This Great Game Comebacker

The Week That Was in Baseball: November 18-24, 2013
Alex Rodriguez's Delay of Game Who Got the Better of the Fielder-Kinsler Trade?
Can Robinson Cano Get His $300 Million? R.I.P., Michael Weiner


Tour de Farce
It was just another typically crazy week in Alex Rodriguez’s world of drama. As the hearing to appeal his 211-game suspension for Biogenesis steroid use wound down, Rodriguez became infuriated when mediator Fredric Horowitz denied him his wish to get commissioner Bud Selig to testify in person; like a spoiled child in a high chair, Rodriguez pounded his fists on the table, kicked a briefcase and shouted a stream of profanities at MLB second-in-command Rob Manfred, sitting in for Selig, before storming out.

Within minutes, Rodriguez’s legal/PR team dashed out a public note reflecting his displeasure at the proceedings and vowed not to return in front of Horowitz, claiming the appeal hearings had become a biased “farce” in favor of MLB. However, he did show up a few hours later at New York sports station WFAN for an on-air chat with Rodriguez lapdog Mike Francesca, who tossed one softball question after another. There, Rodriguez reiterated his claim that he hasn’t taken any steroids—not since 2003, at least—and didn’t think he had a chance of winning the appeal. The whole day smelled of premeditated drama.

Rodriguez didn’t appear a day later for his final bit of testimony before Horowitz, while his legal eagles teased the media that they’d unload all the evidence of his innocence to the public on Friday. (They didn’t.) But frankly, Rodriguez doesn’t care what Horowitz decides—unless, of course, Horowitz decides that Rodriguez doesn’t have to serve a day. If Rodriguez loses the appeal—or even sees it chopped down to 50 games, a figure Rodriguez will likely still deem unacceptable—he’ll move on to the bigger and (perhaps) better thing: Federal court. If that happens, experts say, he doesn’t stand much of a chance; no judge is going to cast doubt on an independent arbitrator’s decision via a process that, to be honest, has been just as fair in the past with the players as it has been with MLB. Just ask Ryan Braun.

Pushing the Clock Out
When asked by Francesca how long this could all drag out, Rodriguez replied: “This could go on for the next seven years.”

That folks, is exactly what he wants.

It comes down to this: Rodriguez wants to play and get his money as quick as possible. How does he do that? By delaying. And how does he delay? By suing the pants off baseball and hoping to get a trial date that can be moved back again and again. Until that trial ends, Rodriguez has the freedom to suit up and play. And by pushing back any suspension, he would gain valuable time in what is undoubtedly the sunset of his career—and with it, the chance of passing Willie Mays on the home run pyramid, collecting his 3,000th hit, knocking in his 2,000th run and scoring his 2,000th run—all of which he can easily do if he played a full season in 2014. Oh, and he would collect another $34 million—$28 million in salary, $6 million for passing Mays and perhaps more for additional bonuses such as making the All-Star team, earning MVP votes, etc.

If Rodriguez is suspended now through mid-2015—as MLB is hoping with its 211-game penalty—he won’t return until mere days before his 40th birthday, without having swung a bat against major league pitching for nearly two years. Old age and rust is not a good mix for someone trying to hang on in the game of baseball, and Rodriguez knows it.

So this is Rodriguez’s game: Bitch, moan, sue, delay and push back any ability by MLB to enforce a suspension. If he gets his way, he’ll get his milestones and his money.

To Smell the Truth
Don’t take MLB’s word for it that Rodriguez is lying when he says he didn’t take steroids from Biogenesis; listen to what Susan Constantine has to say. Who is Susan Constantine? She’s a so-called “body language expert” who’s written The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Body Language. (Sounds like a must-read for Rodriguez.) Watching Francesca’s interview with Rodriguez simulcast on the YES Network, Constantine focused on Rodriguez’s physical mannerisms and determined that “with a high level of certainty, he was lying.” She did say, however, that Rodriguez was appearing to tell the truth on two things: That he was stressed, and that he hated Bud Selig using “the strongest form of hatred you could have…it’s vehement anger.”

Jhonny Got His Money
While Rodriguez risks eternal Biogenesis suffering, another major leaguer caught holding the steroids bag this past year had a prosperous Sunday. Jhonny Peralta signed a four-year, $52 million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, and it didn’t leave too many people happy. The most damning criticism came from Arizona reliever Brad Ziegler, who tweeted: “It pays to cheat….We thought 50 games would be a deterrent. Obviously it’s not. So we are working on it again.” That last message carries a lot of weight; Ziegler is an active union rep who’s fed up with the “cheats” and looks ready to lobby his peers to raise the penalty for first-time steroid use. Here’s our suggestion for Brad, as we’ve said before: If you want to scare players straight and clean up the game, ban a steroid user for life on a first offense. Otherwise, when the money’s that big, the reward will always be worth the risk. Just ask Jhonny.

Fielder for Kinsler: Who Benefits?
Baseball’s first blockbuster offseason transaction took place this past week when the Detroit Tigers shipped slugger Prince Fielder to Texas in exchange for second baseman Ian Kinsler. The Tigers sweetened the deal by pledging to annually pay $6 million of Fielder’s $24 million-a-year deal from 2016 through 2020.

The trade helps both teams on many fronts. For the Rangers, Fielder’s arrival fills a glaring hole at first base that’s been open for too long—and opposing pitchers are very likely to shudder at the thought of Fielder aiming long drives towards the seemingly cozy reaches of right field at hot and humid Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. With Kinsler’s departure, an infield logjam is eased as young and highly touted Jurickson Profar can now claim a spot of his own at second base.

For Detroit, the initial thought is that shedding Fielder’s salary will make it easier to re-up Cy Young Award-winning ace Max Scherzer and, down the line, superstar slugger Miguel Cabrera. The trade also gets the Tigers a talented second baseman to replace the departed Omar Infante. But there are a few questions to be raised in Detroit: Did the Tigers overreact in sending away Fielder, who bombed in two postseasons but played well enough to produce a .295/.387/.491 line during the regular season? And how will his absence affect Cabrera, who benefitted from his presence in the lineup with back-to-back MVPs? In the aftermath of the trade, Cabrera posted a nonstop parade of pictures of himself and Fielder via his social media account in what could likely be interpreted as a silent form of protest.

Chained in Pinstripes?
Robinson Cano hit the free agent market with the boisterous claims from his team of agents—led by rapper Jay-Z—that he deserves to become baseball’s first $300 million man. But as of this week, it appears he’ll be lucky to become its next $200 million man.

The venerable All-Star second baseman is one of the game’s great talents, no doubt about it; he’s a career .309 hitter with sturdy, consistent power numbers. To be fair, the only reason he’s not considered a “marquee” player on the order of Albert Pujols or Miguel Cabrera is because he’s played on a New York Yankees team crowded with star talents like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and, yes, Rodriguez. If he was to sign up with, say, the Cleveland Indians or San Diego Padres, then he becomes the man on that roster.

But the $300 million isn’t coming to him. The richer teams in baseball, those that can afford to pay Cano that kind of money, are cool at best towards him. The Boston Red Sox have Dustin Pedroia. The Detroit Tigers just got Kinsler, and traded Fielder to get him (though rumors were flying that they recently met with Cano anyway). The Texas Rangers, who gave up Kinsler, are apparently content with young Profar taking over at second. The San Francisco Giants only seem to want pitchers, not hitters. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, having emptied the vault on Pujols and Josh Hamilton, are too gun-shy at this point to even approach Cano. The New York Mets already have said no to Cano, saying they don’t want to lavish any new player with a nine-figure contract. And even the Los Angeles Dodgers, who spare no expense on anything these days, have stiff-armed the idea of Cano landing in Hollywood, in part because they’re pinning their hopes on Cuban exile Alexander Guerrero.

There could be a mid-market team ready to take a leap of fiscal insanity like Washington or Seattle or St. Louis and give Cano what he wants, but the chatter factor’s been pretty silent. Perhaps such teams remember the lesson of the Rangers, who over ten years ago gave Rodriguez that whopping $250 million deal and realized how chained down they became once they had little cash left to build a winner around him with.

That leaves the Yankees for Cano. New York has already given him its offer, but it’s far from what he wants at roughly seven years and $160 million. You’d think the Yankees might be anxious to grab him back, especially given their quandary with Rivera’s departure, Jeter’s health and Rodriguez’s possible banishment in 2014. But the competition is all but non-existent, and the Yankees must feel they have leverage. And besides, Cano is well liked at Yankee Stadium and appears to have established a comfortable element to play within. One of the above teams could be talking out of the side of its mouth when it says it’s not interested in Cano and end up signing him, but if you had to be pinned down and make a guess at this point, Cano will be staying in pinstripes.

Michael Weiner, 1962-2013
A year-plus battle with an inoperable brain tumor ended sadly this past week for union chief Michael Weiner, who died at age 51. Though Weiner’s tenure at the top seemed even shorter than the four years he actually logged, he was uniformly liked and respected from both sides of baseball’s aisle, generating praise from players and owners alike for his less antagonistic tone than his predecessors. As he became increasingly weakened by the tumor, Weiner refused to fear the inevitable and embraced life with each new day.

Tony Clark will succeed Weiner on an interim basis and becomes the first ex-player to lead the union.

Did You Consider the Source?
After seven years with the Texas Rangers, outfielder David Murphy signed with the Cleveland Indians. The news was broken by her daughter at a daycare center and somehow reached the media.

Trouble in Cobb County?
The Atlanta Braves have to know that the yellow brick road towards their new Cobb County ballpark is going to be littered with landmines. Controversy is already brewing a week after the Braves announced their intention to leave Turner Field for a new, $675 million mixed-use ballpark development in 2017. There’s a growing faction of locals dissatisfied with the Cobb County Commission’s act of trying to quickly rush a financial plan with no chance for the public to review and comment on it; their concern is how a plan might affect their schools and taxes. Strange bedfellows are also being made to create opposition, including an alliance of the Tea Party and the Sierra Club.

The Cobb County vote is scheduled for Tuesday; we’ll see how wild the circus gets.

Sorry, Single Guys
The Braves confirmed that the new mixed-use development outside of their new ballpark in Cobb County will not include any strip clubs.


Bushers Book

Leave Your Metal at the Door
Though fans at baseball games are generally considered to be gentler relative to other spectator sports (especially the NFL), MLB is not taking any chances. Starting in 2014, fans should expect to pass through a metal detector when arriving at the ballpark.
John Skinner, MLB’s security director, said this: “It’s the reality, unfortunately, of this world. Ultimately, (the presence of a metal detector) will happen.”

Getting His Goat
Jose Canseco apparently has gone Albania. The vilified ex-slugger was pulled over this past when police spotted goats wearing diapers in the back seat of his car. Canseco later claimed that the goats were new pets for him and his girlfriend.

It’s Very Obviously a Game for the Young
Just when you thought the New York Mets were showing financial common sense in saying no to Robinson Cano’s $300 million request, they do this: They will pay
Chris Young, who played part-time in Oakland last year and avoided a sub-.200 average with a hit in his final game of the 2013 season, $7.25 million in 2014. Where do we sign up?

And Speaking of Bad Moves…
So
Rex Brothers is thrown into the closer role for Colorado midway through 2013 when Rafael Betancourt’s season comes to a premature, painful end, and saves 19 of 21 attempts and finishes with a 1.74 ERA…yet, he gets demoted for 2014 by 41-year-old LaTroy Hawkins? That’s what the Rockies announced this week after signing the 19-year veteran reliever to a contract. Granted, Hawkins looked good in his own late-season emergency stint as closer for the Mets, saving 13 games with a 2.93 ERA—and he does have some precedent in Colorado, where he effectively served as a set-up man for the 2007 NL pennant-winning Rockies. But Hawkins had worse overall numbers than Brothers while playing at sea level and, again, he’s 41…

Ernie Earns It
Chicago Cubs legend and two-time NL MVP
Ernie Banks received the Presidential Medal of Freedom this past week from President Obama. He is the ninth baseball player to receive the honor; the first was Moe Berg, who spied for the U.S. while on a tour of Imperial Japan with other major leaguers in the 1930s; the others are Joe DiMaggio, Jackie Robinson (posthumously, in 1984), Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Buck O’Neil and Stan Musial.

The Astros Lost on Jeopardy!
The answer is: “The large valve used to control wellbore fluids on oil rigs is this ‘preventer’; the Astros could have used one.” The question is: “What is a blowout preventer.” This moment actually occurred on an episode of Jeopardy this past week. Too bad
Sean Connery wasn’t around to chime in.

TGG Chats With Steve Sax
Check out the latest installment of our They Were There sction as
Ed Attanasio sits down with former Dodger and Yankee Steve Sax on a number of topics, including Sax's mental block at second base, life on two championship teams in Los Angeles and his appearance on The Simpsons.

Updated on TGG
The Teams section has been fully updated to reflect the advancement of many active players on the Top Ten lists based on their 2013 performances, as well as changes to the lists after sensible adjustments were made to our two TGG metrics, the Productivity Index and the Efficiency Index. Check it out!


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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They Were There: Steve Sax
Steve SaxSteve Sax discusses his infamous mental block at second base, his role in Kirk Gibson's legendary World Series home run and his stint on The Simpsons.


Bushers Book

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