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Monday, August 19, 2013

Putting on the Hits

Every time I have written about Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez (.319, 2 HR, 6 RBI, .897 OPS) in light of the Major League Baseball Biogenesis performance enhancing drugs (P.E.D.s) investigation, I tell myself that it will be the last time for “a while”. There is no benefit in beating a dead horse. It isn’t interesting.
Yet every time I think this story is going to cool off, it takes a new twist or dramatic turn. I’ve consistently explained how much I am not a fan of the New York Yankees and never have been. I think their operational philosophy is bad for baseball and bad for sports in general.

The putrid stench of the handling of the Biogenesis investigation and discipline is making a piece of me root for the Yankees to have success in 2013. That part of me is the part with a short tolerance for hypocrisy, self-righteous double-talk, and pawns being used as scapegoats. I probably will not be able to bring myself to cheer the Yankees along the way. However, if the Yankees have any measurable postseason success in this season (particularly if Rodriguez continues to play a significant role in their success), I will have a sense of gratification with the outcome when their season has concluded.

A picture says a thousand words, even if only one word is written. 1

The A-Rod story took another turn late last week when multiple sports media outlets revealed that a 60 Minutes report would allege that members of Rodriguez’s “inner circle” leaked information to Yahoo! Sports implicating Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers and teammate Francisco Cervelli in the Biogenesis flap in February, when the spotlight shone heavily on Rodriguez’s involvement. In essence, A-Rod was accused of ratting out his peers to deflect attention from his role in the scandal, taboo in any fraternity of any kind in any organization.

Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Ryan Dempster (6-9, 4.77 ERA) was the starting pitcher in last night’s rubber match against the Yankees at Fenway Park. Rodriguez came up to bat in the second inning. Demspter threw a pitch behind Rodriguez’s back followed by two pitches way inside that forced Rodriguez to move to avoid being hit. On a 3-0 count, Dempster release a pitch that drilled A-Rod in the back. The attempt to hit Rodriguez could not have been more blatantly obvious to anyone with a baseball I.Q. greater than that of a raisin.

Rodriguez's girlfriend: Rebeca Yunen Finke: "Why you gotta hate?" Again, A-Rod is having the last laugh. 4
At this point, all but the most vitriolic of anti-A-Rod fans, in my opinion, should have been able to empathize with Rodriguez had he charged the pitcher’s mound and served Dempster a fresh knuckle sandwich. Dempster took it upon himself to police the game, which is traditional in baseball, and made his intentions crystal clear by making four consecutive over-the-top, obvious attempts to hit Rodriguez with the ball. Dempster should have been ejected on the spot.

Was Dempster ejected? No. What happened? Umpire Brian O’Nora issued a warning to both benches, essentially saying the next incident would result in an ejection (meaning the Yankees could not return the favor – also traditional in baseball). Yankees Manager Joe Girardi was beside himself, vaulted from the dugout to argue O’Nora’s handling of the situation, and then O’Nora ejected Girardi.

I am sure Girardi thought, “Let me get this straight. Their pitcher deliberately hits my player. You warn OUR bench and throw ME out of the game? Somebody’s getting hit.” On his way to the Yankees clubhouse, his lips could clearly be read saying, “Somebody’s getting hit!”

You be the judge.

Rodriguez didn’t charge the mound. The Yankees’ bench didn’t empty. Instead, Rodriguez would go on to score the first run of the game. A-Rod would later drive in a run and then hit a home run off Dempster to spark a Yankees comeback in the 6th inning. New York would go on to win the game, 9-6.

I’ve read about how egg is a great source of protein for athletes, but I thought it was supposed to be eaten, not smeared on one’s face. Ryan Dempster was brought in via free agency to help the Red Sox make a serious push in a very tight American League pennant race. He is underachieving relative to last season and his career. His season has been in a tailspin since the All-Star break.

So what do you do to help your career? What do you do to help your team, only one game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays in the A.L. East at a time of the season in which the significance of the outcome of every game is magnified? You walk a leadoff runner in a manner so blatant that you are all but certain to be suspended for five games (meaning you miss your next start and your team needs to find a less desirable replacement). Why? You’re choosing now, in the middle of August on national television, to be the sheriff of Major League Baseball.

But wait! There’s more! So now you’ve pissed off one of the best power hitters in the history of the game and given his team, which was dead in the water two weeks ago but is now surging in part because of that hitter, a rallying point…you fire up your archrival. What does he do? Goes 3 for 4, makes a jackass out of you by getting an RBI at your expense followed by a homerun that gets them back in the game and gets you pulled out of the game. You go on to get the loss and your slim division lead gets slimmer. Bravo! Nice going! Cue in the “sports movie slow clap” for a job well done!

It's deep and I don't think it's playable. Dempster sure taught A-Rod a thing or two! 2

I’m glad Dempster’s antics blew up in his face and the Red Sox faces. I’m glad Rodriguez had the last laugh and proverbially danced on Boston’s grave yesterday. I’m glad that every new development in this story looks worse and worse for Major League Baseball and its interests in the public eye.

Depmster isn’t holding up his end of the bargain when the Red Sox signed him for $27 million for two years. He decided to be a champion for the integrity of baseball. Because, of course, no Red Sox player ever juiced.  

Major League Baseball reaped the benefits of juiced up players bashing out homeruns at unprecedented rates in the late 1990s and re-engaging the fans it turned off in the strike-shortened, conclusion-less season of 1994 with a more exciting, higher scoring offensive brand of baseball. MLB decided to make a scapegoat out of its least likable, most polarizing, and most overpaid superstar whose contract is an albatross on its most storied franchise in its biggest market.

The Yankees enjoy an oppressive competitive advantage over most other Major League Baseball teams because of its relatively limitless ability to spend money on player salaries and the absence of a salary cap in baseball. They knew they would be over paying Alex Rodriguez on the back end of a 10 year, $250 million contract extension to which they signed Rodriguez, taking effect following his American League Most Valuable Player award winning season of 2007. They knew that the salary they were offering Rodriguez would make it impossible for any other team to compete for his services because they were overpaying him.

Some call this "funny". I call it "a motive". 3


The Yankees thought they were getting a company man whose reputation would remain squeaky clean for the remainder of his career. They thought they were getting a player who, even on the decline, would surpass Barry Bonds’ record of 762 career home runs and do it in a Yankee uniform without the taint of P.E.D.s. Their deep pockets and fiscal bullying in free agency saddled them with possibly the worst value for a player’s contract in the history of American sports.     

MLB brought the hammer to 12 other first-offender players tied to Biogenesis and then attempted launch a nuke on Rodriguez for the same first offense, justifying the attempt at the augmented punishment with claims of aggravating factors.  Rodriguez is still playing. He is playing so well that his contribution is impacting the pennant race and rejuvenating a team that was left for dead before his return. He has embarrassed every entity that has attempted to profit from his P.E.D. ties and controversial image.

Dempster? Embarrassed…. The Red Sox? Embarrassed…. Yankees GM Brian Cashman, who is dying to find any avenue to weasel out of some or all of Rodriguez’s contract? Embarrassed almost weekly…. Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig? Embarrassed almost daily….

You get out what you put in. Something has stunk from the beginning of the Biogenesis/Alex Rodriguez witch hunt. It appears that MLB is completely full of crap.

I don't see too many signs like this for Bud Selig or Brian Cashman at MLB parks. Don't hate the player; hate the game. 5
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