The Bullpen: Alex Rodriguez circus continues
After today’s 2013 Volume 35, the Bullpen will be on hiatus until sometime closer to the winter meeting when we will likely have a preview and wrap-up sessions for our readers. I enjoyed your input and your feedback and look forward to next February when we will go weekly again, a sure sign that spring is in the air. In the meantime, we will still blog on Blue Jays news with regular Friday Mailbags, have regular columns throughout the winter and do the mailbags if the mail is there. Thanks.
A-Rod sues Bud Selig and Major-League Baseball
Alex Rodriguez waited until the arbitrator in New York had heard his case asking that his 211-game suspension be rescinded, then announced that he is suing MLB and specifically commissioner Bud Selig for various reasons including: paying witnesses against him for their testimony, specifically the über-sleazy Tony Bosch, owner of the Biogenesis clinic, whom they allege is receiving $5 million from baseball; and for “tortious interference” with his existing playing contract with the Yankees and other endorsement and future business contracts.
The arbitration case is separate to the lawsuit and was presented early last week in front of a three-member panel comprised of a representative from MLB, one from the Players Association and, essentially the tiebreaker, independent arbitrator. A decision is not expected this month.
If the 211-game suspension is upheld, A-Rod stands to lose approximately $32 million in salary. He is under contract through the 2017 season and he believes the Yankees are part of a conspiracy to save money from his contract and that Selig is plotting to end his career.
Rodriguez, who at one time was considered the best and most popular player in baseball, is also suing the Yankees team physician, a man that he believes misdiagnosed his hip injury and allowed him to play in last year’s post-season, further injuring him and costing him much of the 2013 season.
It is believed that A-Rod’s primary witness is a former friend of Bosch’s who had spent much of the prior 10 years through 2011 in federal prisons and penitentiaries for various drug felonies. That is important because part of A-Rod’s suit claims that MLB’s source, Bosch, is unreliable. The suit alleges that Selig knew about the Steroid Era as it unfolded and only took action against drugs when Congress forced him to and that he is now using the A-Rod pursuit to try and save his own legacy.
We always knew this was going to get ugly before it went away.
Dusty Baker fired for making playoffs too often
I remember thinking last October after the Reds had blown a 2-0 lead over the Giants in the NLDS, winning games one and two on the road then dropping three straight at home, how it was clear that GM Walt Jocketty was pondering even then the future of manager Dusty Baker.
However, the final decision in 2012 was to give Baker an extension through the 2014 season. However this year, when the Reds failed to catch the Cards in the NL Central and were edged for home field in the wild-card game by the Pirates, ultimately losing at PNC Park, Baker himself opened the door to his demise. The belief is that when Jocketty told Baker he wanted to replace hitting coach Brook Jacoby, that Baker defended his coach and said, “If you’re going to fire anyone, fire me.”
Jocketty left it open and took a day to think about it, then took Dusty up on is offer. So what exactly has Baker done to be fired? The 64-year-old has spent 20 seasons as a major-league manager — with the Giants (1993-2002), the Cubs (2003-06) and the Reds (2008-13) — was NL manager-of-the-year three times and runner-up three other times. He took his teams to the post-season seven times, including the World Series with the Giants in 2002 and three of the past four years in Cincinnati.
Yeah, that’s grounds to be fired, right Toronto fans? It is expected that former Reds’ shortstop and Hall-of-Famer Barry Larkin, who managed a surprising Team Brazil at the WBC, will be among the front-runners to replace Baker, who will get another job if he wants it.
David Price proves he’s only human
Whenever TV cameras pan the Rays dugout at any time during the regular season, if David Price is not pitching he is always the one leading the hijinks and laughter with teammates that seems to be the hallmark of the Rays under Joe Maddon, the public persona.
But there is a flip-side to the carefree frivolity and it showed up on Saturday after Price had been crushed by the Red Sox and endured his mandatory post-game media session. He was especially hard on a couple of TBS analysts that he labelled “nerds” — specifically Dirk Hayhurst and Tom Verducci. This was one entry on Price’s Twitter account after the game.
Dirk Hayhurst...COULDN’T hack it...Tom Verducci wasn’t even a waterboy in high school...But yet they can still bash a player...SAVE IT NERDS
Hayhurst, who has written a couple of tell-some (not all) baseball books and was a regular on Blue Jays broadcasts, on radio and TV, has a current guest gig on TBS during the early rounds of the playoffs as a studio analyst that we don’t see in Canada because of Jamie Campbell and Gregg Zaun on Sportsnet. But it should be recalled that catcher J.P. Arencibia was also peeved at Hayhurst, mid-season (along with Zaun) as were the Red Sox when the former journeyman relief pitcher with lofty media ambitions suggested back in May that Clay Buchholz was cheating (along with Jack Morris).
Price, seemingly at the urging of teammates and his manager, later went back on Twitter to apologize. I’m not sure whether it was to Hayhurst and Verducci or to nerds.
ALDS: Tampa Bay vs. Boston (Red Sox lead 2-0)
The Red Sox have been relentless in this series carrying a 2-0 ALDS lead into Monday’s Game 3 in St. Petersburg. The Sox scored 19 runs in two games at home. One thing that has been consistent is that the Rays corner outfielders, Sean Rodriguez, Wil Myers and David DeJesus look like they have never seen anything like the Green Monster and Fenway Park.
The Rays sent hard-throwing Matt Moore to the mound for Game 1, but he could not throw his secondary stuff for strikes, so the Sox bangers just sat on the high hard stuff and tonged the talented Rays lefty for eight hits in 4.1 innings, with five doubles, two walks and a hit batter. It’s what they do. The onslaught continued against the Rays middle relievers in a 12-2 win.
The game turned when Myers had camped under a high flyball onto the warning track in front of the Sox bullpen in right centre field, but at the last second, inexplicably stepped forward and allowed it to bounce on the track and into the pen, setting up a five-run inning. Instead of one out, a runner on first, it was nobody out, second and third. The rest of the game, Rodriguez handled the Green Monster like a bad Jai-Alai front-court man when you’ve bet all your money on him.
In Game 2, the Rays confidently sent lefty David Price to the hill with his dominant record at Fenway Park. But the Red Sox continued their offensive momentum, with three doubles, a triple and a pair of homers by Big Papi, David Ortiz. This time it was Dejesus who played the Monster like he had never seen a wall before. But the Sox were bouncing them off the wall and that is to their credit.
For John Farrell’s hirsute warriors, Jon Lester was very good in Game 1, while John Lackey was beatable in Game 2, but won anyway. In a preview of what opponents can look forward to if games are close late, closer Koji Uehara worked the ninth and threw 11 straight strikes, with two Ks.
ALDS: Detroit at Oakland (Tied 1-1)
This series looks to be all about starting pitching, with Cy Young favourite Max Scherzer being spotted a three-run lead in the top of the first in Game 1, then holding on for a 3-2 win with the help of the bullpen. A’s starter Bartolo Colon allowed big hits in the first to Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Alex Avila then settled in for five more shutout innings.
With the ball handed to Justin Verlander for Game 2, the Tigers looked to be in the driver’s seat, but the former Cy guy and MVP was matched by young Sonny Gray, mixing an upper 90s fastball and 12-6 curveball, with the only annoying thing being his full name “Sonny Gray” mentioned at least 100 times, possibly a record, over eight, four-hit shutout innings, by TBS analyst Buck Martinez.
The ultimate shallowness of the Tigers bullpen was revealed when manager Jim Leyland sent Al Albuquerque back out to start the ninth inning after he had worked hard to escape the eighth with emotional strikeouts of Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss, pumping his fist and high-stepping towards the dugout. But because he does not trust many of his relievers, Leyland stayed with Albuquerque who began the ninth with two singles and an intentional walk, replaced by Rick Porcello.
NLDS: Pittsburgh at St. Louis (Pirates lead 2-1)
The most fun series in which to watch fan reaction is the Pirates, as the wild-card underdogs split in St. Louis and then returned home to beat the Cards in Game 3 in front of a record crowd at PNC Park. Many of the fans were too young to remember Sid Bream lying on home plate at Fulton-County Stadium in 1992, as the Braves advanced to face the Jays in the World Series. So confident was MLB that the Pirates would win back then that the coolers of champagne were already in the middle of the visitors clubhouse with those tacky plastic sheets tacked up over all the Pirates lockers. Yikes!
After the Cards trashed A.J. Burnett 9-1 in Game 1, there was the good news for the Buccos that Burnett’s start was out of the way and also that with the two off-days before the ultimate Game 5, that Burnett would not have to pitch again, as rookie Gerritt Cole would be available on normal rest.
Cole stepped up in Game 2 and, afforded a 5-0 lead through five, worked six two-hit innings, handing the lead over to a sturdy bullen, with Mark Melancon and Jason Grilli teaming up to shut the Cards down late for a 7-1 win and a split on the road. Pedro Alvarez and Starling Marte each homered, with Russell Martin adding two RBIs.
In Game 3, Pirates comeback lefthander Francisco Liriano nursed a 2-0 lead, but allowed a game-tying single to Carlos Beltran in the fifth with first base open and Matt Holliday on deck. The Bucs took another lead, but the Cards tied it on a Beltran homer in the seventh. Finally the Pirates took the lead in the eighth on singles by Alvarez and Martin, with Grilli putting it away.
NLDS: Los Angeles at Atlanta (Dodgers lead 2-1)
Even though by the end of the season, the NL West Dodgers were the best team, the NL East Braves maintained home field advantage for this series because of the mid-season surge that allowed them to coast home, always a dangerous thing heading to the playoffs. The Braves had a chance for home field throughout but were striking out too much and not scoring enough to hold off the consistently excellent Cardinals. The Braves are staggering.
Game 1 was an example, with probable Cy guy Clayton Kershaw winning easily 6-1 over Kris Medlen. Kershaw did not have command of all his weapons, but he has so many he was able to go seven three-hit innings, allowing one run and striking put 12. Adrian Gonzalez crushed a two-run homer in the third to centre field and it was hard to take your eyes off of Yasiel Puig.
The Braves managed to split the series at home, winning Game 2 by a score of 4-3 even though RH David Carpenter, part of the Jays’ John Farrell trade with the Red Sox, came on in the eighth and made it close, yielding a two-run homer to Hanley Ramirez just inside the foul pole. Closer Craig Kimbrel recorded the last four outs, walking two in the ninth before escaping.
The series shifted back to Los Angeles where the Dodgers saved rookie Hyun-jin Ryu, who managed just three innings in his post-season debut, but watched as his mates cruised to a 13-6 win and a chance to close out the Braves at home in Game 4. Ramirez demonstrated that this team is more than just Puig, with three hits, a double, a triple, three runs and two RBIs.
The Dodgers scored 10 runs through the first four innings against Julio Teheran and a shaky bullpen. Lefthander Chris Capuano picked up the win in relief.
MINI BLUE JAYS MAILBAG
Keep the e-mails and letters with comments and questions about the Jays and MLB coming as the playoffs unfold and we see what the winter brings. I will answer as many as possible depending on the interest and in the news of the day. Here are a couple that arrived in the last week.
Q: Hi Richard,
Well the leaves are falling and it looks like it’s going to be a good world series but, as far as the Jays are concerned, it’s time to haul out the big foam finger (Senators as opposed to Miley Cyrus) and take the pins out of the Arencibia bobble head doll for another year.
Listening to AA it was a little concerning to get the impression that he seemed to think one more starter was all that was needed to make a difference next year. Is he starting to get overly hooked on the return of the injured plus thinking Happ and Redmond are the answer?
Morrow is good but doesn’t look like a guy with the stamina to be a stud for a full season, plus even minor injuries seem to throw him off of his game. Drabek has always promised more than he has delivered and who knows what Hutchison is going to turn out to be. As a starter Happ would be a great long relief in the bullpen and it’s really time to thank Ricky, cut him a big check and say goodbye. Dickey and Rogers would be the only two I would hold onto.
The defense is starting to look a lot better. There are some quality guys (when they are all healthy) in most positions except the catching. Maybe splitting time with a good veteran would finally get Arencibia to see that it’s about his lack of technique not the media.
Another big decision will be whether Goins is ready for everyday, his play in the field is good but his hitting needs work. I don’t think another season in Buffalo is going to hurt. Perhaps a genuine Gold Glove second basemen would be a better fit for the immediate future?
Don’t you think the positions of Gose and Rasmus will be decided on whether Rajai goes? I still prefer Rasmus in centre but Gose could be a real upgrade out in left.
Finally Griff, a thank you to yourself, and my fellow correspondents, for making the mailbag such an interesting, entertaining and occasionally wacky read this year.
Hasta la Vista
Frank Taker, Prescott
A: You have obviously been paying attention to the Blue Jays season, Frank. Maybe it’s simply posturing by Alex Anthopoulos when he talked about one starting pitcher to make things all right. It will take more than that. I have always reminded people that Tommy John surgery is usually not going to make you better than you were before having your elbow surgically repaired and for Kyle Drabek, it’s been twice. As for Hutchison, he was just a kid in his first year, two months in to 2012. Even if healthy he will likely start at AAA-Buffalo in 2014. Brandon Morrow will be a key to whether the Jays have enough starting pitching or they don’t. The failures of Morrow and Johnson were key, expected to win 30 games between them in 2013 and winning just four. That 26-win difference between expectation and result, even deducting the seven combined wins by their replacements Todd Redmond, Chien-Ming Wang, Ramon Ortiz and Chad Jenkins, helps explain the difference between 90 wins and the 74 the team ended up with. Esmil Rogers and his five victories was more of a J.A. Happ replacement when he was hit in the head and hurt his knee. I agree with you that a change of scenery is what Romero needs and that defence is of prime importance. I have a feeling the catching situation will be addressed.
I just saw the Dodgers walk Reed Johnson to load the bases in order to face Jason Heyward, the superior hitter of the two. Heyward proceeded to get a 2-run single. My question is, is there too much stock placed in lefty-lefty or righty-righty matchups? If it was me, I’d rather pitch to a utility player such as Johnson instead of Heyward any day.
Justin, Richmond Hill
A: There is a certain feeling by managers that “I have won this battle” like when Don Mattingly feels he has manipulated Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez into using two players off his bench as pinch-hitters, Jose Constanza, then Reed Johnson, then signals lefty Paco Rodriguez to walk the righthanded hitting Johnson with first base open and two out in the seventh. The Braves were already leading by a run with two outs, but I’m with you on this one. I’m pitching to the utility guy just coming off the bench instead of facing the dangerous Heyward and wheeling through the top of the Braves order quicker than you have to, loading the bases gives Rodriguez no margin for error. Heyward hit .264 vs. LHP in the regular season and .250 vs. RHP and lifetime against Rodriguez was 2-for-4 with a homer and a walk.
THE LIST: CUBAN-BORN PLAYERS IN MLB IN 2013
1. Yonder Alonso, 1B
2. Yuniesky Betancourt, INF
3. Francisley Bueno, RP
4. *Yoenis Cespedes, OF
5. *Aroldis Chapman, RP
6. Jose Contreras, RP
7. *Yunel Escobar, SS
8. Jose Fernandez, SP
9. Onelka Garcia, RP
10. Yasman Grandal, C
11. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
12. *Jose Iglesias, SS
13. Leonys Martin, OF
14. Yunesky Maya, RP
15. Kendrys Morales, 1B
16. *Brayan Pena, C
17. *Yasiel Puig, OF
18. Alexei Ramirez, INF
19. Henry Urrutia, OF
20. Raul Valdes, RP
21. Dayan Viciedo, OF
*Participated in post-season
THIS DATE IN BASEBALL HISTORY
Oct. 7,1984: The Padres win their first ever NL pennant back from a two-game deficit against the Cubs, winning Game 5 of the NLCS 6-3 at Jack Murphy Stadium. LH Craig Lefferts beat RH Rick Sutcliffe in relief, with RH Goose Gossage picking up the save as the Pads advanced to face the Tigers.
Oct. 8, 1995: DH Edgar Martinez rallies the Mariners to a 6-5 victory over the Yankees with a two-run double in the bottom of the 11th inning in Game 5 of the ALDS. The first post-season series win by Seattle provides the later impetus for a taxpayer vote to build Safeco Field to replace the Kingsome.
Oct. 8, 1956: RHDon Larsen tossed the only perfect game in World Series history, beating the Dodgers 2-0 at Yankee Stadium. Loser RH Sal Maglie threw a complete-game 5-hitter.
Oct. 9, 1984: TigersRH Jack Morris throws a complete game 3-2 win over the Padres in the opener of the ‘84 World Series vs. the Padres.
Oct. 9, 1928: For the second time in his career, OF Babe Ruth of the Yankees hits three homers in a World Series game, beating the Cardinals 7-3.
Oct. 10, 1990: RHP Dave Stewart beat RH Roger Clemens for the eighth straight time as the A’s beat the Red Sox 3-1 to sweep the ALCS and advance to the World Series. Clemens is ejected in the second inning by umpire Terry Cooney.
Oct. 10, 1968: In one of the greatest World Series ever, LH Mickey Lolich beats the unbeatable RH Bob Gibson 4-1 in Game 7 at Busch Stadium. The Tigers won three of the final four games to beat the Cardinals. OF Jim Northrup was 2-for-4 with a triple and two RBIs.
Oct. 11, 1992: In what president Paul Beeston called the biggest home run in Blue Jays history, 2B Robbie Alomar homers off A’s CL Dennis Eckersley in the ninth to send Game 4 to extra innings. The Jays won 7-6 in 11 innings to take a 3-1 ALCS lead on the way to their first World Series.
Oct. 11,1981: RH Steve Rogers of the Expos tosses a six-hit shutout and drives in a pair beating Hall-of-Fame LH Steve Carlton in Game 5 of the Division Series. It remains the franchise’s only post-season series win.
Oct. 12, 1993: RH Dave Stewart beats the White Sox 6-3 in Game 6 of the ALCS sending the Blue Jays to their second straight World Series.
Oct. 12, 1986: The Angels were one pitch away from advancing to their first World Series ever, but the Red Sox came back with four runs in the ninth capped by a 2-run Dave Henderson homer off RH Donnie Moore. The Angels tied it in the bottom of the ninth, but the Sox won 7-6 in 11 innings and then the final two game at home to advance to face the Mets.
Oct. 13: 1985: The Cards beat the Dodgers 12-2 to even the NLCS bit that was not the story. Hours before the game in an empty stadium, I watched from the press box in my role as a public relations volunteer as LF Vince Coleman stretched his legs on the artificial turf at Busch Stadium. The Cards had an automated tarp that came out of the field and rolled out on its own. I watched in stunned disbelief as the tarp (cue Jaws music) slowly rolled over Coleman trapping him in a seated position for one of the most bizarre injuries in playoff history. He missed the game. “I think we need a bigger boat”.
Oct. 13, 1960: In one of the greatest World Series ending moments, 2B Bill Mazeroski led off the ninth inning with a homer off Yankees RH Ralph Terry giving the Pirates a 7-6 win in Game 7 at Forbes Field.
MLB PLAYOFF TEAM POWER RANKINGS (Oct. 6/13)
(Team, ‘last week’-‘start of spring’)
1. Boston Red Sox 1-16
2. Oakland A’s 2-8
3. Pittsburgh Pirates 7-28
4. Detroit Tigers 5-7
5. Los Angeles Dodgers 8-5
6. St. Louis Cardinals 3-13
7. Atlanta Braves 4-2
8. Tampa Bay Rays 9-10
9. Cleveland Indians 6-20
10. Cincinnati Reds 10-9