Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Dunn could fill Rangers' power void
By Buster Olney
The A-Rod-palooza will go on for many more weeks, given the daily promise that Alex Rodriguez will say something that will make us shake our heads -- such as when he all but painted himself as a Founding Father fighting on behalf of the Constitution during his news conference Monday. Rodriguez will continue to be the big story, until he goes away.
But the greatest impact for any of the suspensions handed down was on the Texas Rangers, who lost Nelson Cruz, a slugger responsible for 20 percent of their home runs in the first four months and four days of the regular season. They asked around before the trade deadline and couldn’t find help, and in their desperation they convinced Lance Berkman to continue to try to play through injuries that forced him to contemplate retirement.
There could be one really interesting solution for the Rangers as they look to solve their power problem: Adam Dunn of the White Sox.
Dunn would be the first one to tell you about his flaws as a player, from the strikeouts to the unplayable defensive skills to the deep slumps. But there is this, too: Dunn has game-changing power, and at a time when the Rangers have a little extra dough in their pockets because of what they don’t have to pay Cruz for the rest of this year, Dunn’s contract -- a whopping four-year, $52 million deal when he signed -- suddenly looks more affordable.
His deal runs through the 2014 season, meaning that anybody who acquires him will be on the hook for about $17 million. But because of that contract, most teams would not put a waiver claim on him, meaning there is a good chance the Rangers could grab him and work out a deal with the White Sox.
The home run he hit Sunday was his 26th of the season, one fewer than Cruz, and with his three walks Monday night, his on-base percentage is .331; Cruz’s on-base percentage this season is .330.
The Rangers have to find some power for next year, anyway, with David Murphy, Cruz and A.J. Pierzynski all eligible for free agency in the fall.
Even with Cruz in the lineup this year, the Rangers’ offense has been in decline. They need some help now, and Dunn could be that.
The Rangers expressed support for Cruz after his suspension was announced. From T.R. Sullivan’s story:
Rangers players made it clear on Monday afternoon: If they make the playoffs, they want suspended outfielder Nelson Cruz with them.
"It's a non-factor in my eyes ... we'll welcome him back," second baseman Ian Kinsler said.
"Totally welcome," reliever Joe Nathan said.
"He has been an incredible teammate, he's one of my favorite teammates," outfielder David Murphy said. "Yes, he made a mistake. We don't agree with what he did, but we all make mistakes. It's not hard to say, we're going to stand behind him. I can only imagine what he's going through. It has to be a difficult time for him and his family. But we all love him and will continue to support him."
Murphy was the first one to speak after Cruz addressed the team in an emotionally charged meeting Monday afternoon. Cruz spoke to his teammates after Major League Baseball announced that he had been suspended 50 games for violations of the Basic Agreement and its Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment policy.
Cruz explained to his teammates what happened and apologized for his actions. When he was finished, other players spoke up in support. Murphy spoke of Cruz's character and what he has meant to the Rangers. Others echoed similar sentiments.
Evan Grant writes: After his suspension, Nelson Cruz can never be clean again. Rival evaluators have speculated for years about whether Cruz -- a late bloomer who played many years in the minors -- was using PEDs.
• Jose Iglesias is taking over as shortstop of the Tigers. Jhonny Peralta should never play for Detroit again, writes Drew Sharp.
• As messy as the next 55 days will be for Major League Baseball, with Alex Rodriguez blocking out a lot of the news with his appeal, Bud Selig’s decision allowed him to hold the high ground in the discussion.
Instead of invoking the "best interests" clause and starting a protracted due-process war with the union over one player, Selig is positioned to go back to the players' association in the winter and demand that they toughen the PED penalties. The rank and file among the players wants this, and as one influential player said to me, he will be shocked if it doesn’t happen.
On Aug. 3, 1921, Kenesaw Mountain Landis -- newly installed as baseball’s commissioner -- issued this statement, about the eight players who conspired to fix the 1919 World Series:
Regardless of the verdict of juries, no player that throws a ball game; no player that undertakes or promises to throw a ball game; no player that sits in a conference with a bunch of crooked players and gamblers where the ways and means of throwing ball games are planned and discussed and does not promptly tell his club about it, will ever play professional baseball. Of course, I don't know that any of these men will apply for reinstatement, but if they do, the above are at least a few of the rules that will be enforced. Just keep in mind that, regardless of the verdict of juries, baseball is competent to protect itself against crooks, both inside and outside the game.
This is that moment for Selig. He cannot possibly ensure that players will never take performance-enhancing drugs, just as Landis couldn’t prevent players from trying to fix baseball games -- in fact, it wasn’t too much later that future Hall of Famers Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker were suspected of doing that. But Selig could rightly feel on Monday night that he is doing all that he can do within his power to clean up the sport, as a whole.
They drug-test players, for everything from steroids to amphetamines to human growth hormone, during the season and the offseason. They have suspended many players, from minor leaguers to superstars. They have investigated and prosecuted, to the ends of the Biogenesis earth.
They are trying, which is something that could not be said of the institution 15 years ago.
Here’s Bud Selig’s statement.
Here’s Michael Weiner’s statement.
• Evan Longoria tweeted his feelings about the day.
• Bruce Bochy says: It’s time to end this.
• Bud Selig and MLB can crow, a little, writes Mark Purdy. There has been a sea change in baseball’s culture, writes Joel Sherman. This suspension sends a message to other cheaters, writes Mike Lupica.
• The one comment Rodriguez got right in his news conference, among his many disingenuous or untrue words, was that whether the Yankees still want him will be predicated on how he produces. He’s got 51 games left to hit, 51 games to show that he can still be a threat at the plate, at age 38.
If he does not produce -- if he suffers some nagging injuries, as Derek Jeter has -- and the damage he does is limited, if he’s merely mediocre, then the whole Distraction versus Production equation that the Yankees are weighing will change.
If he stinks as a player at age 38, and then is forced to sit out all or most of 2014 at age 39, then the Yankees would not have much confidence that he could suddenly transform himself back into a good player in the summer that he turns 40, in 2015. He would be within range of the end of his contract, with three years remaining on his frontloaded deal, and the Yankees would owe him about $61 million for 2015, 2016 and 2017 -- with Rodriguez poised to hit $6 million bonuses if he reaches Willie Mays and Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list.
The Yankees may well decide by then: It’s over. And simply pay him off to go away. When that happens, nobody else will think about signing him, even as a sideshow, and the force of the MLB door hitting him in the backside on the way out will be extraordinary.
So these final games of this season will be meaningful for Rodriguez. He needs to show he might be a good player again.
• There was little sympathy for Rodriguez in the Toronto clubhouse.
• With the Biogenesis investigation over, the onus is now on Ryan Braun to speak.
• I thought Everth Cabrera may have been the most sincere in his apology.
• Antonio Bastardo got nailed for a 50-game suspension, and got blasted on Twitter by a reliever who competed against him.
Around the league
• The Braves’ magic number is down to 37, as they extended their winning streak to 11.
From ESPN Stats & Information: Justin Upton’s homer in the eighth inning Monday put the Braves ahead for good. Upton has four homers in his past five games, matching his total for his previous 77 games combined.
• From the Elias Sports Bureau: The Dodgers extended their road winning streak to 15 games with a 3–2 victory at St. Louis. Only three teams in major league history have had a longer streak of consecutive road wins in one season than this year’s Dodgers squad: the 1984 Detroit Tigers (17 in a row), 1916 New York Giants (17) and 1912 Washington Senators (16).
Dings and dents
1. Paul Maholm threw off a mound.
2. Desmond Jennings is headed to the disabled list.
3. Howie Kendrick got hurt.
4. The Dodgers are in a wait-and-see mode with Hanley Ramirez.
Moves, deals and decisions
1. The Angels cut Ryan Madson.
• The Phillies should shut down Ryan Howard for the rest of the season.
• The Cubs have more woes at home than on the road.
• Russell Martin endured a long road.
• Matt Belisle is exhorting teammates to finish strong.
• Chad Gaudin had a strong outing.
• Vernon Wells played first base.
• The Royals are rolling.
• Kevin Correia got shelled.
• Rangers owners should leave Ron Washington alone, writes Randy Galloway.
• The Astros stole a bunch of bases.
• Mark McGwire is facing the PED issue again.
• Jason Giambi thinks MLB is moving in the right direction.
• Mark DeRosa is sick of hearing about the PED scandal. From Ken Fidlin’s story:
"It’s so tiresome," he said Monday, after watching Alex Rodriguez try to polish his rusted-out image in a news conference.
"That’s what I deal with. I don’t even want to hear about it any more. It’s so tiresome. That being said, I go back to how much money these guys have made, how much less money they would have made if they didn’t cheat, how many guys they sent to the minor leagues by hitting homers. I don’t think these guys understand that what they’ve done has affected way more people than just them."
"They’re obviously very severe punishments," DeRosa acknowledges. "That being said, I think we’re getting to the point now that when these suspensions end and the Players Association sits down as a group we’ve got a lot of players around the league calling for harsher penalties.
"I don’t want to jump to any conclusions. I want to hear everyone’s opinion but, yeah, I feel that these penalties are harsh but I think they’re only going to get worse."
• Tyler Clippard remembers how Jordany Valdespin -- who was among those suspended yesterday -- beat him in a save situation. From Adam Kilgore’s story:
That’s the kind of stuff you think about," Clippard said. "You’re like, ‘Those guys are doing stuff that’s affecting my career and they’re not playing the game the right way.’ So that’s frustrating. I think anybody can relate to that. If they’re not doing things the right way, and they’re beating you, then it leaves a sour taste in your mouth. So that’s why this is so important. Because nobody -- players, ownership -- nobody wants to see guys cheat."
• Dave Parker is fighting Parkinson’s, as Joe Starkey writes.
And today will be better than yesterday.