Tuesday, July 16, 2013
MLB had no choice with Biogenesis
By Buster Olney
Bud Selig didn't have to commission the Mitchell report, and there's a strong argument that he made a mistake by needlessly picking a scab that didn't have a chance of healing when he did. George Mitchell was never going to get all of the answers, or all of the names, and he instead generated a woefully incomplete document while tossing 86 players to the mob, completely out of context. And he did this while almost certainly knowing that he had barely scratched the surface.
|Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez and Nelson Cruz all could face lengthy suspensions for PED use.|
But the Biogenesis fight is different.
Major League Baseball did not pick this fight. That was created by those who worked to beat the system, and once the rumors of a pod of PED use in Miami began to circulate -- as written here early last November -- the investigators for the sport essentially were left with two choices:
1. They could deal with the issue passively and look the other way, knowing that they would undermine the whole testing program by fostering the use of PEDs through their inaction. But the institution of baseball had been down that road before, in the 1990s, and had wound up in a terrible place.
2. They could go after the cheaters in an all-out, pedal-to-the-metal manner -- not only to catch the guys who were using stuff in Miami, but to demonstrate to other would-be PED abusers that they are serious and will chase them with the full power allowed by their megabillion dollar business.
In other words, they really didn't have a choice. They have arranged payment for evidence and consulting fees and have called in players to answer hard questions, and soon they are expected to suspend some of the game's most decorated players in a mass bust.
Oh, sure, in their perfect world, they would rather that Joe Buck and Tim McCarver not mention the Biogenesis case on the Fox broadcast tonight; in their perfect world, no players would have to answer questions about PEDs, as Chris Davis has done in recent weeks in the midst of a stretch where his numbers have spiraled upward.
But there is no perfect world. This is the way it is in professional sports, and not just in baseball. (Some open-ended questions: Given that dozens of pro ballplayers became clients of Biogenesis, is it possible that players from other major sports also may have visited the offices of Tony Bosch? Has the NFL looked into a possible link? The NBA? The NHL?)
There have been times in the 10 to 15 years that MLB did not react well to stories and conversations about PEDs, and the messengers would hear about it. But now Selig and the folks at MLB are in a position to feel good about those stories because they're in a position to say, unequivocally: We are doing what we can do, in a battle that we didn't start.
Selig talked about the fight against PEDs on Monday, and while I agree with a lot of what he said, I don't think it's best to say that the sport is the cleanest that it's ever been. Because if there is one thing we've learned over time, it's that there is a lot we don't know. Cheaters are always working to beat the system, to get through the cracks. Selig has probably made similar statements in recent years, even as Bosch doled out his prescriptions.
There are no easy answers in the Ryan Braun case, writes Michael Hunt.
MLB has a lot of support from within in its investigation of Biogenesis, writes Christian Red. From his piece:
Giants catcher Buster Posey, who plays for [NL All-Star manager Bruce] Bochy, said that although he only follows the Biogenesis case when he's watching "TV in the clubhouse," he feels that if players were polled about whether they support MLB's pursuit of cheaters, "it would probably be pretty close to unanimous that everybody wants to play on an even playing field."
Takeaways from the Home Run Derby
• Max Scherzer remarked before the start of the Home Run Derby that while he has experienced the World Series, he had never seen anything quite like what he saw at Citi Field -- with the energy, the hoopla -- and he loved it. As Pitbull played on the field, Scherzer said with a laugh, "We ought to do this every day -- have Pitbull play, when you're going to warm up."
• Yoenis Cespedes had his game face on an hour before the event. Some of the guys in the Home Run Derby were laughing and joking, but Cespedes looked like a guy who was preparing to step into the blocks of a 100-yard sprint, in keeping with the reputation that he has built early in his career with the Athletics. It was one of the first things Oakland learned about Cespedes when he joined the team, as general manager Billy Beane related last year: The man wants to win desperately.
Before Cespedes' first round, David Ortiz told him to relax and take his time, and after that talk was over, Ortiz predicted that Cespedes would put on a show -- and Ortiz pointed to the upper deck in left field, seats that seem as if they're a million miles away. "I think he's going to put a ball up there," Ortiz said.
Ortiz was wrong; before the night was over, Cespedes put about a dozen balls into the upper deck in his great show of power. A couple of minutes before the final round started, Mike Gallego -- who threw to Cespedes -- talked with the slugger to get his final instructions, and Cespedes told him exactly how and where he wanted the ball: low and slow and knee-high inside. "It's a little different," Gallego said, "because most guys want the ball away from them a little bit."
• Sandy Guerrero, the minor league hitting coordinator who threw to Prince Fielder, said before the event that Fielder told him that if he were to win, for the third time, this might be his last Derby.
• When Chris Davis walked off after the second round, his right hand was bloody because a blister on his palm had erupted on his second swing in the hot, steamy conditions. Davis had his hand wrapped the rest of the night, and told reporters afterward this was not going to be an issue; it's something that hitters deal with from time to time, and it just so happened to burst in the middle of the Derby.
From ESPN Stats & Information.
32: Total home runs for Cespedes in the Derby, tied for third-most in a single Derby. Only Bobby Abreu (41) in 2005 and Josh Hamilton (35) in 2008 have hit more.
17: Home runs hit by Cespedes in the first round, tied for third-most in a single round in Derby history and more than any player had in the first two rounds combined.
4: He's the fourth-straight AL player and ninth in the past 12 years to win the Derby. He's also just the fourth right-handed hitter to win the Home Run Derby in the past 18 years, snapping a streak of five straight lefties to win it.
1: And he's the first player to win the Home Run Derby who was not selected to play in that year's All-Star Game. He entered the event homerless in his past 81 at-bats, the longest active drought among Derby participants.
• Cespedes is the second A's player to win the HR Derby (Mark McGwire -- 1992).
• Cespedes would have advanced to the final round without hitting a homer in the second round.
• Cespedes entered the All-Star break with zero homers in his past 19 games and two homers in his past 31 (both came June 21 at Seattle). He homered in three of the 46 games he played since May 22.
• Bryce Harper hit eight homers in each of the three rounds.
• The final featured the two players in the competition with the fewest career home runs and two of the three lowest totals this season.
• There were 103 total HRs in the Derby, the most since 2008.
• Davis hit 12 homers and was eliminated after the second round, meaning that no player who was the MLB HR leader at the All-Star break has won a Home Run Derby.
• Prince Fielder hit five homers in the first round and was eliminated, giving him 68 career HRs in the Derby, third-most all-time.
• Robinson Cano finished last for the second straight season.
• The secondary ticket market always provides information on how much push there is to see an event, and Chris Matcovich of TiqIQ sent along these numbers from late Monday night:
Full Strip Average Price
2010: Angel Stadium, $803.19
2011: Chase Field, $613.61
2012: Kauffman Stadium, $1,098.24
2013: Citi Field, $1,139.14
HR Derby Avg Price
2010: Angel Stadium, $227.22
2011: Chase Field, $187.79
2012: Kauffman Stadium, $360.42
2013: Citi Field, $331.76
All-Star Game Avg Price
2010: Angel Stadium, $594.33
2011: Chase Field, $294.33
2012: Kauffman Stadium, $576.96
2013: Citi Field, $782.11
Other 2013 All-Star Game Data:
• There are more than 1,700 tickets available on the resale market for the game.
• To get into the game, it will cost $353 for standing room and $365 for seated options.
• The most expensive ticket listed is in Section 14 (Delta Platinum), Row 1, for more than $7,100.
• Jim Leyland's lineup is nothing short of awesome:
LF Mike Trout
2B Robinson Cano
3B Miguel Cabrera
1B Chris Davis
RF Jose Bautista
DH David Ortiz
CF Adam Jones
C Joe Mauer
SS J.J. Hardy
At ESPN's workroom at Citi Field, the question came up about whether this might be one of the most potent in the history of the All-Star Game -- one of those fun organic debates.
The best might be the 1988 AL lineup:
CF Rickey Henderson
2B Paul Molitor
3B Wade Boggs
LF Jose Canseco
RF Dave Winfield
SS Cal Ripken
1B Mark McGwire
C Terry Steinbach
Because the game was at the NL park, there was no DH. Not that it mattered. Among eight position players, there were five who would finish their careers with 3,000 hits, and five Hall of Famers.
The NL lineup in 1972 was pretty awesome, too:
2B Joe Morgan
CF Willie Mays
RF Hank Aaron
LF Willie Stargell
C Johnny Bench
1B Lee May
3B Joe Torre
SS Don Kessinger
Again: Five Hall of Famers, and eventually, Torre will be inducted as well, not only for his tremendous run as a manager, but for what he did as a player.
For the readers: Do you have other nominees?
• Some former players talked with Mark Simon about their All-Star Game memories.
• Chris Carpenter started his rehabilitation assignment.
• Matt Garza to the Rangers could be the biggest move of the second half, writes Joel Sherman.
• Alex Rodriguez connected for his first home run of his rehabilitation assignment, as Don Burke writes.
• Midway through the season, the Cardinals are hitting .337 with runners in scoring position. Allen Craig is hitting .489 with runners in scoring position. So when our producer Chris Cardello asked us to pick a possible bench hero for tonight's game, I picked Craig -- because you figure NL manager Bruce Bochy naturally would look for a spot to put him in the game as a pinch hitter with runners on base.
One of the oft-repeated lines about hitting with runners in scoring position is that it's not really a repeatable skill. This is kind of silly because a lot of hitters work on situational hitting every single day in batting practice, just as pitchers work on their breaking ball in bullpen sessions. Last year, Craig hit .400 with runners in scoring position, and all year the Cardinals have been great at this in almost 900 plate appearances. So maybe a little credit to the players is overdue.
• It's possible that Manny Ramirez will be promoted.
• Barry Bloom had this heartfelt piece about union head Michael Weiner, who was on the field at the All-Star event last night. He has had a turn in his fight against brain cancer.