This Got Interesting

The A-Rod arbitration hearing took a big turn today. Alex stormed out of the hearing, cursed out a baseball executive and vowed that he would not return to the proceedings. This was reportedly in response to the arbitrator in the case ruling that Bud Selig doesn’t need to testify. Alex then went to WFAN’s studios and sat down with Mike Francesa for an interview. (They haven’t posted the audio of it yet, but you can bet they will soon.)  In the interview he denied doing anything wrong, including using PED’s and obstructing the investigation. Here’s a partial transcript of the key exchange

Francesa– “Were you guilty of any of these charges?”

A-Rod– “No”

Francesa– “Did you do anything wrong?”

A-Rod– “No”

Francesa– “Did you do any PED’s?”

A-Rod– “No”

Francesa– “Did you obstruct just- anybody any witnesses? Did you do anything they accused you of doing?”

A-Rod– “No”

Francesa– “Nothing?”

A-Rod– “Nothing”

Francesa– “So you are guilty in your mind of nothing?”

A-Rod– “I feel like I should be there opening day”

All of this raises a number of questions. First and foremost, why won’t Bud Selig testify in the arbitration hearing? Considering all we have heard about MLB’s behavior so far, Selig should take the stand and tell his side of the story. And Alex’s side has a good argument that the arbitrator is afraid of being fired by Selig if he compels him to testify since that could happen (not until after this case) and did happen to the arbitrator who ruled that Ryan Braun didn’t fail a drug test in 2011.

Now, was Alex’s reaction today genuine? That’s a tougher one to answer. On one hand, I can understand why he was angry and I can’t blame him. On the other, he needed to make a scene. Let me explain that one further. Arbitration is used to keep things out of the courts and since MLB and the Players’ Association have agreed to use arbitration to solve their disputes, A-Rod is going to have a tough time getting a court to listen to an appeal of arbitration unless he can somehow convince a court that he was railroaded. That’s why I would be very suspicious of his motives today.

But ultimately, Alex proclaimed his innocence clearly and unequivocally. I don’t know why he waited until now to do so, he claims it was  because of his attorneys, but he has done it. He was clearly upset in his interview with Francesa over how he has been treated by MLB, Selig and the Yankees. (They are replaying it on YES after the Nets game tonight if you want to watch)  I don’t know where this is going next, but it is clear that Alex is going to exhaust every avenue possible to him if the arbitrator finds he is guilty.


Wallowing In The Mud

Today the New York Times published a front page article on the A-Rod vs. MLB drama. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, here is a nice synopsis of it. It is fair to say that both sides come across as absolutely awful.

MLB has clearly decided to pursue victory at all costs. It is absolutely revolting to read the depths they have sunk to in their pursuit of Alex.

But that doesn’t excuse Alex’s behavior. Put aside the tampering, the cheating and think about the $100,000 anonymous donation to a Hispanic charity with the proviso that they publicly support Alex’s side.

Whatever happens when the final judgement is handed down, there will be no winners. Both sides have sunk to depths that make rooting for either of them impossible. All we can hope for now is a quick end to this mess.

Ortiz and A-Rod Are Friends

Baseball is so different than it was when I was growing up.  Opposing players hug each other during BP and go out to lunch and dinner with one another.  The hate seems to be gone for the most part.  It could be my memory is distorted, but I don’t recall the kind of love today’s players show for each other back in the 80’s.  Perhaps most MLB players are so rich that little things like rivalry and winning take a backseat to friendship.

No matter, David Ortiz today expressed displeasure with Ryan Dempster hitting A-Rod on Sunday.  He said it wasn’t because he and A-Rod are friends, rather it woke up the Yankees and breathed life into the them.

If I was Dempster, I’d be steamed right now.  Ortiz did say that Dempster was a “great guy” but calling out a teammate in public is wrong.  Especially for an isolated incident vs. an ongoing, well documented issue.  By criticizing his teammate on a strategy decision, he might as well call out John Farrell for bringing Brayan Villarreal, he of the 7.5 walks per 9 innings between MLB and AAA this year, into a bases loaded tie game only to see him walk in the winning run on 4 pitches (not much of a surprise).  Or he could call out Shane Victorino for not letting a foul ball drop and instead catching allowing the game tying run to score on a sac fly.  Or myriad other examples.

So Ortiz claims his words aren’t because of his friendship with A-Rod (they reportedly did lunch on over the weekend) but rather the fallout after the plunking with the Yankees rallying to win the game.  I’m not buying it David but either way, keep your trap shut.  What good does it do to throw your teammate under the bus.  Why not pull him aside and tell him you disapproved, in private, and leave it at that.

So while it is easy for Ortiz to blame Dempster for the Yankees rallying, I think we can all point to Ortiz and blame him should the Red Sox falter down the stretch.  You can’t have it both ways David.

Closer To The Bottom

So the A-Rod saga took a number of additional twists and turns over the weekend and it only got uglier.

First we had A-Rod’s lawyers saying the Yankees covered up his injury last year while Alex played dumb with the press.

Then we had Ryan Dempster throw four times at Alex with the umpires ejecting Joe Girardi.

Finally, we had MLB try to humiliate Alex’s lawyer on TV this morning.

Nobody looks very good here folks, but let’s break it down.

For the injury news, the bottom line is why didn’t Alex file a grievance until this weekend? My suspicion is that Alex’s motivation is to force the Yankees into a corner. They can either keep sending him out there while he takes his shots at the club, or they can swallow and cut him loose paying him a fortune in the process. I imagine Alex thinks that as long as he produces, someone will be happy to give him AB’s in the majors, especially if they can pay him the league minimum. So, maybe he does get suspended for 2014. But if he hits like he has so far in 2013, someone would be willing to take a flier on him in 2015. (Miami?) All he needs is his freedom from the Yankees, which he might get if he keeps this up.

As for Dempster, I have a number of problems with what happened. First, don’t hit A-Rod because he can play while appealing a suspension under the rules that YOUR union negotiated. Change the rules? Second, you sent your message with the first pitch, you don’t need to keep trying until you actually hit him.  As a Yankees’ fan, I was actually pleased by Dempster’s actions because I think they motivated the Yankees, but what are the umpires doing warning both benches after that? I don’t blame Girardi for flipping out, his player got thrown at four times and his pitcher hadn’t done a thing. Very, very strange way to handle that.

Finally, how in the world can MLB send a letter to A-Rod’s lawyer via Matt Lauer? When Alex said MLB was out to get him, I shrugged it off, but if MLB will stoop to trying to play “gotcha” with his lawyer by using a national TV figure, I am not sure Alex is wrong to be paranoid. It was a stupid, stupid PR stunt for an organization that should be smarter.

The race to the bottom continues….

Last Laugh

If only Ryan Dempster was as good at winning as he is hitting people.  Actually wait, it took him 2 tries to really hit A-Rod (or 4 if you think pitches 2 and 3 were meant to hit him), so perhaps he isn’t good at either.  Dempster was signed in the off-season to add quality depth to the Red Sox rotation.  A 2-year deal at $13.25 per season, it was a good signing I thought at the time.  Yes, pitching in the AL East is different from other divisions but I figured he’d be a helpful component to this team.

Dempster did last night what I think many players in baseball have been wanting to do.  Fine, hit the guy, but then, please go out and finish the task at hand.  A-Rod came back to make Dempster look silly.  Not only did Dempster allow A-Rod to score after hitting him, he later gave up a home run to him.  Look, I don’t like A-Rod and the fact he is playing right now is a joke, but these are the cards that have been dealt and Dempster has to remember that PEDs or not, A-Rod is talented.  No one knows just how talented he really is as we don’t know when we are watching a clean A-Rod vs. a PEDed A-Rod, but he can hit and is always going to be at worst an above average player.

Dempster has a 4.77 ERA now and 6-9 record.  That’s not good enough and if Dempster is going to go out and make a statement like he did last night, he HAS to back it up.  Terrible outcome.  Horrible loss.

I will say that last night’s game was interesting and certainly reminiscent of Red Sox v. Yankee games of old.

What’s Going To Happen?

I am really curious to see what happens when Alex Rodriguez steps to the plate tonight. I think there could be three different reactions.

1- The St. Louis/San Francisco reception. He gets a standing ovation because fans hate cheaters, but only cheaters on other teams. You have to support your cheater.

2- The every other ballpark in the league reception. He gets booed unmercifully.

3- The LA reaction. The fans haven’t entered the ballpark by the time he steps to the plate, or they don’t really react at all because they are checking out their hair.

I certainly hope it isn’t #1 or #3. And while I would understand #2, I would like to see Yankees fans get creative with expressing their scorn. I would like to see two things happen.

1- In the Top of the First when the roll call happens, I hope the Bleacher Creatures simply skip chanting A-Rod’s name. That would be a neat form of protest.

2- Whenever he comes to hit, I hope all the fans just get up and walk to the concession stands or turn their backs SILENTLY on A-Rod. Can you imagine that? Alex gets introduced and everyone simply ignores him? That would be the perfect reaction in my mind. Save the boos for the next time he comes to the plate.

Whatever happens, I suspect most of us will be watching.

What Do I Root For?

As a Yankee fan I am not sure what to root for in the next 24 hours.

As a selfish fan, it is easy. You want A-Rod to return to the lineup right now. Yes, he is 38 and has two bad hips, but it is very hard to imagine a scenario where he is worse than the guys the Yankees have run out there so far in 2013. The harsh truth is, the 2013 Yankees need Alex. But the 2014 Yankees might not, especially if they could be rid of his salary. So, A-Rod returning for 2013 and then being suspended for 2014 would be the best thing for the “root for the laundry” crowd.

But, I can’t do that. I can’t sit there and enjoy watching Alex play right now. I don’t know exactly what he did, but I am pretty sure it wasn’t good. He asked us in 2009 to judge him by what happened from that day forward. It certainly seems like he has failed miserably by that standard.

Things is life are hardly ever black or white and I think PED use falls under that category. If you grew up dirt poor and suddenly found a way to make enough money for you, your children and your children’s children to never have to worry about finances again, would you take it even if it was breaking the rules? I don’t know my own answer to that and that is why I can understand why some of these players did what they did.

But Alex was clearly not in that category when all of this happened. He had already made loads of money, so why did he cheat? Columnists have plenty of opinions from insecurities to just being a bad guy, but we will never know unless Alex tells us.

And that is ultimately what I would like to see come out of this. When all of the legal wrangling is finished I hope there is a moment where Alex tells us what really happened. He has said he will and I hope he does, but I think it is unlikely.

The sad truth of this whole mess is that there are no winners here. MLB can crow all it wants about cleaning up the game, but the majority of Biogenisis clients DIDN’T fail a PED test. As with most things in life, a seemingly trivial dispute led to this whole situation. Without that, none of this becomes public and all of these guys are still considered clean. And I think we all know that there are other clinics out there right now feeding their clients illegal PED’s. One day some of them may come to light, but chances are plenty will not.

So what do we do as fans? Do we applaud knowing that some of what we are watching is chemically enhanced? Do we turn off the tube in anger at the artificial nature of it all? Is there some middle ground? I don’t know the answer, but I know the upcoming announcement will do nothing to answer those questions. I guess the best scenario is that this all ends tomorrow and we move on-waiting for the next scandal to emerge.

Somebody Tackle Him!

Somebody please get Alex to stop talking. There has to be someone close to him who can tell him to shut up because he is simply digging the hole bigger and it is already big enough.

The latest from various outlets is that Alex’s comments Friday night pissed off MLB and the Yankees. That’s not a shock. What is surprising is that Alex reportedly went to both MLB and the Yankees today to try and broker settlements. He went to MLB to get his suspension reduced and he went to the Yankees to talk about a settlement on his contract. Both sides have said no way. MLB is reportedly going to suspend him for 214 games, aka the rest of 2013 and all of 2014, Monday.

As for the Yankees, I suspect Alex is going to have to take a substantial cut in salary to get a settlement from the team. Assuming he is suspended for all of 2013 and 2014, the Yankees have plenty of incentive to wait and see what condition he shows up in when he reports in 2015 because they insured his contract. If Alex couldn’t play baseball, or he got hurt while away from the game, the Yankees could collect $48-million of the $60-million they would still owe him from the insurance company. That’s a pretty strong incentive to sit and wait for 2015, but the Yankees are also pragmatic. They certainly realize that A-Rod is not helping their brand and he may be hurting it. Alex clearly doesn’t trust them and he has to know his best bet for any possible return to baseball is not in the fishbowl of New York. A settlement seems like a reasonable solution for both parties.

It’s amazing to think, but the possibility that Alex will never again play for the Yankees seems very real tonight.

What Does Hal Do Now?

Let me be clear from the get go, the following is not an argument that a payroll of $189 million is insufficient to win a World Series. Starting from scratch, that big a payroll would be much, much, more than you would need to compete and win. But, the Yankees aren’t starting from scratch, so keep that in mind as you read the following. 

I’m not sure Hal grasps the fundamental deal between the Yankees and their fans. The fans agree to pay exorbitant prices in exchange for star players and a competitive team. We respect the fact that ownership is in the business to make money, but we won’t tolerate that pursuit at the expense of a good team. If you want the attention and the dollars that come from owning the Yankees, you have to put a good product on the field. If you don’t, the fans won’t show up. Furthermore, the combination of HDTV and ridiculous prices at the ballpark have made it very easy for the fans to stay home.

The Yankees now find themselves at a crossroads. The $189-million mandate has been issued for 2014, but it is very hard to see how that figure would produce a championship club. I’ve detailed it before, but almost $90-million is already tied up in four players with serious questions hanging over them- A-Rod, Sabathia, Teixeira and Jeter (assuming Jeter exercises his player’s option). Cano, Kuroda, Pettitte, Granderson, Youkilis, Hughes, Logan and Joba will be free agents. Mo will have retired. The minors offer some hope of pitching help in 2014, but little in the way of positional help. And, as of right now, Cervelli and Nunez are the only potential 2014 starters under the age of 30.

Why does this matter now? Because the trade deadline is approaching and Brian Cashman needs to factor in that $189-million figure in his decisions over the next 11 days. Alfonso Soriano and his righty power bat would be a boost for this anemic lineup, but his $17-million salary hit in 2014 won’t work with the $189 million figure.

I use Soriano merely as an example of the type of trade the Yankees have traditionally made in the past. They have taken on salary while giving up less than stellar prospects. Without that financial flexibility, Brian Cashman will have very few options on the trade market this year. Some will argue that the additions of Jeter, A-Rod and Granderson will be enough, but can you really count on them? Jeter made it back for a game and got hurt again. A-Rod is headed for a MRI today on his quad and might be suspended.  Granderson isn’t even playing rehab games at this point. Look at tonight’s lineup. None of the bottom five guys are hitting above .239. The highest OBP among the quintet is .312 and the highest slugging percentage is .401.  And really, when you look honestly at the whole lineup, only Cano and Gardner are probably starting players on a true contender. The rest of the guys are role players at best.

So what is Hal going to do? If the Yankees had seen some of their younger players step up and contribute, meeting the $189-million goal while fielding a competitive team would have been achievable. But I think it is fair to say now that it won’t be. Hal can stick to the plan and force Cashman to run around signing cast offs and fading stars, or he can swallow hard and let the payroll stay where it is now. Financial restraint was a great idea, but the reality of four guys making $85 million and a lack of young talent should force the Yankees to come up with a new plan. Better they do so in July than wait until November.


Naming Names

ESPN is reporting that Tony Bosch, the founder of Biogenesis is going to cooperate with MLB and name people he sold PED’s to. And yes, we know who is at the very top of the reported list.

Besides A-Rod, there are some pretty big names on the list. Ryan Braun is arguably a bigger star right now than Alex. Melky is reportedly on the list as is Jesus Montero and Francisco Cervelli. In their report, ESPN details that not only will MLB seek to suspend them all, they will try and get 100-game suspensions for Braun and A-Rod under the second-time offender rule because they will claim two offenses were committed here. (Good luck with that.)

One of my biggest problems with the Mitchell Report was that MLB didn’t investigate enough. They essentially piggybacked on the work of the FBI and got lucky with Radomski. I opined at the time that there was probably a BALCO-like lab in most MLB cities. So, I am pleased that MLB aggressively pursued this and I hope that they are pursuing other unknown leads out there.

As for what this means for the Yankees, well a number of things. I suspect the Yankees will strongly try and invalidate the home run incentives in his contract if he is found guilty. They won’t have a prayer of getting his contract invalidated, but I suspect they will do at least that. You can be suspended while on the DL, so the timing of this will be interesting. The Yankees are playing Game #58 tonight. As long as the suspensions don’t come down in the next week, a 100-game suspension would mean no A-Rod in 2013.

There is also the matter of Francisco Cervelli. If he gets suspended 50 games the Yankees should really consider giving Austin Romine more of the catching duties. Cervelli is arbitration eligible in 2014 and I suspect the Yankees might let him walk away if he is guilty of this charge. Stay tuned, the next few days should be very interesting.