Baseball's A-Rod problem
August, 4, 2011
By Buster Olney | ESPN Insider
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhNo one in MLB is looking forward to dealing with the latest situation involving A-Rod.The level of Major League Baseball's frustration with Alex Rodriguez, on a scale of 1 to 10, is probably about a 13. In MLB's perfect world, he would go about the business of playing baseball and quietly chasing milestones; in its perfect world, MLB officials wouldn't have to be in contact with A-Rod's lawyers.
But investigators for MLB probably will have a sit-down with Rodriguez soon. Again. They have already talked with him about his steroid admission, and about his past connection with a Toronto doctor under investigation, and about his history of playing in questionable high-stakes poker games -- and now they'll have to ask him about more poker games in the aftermath of a published report.
They're sick of it. They're sick of having to deal with him. They're tired of having to ask him questions and decide, for themselves, whether he's telling them the truth.
It's unclear whether the new allegations would actually lead to Major League Baseball's rendering a suspension that would stand up. Two lawyers who work within the sport indicated that MLB would have specific concerns to investigate:
• Was Alex Rodriguez connected in any way to the cocaine allegedly used at the poker event?
• Did he incur a level of debt that would make him more vulnerable to gamblers?
• In the midst of the card playing, was he involved, in any way, in betting on baseball?
It seems absurd that a player who has made hundreds of millions of dollars might be at risk for pressures from gamblers, or that he would risk it all by being involved in baseball gambling. But then again, nobody would have thought, in the mid-'80s, that the sport's all-time hits leader would be so arrogant that he would place bets on his own team from the manager's office in Cincinnati.
So baseball will ask the questions, look for answers. And although this proceeding probably isn't going to lead to a ban of Rodriguez, he probably will be forced to do a version of the Park Avenue perp walk and be forced to deal with the scrutiny of MLB and of the media. There could be a negotiated penalty, as there was with Jason Giambi.
But know this: It's the last thing in the world anyone in baseball wants to deal with.
A-Rod is facing poker questions from Major League Baseball, writes Michael Schmidt. There's always something going on with Alex Rodriguez, as The New York Times notes.
A-Rod is ready to head to Tampa, Fla., for more workouts, as George King writes.
• Paul Goldschmidt made a major impression in spring training with the Diamondbacks. "He hit some long homers in spring training, and we were like, 'Wow, this kid drinks the Kool-Aid,'" recalled Arizona GM Kevin Towers. "He's a great kid, and he plays hard; he's a grinder."
So as the Diamondbacks promote him to be the first baseman, they are confident that he'll be able to work through slumps and the inevitable adjustments required of all players. And along the way, Goldschmidt probably will win some games for Arizona with his awesome raw power -- as he did Tuesday, when he mashed a pivotal home run off Tim Lincecum. "He's not a kid who's going to start hanging his head if he gets a couple of oh-fers," Towers said.
Jason Marquis had a rough first outing for the Diamondbacks, who fell a game behind the Giants in the NL West.
• The Brewers defended the way they have been pitching to Albert Pujols, as Derrick Goold writes. The HBP of Pujols led to a heated debate between the two teams, writes Tom Haudricourt.
For Tony La Russa, it's about location, writes Bernie Miklasz.
The Brewers-Cardinals' series was fascinating, a matchup of two flawed and highly competitive and talented teams, and Milwaukee blasted Edwin Jackson in the series finale.
Casey McGehee mashed three homers Wednesday, and he continues to bust out in a big way. More on McGehee from ESPN Stats & Information: One of McGehee's home runs came on a pitch up and in from Jackson. It was McGehee's 13th home run since 2009 on an up-and-in pitch, more than any other player in the league. Overall, McGehee has 47 home runs in that time, tied for just 67th most in baseball.
Most home runs off of up-and-in pitches since 2009:
Casey McGehee -- 13
Martin Prado -- 12
Kevin Youkilis -- 12
Jose Lopez -- 11
• Yadier Molina is facing a lengthy suspension in all likelihood. And he feels bad about what happened.
• The Padres were frustrated with the lack of aggressiveness in the market for Heath Bell, who was the best closer available. But now that the deadline has passed and Bell is still with the Padres, evaluators working for other teams think San Diego made a major mistake in keeping the reliever and dragging out a major problem. Bell is eligible for free agency, and if the Padres want to receive compensation draft picks, they'll have to offer him arbitration. The lack of aggression in the trade market probably is a first sign, though, that some teams might not be thrilled with the idea of giving up a high draft pick to sign the closer. And Bell has indicated that if San Diego offers him arbitration, he will accept it. A rival evaluator said, "If he does, he could get $12 million or $13 million. That would kill the Padres' payroll."
If they don't offer him arbitration and Bell walks away, the Padres will get nothing in return -- which is why other teams think San Diego should've worked out a pre-deadline trade, one way or another.
• Denard Span has a different perspective on home plate collisions.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. Matt Stairs reportedly has decided to retire, ending a long and accomplished career.
2. Mike Moustakas is getting some time off because of his .194 batting average, as Jayson Jenks writes.
3. Clint Hurdle is looking for ways to help his struggling rotation.
4. Jason Heyward is healthy, but was benched for the second straight game.
Dings and dents
1. Shin-Soo Choo continues to make progress.
2. Stephen Strasburg is likely to start Sunday.
3. Chone Figgins went on the disabled list.
4. The news about Rubby De La Rosa is terrible for the Dodgers, who have enough problems.
5. Ryan Doumit was activated.
6. Kyle Gibson might need Tommy John surgery. Ay yi yi.
7. Roy Oswalt is set to start Sunday.
8. Scott Rolen had surgery and will be out for the next four to six weeks.
1. Doug Fister thrived in a winning climate in his first game with the Tigers, writes Shawn Windsor. He showed his worth to the Tigers right away, writes Drew Sharp. For the Tigers, the excitement is growing, but Jim Leyland is taking it all in stride, writes Tom Gage.
2. The Rangers' revamped bullpen lost again, as Drew Davison writes.
3. Charlie Morton threw well, but the Pirates lost again, as Bill Brink writes.
4. A.J. Burnett enjoyed a mother lode of run support but still didn't get the win in the Yankees' blowout of Chicago. The good news for the Yankees is that Derek Jeter has been rolling, as ESPN Stats & Info notes: Jeter had his second five-hit game in 2011 on Wednesday, becoming the fourth player in the past three years with two five-hit games in the same season.
Since returning from the disabled list at the beginning of July, Jeter is pulling the ball more for hits and hitting more line drives. His batting average was .260 when he went on the DL; he's hitting .333 since being activated. His line-drive rate, which was just under 13 percent before going on the DL, is almost 26 percent since he came back. Jeter had four line drives Wednesday after hitting three Tuesday. His four line drives Wednesday were his most in a game in the past three seasons.
5. Charlie Furbush shined in his Seattle debut.
6. The Cubs are on a roll.
7. Jacoby Ellsbury added another line to his MVP candidacy with a walkoff homer. Tim Wakefield will have to wait for career win No. 200.
8. The Giants needed a lift, and Ryan Vogelsong provided it, as Henry Schulman writes.
From ESPN Stats & Info, how Vogelsong won:
A) Vogelsong mixed in his cutter more than he has all season. He threw a season-high 21 cutters, 15 of which (71.4 percent) went for strikes. Vogelsong induced three swings and misses on his cutter; he had induced only six swings and misses on his cutter all season entering Wednesday.
B) Vogelsong often fell behind hitters, but he was able to recover. He started just 14 of 27 batters (51.9 percent) with a first-pitch strike, his second-lowest percentage of the season. Seven hitters reached base in plate appearances starting with a first-pitch ball, but only one would reach after a first-pitch strike. With runners on, Vogelsong upped his first-pitch strike percentage to 61.5, as opposed to 35.7 with bases empty. Hitters were just 2-for-11 with four strikeouts with runners on.
He set a tone for the Giants, as Scott Ostler writes. The Giants broke out offensively, writes Andrew Baggarly.
9. Joel Pineiro got pounded, again, and he could be dropped from the rotation, writes Mike DiGiovanna.
10. The Braves won, and Dan Uggla extended his hitting streak to 25 games. From Elias: Uggla was batting .173 after the Fourth of July but is riding a 25-game hit streak since. His batting average is still a miserable .215 on the year, which is the lowest batting average in modern history by a player who was riding a 25-game streak. This dubious distinction not only breaks a 103-year-old record but shatters the mark by 50 points.
Lowest BA after hitting in 25 straight games, since 1900:
Dan Uggla -- .215 (2011)
Hobe Ferris -- .265 (1908)
Willy Taveras -- .278 (2006)
Jimmy Rollins -- .279 (2005)
Albert Belle -- .279 (1997)
11. Josh Spence buckled down.
12. You can't stop the Phillies, you can only hope to contain them: They closed out a sweep of the Rockies, behind Roy Halladay, as Jim Salisbury writes.
13. Billy Butler had a good day.
14. The Rays enjoyed a breakout of runs, as Joe Smith writes.
15. The Marlins continue to play well, and they're back to .500, as Juan Rodriguez writes.
16. The Indians lost despite another home run from Jason Kipnis. From Elias: Kipnis homered for the fourth straight game Wednesday night at Fenway Park -- in his 10th career game. The last player to hit a homer in four straight games within the first 10 games of his major league career was Graig Nettles, who did it for the 1968 Twins.
17. Jeremy Guthrie fell apart.
18. Rex Brothers' inexperience was costly, writes Troy Renck.
19. The Jays got blown out.
20. Michael Cuddyer mashed a couple of homers, writes Joe Christensen.
21. Oakland got swept.
22. Jordan Lyles picked up his first victory, as Zachary Levine writes.
23. Dontrelle Willis gave the Reds a lead, but the bullpen blew it.
24. The White Sox were crushed, as Daryl Van Schouwen writes.