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

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

Jun 28

Mets Should Explore Trading Ike Davis To Yankees

Why is Ike Davis still in Triple-A Las Vegas when the New York Mets should be exploring all their options, including trading him to the Bronx?

With Mark Teixeira out for the remainder of the season after re-injuring his wrist, and with a good chance the Mets won’t tender Davis in the off-season and let him walk, shouldn’t two plus two equal four?

DAVIS: Mets should be talking to Yanks about him.

DAVIS: Mets should be talking to Yanks about him.

The Yankees remain contenders despite not having Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson. Who knows if, and when, they’ll return? In the interim, Davis might give them a boost.

The Yankees’ offense has been as barren as the Mets’ have been, but because of their starting pitching, Mariano Rivera and a fast start, they are still a potential force in the AL East.

However, they are in need of a first baseman and a bat. Travis Hafner can no longer play first and his bat has cooled considerably. You’d think the Yankees would jump at the chance to add a left-handed power hitter such as Davis, who is making a little over $3 million.

That would be a very easy contract for the Yankees to pick up, and if it doesn’t work out they can always non-tender Davis this winter. Either way, does anybody really expect to see Davis in Flushing in 2014?

Davis is starting to hit in Vegas and was recently named the Pacific Coast Player of the Week. I can see him salivating at the opportunity to hit at Yankee Stadium.

Despite Davis’ rising numbers in Vegas, the Mets are reluctant to bring him up, citing facing a pair of left-handers against both the Nationals and Diamondbacks in their upcoming homestand at Citi Field. That should tell you something about the Mets’ feelings regarding Davis. If they thought he has found it, he’d be heading on a plane to New York.

Perhaps, the Yankees can see the same thing in Davis. However, they aren’t dealing from a position of strength, and desperate times could mean the desperate measure of trading for Davis.

Davis appears to have worn out his welcome with the Mets, while Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain are reportedly done after this year with the Yankees. They won’t get both, but I’d trade Davis for Hughes even-up in a heartbeat.

A change of scenery could work for all concerned. This could work with some tweaking.

Sandy Alderson should be on the phone with Brian Cashman, and soon.

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

Jun 04

David Wright Personifies Slumping Mets’ Offense

We’ve seen this before from David Wright, a hot start cools and descends into a frigid abyss where he’s consumed by mechanical flaws borne out of a major psychological problem – the need to carry the Mets on his shoulders.

We can’t blame it on the pressures of being captain, as he’s fallen into this trap before, notably last season said manager Terry Collins, whose lineup includes as many as six starters hitting below .240. Teams can’t win with such limited production, and Wright can’t catch the free-falling Mets, who come into Washington tonight ten games under .500 and 11 ½ games behind the first place Braves.

WRIGHT: Where did this swing go?

       WRIGHT: Where did this swing go?

“He did it in the second half of last year, too,’’ Collins told reporters after the Mets were crushed in a three-game series in Florida. “When things started to go bad last year, he took it upon himself to be the guy to get us out of it.’’

The slide begins with a gradual expansion of the strike zone; the balls Wright once resisted off the plate he’s now chasing. The walks decline; the strikeouts increase. His average plummets.

Instead of driving the ball to center and right field, Wright falls into the habit of trying to pull, with the results often pop-ups and weak ground balls. His swing is now long and slow instead of short and quick. The more he tries to break out of it the more suffocating becomes the slump. There is such a thing as pressing and that’s what’s happening to Wright the past two weeks with a .163 average, .241 on-base percentage with one homer and two RBI.

Wright alluded to his problems after the Yankees series when he said: “I’m maybe trying to do a little too much and trying to make things happen. … I can’t be going up there and getting myself out or swinging at pitcher’s pitches early in the count.’’

However, that’s what he’s doing and it defines the futility and anguish of a slump. Wright hasn’t yet reached Ike Davis proportions, but is headed in that direction.

On some teams, a slumping player can be camouflaged, or at least protected, if others in the lineup are hitting. However, Daniel Murphy is the only one and he doesn’t do it with power. Considering his track record, Davis’ homer Sunday must be looked at as an aberration and not a sign of a breakout. Lucas Duda has 10 homers, but only 20 RBI, which the more you think about it is hard to believe. It’s almost unfathomable.

Collectively, the Mets are averaging less than four runs a game and hold the major league’s worst team average at .227. Their hitters are averaging under ten strikeouts a game.

At one time, you might have been able to say, “where would they be without Wright?’’

Well, they have him and only three teams in the major leagues hold a worse record than the 22-32 Mets. There are a lot of numbers that define how poorly they are playing, but what I find most discouraging is the Marlins have won just 16 games this year, with six coming against the Mets.

You’re tempted to think it can’t get much worse than this, but you realize as a Met fan, it can.

ON DECK: Looking at Washington series.

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

 

 

 

Jun 03

Reflections Of A Lost Weekend For Mets In Miami

In the back of our collective minds, after winning four straight from the Yankees, who wasn’t surprised to see the Mets get beat up in Miami?

I thought they’d get a better showing from Matt Harvey, but other than that, nothing shocking really. Harvey was off his game, but had a chance to win if not for the bullpen, which reverted to pre-Yankees form. The offense continues to sputter.

 

DAVIS: Not excited by homer.

DAVIS: Not excited by homer.

Scott Rice was due for a stinker, which makes me wonder why Terry Collins would let him stay in to give up FOUR walks. Once a reliever gives up two walk, plus a hit, it is time to pull the plug. What was Collins waiting for?

Harvey’s no-decisions are starting to pile up which is a two-fold reflection on the bullpen and offense. I realize the Mets’ offense has been sucking wind lately, but friend Michael Baron put it in perspective: In 27 games in May, the Mets scored a mere 88 runs with a .222 batting average and .286 on-base percentage. That was second worse in the majors for the month.

It all can’t be pinned on Ike Davis, although he does get a large share of the blame. Speaking of Davis, he had two hits, including a home run Sunday. Please, under no circumstances, should the Mets consider hitting him higher than seventh. Let him stay there for a while until he shows real breakout signs. One game is not enough to assume anything about Davis. Certainly, he proved that after his RBI hit against the Yankees and two-homer game against the Dodgers.

Davis is not high on my Mets Concern Meter because frankly, he’s hit rock bottom. There’s no place to go but up, or Triple-A Vegas for him. I suppose I should forget about the minors because if the Mets haven’t done it by now they probably won’t ever.

On another sad offense note, Lucas Duda homered, giving him ten and 20 RBI on the season. In contrast, the Orioles’ Chris Davis hit his 20th homer Sunday. By the way, he has 52 RBI to go along with them. Duda’s HR-RBI is laughable. It shows pitchers are working around him with runners on base.

One of the biggest issues swirling around the Mets is who should go to make room for Zack Wheeler. The Mets are delaying Wheeler’s promotion for Super Two reasons, which is fine by me.

But, is he ready? Is he dominating on the Triple-A level to warrant the jump? I’m not sure, regardless of what Wally Backman might say. One thing I am sure of is Wheeler won’t make much of a difference as far as this year is concerned. Bringing up Wheeler won’t change all that is hurting this club. How will he help the bullpen? How will he help the outfield? How will he help the offense?

As far as who should go, the speculation is between Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee, with Shaun Marcum being excluded from the conversation because he’s a veteran making $4 million.

So?

The Mets must realize they aren’t going to be a contender this season, so what they should be doing is shopping Marcum to see what they can get. It won’t be a lot, but Marcum is gone after this year so why not? He’s had moments where he pitched well, Friday night for example before one bad inning.

The Mets are off today, which has an old joke resurfacing about what are their best days. They are in Washington tomorrow to start a series that lost a lot of edge with the Mets getting trounced. The Nationals aren’t playing well now and will be without Bryce Harper and possibly Stephen Strasburg.

 

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