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

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 McGwireSammy 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

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 McGwireSammy 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