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Wrong Rincon

Posted at 5:15 PM on May 3, 2005 by Bob Collins

It seems to me that lost in the brouhaha over the Juan Rincon situation is the rather strident comments of Angels manager Mike Scioscia.

He's still going to have the benefits," Scioscia said Monday night in Seattle. "In 10 days, I guarantee you Juan Rincon doesn't become a mere mortal."

For years, I had no problem uttering the phrase Juan Rincon and
mere mortal in the same sentence. I didn'think he was very good.

He came up in 2001 like a house afire -- after the fire. He appeared in only a few games in 2001 and then got into 10 of them in 2002, as a bullpen specialist. He specialized in giving up lots of runs.

Then in 2003, he stopped giving up homers and suddenly he was decent. He always had a high walk-to-strikeout ratio and that continued in 2004 when he was unbelievable. In 82 innings he gave up only 52 hits, walked 32 and struck out 106 for an unconscious 2.63 ERA. Must be the drug, right?

I don't really know the nuts-and-bolts of Major League Baseball's substance abuse policy, but I have to believe that someone, somewhere was sitting in a dugout for a Twins opponents before it went into effect this year muttering, "wish we had steroid testing."

The trouble is: there isn't anything in Rincon's minor league numbers to suggest he would be this good. But there isn't anything there to suggest he wouldn't either.

Assessing minor leaguers is always a dicey proposition. I like to look at hits per 9 innings pitched (h9) and walks-and-hits-per-innings-pitched (whip).

From 1997 with the Twins' Gulf Coast League team to New Britain, Rincon was steady. Not great. Steady. His WHIP was between 1.30 to 1.58, which is about what your average pitcher does. His hits per 9 innings was around 8, which is pretty good. The minor leagues, by the way, have had a drug testing policy in place for several years.

In 2001 with New Britain, he had a great year as a starter and earned his call-up where, like most kids, he bombed in his first three dozen or so innings.

So I'm looking at these things trying to determine precisely when it was he began taking whatever the bigshots say he was taking. I can't find it. Most pitchers who end up making their debuts in the major leagues at age 22, are probably going to be pretty good pitchers.

But, still, his statement this afternoon was anything but a powerful defense.

"Baseball is my life, and I was devastated after becoming aware that I tested positive for a violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program," Rincon said. "The details are confidential, and I have asked the players' association to challenge the suspension.

"What I can share with you today is that I would never knowingly compromise my position within Major League Baseball or jeopardize my relationship with the Minnesota Twins organization or the relationships that I enjoy with my teammates.

"I will make no further comments, or answer any questions, until the process plays out in its entirety. However, I will add that I look forward to returning to the field to continue pitching to the best of my ability to help the Twins organization win its fourth consecutive division title."

Somehow, I'm betting when the process has played out, we still won't know what the alleged crime was.

But is it asking to much for a "I didn't do it"? Or even a "I did"?

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