Salty Chicago Cubs Basically Accuse Eric Thames of Juicing
The comeback of Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Eric Thames is easily the best story of the 2017 MLB season so far.
Thames came up with the Blue Jays in 2011 and played parts of three seasons in Toronto, but he couldn’t quite establish himself in the big leagues. However, in 2014 Thames went to Korea, where he became a superstar. In three seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization he hit .348/.448/.719 with 124 home runs, winning a batting title, a home run title, a gold glove, and an MVP award.
Given those numbers and their need for a big bat, the Brewers decided to take a flyer on the 30-year-old slugger, signing him to a three-year $16 million deal. And so far that’s looking like the steal of the century. Through 14 games, Thames is hitting .408/.500/.959, with an MLB-best seven home runs.
Unfortunately, not everyone is ready to buy this feel-good story. After collecting two singles, three doubles, and a home run in Chicago earlier this week, a few members of the Cubs organization made some thinly veiled suggestions that Thames’ resurgence might be chemically enhanced.
“You watch film on recent stuff and try to figure out a way, you know, to get him out,” said pitcher John Lackey, who gave up an opposite field home run to Thames on Monday. “But I mean, really even the homer hit the other way, I mean, you don’t see that happen here very often. That’s kinda one of those things that makes you scratch your head. pitcher John Lackey, who gave up the home run.”
As noted by SB Nation’s Brew Crew Ball, Lackey gave a little wink as he said the words “scratch your head,” which suggests he actually has a theory about that.
Of course, the dinger Thames hit off Lackey wasn’t actually as mysterious as the veteran pitcher would have us believe. There are actually a lot of professional baseball players who can hit 82 mph cutters left up and over the plate:
— MLB Stat of the Day (@MLBStatoftheDay) April 18, 2017
But that didn’t stop Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio from taking the PED suggestions one step further. He called in to WSCR 670AM’s Mully and Hanley on Wednesday morning and did everything but flat out accuse Thames of juicing.
Here’s the transcript:
“Well, the bottom line is [Thames] has hit the ball and we gotta figure out a way to get around [it]. All that other stuff, I’ll let other people worry about. But he’s doing stuff that I haven’t seen done for a long time.
“You start thinking about Ken Griffey Jr., Manny Ramirez when he went to the Dodgers, Barry Bonds…You’re talking about some of the greatest players to ever play this game. So, yeah, it’s probably a ‘head-scratcher’ because nobody knows who this guy is. And when he was here before, his body has changed. But, like I said, I’ll leave that to everyone else and we’re just gonna try to worry about how to pitch him better and get him out.”
I’m not sure if Bosio threw Griffey in there to throw us off the scent, or if he really inteded to suggest that he, too, abused performance enhancing drugs. Either way, the innuendo surrounding Eric Thames is childish and uncalled for.
Also, the notion that nobody knows Thames is total bullshit. I actually remember watching Thames take batting practice before a game in St. Louis back in 2011, and the reason I remember this so clearly is because he was crushing the ball. I went early to that game to watch Jose Bautista launch some dinger, but I came away more impressed with Eric Thames, who I’d never even heard of.
When I heard that Thames was tearing it up in Korea, to be honest I wasn’t that surprised. It sounded to me like a guy with tons of raw power who was once considered a legit major league prospect had finally figured something out—not unlike the aforementioned Bautista, who by the way has never failed a drug test.
And for those of you wondering, yes, Thames has been tested this year already.
Of course, as SB Nation’s Grant Brisbee points out, the great irony about the Cubs casting aspersions on a player who came out of nowhere is that people were doing the exact same thing to Jake Arrieta last year.
If Thames ever does test positive for PEDs, then fine, throw him under the bus. But until then, the Cubs and everybody else need to shut the hell up and give the guy some damn credit.
Hat Tip – [Deadspin]