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A-Rod or A-Roid?

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A-RodWell I know that there are going to be a lot of posts about this over the next few days (and I have already read a fair few myself), but it’s been a while since I last wrote a baseball post and I can’t stop thinking about this one.

Last night, the long investigation was finally over and the  news came out that A-Rod and 12 other players have been suspended for their links with the now-defunct Biogenesis clinic.

The list of players suspended for 50 games includes:

  • Nelson Cruz (Texas Rangers)
  • Jhonny Peralta (Detroit Tigers)
  • Jesus Montero (Seattle Mariners)
  • Everth Cabrera (San Diego Padres)
  • Francisco Cervelli (New York Yankees)
  • Antonio Bastardo (Philadelphia Phillies)
  • Jordany Valdespin (New York Mets)
  • Fernando Martinez (Minor League)
  • Jordan Norberto (Minor League)
  • Fautino de los Santos (Minor League)
  • Cesar Puello (Minor League)
  • Sergio Escalona (Minor League)

There were three other players implicated (Bartolo Colon, Yasmani Grandal and Melky Cabrera), but they have already been suspended for taking PEDs and were considered to have served their punishment.

A-Rod, rather than a 50 game suspension, received a 211 game suspension, which takes him through to the end of the 2014 season, although he is now appealing the decision meaning he can play in the meantime. He was suspended for longer than the others due to “attempting to cover up his violations of the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner’s investigation”.

Now I don’t know about you, but if I was being paid $29 million a year, and I had already admitted to taking steroids in the past (leading to the nickname A-Roid), I would try my damnedest to stay clean and not risk being caught again. A-Rod now says that he is “fighting for his life”, but what he is actually fighting for now is money and reputation. And unfortunately, even if his suspension is overturned, I think he has lost his reputation for good. There’s only so many times that you can be linked to steroids before people start to believe that it must be true.

The most baffling thing to me though, is that he is a 14 time All-Star and 3 time MVP award winner. He obviously started his career well; the contract he signed after the 2000 season made him the highest paid player in sports history –  a 10-year deal worth $252 million. In 1998 , when he was just 23 and in his 3rd full major league season, he was selected as Players Choice AL Player of the Year, won his 2nd Silver Slugger Award and finished in the top 10 in the MVP voting. If you’re that good, why risk it all by doing something that would jeopardise your whole career. And then if you admit it once, DON’T DO IT AGAIN! You cannot claim to be “fighting for your life”, if the situation is entirely of your own making.

I’m usually a firm believer in ‘innocent until proven guilty’, but I was burned by this with Ryan Braun, defending him to the hilt only for him to come out a year later and admit that actually, he did take steroids and he tried to cover it up. On a side note, I believe that the 65 game suspension that Braun received this year should have been doubled because of the way that he appealed the decision last year and blamed it on a poor Fed-Ex guy who was just doing his job.

A-Rod appeared in his first game back from injury last night, against my team the Chicago White Sox. And was promptly met with boos and chants of ‘PED’ and ‘Steroids’ during every at bat. And I think that until his appeal is over, he can expect that every time. People have lost faith with players linked to steroids and don’t want to go back to the position that baseball was in during the 90s when it seemed that pretty much every player that was beating records and doing well was juicing to get there.

I wish that A-Rod had just accepted his suspension like a man and then decided whether he wanted to come back after or not. But he’s 38 now, meaning that he would be 40 by the time his suspension was over, and although he’d still have 3 years left on his contract with the Yankees, the chances of him getting regular playing time against the younger players would be greatly diminished. But by appealing now, it means that when if he does get suspended, he’ll have gone out on a playing streak rather than going out on the injury list.

I wish him all the best, but for the sake of the game, I hope he will change his mind and take it like a man.

What do you think? Should we give him the benefit of the doubt until his appeal is over, or have you already made up your mind too? Let me know in the comments

That time of year already…

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Well this post is risky for two reasons. Firstly, I’ve not done a baseball post for a while and I know that a lot of my new followers are probably expecting books, books and more books, so if you don’t have an interest in baseball, this post probably isn’t for you.

Secondly, I think I must post a bit too much about a certain Detroit Tiger whose name may rhyme with Dustin Berlander. A quick look at Google searches that have brought users to my website kind of confirms that:

Top search terms for the last year...

Top search terms for the last year…

But I digress. First of all, a quick mention of my beloved White Sox, who were having an unexpectedly awesome season, before fading away down the stretch to let the Tigers clinch the division in the last week. It sucks, but it sure made things exciting. Especially for what was supposed to be a ‘rebuilding’ year after losing Buehrle, Guillen, and many others last offseason.

So it came to the postseason and I had to pick a team to root for, and who better to root for than the underdog. So Nationals and Orioles it was – what a story for both teams this year. But alas it wasn’t meant to be (either that or I’m a huge jinx), and both teams were knocked out in thrilling Game 5 action. Whether the Nationals could have made it with Strasburg is a whole ‘nother blog post. So now I’m of course cheering for the AL which leaves me with either the Yankees or the Tigers – I think we all know this leaves me with really only one choice – GO TIGERS!!

Which is not too bad for me, because my favourite non-Sox player happens to be their star pitcher.

My name is Louise Radcliffe, and I do NOT post too much about Justin Verlander...

My name is Louise Radcliffe, and I do NOT post too much about Justin Verlander…

He’s pitched lights-out this season, and I think there’s a very good chance that he’ll be up for Cy Young again, as much I would like Chris Sale to win after his stellar season. Verlander pitched a complete game shutout in his last game against the Oakland A’s – the decisive Game 5 of the ALDS. He also had a 9 – 2 record with a 1.65 ERA for the season at Comerica Park, which put the odds firmly in his favour – especially opposing a Yankees team stripped of their Captain after Jeter suffered a fractured ankle putting him out for the rest of the post season.

Yes, another gratuitous Justin Verlander picture, just because I can...

Yes, another gratuitous Justin Verlander picture, just because I can…

So although I can’t stay up to watch this game tomorrow (why do all postseason games start at 8pm ET – 1pm BST?!), I’ll definitely be supporting the Tigers in spirit – at least if I’m not watching I’m not jinxing, right?

Congratulations to a Yankee Legend

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Congratulations today to Mariano Rivera who earned his 602nd save  last night in a game against the Minnesota Twins, moving him one ahead of Trevor Hoffman. As Hoffman retired before the start of the season, that gap will only increase until 41 year old Rivera calls it a day too.

It’s not a record that will stay unbeaten, like Cal Ripken Jr’s streak, but it’s definitely phenomenal. As well as his 602 regular season saves, he also has 42 post-season saves, which I think would qualify him for inclusion on the list of greatest post-season closers of all time, even if playing for the Yankees has given him a lot more chances than other closers.

Reading all the stories about number 602 reminded me of this video from when Trevor Hoffman visited the MLB Fan Cave in June (when he still had the record).

I also read this tweet, which is pretty interesting:

http://twitter.com/#!/Tom_Singer/status/115901858429681664

Not that this means that K-Rod would have any chance of getting close to the record, even if he can keep playing at a high level for long enough, he may need to move away from the Brewers to get himself more save opportunities.

This year has been a big year for milestones. Here’s the ones that I can think of from the top of my head, but I know that there have been more:

  • Mariano Rivera – 602 saves
  • Derek Jeter – 3000 hits
  • Jim Thome – 600 home runs
  • Paul Konerko – 2000 hits
  • Juan Pierre – 2000 hits
  • Michael Young – 2000 hits
  • Tim Wakefield – 200 wins

You probably know that I’m not a Yankees fan, I don’t like the fact that they have so much money that they can afford pretty much any player they want (as long as the player wants them too, *cough* Cliff Lee *cough*). But no matter how much I dislike the team, I respect the players who play the game the right way like Rivera and Jeter, and I think it’s really cool (and nowadays extremely unusual) when a player plays their entire career with a single team.

I would say it’s been a good year for baseball all round – it’s just a shame there are only 135 games left of the regular season, and that my team were not quite as ‘All-In’ as expected.

600 Homers or 3000 Hits?

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Last night, The MLB Fan Cave posed the following question on Twitter:

http://twitter.com/#!/MLBFanCave/status/93080982881697792

(More impressive milestone: 3,000 hits or 600 home runs?).

First of all, both milestones are pretty damn impressive. You have to be at the top of your game to be able to notch up that many of either. To answer the question as it is posed, I would have to go for 600 home runs. There’s something about the home run that is inherently exciting to watch. It’s also pretty much impossible to get a bloop home run whereas bloop singles happen all the time (no disrespect of course).

Now we all know that the question in this instance is really Jim Thome vs Derek Jeter.

First of all, I have massive respect for both guys. As far as we can all tell, they’ve played the game the right way. Getting these records without resorting to steroids (especially during that era) is something that has to be commended. I’ve also heard nothing but good things about the attitude of these players, both on and off the field. Both seem like genuinely nice guys, who have a great passion for the game.

Obviously Derek Jeter is Mr Yankee, and Jim Thome has played for 5 teams (Indians, Phillies, White Sox, Dodgers and Twins). I think this gives Jeter a bit of an advantage in getting to his milestone, in that he hasn’t had to adjust to new teams and new ballparks.

Another advantage that Jeter has is regular playing time. He’s not that much younger than Thome (which surprised me when I looked it up – 37 to Thome’s 40), but he is still playing regularly at shortstop, and doesn’t show much sign of slowing down yet. Thome is now exclusively a DH, and has been hampered by injuries the last couple of years which have prevented him from getting regular playing time.

Despite all this, I would still pick Thome over Jeter every time. Even throwing out the anti-Yankee bias, I have had a soft spot for Thome since he started playing for the White Sox (a couple of years after I started watching baseball). He’s a genuine good guy, doing a lot of charity work with his wife. Even other MLB players agree – in 2007 he was voted the second friendliest player in MLB, tied with Mike Sweeney.

Thome is currently at 596 career home runs, and I will be watching very closely for him hitting the 600th. He deserves to get that milestone, and I would hope that he is a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame 5 years after he retires.

Let me know if you agree…

Now Reading: David Wells – Perfect I’m Not

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The autobiography of Joe Torre that I just read was fantastic! I was quite lucky that I had a train journey to London and back on Friday, so I read the entire book in one day. The first part of the book was about his life – his upbringing and the start of his career (his playing days). I didn’t know too much about him before I started reading, but I was interested to learn he had quite a tough childhood, that he almost didn’t get to play baseball, and that he had an older brother (Frank), who was also a baseball player.

The second part of the book was about his managing career. I had only associated him with the Yankees, so it was quite surprising that he managed for a long time before the Yankees (and not very successfully either). The Yankees must have been the right fit for him, as the last part of the book was an in depth description of the 1996 World Series. It was fascinating to get inside the mind of a manager as he makes all the decisions, like when to take a player out of the game, and when to let them try and rescue themselves. It was highlighted because Joe Torre was previously a national league manager, and gave us descriptions of that mindset.

I’ve definitely got a different opinion of Joe Torre (and to some extent the Yankees), after reading this book, and it will definitely be one I read again.

The next book is another of the baseball books I just bought from Amazon. I didn’t realise that Amazon had some ‘Preferred Partners’. Basically this means that you buy a used book from another company, but it gets dispatched by Amazon, from the Amazon warehouse, and is still eligible for free shipping. It means you can gets books for £1-2 instead of £7-15. The condition is stated up front, and was pretty accurate when the books came. I’m the kind of person that likes to enjoy reading (as you may have noticed), so I don’t worry about keeping books in immaculate condition anyway.

I’ve heard some stories about David Wells, so I’m interested to see if his reputation is true!

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Now Reading: Joe Torre – Chasing the Dream

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I just bought some new (well technically used) books from Amazon. Even if Hermes did leave the box outside in the rain and the calling card on the doorstep, the books seem to have survived! Looking forward to reading this one (and open to more baseball book suggestions).

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Lillibrilliant?!

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I gave up on posting game recaps when the White Sox gave up on winning, but I had to write a post about Brent Lillibridge in last night’s game against the Yankees.

Last night’s game didn’t start until midnight UK time, so I only made it until the 5th inning before I fell asleep, but I saw the highlights (and the tweets) this morning. Brent Lillibridge made two amazing catches last night in the bottom of the ninth, to save the game and get Gavin Floyd the win.

The first one was fantastic, but the second one was unbelievable. Three things I have to mention:

  1. Hawk Harrelson gets really excited. People don’t like him but he’s one of the best play-by-play guys I’ve heard.
  2. Lillibridge’s face as he made the first catch was awesome. I don’t think he expected to catch it.
  3. Derek Jeter came past home plate (obviously expecting he would score and win the game) and just mouthed ‘Wow’ to the home plate umpire. High praise indeed.
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If you want to watch, check out the video on the MLB site:

http://chicago.whitesox.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=14199297&topic_id=8878818&c_id=cws

His postgame tweet was brilliantly understated – I would have been celebrating way more.

http://twitter.com/#!/BSLillibridge/status/63083850313646080