Jan 11

Rodriguez Suspension Reduced; Case Not Closed

As usually is the case with Alex Rodriguez, there is no last word. Just because arbitrator Frederic Horowitz reduced his unprecedented 211-game suspension for violation of MLB’s drug policy to 162 games.

Up next is a date in federal court. After that, who knows? Could this go to the Supreme Court?

Rodriguez won’t let this thing go, and he says it is more than about the $25 million missing 2014 will cost him.

While how Rodriguez has handled himself hasn’t endeared himself to many, and because he previously admitted using steroids prior to MLB’s PED policy, there’s little reason to believe he hasn’t used them since.

That’s not the issue.

The issue, says Rodriguez, is about fairness and his legacy. There is some degree of truth to the fairness argument.

According to the drug policy, Rodriguez’s admission wouldn’t be used against him. And, since there was no failed drug test, where did Bud Selig get the original 211 games. Seems like an arbitrary figure only because it is.

The first offense is 50 games, followed by 100. The first offense doesn’t have to be a failed test, but could be something like being linked to steroids, such as appearing on the Biogenesis list.

Even so, 13 other players, including Ryan Braun, were also on the Biogenesis list as supplied by founder Anthony Bosch. Braun failed a drug test last year, but got off on a technicality. According to the agreement, Braun would get 100 games, but was only tagged for 65.

Everybody else got 50. But, Rodriguez? He got 211.

Selig never explained his reasoning, nor did he seem fit to explain in during the arbitration process. Selig wasn’t obligated to appear, but if he felt so strongly about his decision, he should have been there to tell his story.

Part of that story, undoubtedly, would have been to explain how Selig and Major League Baseball obtained its evidence, which was purchased from Bosch after he refused to relinquish his materials.

Part of MLB’s grievance against Rodriguez was he attempted to do the same, but with the intent of destroying the documents.

So, MLB is punishing Rodriguez for trying to do what it did. Seems highly hypocritical.

How Selig arrived at 211 games is arbitrary and smells of the witch-hunt Rodriguez asserts.

We know the steroid era was borne out of MLB turning its head to what was going on in the game – giving tacit approval to the needle, the clear and the cream – as to put fannies in the seats to watch phony home run races.

It seemed like every time Rodriguez flaunted Selig’s authority it cost him games. There was nothing consistent to how Selig dealt with Rodriguez as opposed to the others given up by Bosch.

This inconsistency, coupled with MLB’s buying out of Bosch, smacks of bias and unfairness. That the arbitrator cut into Selig’s 211 games indicates he felt the original penalty was over the top.

Look, I want steroids out of the game as much as anybody. More than most. But, I want it done the right way and I don’t believe MLB has handled the Rodriguez case the right way.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. 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 30

Could Ryan Braun Be A Fit For Mets?

Kudos to Milwaukee owner Mark Attanasio for his immediate gesture to Brewers fans in the wake of the 65-game suspension of Ryan Braun. But, will it end there? Could the Brewers want to clean up their mess by trading Braun? And if so, could the Mets be a fit?

BRAUN: What is his future? (Getty)

BRAUN: What is his future? (Getty)

Yes, Braun got off on a technicality the first time and Major League Baseball has had it in for him since. It was only a matter of time before they nailed him. Could it also be a matter of time before the Brewers decide to cut ties with Braun?

The Brewers’ best player lied to his teammates, management, fans and anybody he spoke to about performance-enhancing drugs. The quotes from players and supporters – including Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers – have been venomous.

With Braun gone for the season and the Brewers stagnant on the field, the team will give each fan who shows up at Milwaukee’s 12 home games in August a $10 voucher good for food, merchandise and future tickets.

“This is an investment in our fans and an investment in our brand, to do what we can do to mitigate a trying summer,’’ Brewers chief operating officer Rick Schlesinger told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “We were finalizing something like this to give back to our loyal fans just as news of Ryan’s suspension hit. Mark decided he wanted to make a dramatic impact that would cost more money.’’

Based on their current attendance figures, it is estimated the Brewers will give their fans roughly $3.6 million in vouchers, or effectively a good chunk of the remaining $8.5 million they were to pay Braun this year. Instead of pocketing the money, the Brewers are giving it to their fans.

This is no cheap gesture.

What happens when Braun returns is anybody’s guess. He might be booed or Brewers’ fans could forgive and forget. It remains to be seen how strained his relationship with ownership and management might be. His presence could also create a clubhouse divide. There are not a lot of people happy with Braun now, including those players mentioned in the Biogenesis case. By taking a punishment without appeal, it gives credibility to Tony Bosch, which could hurt the defenses of other players.

Schlesinger spoke of the Brewers’ brand. Currently, that brand is mostly Braun, and the wonder is if they want to continue with that considering the potential of stress and negativity.

Could that strain lead to an eventual trade, and would the Mets be interested? Braun is a talented player, but with a positive test – albeit tainted – there’s the question of his true talents. It must be that way with any player linked to steroids.

Braun to the Mets is intriguing on many levels. He would be a huge upgrade, but what is his value? The asking price can’t be as high if Braun were clean. What would it require to get him in terms of talent, and would the Mets risk it based on his PED history? Would the Mets, or any team that wanted Braun, know what they are getting? The Brewers must be asking the same question if they opt to keep him.

Braun signed a five-year, $105-million contract extension from 2016-2020, and an option for 2021. That’s reasonable money for what Braun has produced, but it must be asked whether that production is he or the juice.

It would be a significant gamble by the Mets because of the length of Braun’s deal and the chance of paying for damaged goods. The Mets don’t have to look any further than across town to see what the Yankees are going through with Alex Rodriguez.

Going after Braun could generate a negative buzz around the Mets, but that’s better than no buzz.

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

Jul 24

Mets Matters: Jenrry Mejia Still In Plans

The New York Mets rave about their young pitching. Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard. A name missing, one who was on everybody’s wish list several years ago is that of Jenrry Mejia.

The Mets misused Mejia under Jerry Manuel, bouncing him from the bullpen to the rotation. There was undue stress and a resultant injury that lead to Tommy John surgery.

MEJIA: Gets another chance. (AP)

MEJIA: Gets another chance. (AP)

Last season was a waste, but Mejia will be recalled to start one of the double-header games Friday in Washington instead of pushing Wheeler back a day.

Wheeler has been suffering with blisters, but Terry Collins said they’ve healed and the rookie had his regular throw day Tuesday.

Mejia started for Double-A Binghamton Saturday and gave up one run on three hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in six innings.

Mejia’s stock has fallen severely, but if he does well and sticks, he could address two situations: If they continue to use him as a starter it might enable them to rest Jon Niese longer. If their ultimate plan is as a reliever, then he should report to camp in that role.

DUDA, d’ARNAUD UPDATES: Left fielder Lucas Duda, on the disabled list with a left intercostal strain) in on a rehab assignment for the GCL Mets. He’s still several weeks away, but when he returns he shouldn’t immediately get his left field job returned to him.

Although Eric Young has cooled, he’s still productive at times and has been instrumental in the Mets turning around their season. Also, Young has finally given the Mets a presence at the top of the order.

Regarding Travis d’Arnaud, the plan was for John Buck to keep his seat warm until he was ready to play. A fractured foot quashed that scenario and d’Arnaud might be a September call-up at best. He has just started playing rehab games.

MARCUM RELEASED: Shaun Marcum reported to training camp out of shape and was quickly injured. He left the Mets the same way and was given his unconditional release.

After several long and solid relief appearances, it was thought Marcum might get something in a trade, but Niese’s shoulder injury forced the Mets to keep him on the roster.

Had Marcum stayed, his only value to the Mets would have been to the media for Ryan Braun quotes.

METS MUSINGS: It remains to be seen if Jordany Valdespin’s temper tantrum after his demotion will force the Mets to dump him. However, Valdespin somehow fell into luck in Las Vegas as he’s gotten a chance to play with Wilmer Flores on the minor league DL with an ankle injury. I thought Valdespin was done, but he’s 10-for-25 with two homers and 13 RBI for Vegas. If he keeps that up, we’ll see him in September. … Minor league catcher Alex Machillanda is the clear-cut winner of the Idiot of the Month Award after he was busted for shoplifting in Port St. Lucie. Minor leaguers don’t get a lot of money, but there’s no justifying stealing.

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