fooled me looking at his stats lately. Photo team official

Well, if he’s been juicing you could have fooled me looking at his stats lately. Photo team official

Over the Xmas holiday weekend, a bombshell broke in the sports media world.  The Qatarian TV network Al Jazeera was to air a documentary titled “The Dark Side: Secrets of the Sports Dopers” on sunday 12/27/15 and had shared the entirety of the broadcast with the Huffington Post ahead of time.  The whole video is available from youtube (via this link thanks to

While the “big scalps” claimed in the documentary were more on the NFL side (namely, Peyton Manning and a number of pretty well known NFL players, mostly related to the Green Bay team), there were two baseball players mentioned: Ryan Howard and our own face of the franchise Ryan Zimmerman.  There was a third player actually captured on film (journeyman catcher Taylor Teagarden) who should probably get his resume updated, as I doubt he continues to have a job playing after this airs (he’s in the Chicago Cubs organization right now on a MLFA deal), probably faces a lengthy suspension already and would seem to be completely un-signable once its completed.

I dutifully watched the documentary on TV when it aired on 12/27/15.  The premise of the show was to have the filmmakers take some (well known?) British sprinter and run him through the under-world of morally questionable doctors here and far in order to see just how easy it was to get PEDs these days.  He traveled to the Bahamas, to Vancouver, to Austin and then took a long road trip with the primary name dropper, one Charlie Sly, all with the use of a hidden camera.  Sly is the “source” who fingered Manning, Zimmerman, Howard and a slew of other pro athletes and was portrayed in the documentary as a “Pharmacy doctor” but per the Guyer Institute where he worked was actually an “unpaid pharmacy intern.”  In the film, he frankly looks more like a sloppy college student than some mastermind of PED use.

Sly, of course, has already recanted everything he said in the film (as was announced during the showing of the program).  So, between the clear “name dropping” going on and his lack of actual medical credentials, he’s not exactly a source who inspired confidence. But the problem I have is this: how does he decide to pick these specific athletes? I mean, Ryan Zimmerman and Ryan Howard are pretty random baseball players to pick. No basketball players named; just two aging veteran baseball players who certainly have not exactly shown the kind of career resurgences you’d expect for someone using illegal substances.  Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.  Maybe he got the two Ryans’ names from some other procedure they underwent at the Guyer institute that was completely legitimate.  Who knows.

The Nats (and Phillies) have issued statements of support for their players.  All those mentioned have (of course) issued denials.  The Guyer Institute has announced that Manning wasn’t seen at the clinic during the time period in question.  Some reporters have noted that it is common to prescribe HGH to women going through fertility treatments (guess what: the Mannings went through IVF and just had twins).  And the Al Jazeera film-maker defiantly defending her work and saying that Manning hasn’t answered the charges.

I think in someways I agree with Will Leitch‘s take on it, as published today in Sports on Earth, that once they got a-hold of a big name that became the focus.  There’s no “proof” to be had of any of these players other that the discredited and recanted word of one guy with a tenuous connection to the institute where this all supposedly occurred.  How reliable is that?

Life in sports with PEDs is tough.  Everyone’s a target in some ways.  This documentary could be nothing or it could be completely legitimate, but the damage to all of these players is now done.  Whatever the heck Delta-2 is, or any of the other mind-boggling slew of medications mentioned by Sly and the other slime-ball doctors caught on film, is immaterial.  The players can say “there’s no proof” until they’re blue in the face.  Mike Piazza is the best hitting catcher of all time and has been kept out of the Hall of Fame thanks to one reporter noting that he had “back acne” and jumping to the obvious conclusion (that he was ‘roided up).  Is that fair?  Nope.  Is it reality in today’s baseball climate?  You bet.  Not that anyone was mistaking  Howard or Zimmerman for hall-of-famers, but still its a shame that both guys’ reputations will take the inevitable hits.

Post Publishing Update 1/7/16: Zimmermann (and Howard) have filed suit.  Here’s some links post-publishing.–mlb.html

Written by Todd Boss

December 28th, 2015 at 2:44 pm

26 Responses to 'Ryan Zimmerman, HGH and Al Jazeera'

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  1. I am not nuts about PEDs. I am not in favor of them, but I don’t honestly know where to draw the line. A few years ago I did some research into why certain drugs were banned and others weren’t, because I couldn’t figure out a rhyme or reason on my own. Cortisone shots – ok, but not more than three; HGH not ok. Both are steroidal in nature and have legit medical uses, blah blah blah. I read the MLB’s anti doping policy and they don’t get into why (or didn’t, it’s been a while). They kind of refer to WADA but otherwise just say these are banned and these are ok. It all just smacks of arbitrariness, and even if they did it, they are trying to play better, which benefits the team and us fans as well as themselves.

    Anyhow, back to this report, I think your comment about why pick out Zim is a good one. I assume that he has some connection to the clinic. I am inclined to find it hard to believe, but honestly, won’t rule out any thing today. I also won’t hate Zim if he did it.


    28 Dec 15 at 6:10 pm

  2. I’m withholding judgment for all the reasons that have been laid out on both sides – nothing would surprise me particularly.

    But you’re right, there is a taint that goes. Gio was not merely unindicted in the Bosch clinic investigation that led to the suspension of many players – Gio was “cleared” by MLB. But you still hear the whispers.

    John C.

    28 Dec 15 at 10:02 pm

  3. This story will probably play out pretty similarly to how the Biogenesis one did. This one seems to have even less substance than that one did. Also, this one will have the massive Manning/NFL/ESPN propaganda machine moving to crush it.

    Is it possible that guys like Manning, Howard, and Zimmerman, all with some serious injury histories, got desperate enough to cross the line in an attempt to get back their mojos? Sure it is. I gave up believing in saints in sports a long time ago. But there seems to be very little credible and substantiated reporting in this particular story.

    Meanwhile, what this story needs is for some New York team to trade for a controversial player and shift the focus elsewhere. Hey, whatdaya know? The Chapman deal is shocking and seems desperate. The return for him was junk. (I laughed when I saw that Renda was included.) The Reds were said to have wanted Lopez and/or Robles, among others, from the Nats at the trade deadline. There’s no one in this trade close to that quality.

    Anyway, I’m glad that the Nats didn’t end up with Chapman, who makes Papelbon look like a choirboy. I’m also glad to have both him and Kimbrel in the AL. I’m sure the speculation will be rampant that the Nats will be looking at Andrew Miller. He was dominant last season and is signed for three more years. My concern would be that he’s only been a closer for a season so doesn’t have much experience in that role, and none in the postseason. The Yanks are said to be seeking a “controllable starter” in return.


    29 Dec 15 at 8:17 am

  4. Wally; completely agree. I wrote about this back in 2013 in a post titled “Why is Toradol “ok” but Steroids and HGH “bad?” and arrived at the same conclusions. It is absolutely arbitrary.

    I’m reading about the discrepancies between what the reporters says that the Guyers instituted told her (via her “transcript” of the call) about the dates of Sly’s employment (2011 timeframe) versus what the Guyer institute has laid out in response to multiple inquiries (Feb 2013). This to me is kind of important; Manning was a patient there in 2011 but not in 2013 (according to the institute anyway). I wonder if this is what happened: Sly interned there in 2013, read about all the famous athletes that used to be there or who had been treated in the past, and just used that list of names as his list of “sources” for HGH shipments.

    Todd Boss

    29 Dec 15 at 8:50 am

  5. Chapman trade: complete dump job of a guy who the Reds probably think is a) guilty of the domestic violence charges, b) are happy to get rid of as a result and c) think he may get a sizeable suspension for next year so might as well get what you can now, because if he’s suspended he’ll be worth even less.

    Crazy though.

    how about Miller for Papelbon 🙂 Put two headcases together and let them have a bare-knuckle fist fight for who gets saves.

    Ok seriously, how about Miller for Fedde? You think they’d make that trade?

    Todd Boss

    29 Dec 15 at 8:52 am

  6. I’d do Fedde for Miller in a heartbeat, as I’m not sold on Fedde. He got a pass last season coming off TJ but will lose substantial value in ’16 if he isn’t demonstrably better than he was in ’15.


    29 Dec 15 at 9:03 am

  7. If Fedde for Miller was that easy, then likely we’d have to sweeten the pot. How about Fedde and Voth for Miller?

    Then again, at what point does the Nats say “gee, its just a 60 inning reliever no matter how good he is, 94% of 8th inning leads are converted even when you have your mop-up guy pitching the 9th so maybe we hold on to our future instead of going crazy for yet another high priced closer.”

    Todd Boss

    29 Dec 15 at 10:15 am

  8. I like Voth better than I do Fedde. Maybe I’m selling Fedde short. We’ll see. The two of them would be a big price to pay for a closer, even one controlled for three years, particularly when the Nats still have other needs (catcher, OF, maybe another starter). I’d prefer to have Voth going to OAK as part of the Vogt/Reddick deal that I’ve been advocating all winter.


    29 Dec 15 at 3:45 pm

  9. Best to remember that Voth is on his 1st elbow, that matters.
    The big question is can Rizzo dump Papelbon in the next 35 days. This is his blunder to fix, and it’s going to cost the Nats plenty.
    If Papelbon is due $12-13 m the Nats will have to eat at least $10m of that.
    Rizzo better hurry before Scott Boras tells the Lerners to grossly overpay for another client hanging out there.

    Mark L

    29 Dec 15 at 7:28 pm

  10. Putting aside what we would be willing to pay, I don’t think Fedde and Voth get it done for NYY. Miller’s package should be only marginally less than Kimbrels. Probably wouldn’t have to include Giolito or Turner, and can probably get away without Robles. But I’d say it would take Lopez, Cole and probably Difo. I likeMiller but I wouldn’t pay that.

    Drew is signed. There will be plenty of Boras jokes, but I actually like this signing. Good depth piece, fits the roster and doesn’t cost much. Add Venable or Span and I think that’s a wrap for the offseason ( I see Oap and Storen staying).


    29 Dec 15 at 10:51 pm

  11. The only problem with Drew is if they actually play him . . .

    I thought they would make another INF move, as they weren’t going to start the season with Difo as the primary backup. Drew sure beats the heck out of someone like Frantzen, or Uggla, but he’s also costing more. Drew was very good in ’13, awful in ’14, and weird in ’15, with 17 HRs but only a .201 BA.

    Wally, I think the Nats are far from done with their dealing. I do agree, however, that the cost for the level of closer they would want might be prohibitive. I have been saying for a while, as have a few others, that it’s seeming more likely they could end up with Papelbon closing. I think they’ll move Storen and his salary, though. But who knows? Boz has been agreeing with Todd on getting rid of Pap at all costs, even if it means eating his salary. Rizzo doesn’t roll that way, however.

    My favorite OF option is a healthy Span, but I don’t think a healthy Span exists. I also think Boras will have him looking for a long and overly lucrative contract. Parra is bad in CF and faded badly last year after the trade. Considering Venable’s decline over the last couple of seasons, I’m not sure he’d be much better than den Dekker.


    29 Dec 15 at 11:17 pm

  12. I meant it more as ‘I would call it a wrap for the offseason’. Rizzo appears to want only proven vets now, so that suggests a Kazmir signing, or maybe Chen.

    For me, once Murphy signed, I would go with MAT’s defense in CF, especially with Werth in LF. But I still don’t see Upton or a big OF bat that forces Harp to CF, but I could be wrong.


    29 Dec 15 at 11:37 pm

  13. Fedde was a top-5 talent coming out of college. He is back on the mound and in the midst of post-TJ rehab. It would be wise to bet on his having considerably more trade value at this point next year.

    As for Voth, he is a proven talent ready for AAA and showing no signs of peaking. Voth is the kind of player to sell high on in the Nate Karns mode for a real commodity (a Miller deal). Fedde’s ceiling is potentially higher so selling now is not selling high.

    I did not see the Drew signing coming and it’s the least inspiring of the moves, to me. Somewhere between meh and ugh. But Drew and Espinosa are both Boras clients, and I still see Danny headed out of town where he will more likely get a chance to start. Why would Drew sign somewhere that he would get 100 at bats as the second bench option (DC) unless he knew he would be the first IF off the bench? Perhaps the statheads here can tell us how he pinch hits or hits at Nats Park. I love, love Danny’s defense, but it’s his agent’s job to represent him, and the guy wants to start and that’s not going to happen in DC. If you think selling Escobar was selling high, it’ll never get higher than now to sell on Danny. And Boras will sell the trade to suitors better than Rizzo can. The irony is that we may be looking at a 2016 in which Espinosa starts more games at SS than Desmond. Wow.

    A lot of the speculation presupposes that Turner does not exist. Everyone knows he will be in the starting lineup by June at the very latest and possibly even opening day. If he hits .400 and steals a bunch of bases in the spring, who is going to deny him unless he gets the Kris Bryant treatment? Even then, once he is up, he is up to stay.

    The Drew deal means that we can revisit the Nats infield in 2016 with Turner a starter at SS, Murphy a starter at 2B, and Difo (unless he is traded) or a cheap and high quality defensive option in the utility role. It would be great to keep Danny around for all of that time, but the Nats know too well that if he is moved to the bench he will tank. Someone of the triad of Abreu/Mejia/Schrock will reach and play promising at AA this year and AFL next fall.

    For a lot less than 3 million dollars, and if he is still around, a 2016 Jason Martinson can provide the Nats off the bench with versatility, better defense, and pop (and lots of strikeouts from the right side). Not saying it won’t happen, just giving him rare props.


    30 Dec 15 at 4:43 am

  14. correction – a 2017 Jason Martinson. If he gets another chance at AAA, I think Martinson shows enough to break through to the big leagues. Power/speed/infield defense/versatility are too good to overlook if he can just hit enough average and avoid his prolonged slumps, and he is slow developer at each level. But there he was as the Syracuse all star in his rookie year.


    30 Dec 15 at 4:47 am

  15. I don’t think the Drew signing affects the plan for Danny to start at SS. The Drew and Murphy signings do seem to complicate Turner’s path, though.

    The bench as it currently stands is Drew, Robinson, den Dekker, Lobaton, and Moore/Reed Johnson. Another OF signing would push that latter pair out of the picture. If they’re going to sign a reserve OF, why does it have to be a LH one, with den Dekker and Robinson also available? They would already have four LH bats on the bench.

    Of course it’s possible Taylor gets pushed to the bench with the signing of an OF starter. I’m not sure what to think about that scenario. On one hand, I have lots of concerns about Taylor’s contact problem. On the other, how are they going to find out whether he can play every day unless they let him? Platooning doesn’t seem like an answer, as his platoon splits aren’t demonstrably better. There has been ongoing buzz since the trade deadline about the Nats adding an OF, so I think one is coming. But the delays in finding one seem to speak to the problems of finding a good fit for whatever it is that they think need.

    Meanwhile, no one seems to be talking about upgrading at catcher, the true black hole in the lineup.


    30 Dec 15 at 8:30 am

  16. Wally, I don’t disagree with you that Kazmir or Chen could be a possibility. As we’ve discussed several times before, though, I don’t understand the pressing need for another starter. Perhaps the logic is that they think the starter market is going to be so bad next winter that they want to beat the rush.


    30 Dec 15 at 8:36 am

  17. I don’t think Drew means they’re going to move Danny – I think he’s the bench SS. If Turner isn’t ready and Espi turns back into 2013-14 Espi (it wasn’t that long ago that many fans wanted to just cut him outright) then who plays SS?. If you are sold on Turner being ready, what if he gets hurt and Espi sucks? Your options are the contact challenged Espi-lite Difo or … Rendon? Murphy? Yikes.

    The rebuttable presumption is an infield of Rendon/Espi/Murphy/Zim, with Robinson and Drew as the bench, with the two kids both playing SS every day in the minors (Turner in AAA; Difo in AA). If Turner takes Viera by storm (or injuries/suckage clear the path) then he starts at SS and Espi and Drew are on the bench. That would also make a case for picking up another OF because the bench would be very lefty-heavy.

    John C.

    30 Dec 15 at 9:20 am

  18. Man, do I have to do a Stephen Drew post? 🙂

    I read the Drew signing as thus: its platoon time for Danny and Drew. Turner starts in AAA unless there’s an injury. I like the signing actually.

    Todd Boss

    30 Dec 15 at 9:27 am

  19. Could be a platoon,, could be back up, could be emergency starter if injuries happen. If they areintending him to play every day, that’s a bad decision but I doubt it is so.

    I’d say the Venable suggestion, or even the possibility of adding a starter, is just that it doesn’t look like Rizzo wants to rely on any unproven players this year, whether it’s a rookie, a young player with questions like MAT or Roark, or a volatile player like Espy. If the unproven player forces their way in through performance, ‘hey great, glad to have you’. Otherwise he’ll go with the vets, even if they are declining. So, according to that logic, Venable > den Dekker, Kazmir > Roark ( or even Ross), etc. this isn’t what I would do, but seems like Rizzo’s strategy. But it’s fine, with one or two more adds, this will be a strong team. I just think 2019 starts to look like a pure rebuild, rather than a retool on the fly.

    As for the Upton types, even putting aside the CF question, it’s hard to see the payroll growing to include them. Quietly, the Nats have taken on a lot of deferred money, and I wonder what it all means: Soriano,Scherzer, Murphy even Zim’s contract is structured like deferred money with big raises upcoming. Unless the shed a substantial amount, I don’t see them fitting in another $20+m guy unless he also defers or backends quite a bit.


    30 Dec 15 at 11:20 am

  20. Career-wise, Drew has good platoon splits, but he reversed last year and was significantly better vs. LHP. I hope they will give Danny a shot at starting full time. I do, however, certainly get the logic of wanting an experienced SS on the bench, particularly considering Espinosa’s checkered history with contact.

    FWIW, Davey thought Rendon had a SS arm and started him there a handful of times when he gave Desi a break. Obviously that’s not the ideal, though.

    Upton: one of the guys on MLBTR (Adams?) suggested within the last day or two that Upton may be looking for an opt-out contract since he’s younger than average FAs. That might actually work to the Nats’ advantage, long-term cost-wise, if he likely would come off the books in three or four years. We’ll see. As the Drew signing shows, Rizzo can never get enough of his former D-Backs!


    30 Dec 15 at 1:53 pm

  21. I think the signing of Murphy (and the blowing of the 1st round pick) makes it even more likely the Nats do another OF signing. Gordon, Upton, someone like that. If they get comp picks for both Zimmermann and Desmond but sign (say) Upton, they lose one of the two sup-1st picks and then just have a supp-1st in the early 30s and their regular 2nd rounder, which has now moved up at least 10 spots thanks to all the lost picks ahead of them….

    Todd Boss

    30 Dec 15 at 3:03 pm

  22. Kazmir to the Dodgers for three years, but with an opt-out after just ONE year. Contracts are getting weirder by the day.


    30 Dec 15 at 5:00 pm

  23. How about the Dodgers; FIVE lefty starters! Kershaw, Ryu, Anderson, Kazmir and Wood.

    Todd Boss

    30 Dec 15 at 6:19 pm

  24. Well, it is the Left Coast, after all. Maybe it’s not so bad for the Nats to have so many RH bats should they meet in the playoffs.


    30 Dec 15 at 6:54 pm

  25. Alex Wood for Roark. Who says no?


    30 Dec 15 at 8:25 pm

  26. Wood vs Roark. tough one.
    – Wood lefty, had much better numbers a season ago, but has awful mechanics and seems like an arm injury waiting to happen.
    – Roark righty, kind of inexplicably struggled last year after a great 2014. But he relies more on movement and command instead of velocity and deception.

    I’d take Roark.

    Todd Boss

    30 Dec 15 at 9:12 pm

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