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.


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….

World Brawl Classic?

Did you catch the brawl in the Mexico-Canada game yesterday? It was quite a scrum with lots of punches and tackles, but amazingly no suspensions. I understand why MLB doesn’t want to suspend players from this event, but it sets a very tricky precedent the next time the benches clear in a real baseball game.

The bigger problem is why the benches cleared. They cleared because a Canadian player laid down a bunt in the 9th inning of a game his team was winning 9-3. Why did he do that? Because the tiebreaker in the WBC is run differential. Canada had been creamed by Italy the day before (they actually got mercy ruled) so it was reasonable for them to want to score as many runs as possible. It was also reasonable for Mexico to get a bit upset watching a guy drop a bunt down in that situation. The question is, what does MLB do about it?

Changing the format of the WBC would be a start. Since the games are played in March, why can’t they have some sort of tiebreaker for a playoff spot? Or, get creative and add a home run derby for the spot or something like that. Whatever they do, hopefully MLB thinks of something to avoid this situation the next time the WBC is held.

The Sad Truth

The names continue to drip out of the Miami clinic and there are rumors that the newspaper that broke the story is going to cooperate with MLB , so expect more names to appear soon. But, none of this will solve the basic problem which the originally story outlined, the drugs are just too cheap.

Lost in the hype over the names in the original story was this little nugget:

On a 2009 client list, near A-Rod’s name, is that of Yuri Sucart, who paid Bosch $500 for a weeklong supply of HGH.

$500 a week means a yearlong supply of HGH is $26,000. MLB players who are in the majors make a minimum of $490,000 this year. And remember, up until now there has been no way to test for HGH. When you consider the millions handed out to players with even average stats, I think you would have to agree that the temptation to cheat and start using HGH must be very, very high for a lot of players.

And that’s the sad reality of all of this. There will always be new drugs developed that athletes will find out about. With millions of dollars on the line, the temptations to cheat will always be there. MLB can trumpet its drug policies all it wants, but its hard to see how we will ever have a truly clean game in the 21st Century.

Truck Day at Fenway

Well, today is truck day for the Red Sox.  The day a big semi heads south with equipment, baseballs, juggs machines, advil, beer, fried chicken and various other baseball necessities for the 2013 Red Sox.

For Red Sox fans, we have a rough idea of which players will break camp with the team.  Here’s my guess:

  1. c – Jarrod Saltalamacchia (baring a trade)
  2. 1b – Mike Napoli
  3. 2b – Dustin Pedrioa
  4. 3b – Will Middlebrooks
  5. ss – Stephen Drew
  6. lf – Jonny Gomes
  7. cf – Jacoby Ellsbury
  8. rf – Shane Victorino
  9. dh – David Ortiz
  10. c – David Ross
  11. ut – Pedro Ciriaco
  12. ut – Brock Holt
  13. sp – Jon Lester
  14. sp – Clay Buchholz
  15. sp – Ryan Dempster
  16. sp – Felix Dubront
  17. sp – John Lackey
  18. rp – Franklin Morales
  19. rp – Koji Uehara
  20. rp – Andrew Miller
  21. rp – Andrew Bailey
  22. rp – Joel Hanrahan
  23. rp – Craig Breslow
  24. rp – Alfredo Aceves
  25. rp – Daniel Bard

That leaves Ryan Lavarnway, Junichi Tazawa, Clayton Mortensen, Daniel Nava and Jose Iglesias in the minors.  Of course there is a strong sense the Red Sox will move a catcher, most likely Saltalamacchia which would mean Lavarnway makes the club.

Things I like:  I like the Red Sox bullpen.  It is strong and well-balanced.  Andrew Bailey might get moved as, from this perspective, he doesn’t appear to take conditioning too seriously and still has value.

I’m ok with the rotation, but that really is assuming new manager John Farrell get light a fire under the likes of Lester, Lackey and Buchholz.

The line-up is a huge mystery to me.  There are guys who are tough at bats like Pedrioa and Ortiz, but there are also guys who give at bats away in Gomes, Saltalamacchia and Victorino (poor OBPs).  With luck, this team could produce some runs, but there really is no superstar element save for Ortiz, and he’s 37, and Pedroia who is a nice hitter, but can’t be counted on as a major run producer.

After the last 7 months of disastrous Red Sox baseball, it is difficult to get too excited  about this team.  Yes, they could make the playoffs, but I again will state that this team has 82-88 wins written all over it.


More Fun With Alex

Just when you thought Alex Rodriguez couldn’t get more interesting, here’s a new PED story linking him and other athletes to an outfit in Miami. It was back in early 2009, ironically during his last hip surgery recovery, that A-Rod admitted to using steroids during a three-year period. The Yankees stood by Alex and supported him at his press conference where he supposedly came clean.

But, that was a different A-Rod.  That guy had won a MVP in 2007 and he hit .302/.392/.573 in 2008. The Yankees needed that player to be productive and their faith was rewarded with a championship in 2009 that would not have been won without Alex. Now, things are very, very different.

Let’s start with the obvious, this isn’t the same player. Rodriguez just had surgery on his other hip. He has not hit .300 since 2008 and his OPS has declined every year since 2007. He has hit 34 homers over the last two seasons and has appeared in only 221 games during that period. Couple that with his contract which has 5 years and $114-million left on it before incentives (we will get to those) and I think it is fair to say that the Yankees won’t be as supportive this time around if these allegations prove to be true.

And this is the where the biggest change from 2009 comes in, the quest to get a payroll below $189-million in 2014. I’ve detailed how hard it will be to accomplish, but if the Yankees somehow could subtract the $27.5 AAV of Alex’s contract, it becomes a lot easier to achieve. Now, I don’t see any way that is possible, but I do think the Yankees will have an argument to make against Alex’s contract incentives.

Alex gets $6-million each time he hits a milestone home run which are defined as home run #660, 714, 755, 762 and 763.  And those bonuses will count against the Yankees’ payroll when they are earned. So, with Alex out until July,  currently hitting a home run about once every 6.5 games and sitting at 647 career homers, there is a very real chance that he won’t hit #660 until 2014. And that would cost the Yankees an extra $6-million in payroll which could completely obliterate their quest to get under $189 million.

So, I expect the Yankees to attack those incentive clauses. A-Rod has already admitted to using PED’s from 2001-2003 when he hit 156 homers. The Yankees could use that and these latest allegations to try and invalidate his 660th homer, arguing that his real total would be less without the use of PED’s. I imagine the Yankees are thinking over their options very carefully right now.  And, at the very least, I imagine Hal has given Hank a huge wedgie, at least I hope he has.