This Great Game Comebacker

The Week That Was in Baseball: January 28-February 3, 2013
BALCO, South Beach Style Shouldn't Alex Rodriguez be Angry About This?
The NRA Takes Aim at the Royals and Cardinals Earl Williams, R.I.P.

Fool Us Twice, A-Fraud…
It began this past week with reports that a doctor in Miami was being investigated for supplying steroids to major league baseball players. The sensation factor of the story was low as no names were revealed…until the Miami New Times, a weekly newspaper, published a lengthy, detailed report on the chronic failings of the doctor in question (Anthony Bosch) and the major leaguers he allegedly gave illegal performance enhancement to: Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon, Yasmani Grandal (all three of whom have been suspended in the past year for steroid use), Gio Gonzalez, Nelson Cruz…and Alex Rodriguez.

Our initial reaction to the exposing of Rodriguez? You gotta be kidding us, right, Alex? After Rodriguez was jammed through the media shredder in 2009 when Sports Illustrated outed him for steroid use—leading him to confess that he took PEDs from 2001-03—one would think he’d be much wiser to avoid the juice going forward as the general public kept a more scrutinous eye on him. Yet it you believe the New Times story—and it’s hard not to, given that eight different people corroborated much of the story’s detail according to the newspaper—it is assumed that Rodriguez kept right on injecting, all the way through last season as his hip, game and luck at getting phone numbers from attractive females behind the dugout all broke down.

Why Didn’t he Lance the Messenger?
If you’re in Rodriguez’s shoes and was truly innocent, wouldn’t you want to express your anger by calling a press conference and telling any reporter willing to listen: “This is ticking me off. I came clean four years ago and I’ve been clean ever since. Now somebody’s making up this garbage. I don’t know this Bosch, don’t know about this Biogenesis, and I’m so angry, I’m thinking of suing that alternative scribe in Miami that published this junk.” So is this the path Rodriguez took? No. Instead, he hid behind his new legal eagles and PR pros, who released a common denial. C’mon, Alex—really?

I’m Sorry, You Must Have Me Confused With Myself
Maybe it was another Alex Rodriguez who Bosch was giving the drugs to, yes? No. Not unless this other Alex Rodriguez also happens to have a cousin with the name of Yuri Sucrat. (His name’s on the Biogenesis files as well.)

Zero Legacy
Unless the Miami New Times published its April Fool’s edition two months early, or if all these witnesses told a big lie, or if Bosch’s star-studded paperwork was completely and utterly fabricated, then this story has to be believed. And if that’s the case, then Rodriguez has completely lost whatever support he had left with future Hall-of-Fame voters. Because to believe we’ve been had by Rodriguez for lying about being clean three years after being caught means we’ve been had by him throughout his entire career. It’s a false-in-one, false-in-all situation; nothing he claims is to be believed anymore—and it’s now reasonable to assume that he’s a steroid lifer, using them all the way back to his high school days.

America’s Least Wanted?
Like they were with
Jason Giambi almost a decade ago after his steroid confession during the BALCO grand jury hearings, the New York Yankees are so infuriated with the new Rodriguez steroid claims that they are seriously considering voiding the rest of his contract. They alone can’t do that; they would need help from the commissioner’s office, as the New York Daily News states the current Basic Agreement between owners and players allows Bud Selig to use his powers to apply a suspension longer than 50 games upon Rodriguez if he was found not to be lying about being clean since 2009. If it comes to that, expect the players’ union—at that point, about the only friend Rodriguez would have left in baseball—to put up a massive fight.

The Yankees’ best hope is that Rodriguez, whose career is close to being derailed by his hip issues, would just quit and forgo the rest of his salary. But who in his right mind will turn his back on $114 million (plus milestone incentives) still owed to you, especially when some of baseball’s loftiest records are within your sight? It’s a messy future ahead for Rodriguez—on the field, in the negotiating room and maybe in the courtroom.

The Others
In a sense, Cabrera, Colon and Grandal probably feel relatively blasé by this story; these revelations are nothing more than a formal confirmation of what they’ve already been suspended for. But two new names have entered the mix: Cruz and Gonzalez.

Cruz has, like everyone else associated with this story (beyond the willing corroborators), has flatly denied his dealings with Bosch. Gonzalez’s story is more intriguing; his father actually responded to and was quoted in the New Times story as saying it was he who was being treated by Bosch to lose weight. First of all, if you’re going to lose weight, don’t see a doctor; get your butt to a gym. Secondly, in baseball’s sensitive world of steroid enforcement, why would you be stupid enough to place your son’s name—a major league pitcher—on a form for drugs you are taking?

This story is not done. MLB will certainly want to interview all involved, including Rodriguez. And an investigative source claims that the New Times published only the names of those players they obtained hard evidence on, but the six named represent only the tip of the iceberg as far as Bosch’s actual client list is concerned. Somewhere out there, there has to be a few major leaguers squirming in anticipation of what the media may next report.

Spirit of Bad Taste
Capitalizing on the latest A-Roid saga, Spirit Airlines quickly whipped up a campaign headlined with “Improve your travel performance with our PEDs! (Price Extravaganza Deals)” followed by the tag, “You’ll have A-Rodiculously great time!” How ironic it would be if Rodriguez took advantage of the deal to reach New York and meet with MLB execs over his connection to Bosch.

Scare ‘em Clean
In the wake of this newest steroid controversy, St. Louis slugger
Matt Holliday said it’s time to increase PED penalties in the majors. Speaking on satellite radio, Holliday said that a first offense should be increased from 50 games to a full season—and a second offense should be grounds for a lifetime banishment, albeit it with a chance to be reinstated after two years. While that’s a step in the right direction, it’s still not enough of a deterrent for players who see the big money gained through performing on PEDs outweighing the risks of getting caught.

The closest way baseball will ever get to being 100% clean, as we opined a few years back before the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement was negotiated, is a one-and-done policy—get caught once, and you’re gone for good. Until then, expect the cheaters to keep cheating.

We’re Gunning For Ya’
The National Rifle Association came out with a hit list of sorts revealing companies and prominent individuals who have “lent their corporate support to gun control initiatives or taken position supporting gun control.” The list includes two MLB teams: The Kansas City Royals and St. Louis Cardinals. So why are both teams from Missouri included? Because of their efforts to sink a proposed state law in 2003 that would allow individuals to carry concealed weapons in public places. The law passed, but the teams succeeded in watering it down so that public venues with 5,000 or more seats are exempt.

We try to avoid pushing political agendas at TGG, but we have to ask: Why would the Royals and Cardinals want to squash the bill? Because, obviously, they don’t want gun-toting fans entering the ballpark, getting liquored up, then mixing it up with the nearest fan wearing the opposing team’s jersey. You know how many fights there are at MLB ballparks each year? Right, a lot. And just how many of those would escalate to Murder One if guns were present? Right, more than you want to know.

Who’s Running This League, Hans Blix?
Cincinnati was rewarded with the 2015 All-Star Game after it had been anticipated that Miami would get it. Some are theorizing that South Florida—or, more truthfully, the Miami Marlins and their penurious owner, Jeffrey Loria—was rebuffed as punishment for the Marlins’ latest fire sale, in which they unloaded their priciest star talent to the Toronto Blue Jays. If this is the best commissioner Bud Selig can do to “punish” Loria, Marlin fans are going to be stuck with this local Lord for a long time to come…

Just Too Nicked Up
Ending a bittersweet experience as a major leaguer, Nick Johnson hung it up after ten years performing for four different teams, including two separate stays with the Yankees—the team that drafted him in third round of the 1996 amateur draft. The left-handed hitting hitter held great promise in Yankee pinstripes with visions of being the next Mickey Mantle, but he was ultimately lumped into the class of players like J.D. Drew and Larry Walker, solid if not better talents who couldn’t stay healthy for the life of them. A broken hand here, a back injury there, wrist issues there—Johnson ultimately acquired veteran status as a member of baseball’s walking wounded, constantly keeping him from playing a full season (only once did he log as many as 500 at-bats, in 2006 for Washington.)

Johnson hit a fair .268, but that number ramped up to .399 in the on-base department due to his penchant for drawing walks and plunkings—he got hit at a higher rate than Craig Biggio, the all-time leader in hit-by-pitches. In 2012, Johnson gave it one more go as a member of the Baltimore Orioles, but predictably succumbed to injury once more in what would be his final season.

Closing Down the Millwood
Also stepping down from baseball this week was pitcher Kevin Millwood, who unlike Johnson avoided the injury bug but like him became something of a major league transient who faded over his last three years, toiling for seven teams over 16 seasons with a 169-152 career record and 4.11 earned run average. The right-hander is best known for participating in two no-hitters—one in 2006 he earned on his own, the other last season with the help of five Seattle relievers when he departed after six innings with a groin issue. He’s less known for pacing the AL with a 2.86 ERA in 2005 (despite a 9-11 record for a Cleveland team that finished 93-69) and losing a league-high 16 games (winning just four) for the Orioles in 2010.

Millwood’s finest campaign undoubtedly came during his second full season in 1999, when he easily put up the best numbers on an Atlanta rotation that included Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz and helped lead the Braves to a NL pennant.

Earl Williams, 1948-2013
Drafted as a pitcher, converted to a first baseman in the minors and once more to a catcher in his 1971 Rookie of the Year campaign with the Braves, Earl Williams admitted that his favorite position was “hitter”. That was understandable, given that the New Jersey native hit 61 home runs over his first full two seasons for the Atlanta Braves. But he never capitalized on that early success, his career gradually bogging down through the 1970s as he gave and took heat from teammates and coaches (especially after a 1973 trade to Baltimore, where he locked horns with just about everyone in the Oriole organization); after his release from the pathetic Oakland A’s in 1978, he was so desperate for major league work that he placed a want-ad in the New York Times pitching his services, saying he was healthy and, for all it was worth, also had a clean police record. No MLB team took him up on his offer and he finished out his baseball career in Mexico. Williams died this past week of leukemia at the age of 64.

Fall From Grace
Here’s a public service message to players who might be tanking it up after hours at spring training to imbibe on: Former All-Star and Arizona Diamondback broadcast analyst Mark Grace was sentenced to four months of work-release jail time this past week as punishment for DUI, his second in recent years. It could have been worse; his actions carried a maximum sentence of three years. Additionally, Grace was sentenced to three years of supervised probation, will have to place an interlock device on his steering wheel for six months, and will not be allowed to leave the state without permission.

Can You Feel Something in the Air?
Catchers and pitchers report to spring camps in Arizona and Florida next week.

The Comebacker's Greatest Hits: Click here to look at the TGG Comebacker archive going back to the start of the 2008 season.

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