Posts Tagged ‘Alex Rodriguez’

Nine Random Thoughts on the 2015 Season (Country Music Version)

October 8, 2015
Albert Pujols as a Cardinal

Albert Pujols as a Cardinal

As baseball plays nine innings in a game, it seems reasonable to look at the just concluded regular season by noting nine more or less random aspects of it to the tune of some Country Music titles and lines.

1 Back in the Saddle Again.  There were a lot of team surprises this season for fans who hadn’t seen their team win in a long time. The Mets and Rangers, who’d done good work earlier in the century returned to prominence. No one expected them to win their division, but here they are getting ready for playoff games. Same is true of the Astros, who only a couple of years ago were the worst team in MLB (and just broke a six year run of losing seasons). And while we’re at it don’t forget the Yankees weren’t supposed to be very good this year (and Joe Girardi will still get no credit). You could say that the AL playoff game might have been the surprise game of the year. And my son is happy to see his Twins get above .500 for the first time in a while.

2. He’ll Have to Go. Last season Matt Williams was National League Manager of the Year. This season he got fired. Strange how that works, isn’t it?

3. Don’t Worry About Me. It was great to see the return of Albert Pujols to something like his old self. OK, it was only for half a year, but it reminded us just how good Pujols was in St. Louis and why Anaheim paid so much to get him.

4. Please Help Me I’m Falling. What happened in Detroit and in DC? Both were picked to do well and both collapsed. Detroit could at least argue that the players who weren’t hurt got old. Washington couldn’t argue that. Considering everything, including picking up Papelbon, the Nationals gave an entirely new meaning to “choke.”

5. With Every Heartbeat I Still Think of You. Although no one ascended to Mount Rushmore heights, a lot a milestones were reached this season. David Ortiz picked up his 500th home run, Albert Pujols slugged his 560th, Clayton Kershaw became the first pitcher in 10 years to notch 300 strikeouts, Zack Greinke’s ERA was Gibsonesque (is that a word?), Ichiro Suzuki got within one halfway decent season of 3000 hits (and he pitched an inning), and Alex Rodriguez, like Suzuki, got within one season of a milestone. In Rodriguez’s case it’s 700 home runs (stated without reference to steroids and without intending to spark debate about either Rodriquez or steroids).

6. Trailers for Sale or Rent. I don’t remember a trade deadline that was so meaningful to so many. Hamels, Cespedes and Tulowitzki were key to the championship runs of the Rangers, the Mets, and the Blue Jays. And Latos was one of the things that came close to costing the Dodgers their shot at a pennant. There have surely been more meaningful deadlines but I can’t remember any recently. Feel free to correct me if you do remember a recent one.

7. Am I That Easy to Forget?  Miguel Cabrera is one heck of a ballplayer, isn’t he? He just won his fourth batting title and no one noticed. The four wins puts him in some elite company.  Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Rod Carew, and Wade Boggs are the only American Leaguers with more than four batting titles. Cabrera’s home run total was way down this year and maybe his period as a power hitter has come to an end, but he can still hit. Of course there are a lot of other superior ball players giving the game a try right now. One of those is Adrian Beltre, and you can also say a lot of the above about him. His home run total was also down, but try and imagine the Rangers in the playoffs without him.

8. One by one, they’re turning out the lights. If all those players who reached, or got within reach, of the milestones mentioned in #5 above, have gotten to those milestones, it means that we’re seeing the end approaching for a number of truly fine players (Kershaw and Greinke excepted–they’re still in mid-career). That’s a shame. All of them have given fans wonderful (and sometimes not so wonderful) memories. For some it’s a short wait for a call from Cooperstown. For others it’s a longer wait and possibly a call that never comes. But you gotta admit, they were and are great to watch.

9. Poor, Poor Pitiful Me. This has been a year of absolutely dominant pitchers. Sometimes you can’t help but feel sorry for the hitters. And you know, Dodgers left-handers whose last names start with “K” are pretty good, aren’t they?

On to postseason.

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Braun, Rodriguez, and a ray of hope

July 24, 2013

So Ryan Braun is gone for the season and Alex Rodriguez is next under the gun. Normally I’d be horrified at that. But after all the other stuff that’s come out about the steroids era, I’m almost too tired to be horrified. I do find one little ray of hope out of all this. It involves the Player’s Association.

Ever notice how the union has, in almost every case, done everything they can to help the offenders and hamper the commissioner’s office. OK, I know it’s the job of a union to protect its members, but it seems to me that the player’s association went overboard in throwing up roadblocks. As usual, they failed to consult the players who weren’t using steroids (or other PEDs) about the course of action. It reminds me of when MLB tried to suspend Albert Belle for almost killing Fernando Vina on the base paths. When MLB decided to do something, the union sided with Belle and left Vina high and dry.

This time it appears to be different. I’m hearing the player’s association beginning to soften its “our guys never do anything wrong” stand. They seem to be saying that “we’re listening to our other players and those players are saying ‘enough already’ to steroids.” That, to me, is a hopeful sign. Maybe it will go a long way toward stopping some of this mess if the offenders realize that their formerly most staunch supporters are no longer willing to stand side-by-side with them. (I won’t hold my breath).

BTW—name the royal baby Leroy.

So What Happens Next?

January 11, 2012

Now the Hall of Fame voting is over. We can sit around and cuss and discuss the results. Your favorite get in? Good for him. Your favorite still on the outside looking in? Sorry about that. But there’s always next year for him (unless the Mayan thing is right). So maybe it’s time to start talking about next year’s Hall of Fame election.

I understand the dilemma of the voters. You’re going to have people with truly astounding numbers on the list. You’re going to have people who are admitted or suspected PED users. You’re going to have people on the list that were great players prior to the PED controversy who got better when PED’s were suspected. What do you do? I’m a bad person to ask for advice, because I’m not privy to all the nuances of the Mitchell Report, the BALCO testimony, and God knows what else. But, of course, that’s never stopped me before, so why should it now?

There are, in broadest terms, three groups of players when it comes to PEDs: those we’re sure didn’t use them, those we’re sure did, and those we don’t know about. And the key word there is “sure.” Because other than a few admissions (Mark McGwire,  AndyPettitte, etc), most of the players we’re “sure” about are really people we highly suspect used PEDs. 

In some ways the decision has already been made by the failure of McGwire and Rafael Palmiero to receive enshrinement in Cooperstown.Thus I find the questioning about what will happen next year a little odd. Perhaps its the presence of Barry Bonds on the list or the knowledge that Alex Rodriguez lurks just a few years down the road that leads to the questioning. Because I do find it strange. If a decision has been made on McGwire and Palmiero then why is there a question about others? I know Palmiero got caught with his hand in the cookie jar so I can  see a difference, but McGwire was being held out before he admitted anything (“I’m not here to talk about the past.”).

This isn’t an argument to keep the bums out, but to try to figure out why we’re still asking the questions. Somehow you can’t have one standard for McGwire, another for Bonds. I say that while admitting Bonds was a better player without PEDs. So that leads to the problem of what to do with quality players like Bonds and Clemens who were probable Hall of Fame inductees before they allegedly got into PEDs. Frankly, I think the one cancels out the other (using PEDs cancels out quality prior to PEDs) but others will disagree. 

So maybe the solution is simple. No PED user (and here the word “suspected” must come into play) can get in on his first five tries, then maybe that’s penance enough and he can be voted in. Maybe that’s a bad idea, maybe it should be one year or two or ten (or maybe the plaques ought to mention it). But in fairness to the guys who no one believes used them there has to be some difference made. Besides the idea of being a “First Ballot Hall of Famer” is so ingrained in us that to keep these players from that title is fitting. Do we really want to let their names be uttered positively in the same sentence with the likes of Stan Musial or Jackie Robinson?

I know this rambles and the solution is only vague, but that reflects how much I’m torn by this issue. I really don’t want these jerks in Cooperstown beside Musial and Robinson, but I understand the impact of the players and their numbers.

A Problem at Short

April 6, 2011

Back a few days ago I did a post on my choice for the top 10 Center Fielders ever. In a comment about it, Bill Miller jokingly asked if shortstop was next. Frankly, I wasn’t planning on doing another one of those top ten lists, but the question of shortstop got me to thinking about the position. In doing so, I noticed an interesting problem in making a decision like who are the top 10 shortstops.

A lot of players, a lot of truly great players, have been known to change position during their career. Stan Musial rotated between left field and first base for a time. Of course Babe Ruth went from pitching to right field (and a number of games in left field too). And Willie Stargell is listed at the Hall of Fame site under left fielders, but played a significant number of games at first, the position where he won his MVP. Dave Winfield floated between left field and right field.  But shortstop seems to have an inordinate number of really good players who shifted away from the position and spent truly significant time in another position. I’m not talking about guys like Pee Wee Reese or Cal Ripken or Arky Vaughan who moved from short to third at the end of their career because they no longer had the range to play short. I’m also not refering to players such as Honus Wagner who came up in 1897 and didn’t move to short until 1901. He stayed there (with the exception of a handful of games) for the rest of his career. I mean here guys that came up as shortstops and had to move away from the position at mid-career. There are several of them. Three are, by most estimates, men who would make a top 10 list.

Ernie Banks got to the Major Leagues in 1953 and played shortstop through 1961. There were a handful of games at third and in the outfield, but Banks was the Cubs’ everyday shortstop for nine years, winning dual MVPs. Then he developed leg problems and moved to first base. He spent 1962 through 1969 (eight years) as the normal first baseman, then played two final years as a backup player, also making all his games in the field at first. After 1961 he played not one game at shortstop. He ended up playing 1125 games at short and 1259 games at first (and about 100 at third or in the outfield).

Robin Yount was in the Major Leagues as a shortstop for Milwaukee at age 18. He won an MVP at short, playing there 11 years from 1974 through 1984. Then he hurt his arm and shifted to the outfield. He spent some time as a designated hitter and a left fielder, but by 1987 had settled in as the Brewers’ everyday center fielder, a position he held through his retirement in 1993, a total of seven years. Again there are a  handful of  games at first and  DH, but Yount spends the last half of his career as an outfielder, where he wins another MVP award. For his career he ends up with 1479 games at short (none after 1984) and 1218 games in the outfield (most in center).

Alex Rodriguez joined the Mariners in 1994, becoming the primary shortstop in 1996. Through 2003 (10 years) and a change of team he had four games as a DH, 1267 at short, a batting title, and RBI title, three home run titles, and an MVP. Then came the move to New York, which already had a shortstop. Since 2004, Rodriguez has played 1269 games at third base, five at short, and 36 as the DH (through the end of the 2010 season). Unless something happens to Derek Jeter, Rodriguez will, by the end of 2011, have spent more time at third than at short.

It should be obvious what problem is raised. These three guys are truly fine players, two Hall of Famers and a potential, and all are recognized as shortstops. Two of them are going to end up playing more than half their games at another position and the third is close. It brings up the obvious question: how much should these guys be rated as a shortstop?  Are they to be recognized as greater players than shortstops? Should we view them as multi-poitional players?  At this point I’m not sure of the answer, but at some point I’ll figure it out for my purposes. Then I’ll let you know what I’ve decided.

The “Core Four”

December 9, 2010

The "Core Four"

Recently some genius’ have begun referring to four Yankees players as “The Core Four”: Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera. It’s supposed to be a reference to how important they have been to the Yankees winning ways in the last fifteen or so years. It’s catchy, but because it totally ignores the contributions of a number of other players, it’s utter nonsense.

The argument goes that these four players are the “core” of Yankees teams that have won five World Series. First, that’s difficult to sustain if you know that Posada played only eight games in 1996 (the first of the five World Series championships), none in the postseason, and that Rivera was the setup man, not the closer in 1996 (John Wetteland was both closer and Series MVP). It’s kind of like giving Sandy Koufax credit for the Dodgers winning in 1955 when he pitched in only 42 innings over 12 games and five starts (“Boy are we lucky we had him. We woulda never won the damned thing if he wasn’t on the roster.”)  Most importantly it completely downplays the contribution of other players, a sort of second “core four” (actually five).

As Posada was no factor in the 1996 World Series championship, and Rivera’s contribution was important, but not primary, we may only consider the “core four” as winning in 1998, 1999, 2000, and after a significant break, 2009.  There are another five that may be considered equally crucial in winning the 1998-2000 championships: Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, Chuck Knoblauch, Scott Brosius, and Paul O’Neill (this without reference to pitchers). All five participated in the same three wins as the “core four” (and Williams, Martinez, and O’Neill made the 1996 Series also). I question how their contributions can be considered less than the so-called “Core Four.”

You might also argue that once Williams, Knoblauch, Martinez, Brosius, and O’Neill left, the “Core Four” were unable to secure a World Series championship until the arrival of a second four: Robinson Cano, Alex Rodriguez, Johnny Damon, and Mark Teixeira. Perhaps it is those four that made the difference. In fact, following this idea to its conclusion, one could argue that the key player was Teixeira. After all the “core four” couldn’t win until he arrived. Or maybe it was Melky Cabrera. Heck, the Yanks didn’t win until he took over in center. Or maybe it’s really all about Andy Pettitte. Pettitte left after the 2003 Series loss and the Yankees failed to make a World Series until 2009. Meanwhile, Pettitte went to Houston, a team that went to the World Series in 2005 for the first time ever, then returned to New York in 2008, exactly one season prior to the last Yankees championship. So maybe Pettitte, not the “Core Four,” is the key.

Now you can rightly argue the idea that Teixeira (or Cabrera) was the crucial element is silly and I wouldn’t complain.  I wouldn’t mind if you laughed at the idea that it was all Pettitte. Because the point is that it requires a lot of good players to win, not just a “core four.”  With no loss of respect to the “Core Four”, how about a little credit to the rest of the team Yankees fans? It’s been a heck of a run and a lot of guys have been responsible for the success (several of which I didn’t name).

Coincidence

May 10, 2010

Yesterday is one of those serendipitous days that happens in baseball occasionally. Two people forever intertwined in an event make history on the same day a continent apart. That’s actually happened a few times before and let’s take a moment and note them.

1. Yesterday a pitcher named Dallas Braden pitched a perfect game. Until then, he was primarily famous for his dust-up with Alex Rodriguez over A-Rod crossing the mound on the way back to first, a serious breach of Braden’s view of baseball ethics. Also yesterday Rodriguez slugged his third home run of the season. It managed to tie Frank Robinson on the all-time homer lit.

2. Rickey Henderson set the all-time stolen base mark and bragged he was the best ever. Unfortunately for him Nolan Ryan threw his seventh and final no-hitter the same day (1 May 1991). The two are joined because Ryan’s 5000th strikeout victim was (drum roll, please) Rickey Henderson.

3. On 4 August 1985 Tom Seaver got his 300th career win in New York (pitching for the White Sox). Rod Carew picked up his 3000 career hit the same day in Anaheim. How are they connected? Seaver was the 1967 National League Rookie of the Year, while Carew won the same award in the American League the same season. By way of trivia, in 1956 both Luis Aparicio and Frank Robinson won the Rookie of the Year award. That marks, along with 1967 and 1977 (Eddie Murray and Andre Dawson), the first of only three times both Rookies of the Year went on to the Hall of Fame.

Don’t you just love coincidences?