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 01

Mets Wasting Matt Harvey; Giving Games Away

Why are the New York Mets even bothering with Matt Harvey‘s innings cap when they don’t even support him. I know they are trying, but 12 no-decisions? He has more no-decisions than total decisions. That’s incomprehensible.

HARVEY: Another strong effort thrown away. (AP)

HARVEY: Another strong effort thrown away. (AP)

Thursday was another frustrating example of wasting a Harvey start, and truth be told, he didn’t do himself any favors, either. He was in trouble in only one inning, but couldn’t escape. Roger Clemens once said there are two or three moments in a game when the starter must will himself out of an inning if he’s to win. What happened in Miami has happened before, and twice before against the Marlins, when Harvey couldn’t finish the deal.

Believe me, I’m not ripping Harvey, one of the Mets’ true bright spots, but just pointing out something in which he would agree with: When run support is weak, it is all left on the pitcher. By all standards Harvey is having a marvelous year, but has been betrayed by a sputtering offense and occasional defensive breakdown.

This road trip began with a rout in Washington, and the Mets on the verge of a doubleheader sweep of the Nationals until Daniel Murphy threw a ball away resulting in a disappointing split. The next day it was the offense’s inability to hit with runners in scoring position.

The Mets lost three of four in DC, when in reality they could have won three. Getting back to Miami, they could have left with a sweep.

It’s been that way all season for the Mets, who have losing records in one-run games, two-run games, extra-inning games, at home, and against the Nationals and Marlins. They’ve lost ten against the Fish, the worst team in the division.

For the most part, Harvey’s brilliance has overshadowed those records, that is until he’s involved in the game. With a little more support, and a little more of him shutting down an inning, he could have 14 victories by now. Perhaps more.

That’s why it has been frustrating with these Mets. Most national media had them pegged for 100 losses, but they have overachieved to making us believe .500, and possibly second place, is within reach. Hey, they could have jumped the Nationals or at least pulled even with them if you take away Murphy’s throw and add some hits.

Good teams win at home, win within the division, and win the close games. That they are in so many close games to begin with is a positive sign because the alternative is being blown away, as they frequently were last year in the second half.

I was joking about the innings cap, but to a point. If you’re going to limit him, then don’t waste what he gives you, and that’s exactly what the Mets are doing.

Jul 08

Tim Lincecum Should Be Model To Matt Harvey

With the New York Mets in San Francisco for a three-game series, one of the obvious story lines will be Matt Harvey “auditioning’’ in front of Giants-National League manager Bruce Bochy to be the All-Star Game starter.

One of the best things about Harvey is his competitive drive, and his motivation isn’t the All-Star Game as much as it is to be the best pitcher in the sport.

LINCECUM: Harvey should be paying attention to him.

LINCECUM: Harvey should be paying attention to him.

It wasn’t too long ago his opposition tonight, Tim Lincecum, was considered the best. Not anymore. Here’s a guy who last year was relegated to the bullpen for the World Series.

The reports on Lincecum is he’s lost several mph., off this fastball, a pitch like Harvey’s that was in the high 90s, and danced and darted within the strikezone. Lincecum does not have the same dominance and there are numerous theories, including the torque and violence of his delivery has sapped him.

Whatever it is, Harvey should be paying attention, for what he’s experiencing now – from the cover of Sports Illustrated to dating a model to all the attention – is fleeting. It is the icing on the cake, but not the cake itself.

Harvey appears to have it all, which those around him say includes perspective and attitude. Harvey has nine no-decisions, including seven in games decided by three or fewer runs. Cut those in half to the positive and there shouldn’t be any debate as to whether he starts next Tuesday at Citi Field. Harvey brushes them off with a “that’s baseball,” shrug.

The one thing we haven’t seen from him is his reaction to true adversity. Not getting a few wins is one thing, but Harvey has not experienced losing his stuff, an injury or going on a long slide. He’s not experienced what every great pitcher goes through. From Sandy Koufax to Greg Maddux to Roger Clemens to Pedro Martinez; they’ve all endured getting knocked around by the fickle nature of their sport.

It has been smooth sailing so fair, but it’s never that way from beginning-to-end in a pitching career. So, when Harvey takes the mound tonight, it won’t be about starting an All-Star Game, but maintaining a star status.

Harvey won’t do it tonight because he’s too focused, but in that 24-hour reflective window of his after, he will do himself well to look at Lincecum’s career and understand the fragility of being the top dog.

Understanding it’s not all cream, but at times sour milk, is vital when it comes to being the best. What Harvey has now is the foundation for a great career, but it is something never to be taken for granted.

Nobody understands that more than Lincecum.

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

Jun 06

Major League Baseball’s Case Against Rodriguez And Braun Not Ironclad

What I want to see is the Mets play as compelling and emotional game as the Boston Bruins played last night. However, as it is with the Mets’ luck, it isn’t surprising that the Major League Baseball war against PED users in the Biogenesis case is set to explode at the All-Star Game.

It will be interesting to see how Major League Baseball spins off the Home Run Derby as its lawyers are running to court and back.

It is admirable Bud Selig wants to clean up the sport he allowed to get sullied by looking at steroid usage in the first place; how he tried to buy back the good will of the fans he alienated by killing off the 1994 World Series in the owner-initiated work stoppage with the chemically-enhanced Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa home run chase.

Caving under the pressure of attendance drops coupled by the criticism from the not-knowing that the game is too boring, Selig sold out for the quick fix of the home run.

That decision, along with the interleague play gimmick – also in the wake of the work stoppage – will forever be Selig’s legacy as commissioner.

Now, add the Biogenesis case.

Major League Baseball is seeking to suspend 20 players for connection to Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch, but its primary guns are aimed at Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun, who have made a mockery of the sport’s drug policy.

Rodriguez, who admitted using steroids for only a three-year period while with Texas and not with the Yankees, has repeatedly denied using again. Braun tested positive after his MVP season, but escaped punishment on a technicality.

Major League Baseball has been fuming since and this is coming off as the vendetta it is rather than a simple cleansing act.

While the picture looks bleak for Rodriguez and Braun, Major League Baseball shouldn’t celebrate too soon, as a sharp lawyer will attempt to turn this around.

Bosch initially refuted MLB’s request to turn over his records – he had no legal obligation to do so – and only is cooperating with Selig dropping the lawsuit against him. It was a lawsuit Bosch arguably could have won if he was able to afford to go against Major League Baseball’s deep pockets.

Bosch’s decision to go to bed with MLB came after Rodriguez refused to give him financial support, one of the few smart things the troubled Yankees’ third baseman has done in recent years.

It looks as if Bosch is turning on Rodriguez because he is, and that appearance doesn’t look good for Major League Baseball, which, when it comes to PEDs, has looked bad before Congress, and couldn’t put away Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds.

The technicality in which Braun escaped might be valid, but the sport comes off as a sore loser in not winning in arbitration.

If Selig wants to play hardball against PED users, that’s great, but there are other ways, and he will need the backing of the Players Association, which can’t be happy about this case. Instead, Major League Baseball is putting all its eggs in the Bosch basket, and he hasn’t been reputable from the start.

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

Apr 20

Matt Harvey’s Star Keeps Burning

Tom Seaver. Mike Mussina. Roger Clemens. Dwight Gooden.

Matt Harvey has been compared, whether it be stuff, demeanor or franchise history, in some way has been compared to them all.

Yes, it is not fair. Yes, it places unreasonable pressure. But, that’s the nature of covering and following sports. Managers, general managers and players all do it, too.

HARVEY: Keeps burning. (AP)

HARVEY: Keeps burning. (AP)

Harvey is getting a lot of that these days, and after beating Stephen Strasburg last night, he’ll be getting more.

Gooden, who tweeted Harvey is “the real deal,’’ was spotted last night on the Citi Field video board giving a thumbs-up sign. It was in part acknowledging the ovation; it was in part recognition of who he was watching.

“Yeah, absolutely,’’ Harvey said when asked if he was aware of Gooden’s presence and tweet. “It made it special. I grew up watching that guy. I wanted to be like that guy.’’

Whether Harvey has a career like Gooden, Mussina or Mike Pelfrey, we can’t say now. What we can say is all the arrows are pointed in the right direction.

“A lot of guys can throw 98,’’ manager Terry Collins said. “I like his competitive make-up. … Fear of failure is not in Matt Harvey’s make-up.’’

Harvey doesn’t just want to be a good pitcher; he wants to be the best. Collins said Harvey was in tune with the expectations of going against Strasburg, and the Mets’ present and future ace admitted to being amped early.

When it was over, Harvey was all humility – one of his more likable qualities – when asked about the “Har-vey’s better, Har-vey’s better,’’ chant that consumed Citi Field.

Harvey, in his first full season, is composed enough to know he’ll face Strasburg many more times in the future, and the Mets play the Nationals 18 times a season. This isn’t the NBA; there’s no trash talking. Harvey knew better than to stir the pot.

“It’s nice to hear, but I’ve got a long way to go,’’ Harvey said. “I appreciate the fans and the support and all that. But we’re here to win. We’re the New York Mets. It’s not just one guy out there. Every time I take the ball I’m trying to win for the team.’’

That all sound good, but Harvey knows words are cheap and he has to do it on the mound. That’s why Harvey was more satisfied with getting out of a bases-load, no-outs jam in the seventh rather than the two-hit shutout he had after the sixth.

“I knew I would have to pitch there,’’ Harvey said. “I knew I would have to throw strikes.’’

The Mets took a 4-0 lead into the inning, but the panic meter was running high when the Nationals had a run in and loaded the bases. Harvey knew what was required of him.

“That was a big challenge – bases loaded with no outs,’’ Harvey said. “That’s a tough lineup. At any point it felt like it could unravel and things could have gone the other way.’’

It didn’t because Harvey wouldn’t let it.

“That’s the mark of an ace right there,’’ Collins said. “That’s why we can’t say enough things about him. Games like this can lead to a great season.’’

Harvey has a strong work ethic, but that runs deeper than conditioning and working on his breaking pitches in the bullpen. Not only does Harvey work his body, but also his mind and that’s part of the package.

Harvey pitched seven innings last night in improving to 4-0. His goal is over 200, so there’s a long road ahead.

“I’m going to take the 24-hour rule and definitely be happy about this start and this win,’’ Harvey said. “And after it’s over, tomorrow, it’s time to work hard and get prepared for the next start.’’

They said Seaver once said the same in comparing Harvey to him. Perhaps one day they’ll say that about another hot property when they compare him to Harvey.