Aug 15

Upon Further Review, Instant Replay Still Has Gaps

It is a start. That’s where we can begin to analyze Major League Baseball’s new instant replay format, which now includes giving managers up to three video challenges per game, with the final decision rendered in the MLB offices in New York.

Theoretically, this would eliminate the hat-flinging, dirt-kicking, bat-and-base throwing tantrums that elevated Earl Weaver and Billy Martin to folk status. I will miss those. Go ahead, Google Earl Weaver umpire fights, especially those with Ron Luciano.

There’s some good to the new system, but several shortcomings must be mentioned:

NUMBER OF CHALLENGES

The system calls for only one challenge through the first six innings and two for the remainder of the game, regardless of how long it goes. It was said on one radio call-in show this afternoon the intent is to speed the game along, which should never be the primary reason for anything. The primary goal should always be to get it right.

Why not allow one challenge every three innings, regardless of how long the game lasts? There’s a sense of proportion that way.

Technically, to allow for full integrity to the process, replay challenges should be unlimited, because getting it right is the only true goal. However, in leaving unlimited replays on the table, all it would take is one ANGRY manager to challenge every play.

WHAT IS REVIEWABLE AND WHAT IS NOT?

As of now nothing changed, just home runs. Balls and strikes will never be under challenge, but so many types of plays should be reviewable.

Unlike football, where the action can happen anytime and anywhere on the field, that isn’t the case with baseball. So much of what happens on a baseball field does so at a fixed location, such as the foul lines, bases and home plate and the fences. Even trapped balls in the outfield would seem easier than football, because there’s rarely an obstructed view.

Why not include everything but balls and strikes? Get it right, so there will never be another travesty as the botched infield fly rule play in Atlanta during the NLDS?

Major League Baseball, if it wanted, could readily identify where most of the contested plays are, and why. MLB has stats on everything and can pinpoint what plays created the most disputes, and getting back to the innings issue, where they occurred in the game. That’s why keying the bulk of the challenges in the last three innings is a misnomer.

What the makers of this rule don’t get is things can explode any time.

THE UMPIRE ISSUE

This gets us to the umpires, whose union had to be on board for this to happen. Hopefully, this format will diffuse many of the player-umpire confrontations.

I’ve always maintained each umpire should be wired for sound they can’t control. This way we know who said the words to ignite the argument.

The accusation against many umpires is they don’t care to improve. There’s a perception they can be lazy and confrontational.

Hopefully, this format will prove the umpires are more right than wrong, but that isn’t the current perception.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 06

Legacies Of Alex Rodriguez And Bud Selig Permanently Linked

As we sift through the rubble of Major League Baseball’s Biogenesis scandal, we will find many things, including the tortured legacies of the New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez and Commissioner Bud Selig.

Supremely gifted and talented, Rodriguez garnered three of the sport’s biggest contracts. The first was from the Texas Rangers, which was supposed to raise that franchise to prominence, but instead choked them to the point of having to trade him to the Yankees.

SELIG: Not smiling before Congress.

SELIG: Not smiling before Congress.

Rodriguez received two lucrative deals from the Yankees – the latter against the wishes of general manager Brian Cashman – for the intent of driving the club’s network YES with a record home run assault that could have shown us 800.

But, that was George Steinbrenner, whose high-rolling actions to get Rodriguez simply defined his place in baseball lore.

By his own admission, Rodriguez said he used steroids, but was accused of much more by Selig. Of what, we’ll know exactly in the coming months.

One thing he was accused of was attempting to purchase Biogenesis’ records. A despicable act if he had, but seemingly not so when done by MLB.

Rodriguez won’t get his 700 or 800 home runs. He will not break the career mark held by Hank Aaron. Barry Bonds does not hold the record for home runs, but for hitting balls over the fence. Real baseball fans know the difference.

Rodriguez’s memorabilia might see Cooperstown, but there won’t be a plaque of him, just as there won’t be one of Bonds, of Mark McGwire, of Rafael Palmeiro, of Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens. We will see their bats and gloves, just not their faces in bronze.

RODRIGUEZ: Not smiling either.

RODRIGUEZ: Not smiling either.

The Baseball Writers Association of America has taken some heat for its awards decisions, but should be proud of its current stand on players in the Steroids Era, the one ushered in by Selig.

Selig should be having mixed feelings today. He has to be happy with nailing 13 of 14 players, but privately must fear what will come down with Rodriguez’s appeal.

Then, he should feel angst because much of this was brought on by Selig, who as commissioner represents the owners more than he does the game.

It was Selig’s decision to play hardball with the Players Association in 1994 by demanding a salary cap and revenue sharing that forced the strike, and with it the cancellation of the World Series and advent of replacement players the following spring.

It must be remembered during this period the owners were found guilty of dealing in bad faith in court.

The sport took a severe financial hit, which it attempted to heal with the entry fees of the Tampa Rays and Arizona Diamondbacks in 1997. Attendance was down, but revived in 1998 with Cal Ripken’s honest pursuit of Lou Gehrig’s record; a dominating year by the Yankees; and, of course, the pursuit of McGwire and Sosa on Roger Maris’ honest record.

After nearly 40 years, both broke 61. Sosa did it three times. McGwire hit 70, but Bonds had 73. None of those numbers were achieved honestly, but with the tacit approval of Selig and the owners who looked the other way because the stands and their coffers were being filled again.

Selig is taking bows because baseball has sports’ toughest drug policy, but it was forced on him by Congress and the shame of the dishonest home run.

It is too much for me to expect Selig and the owners to admit their involvement, but if nothing else, I want to see a damn asterisk designating the Steroid Era.

Do that, and then take a bow.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Aug 05

Suspensions From Jordany Valdespin To Alex Rodriguez Bring Different Reactions

One by one the names were read, but only one brought an immediate response from me: Jordany Valdespin of the New York Mets.

The reaction was two-fold. First laughter, because aren’t these supposed to be “performance enhancing drugs?’’ The second was this probably explains a lot about his behavior, which seemingly has been a permanent case of “Roid Rage.’’

VALDESPIN: Yup, he's the man.

VALDESPIN: Yup, he’s the man.

Of the 14 players suspended in Major League Baseball’s purge – that includes the 13 today and Ryan Braun,’’ only a handful have any significance.  The rest, including Valdespin, will fade away into trivia answers.

Braun, because he was the first and had been MLB’s pet target since getting off on a technicality the first time; Alex Rodriguez, because of the contract, it’s the Yankees and the scope of the penalty of 211 games; and Nelson Cruz and Jhonny Peralta because their teams are in pennant races.

The rest? Who really cares? And, for some, I don’t care if it hurts their chances in free agency. Wasn’t Melky Cabrera rewarded with a two-year contract?

The current climate among the players is venomous, particularly towards Braun and Rodriguez. Much of that venom directed at Braun is because he lied, but if the players were honest with themselves, it would be because Braun rolled so easily.

When he escaped the first time it showed the flaws in the system, but also that the appeals process worked. When he caved so easily it gave credibility to Tony Bosch’s evidence, evidence purchased by Major League Baseball.

It makes me wonder if Braun’s “settlement’’ of 15 games longer than the pack was part of a deal, otherwise wouldn’t Bud Selig have hit him with Rodriguez-type numbers?

As for Rodriguez, at 38 and injured, his career is winding down, the rest of this season could be the final chapter of what would have been a Hall of Fame career. Rodriguez has to appeal for several reasons. He said he’s “fighting for his life,’’ but he’s also fighting for the rest of the players who regard him as selfish.

Ironically, Rodriguez’s appeal might be one of the least selfish things he’s done in his career because he’ll force Major League Baseball to show its hand and defend its actions, perhaps in Federal Court, and from there who knows what will become of the Joint Drug Agreement and the scope of Selig’s power.

Currently, it is unlimited, but if Rodriguez’s suspension is overturned or reduce, that’s a correction to Selig’s authority because it must be remembered these players were punished not for failing a drug test, but because of their connection to Biogenesis.

And, we don’t know the depth of that connection.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 31

Alex Rodriguez Must Stand Up To Bud Selig

The issues in the Biogenesis case are two-fold: 1) the accused players supposedly used PEDs, which is against the rules of MLB’s drug policy, and 2) they used illegal drugs, thereby breaking the real law.

It is there that gives Commissioner Bud Selig authority to go after these guys and dole out punishments, some exceeding the 50-game ban for a first offense.

RODRIGUEZ: Not doing much smiling these days.

RODRIGUEZ: Not doing much smiling these days.

Cleaning up the game is admirable, but I am wondering if the ends justify these means. Selig has gone to bed with Tony Bosch, whose reputation is tainted and word questionable at best. Major League Baseball couldn’t get its own evidence, so they paid for it.

Kind of sleazy, don’t you think?

Major League Baseball paying Bosch taints its case, but Ryan Braun rolling over without a whimper gave Bosch a large degree of credibility, at least in the eyes of the other players cited. And, union chief Michael Weiner’s meek approach of coming out and saying the union would not support the players charged seriously weakens the Players Associations’ leverage not only in this case, but possibly in future labor negotiations.

Currently, Selig holds all the cards, and that’s not healthy for the future of the sport. He now has absolute power to do what he wants, but baseball is making a pile of money so nobody will contest him on any issue.

Braun did his fellow players a disservice by not challenging the charge and just taking the punishment. It showed he was out just for himself. Others will do the same. If the accused work out their own deals, what does that say about the union?

As for Alex Rodriguez, there’s a lot of evidence that makes him look bad, including his admission of using steroids prior to MLB’s get tough drug policy. Since he admitted using prior to the policy, there was no suspension.

There’s a lot of evidence Rodriguez is hip deep in all this, from recruiting other players to Bosch and trying to cover his butt. But, how credible is the evidence if it is supplied by Bosch, who is trying to save his own skin? How much of that evidence is real and documented, and how much of it circumstantial?

If nothing else, Rodriguez has to show he’s a team player in the eyes of his colleagues by forcing Selig’s hand.

I want the game clean, just as Selig does, but I wonder if the evidence he has is real or myth. The man is a used car salesman. He made his fortune bluffing. This isn’t a regular court where discovery must be turned over to the defense. This has the makings of a kangaroo court.

If Selig is relying on circumstantial evidence and has no witnesses other than Bosch, he’s playing a game of chicken with the players, and so far the players are blinking. They are doing so because they don’t feel any backing from the union.

Rodriguez has long been accused of being a selfish player, and rightfully so. However, in this case Rodriguez must contest Selig to make him show his cards. And, the union, if it wants to continue being a viable force, must go to bat for these guys. If Rodriguez contests this he will be doing his fellow players more than just a favor.

Defending the Biogenesis players seems ridiculous on the surface if the intent is to clean up the sport. However, there’s a right way to do things, and because of that the union must contest the suspensions to ensure proper due process protocols are followed.

The union must stand up to Selig to show it is still a viable force and won’t capitulate at everything the owners and commissioner wants, because what they want isn’t always in the game’s best interest, but their own financial gains.

ON DECK: Jenrry Mejia and game preview.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos

Jul 23

Has The Players Association Lost Its Teeth?

Is the Baseball Players Association, usually regarded as professional sports’ most powerful union, no more? Perhaps not as toothless as the impotent unions representing players in football, basketball and hockey, but in light of the Biogenesis disgrace that’s the impression.

Director Michael Weiner’s recent comments the MLBPA would not stand in the way of Biogenesis suspensions – with Ryan Braun’s for the remainder of the 2013 season the first – is not representative of a vibrant union.

The union’s rap was it would defend an ax murderer, but there is a minimum understanding in the reasoning for such a reputation. The union’s job is to not only enhance its members’ financial position, but also defend them against often overzealous owners.

While it is understandable and admirable of Commissioner Bud Selig for wanting to eradicate performance-enhancing drugs from the sport, the terms of Major League Baseball’s drug policy was defined by collective bargaining.

Selig’s heart is in the right place in wanting to clean his sport, despite that he and the owners initially looked the other way during the height of the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa steroid-fueled home run chase in 1998, and subsequent shameful acceptance of Barry Bonds’ assault on Hank Aaron’s true home run record.

The policy has checks and balances and an appeals process, one Braun utilized and skated on a technicality. Braun beat the suspension because a MLB handler made a mistake. The process was in place to enable Braun to walk.

It is a process designed to avoid a witch-hunt and unfair prosecution of a player. I have no sympathy for a cheater and as a Hall of Fame voter will not vote for player linked to steroids. I want steroids gone from the sport, but want them eliminated the right way.

The Biogenesis case has been ugly from the start, with the evidence more than circumstantial against Braun, Alex Rodriguez and others. However, MLB did not have subpoena powers to obtain records from Biogenesis owner Tony Bosch, who for a price, since went to bed with Selig against the players.

That’s distasteful and creates the impression of Selig being vindictive against Braun for beating the first suspension. It was undoubtedly embarrassing for Selig and MLB to lose that case, but it was a sign the drug policy was working.

For MLB’s drug policy to continue to work it must have an appeals process and the players can’t be denied due process. Weiner should not accept MLB’s case against the Biogenesis players without question and simply taking Selig’s word, especially with him having to purchase the evidence against players from Bosch, whose reputation is certainly not above reproach.

There have been eight work stoppages in baseball, the last one the 1994 strike forced on the players by the owners for their refusal to bargain in good faith on the issues of revenue sharing and a salary cap. This one bled into two seasons and forced Selig to sack the World Series. After that, it was hoped the two sides learned something as to never have another stoppage, and after a near miss in 2002, that turned out to be the case.

However, did peace come at the price of the MLBPA selling out to Selig and the owners? For all practical purposes, Selig has his salary cap. And, if the MLBPA gives in without a hint of due process, in what other areas will the union capitulate?

And, how healthy is that to baseball’s growth?

ON DECK: About Last Night: Not liking Bobby Parnell’s response.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos