Time to Standardize the DH

Baseball has been around for a very long time. One of the great things about baseball, however, is that over time it has been receptive to change and evolution in the interest of making the game better. A good example of this change came in 1973, when the American League decided to adopt the Designated Hitter for the good of the game, something that the National League has refused to do to this day. The time has come to change that. There is a window of opportunity for that to happen, as Rob Manfred will be replacing Bud Selig as Commissioner in the offseason and can impose a new vision on the game. There needs to be one rule for both leagues, and it needs to include a DH.

Last night’s Red Sox-Pirates game in Pittsburgh clearly highlighted the need for a universal DH. Due to the host being a National League ballpark, and therefore playing without the DH, David Ortiz was left out of the starting lineup entirely. This led to Daniel Nava hitting third (Daniel Nava!!!!!!!) and the lineup predictably suffered, failing to score a run or put up really a credible threat or rally. In addition, starter Anthony Ranaudo was forced to go up and flail at three pitches every few innings as the price he had to pay to stay in the game. Unfortunately Red Sox fans should get used to such a phenomenon, because it will need to happen for the remainder of the current series in Pittsburgh.

But beyond just the Red Sox, the lack of a DH throughout baseball presents nothing but problems. With the move to balanced leagues holding fifteen teams each, almost every night some American League team will be at a disadvantage while playing in a National League ballpark. American League rosters are constructed with the thought that they can carry an extra bat that might be a defensive liability, or that they can rotate a bunch of players through the DH spot to keep them fresh for an entire season. Does it really make sense to create a disadvantage for an American League club playing in a National League park, when that same National League team gains an advantage while coming to an AL park?

In addition, there really is no value whatsoever to having pitchers “hit.” The National League team with the highest OPS from its pitchers (because sample sizes are too small for AL teams), is the Los Angeles Dodgers, with a .429 mark. That’s not their OBP, neither is it a typo; a .429 OPS. The triple-slash comes to .168/.214/.216. So that means that theoretically the team with the best-hitting pitchers in baseball still puts up a worse line than Will Middlebrooks (.520 OPS, .186/.253/.266). Conversely, the AL team (again for the sake of sample size) getting the least production out of its DH’s, the Seattle Mariners, has posted a .566 OPS (.189/.264/.302). The very worst of the DH’s in baseball are still significantly more effective than the very best hitting pitchers. This is an imbalance that needs to be corrected.

The bottom line is that there is no need to still have pitchers hit in the Major Leagues. It creates an unfair disadvantage for half of the league, and fans do not enjoy it. Fans want to see Victor Martinez face Felix Hernandez with the game on the line, not some backup utility infielder pinch-hit and get blown away by Clayton Kershaw. It creates problems for managers, who come to the point where they have to decide between killing a rally by letting their pitcher hit or pinch-hitting and losing their pitcher for the rest of the game. This is reflected in the numbers, as six out of the top ten teams in baseball in Complete Games reside in the American League. Major League Baseball says it wants to change the game to attract and keep younger fans. The first thing they can do is to end the nonsense, and take the bat out of pitchers’ hands.

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Can the Oakland A’s Win the AL West?

Although the game is under protest by the Oakland A’s and manager Bob Melvin, as it stands now, the LA Angels own a 4-3, 10th inning walk-off win against their division rivals. This translates to an 80-53 record for the Angels and a two-game lead over the A’s at 78-55.

The game is under protest due to a ninth inning obstruction call that went against Oakland and was upheld by umpire Greg Gibson and crew chief Gerry Davis. Howie Kendrick collected the game-winning RBI with a sacrifice fly in the 10th off A’s reliever Ryan Cook (1-2).

The A’s did put up quite a fight in the game, typical of their outstanding season. After struggling through the first three innings, staff ace Sonny Gray retired the next 12 batters to finish with seven innings, allowing three runs off six hits and three walks. Gray’s season record is an impressive 13-7 with 3.03 ERA and 1.21 WHIP over 178 innings pitched.

But the A’s are struggling as a team since the All Star break. They are 19-19 since the break and have lost 11 of their last 17. The A’s still maintain a 5-1/2 game lead on the top Wild Card spot over Detroit and Seattle. LA has won seven of ten and appear to be the hot team right now, although the loss of staff ace Garrett Richards could diminish their chances of staying on top.

Although the acquisition of starter John Lester from Boston has certainly improved the A’s pitching staff and their team overall, the loss of Yoenis Cespedes has hurt the offense. In 24 games with the Red Sox, Cespedes is batting .280 with four doubles, four home runs and 20 RBI’s. Although not staggering numbers by any stretch, the A’s could use his bat right now.

Derek Norris is leading the team offensively with a .270 BA. Josh Donaldson is leading in power numbers with 26 homers and 88 RBI’s, but is only batting .255. The offense will have to pick it up in September to support the pitching staff if they want to challenge the Angels for the AL West crown.

Seattle Decides on a New Manager While Cubs Seem Close to Finalizing Their Choice

The Seattle Mariners have apparently made a decision on their vacant manager’s job. Detroit Tigers’ hitting coach Lloyd McClendon has been tabbed to be the team’s new skipper, per The Puget Sounds Business Journal. McClendon will take over for Eric Wedge, who decided not to come back to the team in 2014 despite the Mariners offering him a contract. Seattle went 213-273 in their three years under Wedge.

McClendon, 54, has been a manager before. He managed the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2001-2005. The Bucs went 336-446 under McClendon before he got fired in the final month of the ’05 season. McClendon also played for the Pirates in the final five seasons of his major league career. He was hired by his former manager Jim Leyland to be the hitting coach of the Tigers in 2007. He was a candidate for the Tigers’ job when Leyland stepped down at the end of the season. However, Detroit went with former catcher Brad Ausmus earlier this week.

With McClendon now hired by Seattle, it pretty much leaves one managerial opening left. That’s the Chicago Cubs, who appear to be finalizing their decision right now. Previously, it seemed like the lead candidate for the job was San Diego Padres executive, and former Arizona manager, A.J. Hinch. However, in recent days, the club appears to be focused on another member of the Padres, bench coach Rick Renteria.

Renteria, 51, played 5 seasons in the majors with the Pirates, Mariners and Florida Marlins. He spent several years managing in the minors for the Padres before being moved up to the major-league coaching staff in 2008. Renteria also managed the Mexican team in the World Baseball Classic earlier this year. Apparently, the Cubs are impressed with Renteria’s ability to work with young players. The major reason given for former manager Dale Sveum’s dismissal was that young players like Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo regressed under his watch.

Yankees Acquire Shortstop Brendan Ryan From Seattle As Jeter Struggles With Injuries

The New York Yankees, fighting for a Wild Card spot, made a move Tuesday night to help shore up their defense. The Yanks acquired shortstop Brendan Ryan from the Seattle Mariners for a player to be named later. Since New York got the shortstop after the August 31stroster deadline, Ryan is ineligible to play in the playoffs. However, as the Yankees are in desperate need of solid defense at short and are fighting it out with 4 other teams for the final Wild Card spot, they decided they needed to make a move now.

Ryan, 31, is a light-hitting/great-defense shortstop. This year, in 87 games, he’s only hitting .192/.254/.265 with 3 HRs and 21 RBI. Career, his numbers aren’t much better, as he’s at .238/.300/.320. However, he is a plus defender at short with excellent range and good instincts. He gives the Yankees marked improvement in that area over the final 3 weeks of the season, as Derek Jeter has been out most of the season and can’t seem to stay healthy down the stretch, and Eduardo Nunez has been a disaster defensively at short. Nunez has played 78 games at shortstop this season, making 12 errors and posting some of the worst fielding range numbers in the majors.

Jeter, 39, has only been able to play in 17 games this season. He missed all of the first-half while recuperating from a broken left ankle that occurred during the playoffs last year. He sustained another fracture in the ankle after the surgery, which caused a delay in his recovery. When he came back on July 11th, he was only able to play one game before going back on the DL with a strained quad. After returning in late-July, he had to go back on the DL in early-August with a calf strain. Currently, while not on the DL, he is hobbled by a sore left ankle (yes, the same one that needed surgery and fractured after the surgery.)

Even when Jeter has been able to play, he hasn’t provided the Yankees with much. His range at short, already sub-par before the injuries, is non-existent now. With the bat, he has been awful, batting .190/.288/.254 with 1 HR in 17 games. He hasn’t given the Yankees any value so far this year. While he might be able to provide a little bit more at the plate than he has so far, age combined with injuries make him a liability at shortstop. Ryan provides some insurance during this stretch run. Even if Jeter can play in most, or even some, of the games going forward, Ryan will be inserted as a defensive replacement late in games.

Currently, the Yankees are two games out of the final Wild Card spot. Tampa Bay currently holds the final spot, but has struggled lately, making the race extremely tight. Baltimore, Cleveland and Kansas City are all within three games of the Rays. In the past few weeks, New York has gotten a boost from Alonso Soriano and Alex Rodriguez. Soriano was acquired from the Cub right before the trade deadline and has crushed 15 HRs in 43 games. A-Rod missed the entire first half of the season after hip surgery and has hit .301/.388/.496 with 5 HRs in 31 games. Of course, he also received a 211-game suspension that he is currently appealing and he’s also filed lawsuits and grievances towards the Yankees and their medical staff. One could say that the Yankees shouldn’t be benefitting down the stretch from a player that will surely be serving a lengthy suspension, but that is another article for another day.

What’s Next For A-Rod?

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MLB Commissioner Bud Selig finally announced the news Monday afternoon that everyone was waiting for. New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez will be suspended through the end of the 2014 season. However, in a slightly different twist that what was expected, A-Rod’s suspension does not officially start until Thursday, thus making the length of the suspension 211 games. It looks like Selig moved the start date to Thursday to force A-Rod’s hand on an appeal, as a player has three days to file an appeal once the suspension is announced.

So, what’s next for A-Rod? Well, it is plainly obvious he is going to file an appeal on the ruling. MLBPA head Michael Weiner has already stated that Rodriguez has the full support of the union behind him. “We believe that the Commissioner has not acted appropriately under the Basic Agreement,” said Weiner in a statement. “Mr. Rodriguez knows that the Union, consistent with its history, will defend his rights vigorously. We must revisit the JDA’s confidentiality provisions and consider implementing stricter rules for any breach.” Once Rodriguez files his appeal, a hearing with an arbitrator must take place within 20 days. Then, the arbitrator has 25 days from the hearing to give his decision.

It is possible that A-Rod can be eligible to play for the Yankees for as long as 45 days from today. It is more likely that they will have him for a month, give or take a few days. Once the arbitrator, Frederic Horowitz, makes his decision, A-Rod will then have to start serving his suspension immediately (unless, by miracle of miracles, Horowitz throws the suspension out completely. ) If Horowitz upholds the entire suspension length, then A-Rod will see that suspension last into the 2015 season.

Today, Rodriguez is officially in the lineup for the Yankees for the first time this season. He is batting 4th tonight and playing third base against the Chicago White Sox. He is playing his first game of the season on the same day he was given the longest suspension ever handed down in MLB for performance enhancing drugs. On the day he was acknowledged as the biggest cheat in major league baseball history, he is going to go out and try to play his first MLB game since last year’s playoffs. Needless to say, it is going to be an absolute freakshow tonight!

I have a hard time believing that A-Rod will be able to deal with the extremely negative crowd reactions he is going to get over the coming weeks (both home and away) as well as the intense media spotlight that will be following him. While he, unlike any other athlete perhaps in history, seems to adore and embrace drama, it just seems like what is sure to come will be too much, even for him. On top of that, all of this negative attention is going to be grating from the outset on his teammates, coaches and manager. Is he really going to go through with this?

Long term, once the appeal is over and the arbitrator decides, A-Rod is going to have to sit-out a long time. Considering that MLB was ready to hand down a lifetime ban to A-Rod, as well as go through the courts by circumventing the Joint Drug Agreement (JDA), it seems highly unlikely that an arbitrator is going to reduce any of Rodriguez’s suspension. Apparently, Selig feels very confident that A-Rod is a repeat offender and tampered with the investigation, and that he could justify a lifetime ban under the ‘best interests of baseball’ clause. Therefore, by sticking to the JDA’s provisions and sending it before an arbitrator, Selig keeps A-Rod away from the court system.

A-Rod will be out until sometime in 2015, once the appeal process is over. He’ll see how much he is hated by the MLB fanbase over the next few days. He is going to see vitriol unlike any we’ve ever seen directed at a player. I think, once he’s done playing in these games before the suspension is handed out, he is going to not want to deal with it again. The only reason he wants to play now and in the future is because he is owed a LOT of money by the Yankees.

Basically, I foresee A-Rod looking to come to an agreement with the Yankees on the remaining years on his contract. Knowing he is already going to lose roughly $35 million over his suspension, he is still going to want to get some of that remaining $60 million that the Yankees will have to pay him through 2017. I just think he is going to approach New York, perhaps within the next few days, and request a portion of that remaining contract to walk away for good. Reports are out that he’d already tried to do this with the Yankees prior to the suspension being announced, so why wouldn’t he do this now that it is official?

The Yankees and A-Rod are going to go through their divorce, one way or another. Reaching a settlement seems to be the best case scenario for all involved. New York was praying that Selig would go through with his lifetime ban and give them a $100 million windfall. That didn’t happen, but it looks like they will get out of paying A-Rod $35 million. If they can get out of paying him maybe another $30 million more, I think they’ll jump at that opportunity. Now they just have to wait for A-Rod to tire of the drama and do the right thing for both of them.

 

MLB Suspensions To Be Announced By Monday; A-Rod To Get Lifetime Ban?

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It appears that MLB will announce the suspensions of the players involved with Biogenesis by Monday. The eight players that are not Alex Rodriguez are expected to get 50-game suspensions. It is unlikely that any of them will appeal the suspensions. As for A-Rod, there are varying reports coming out stating that he is trying to come to a settlement with MLB on the length of his suspension.

The main reason that MLB wants to get the suspensions announced no later than Monday is timing. If they wait much longer, players will have to serve some of their suspension in 2014. Two players, Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta and Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, are key members of teams in pennant races, and would like to be able to get their suspensions over with before the playoffs start. If the suspensions come out over the weekend or even by Monday, then they will be available, assuming the suspensions are at the expected 50 games.

As for the continuing A-Rod saga, his representatives and MLB officials have been talking over the last couple of days to see what kind of suspension they can both come to an agreement to. This at least showed that Rodriguez might allow some kind of suspension to be handed down without appealing or fighting it. However, it appears that A-Rod and MLB are really far apart. Apparently, Rodriguez is willing to accept the same 50-game suspension that the other players are getting, and nothing more. MLB is threatening a lifetime ban and, at the very least, wants A-Rod to sit-out the rest of 2013 and all of 2014.

As I’ve stated numerous times on this site, A-Rod isn’t going to go quietly. He has too much money owed him over the next 4+ years to just roll over. And, while MLB has stated that the Yankees are not involved whatsoever in these negotiations and that A-Rod’s current contract has no bearing on any possible discipline coming his way, that’s all just smoke being blown up our collective asses. The Yankees are hoping that MLB will do them a huge favor and get them out of the rest of A-Rod’s mega-contract. And as Bud Selig works for the owners, and is a former owner himself, he will do his best to make the marquee franchise in baseball happy.

What do I think will happen this weekend with A-Rod and MLB? I think Selig is going to hammer A-Rod with a lengthy suspension, most likely a lifetime ban. They are willing to let A-Rod do a suspension through 2014, but there is no way he will accept something like that. Anything over the 50 games that the other players will receive will bring about a lengthy fight from Rodriguez, one that will take up a lot of press and extend for months. We are going to be dealing with this for a long time, folks.