Sunday, March 17, 2013

Are ARod and Braun on baseball’s hit list?

Major League Baseball has its sights set on punishing Alex Rodriguez and Ryan Braun for their connections to a Miami clinic being investigated for distributing performance-enhancing drugs, according to a short Tweet from TJ Quinn of ESPN.  

It’s much easier to go after minor leaguers who don’t have the protection of baseball’s strong players union, but it seems that this first suspension related to the Miami scandal is a warning shot that MLB is completely committed to gathering the evidence needed to go after these alleged PED cheats.

A lot of news is broken on social media these days, but given that this is a Tweet limited to 140 characters, it is pretty short on specifics. We do not know how close Major League Baseball is to having enough evidence to punish ARod, an admitted steroid cheat, and Braun, who disrupted baseball’s entire testing system in an attempt to prove his innocence.

But I hope they have enough evidence to suspend both of them for a long time. Braun angered even fellow baseball players by his selfish attempt to bring down the whole system to get off the hook. ARod has pissed off many people inside and outside the New York Yankees organization with his unending drama, rapidly deteriorating health and onerous contract. I think the Yankees would be thrilled if ARod was suspended for baseball, even if it’s just for 50 games and not enough to void that contract, because it would get him out of their hair for a while. Notice how we have barely heard a peep out of ARod, who is not even rehabilitating with the team, and how that has limited much of the off-the-field drama for the Yankees. If it weren’t for all the injuries, the Yankees would be quite boring these days.  

Both ARod and Braun have the money and manpower to fight potential suspensions and we all know Braun will go to any lengths to avoid punishment. But if I was Braun, I wouldn’t count on getting off on a technicality this time. Major League Baseball will build an airtight case before it goes after either one of them. I really hope baseball officials can get there.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Team USA's Classic exit disappointing

I have to admit that I have only watched one 2013 World Baseball Classic game so far and it was between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic so I was not at all invested in Team USA’s short-lived run. But I find the news that the USA has once again been bounced from the Classic in the second round disappointing and perplexing.

I really don’t understand why the USA doesn’t perform better in this tournament. I know that Major League Baseball teams resist the idea of having their players participate, which has kept many good American players out of the tournament. Andy Pettitte chose to forgo the WBC even though he clearly wanted to play for Team USA because of the concerns expressed by the New York Yankees. But other WBC teams face the same problem so that’s not much of an excuse. Yu Darvish declined to pitch for Team Japan out of loyalty to the Texas Rangers.

I don’t think USA players are any less patriotic than players on the other teams. Derek Jeter took great pride in representing the USA during previous WBC tournaments. But there doesn’t seem to be the same passion out of the US, both by the players and the fans, as there is from the other WBC participants. The joyful celebrations by teams moving on in the tournament clearly shows that victory in the WBC means a lot to both their players and their people.

So while I do find Team USA’s relatively early WBC exit disappointing, I’ll get over it pretty quickly. I have a lot of Syracuse Orange basketball to keep me busy and entertained. Good luck to my Orange in the Big East tournament final tonight after vanquishing the hated Georgetown Hoyas.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Jeter taking important steps on road to recovery

I have been preoccupied with Mariano Rivera’s retirement announcement, but it did not escape my attention that Derek Jeter is taking important steps on the road to recovery.

The New York Yankees Captain got some great news last week from his doctor, who pronounced Jeter’s ankle 100% healed. He then experienced his first game action in months on Saturday, hitting a single on the first pitch in his first spring training game. Jeter has only had a handful of at-bats as the designated hitter so far, but we will likely see him in the field on Wednesday. For an injury battered team, the image of Jeter retaking his rightful position at shortstop will be a welcome relief.

Testing the ankle in the field is another important step toward demonstrating that Jeter will be able to honor his pledge to be ready for Opening Day. He has consistently stated that he plans to man the shortstop position for that first game against the Boston Red Sox. We have to hope that will be the case, even if he needs a few extra weeks in April to get back to full form.

But I also hope that Jeter doesn’t push himself too hard in service to that goal. I’d rather live without him for a week or two early in the baseball season than lose him at the most critical moment like we did last October.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Baseball world rushes to celebrate Mariano Rivera

The praise and accolades for Mariano Rivera flowed in from all over the baseball world.

Mo’s official announcement of his retirement following the 2013 baseball season prompted teammates, competitors and opposing managers all across the United States to pay tribute to a man who will go down in baseball history as the greatest closer ever.

Even former Boston Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbum, excuse me, Papelbon (sorry, old habits die hard), rushed to embrace Mo. Papelbon, who now closes games for the Philadelphia Phillies, calls Mariano Rivera the Godfather. It’s a nickname that fits, despite Mo’s good nature, because he is ruthless and unforgiving on a baseball mound.

About the only one to voice anything close to negativity was, ironically, former New York Yankees great Goose Gossage. I understand his frustration as he feels that praising Mariano as the greatest closer ever diminishes what he and others did in the role. But I think it’s possible to appreciate what closers of Goose’s era did while acknowledging that Mo’s postseason dominance allows him to shine above all others. And even Goose’s relatively mild criticism was coupled with extensive praise for Mo’s role as the best possible role model for young relievers such as David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain.

Mo’s eagerness to work with youngsters, as he voiced during his press conference yesterday, is one of the personal factors that help him shine above the rest. He has this tremendous talent and impeccable mindset. But instead of hoarding his wisdom, Mo shared it with anyone who would listen, including Papelbon, who was then closing games for the Yankees’ fiercest rival. It’s one of the many reasons why so many people have been so outspoken in professing their respect and admiration for the great Rivera and vowing to enjoy the last year he will give us.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Mariano wants Yankee fans to be happy

I’m going to try really hard not to be sad because Mariano Rivera asked us not to be sad about his retirement.

“It’s not a moment of sadness,” he said in Spanish during his press conference to officially announce his retirement. “It’s a moment of joy.”

I am definitely happy for Mo because he seems to be so at peace with his decision and, as his teammate and long-time friend/brother Derek Jeter said, he deserves to go out on his own terms. He has given us so much joy over the years, so many amazing moments, and for that I am incredibly grateful. I’m going to try to enjoy the last year of Mariano’s career, where he will draw accolades all over the major leagues, not just for his accomplishments on the field, but for the type of person he is and the way he respects and represents the game of baseball. I will try not to be sad thinking about how we will never see him again on a baseball mound after 2013 and how we will never ever see anyone else like him.

It’s says a lot about Mariano Rivera as a person that the entire New York Yankees team attended his press conference. Mo is known for being a fiercely loyal and supportive teammate and it warmed my heart to see all of his teammates respond in kind. Mo is a humble guy, but it obviously meant a lot to him to receive that type of love and support from his baseball family.

Mariano was asked if there was a message he wanted to send to Yankee fans. “I would tell the Yankee fans that I love them so much,” he quickly responded.

The feeling is mutual, Mo.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Sad day in Yankee land as Rivera to call it quits

I knew the day I long dreaded would come, but now that it’s here, it really stings.

Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer in baseball history and one of the all-time great members of the New York Yankees, is expected to announce that he will retire after the 2013 season. The news is not at all surprising as he has talked openly about wanting to be a full-time family man for years. He probably would have retired after last season if not for that horrific crash on the Kansas City warning track. Mo was just too much of a legend to go out that way, for his last appearance at Yankee Stadium to be a ceremonial first pitch rather than the last pitch of yet another victorious season.

I just hope the Yankees can give him the sendoff Mariano deserves, one last World Series Championship before he goes home to his family for good. I’m starting to doubt that the team is good enough to do that this year, but I have no doubts whatsoever that Mo will go out with yet another dominant season under his belt that will further solidify his mark on baseball’s record books and in the minds of all of us who were lucky enough to watch him pitch.

After this season, we spoiled Yankee fans are going to find out what it feels like to deal with a mortal closer, a fate that we have been spared for more than 15 years because of Rivera’s calmness and consistency. Whether it’s David Robertson or Joba Chamberlain or some other reliever who will step into Mo’s shoes, we are just not going to have the same safe feelings about the ninth inning as we have had in all the years that Mo was handed the ball.

I love the line in the New York Times story about the possibility of Rivera changing his mind between now and Saturday because I think it sums up what all of us Yankee fans are feeling: that small glimmer of hope that Mariano will decide he simply cannot walk away from the game of baseball just yet. But he’s given us so much already that as much as I will miss the thrill of hearing Enter Sandman and knowing Mo is coming into the game to shut another team down, I will choose to be incredibly grateful for what he has given us already and wish him well in his life after baseball.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Yankees world according to Hal

Hal Steinbrenner gave an interesting if not terribly insightful interview to the Daily News’ Mark Feinsand in which he discussed many topics of importance to fans of the New York Yankees. But a few of his comments are worth highlighting:


·         Steinbrenner talked about how important it is that Derek Jeter retire as a lifetime Yankee. Re-signing Jeter will be a major priority for the Yankees if he declines his $8 million option after this season, which I suspect he will if he has another strong year. The Yankees don’t have a good replacement for Jeter, unless you consider defensively challenged Eduardo Nunez to be a viable candidate. The last contract negotiations left Jeter bruised and angry and I doubt that he is going to be very eager to give the Yankees a hometown discount. But Steinbrenner said the Yankees are going to do what they tried to do during the last round of negotiations, which isn’t very promising considering the Yankees let the supposedly private talks become very public and nasty. Hal has insisted that Jeter’s agent started the fight, which is illogical when you take a close look at the timeline of comments and the fact that he was the first to speak publicly about the negotiations, not Casey Close. If Hal refuses to take responsibility for his role in that ugly situation, I don't see much hope of preventing a similarly nasty disagreement with the Yankees Captain down the road.


·         The Yankees managing general partner reiterated that the $189 million payroll target to get the Yankees out of those annoying luxury tax repayments remains the goal and firmly stated that he does not believe a team needs a $200 million payroll to win the World Series. Spoken like a true businessman, though his father George Steinbrenner is probably spinning in his grave. However, Hal said that the team will absolutely not sacrifice fielding a championship-caliber team to reach this $189 million target. He also thinks he can get below that figure even though he will need a lot of cash to re-sign Robinson Cano and Phil Hughes. Personally, I don’t understand how Hal thinks he can have it both ways. He seems to be banking on the Yankees young pitching talent – Ivan Nova, David Phelps and Michael Pineda – making an impact in the next few years at relatively cheap prices. But the Yankees haven’t historically had much success relying on young starters so it seems a stretch to think that they can fill the void for a contending team.


·         Steinbrenner hit back at criticisms that the price of attending Yankee games is way too expensive. He argued that half of the Stadium seats are $50 or less and that the Yankees took on a lot of debt to pay for the brand-new ballpark. I understand his argument, but he has to understand that these are still economically-challenging times for fans, despite the soaring stock markets. If faced with the choice of paying rent, food and other bills or going to a Yankees game, the vast majority of fans are going to make the right choice and forgo the game. I myself will likely attend the fewest number of games this year than I ever have in my years as a Yankee fan and most of that decision will be driven by the costs.