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 09

Terry Collins’ Obligation With Matt Harvey Is To Mets, Not National League All-Star Team

His marketing dilemma is understood, but New York Mets manager Terry Collins would be making a mistake if he were to juggle Matt Harvey’s spot in the rotation, or even cut it short, just so his young ace can start Tuesday’s All-Star Game.

As of now Harvey’s next start would be Saturday in Pittsburgh, which would leave him enough rest to throw two innings Tuesday.

HARVEY: Another no-decision. (AP)

                     HARVEY: Another no-decision. (AP)

Collins’ first obligation is to manage the Mets and put them in position to win. That means having Harvey ready and able to pitch for the Mets and not attempt to give the Cincinnati Reds or Atlanta Braves home field in the World Series.

Isn’t tinkering with Harvey’s rest or pitch count reminiscent of letting Johan Santana throw over 130 pitches just so he could throw a no-hitter, and a tainted one, at that?

Of course, skipping Harvey’s start because of a blister on his right index finger will make this a moot point.

Then again, does it?

Collins said the blister prevented Harvey from making his between-starts bullpen session. If that was the case, Harvey entered the game with a blister, so what was he doing pitching in the first place? Did Collins start Harvey with the intent of showcasing him for National League manager Bruce Bochy? Believe me, Bochy knows enough about Harvey without Collins letting his ace audition for him.

Pitchers are fragile creatures, even physical workhorses like Harvey. The slightest thing, whether it be a bruise on the shin, or stiff neck, or blister on the finger can throw off his mechanics to the point where it can cause a serious injury to the arm.

Who is to say Harvey’s blister didn’t impact the pitch thrown to Buster Posey, which he took out of the park? Without Harvey admitting as much, there’s nothing definitive to say it did. There’s also nothing definitive to say it did not. There’s reasonable doubt.

I understand the importance of Harvey starting in the All-Star Game, not only to the Mets, but Major League Baseball. MLB wants television sets on at the start of the game so those around the country who haven’t seen him pitch will have an opportunity to see what the fuss is about.

Major League Baseball knows fans have a short attention span, and with the way pitchers are shuttled into the game, viewers aren’t going to hang around to see Harvey. Bud Selig can envision viewers channel surfing or clicking off the game. They want to see Harvey now, and Collins is doing everything he can to ensure it happens.

Even if it means the Mets lose a game now.

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

Jun 27

Shouldn’t Players Association Assume Some Responsibility In Cause Of Niese Injury?

Jon Niese is in the second season of a five-year, $25.5 million contract with the New York Mets. He can thank the MLB Players Association.

Regardless of how this shoulder injury plays out, Niese will collect every penny, again thanks to the MLBPA.

However, MLBPA should also bear some responsibility for the injury in the first place.

NIESE: Cold conditions led to injury.

NIESE: Cold conditions led to injury.

For years, the MLBPA’s priority in dealing with the owners in labor talks centered around money and protecting players in disciplinary and PED cases. Unfortunately, such things as interleague play, which contributed to issues as scheduling and playing conditions has been ignored.

The norm in MLB these days is the absurdity of teams playing in frigid conditions in April, traveling cross-country for one-game make-ups and waiting out four-hour rain delays. The owners are making huge financial commitments to these players, yet have them play in conditions that contribute to injuries.

It’s like owning a high-end sports car, yet leaving it out in the rain and snow. Makes little sense.

Because the MLBPA hasn’t emphasized these areas in collective bargaining, management has rammed through such things as the circumstances of having the Mets playing back-to-back series in snowy and frigid Minneapolis and Denver.

“I think it beat up his body,’’ manager Terry Collins told reporters today in Denver. “ I think he had to work extra hard. It’s freezing cold. … He’s the only guy who is really starting to get warm when he’s on the mound.

“Everyone else is standing out there. He and the catcher are really the only two guys with continual movement. When he’d come in, he’d get so chilled between innings, it was tough to go back out there and get loose. So now he had to work even harder to keep himself warm. I just think it took a beating on him.’’

Niese struggled in his subsequent starts and missed one after complaining of back stiffness and soreness. With every pitch Niese placed more stress on his body. As a pitcher, the brunt of it lands on the shoulder.

Sure, it is possible his rotator cuff tear has been an accumulation of all the pitches he’s thrown, but it also is likely pitching in the cold exasperated the stress and contributed to the injury.

Somebody has to play in those games, but the Mets, with reasonable, limited-greed scheduling, shouldn’t have been there.

Major League Baseball is trying to squeeze too much into the schedule and too much out of its players, and has been given carte blanche by the Players Association, which is content to bypass playing conditions for a bigger piece of the pie.

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

Jun 14

David Wright Shows Graciousness In Embarrassing Moment

For those scoring at home, the website Cougarlife.com, has over 3.9 million members, which is probably close to double what the New York Mets will draw this year. And, a fraction of that would be enough to select David Wright to the All-Star Game this July at Citi Field.

So, despite the obvious reaction of “what were they thinking?’’ the potential numbers indicate it might not have been that horrible an idea. But, numbers aren’t the only, or most significant measure of what this is about.

WRIGHT: Worthy of applause.

WRIGHT: Worthy of applause.

Where it becomes horrible is the appearance of desperation, and that the Mets can’t draw enough on their own to put Wright into the All-Star Game.

My initial reaction, like most, was the partnership idea, and in this era of political correctness, once that door is opened what other sexually-oriented websites and business would demand equal representation?

While there is little doubt a “Sodom and Gomorrah Night’’ at Citi Field would probably bring more people than Foreigner will tonight, do the Mets really want to go there?

To their credit, the Mets – unlike your average politician – owned up to their intentions after they backed out of the potential partnership. Also, to his credit, Wright handled the matter with grace and composure, and admitted this drive to get him elected was embarrassing.

“It’s nice when the organization is trying so hard to do something for one of their players,’’ Wright told reporters after the Mets lost another game. “And I can’t thank them enough for that. At the same time, I’ve asked them to back it down a little bit, especially with the stuff in between innings.

“You appreciate what they’re trying to do, and they’re very good-hearted. At the same time, this is a team game. As much as I’d like to be here to represent this team in the All-Star Game, we can’t let this become an in-between-inning, one-player production. Especially with the way we’re playing as a team, I feel very uncomfortable being singled out for All-Star Game-type stuff.’’

That’s exactly the type of persona the Mets and Major League Baseball should be marketing. Class is a decreasing commodity today in sports, so when it’s there it should be appreciated. Wright is such a figure. So is San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan, who at the start of the second half last night, walked over to Miami’s Dwayne Wade to ask how he was feeling as the two collided earlier and Wade aggravated an injury.

As far as Cougarlife.com naming him baseball’s hottest cub, the question was going to get asked and Wright had two ways he could have gone with it. He either could have been a jerk or could have been gracious.

“Serious? Ummm, I guess it’s a nice honor,’’ Wright said. “Did you guys have to draw straws for who asked that question? I guess I’d like to thanks my parents for the genes.’’

It’s non-stop now with Twitter and the Internet. Times have changed, and not always for the better. This reminds me of a story about Babe Ruth, who stark naked chased a woman through a train car when that’s how teams traveled.

Reporters also traveled with the teams at that time. Upon seeing Ruth, one reporter turned to another and said, “I guess this is one more story we’re not going to write.’’

No chance today. The pressures are enormous and if you’ve seen it up close, you can understand why some players can’t take it.

When Wright first came up, a lot in the media wrote how they hoped he wouldn’t change. He has somewhat, but on the things that matter, the core person – at least the public image – hasn’t changed and that’s one of the best things he brings to the table.

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