Tag:Alex Rodriguez
Posted on: March 5, 2009 12:40 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2009 7:24 pm
 

Now A-Rod is more than just a distraction

PHOENIX -- Back when the Alex Rodriguez steroid story first broke, there were questions in New York about whether A-Rod was really worth all the trouble.

There were suggestions that the Yankees would be better off without him, and one New York baseball columnist even suggested that the Yankees should release Rodriguez right then and there. There were plenty of questions about how the Yankees would deal with the A-Rod distraction, and I and others said that the Yankees ought to thank the World Baseball Classic for taking A-Rod away from them for a few weeks.

Well, now the Yankees are facing the possibility of life without A-Rod. Now they wish he was simply a distraction.

Here's guessing that if he does indeed need surgery -- and that's still possible, perhaps even probable -- the Yankees will miss him greatly. The Yankees said today that they first want Rodriguez to see if rest, exercise and treatment can solve his hip problem. But they also said if he needs surgery, he'll be out four months.

Four months?

In five years with the Yankees, Rodriguez has started all but 46 games. His only trip to the disabled list was early last year, when he missed nearly a month with a strained right quadriceps.

The '08 Yankees went 6-11 while Rodriguez was hurt, as opposed to 83-62 in all the other games they played last year. They finished six games out of a playoff spot, so you could almost say that not having Rodriguez for 17 games is what kept them out of the playoffs.

In five years, the Yankees are 146 games over .500 in games Rodriguez has started, and four games UNDER .500 in the games he hasn't started.

Some distraction.

Here's another way to look at it: If Rodriguez can't play third base, the next best option on the current Yankee roster is Cody Ransom (166 big-league games, 24 RBIs). If Jorge Posada's shoulder isn't healthy enough to let him catch, the bottom three batters in Joe Girardi's lineup could well be Ransom, Brett Gardner and Jose Molina.

Could the Yankees get a third baseman in a trade? Sure they could, but spring training is hardly the best time to land an impact hitter. Teams aren't ready to give up on a season before it even begins (not exactly a good way to sell tickets), so even teams that wouldn't mind dumping a salary aren't anxious to dump it now.

*****

Manny. A-Rod. Manny. A-Rod.

Can't spring training be about more than just two players, one of whom hasn't yet played in a Cactus League game, and the other who might have already played his last Grapefruit League game?

Three weeks ago, on my first day in Arizona, I listened to Dodger manager Joe Torre talk about the Dodgers' need for Manny Ramirez, and about the A-Rod steroid story. Today, on my final day in Arizona this spring, I once again listened to Torre talk about Manny and A-Rod.

Yes, Manny and A-Rod have occupied our spring, and if you're one of the ones complaining that we should be talking about something else, note the number of comments attached to every Manny or A-Rod story or blog, compared to the number attached to every other baseball story.

That said, spring training has been more than just Manny and A-Rod, so here are a few other observations as I turn Arizona over to Scott Miller and head for Florida:

-- Empty seats are everywhere in Arizona this spring. The new Camelback Ranch ballpark that the Dodgers and White Sox are sharing is beautiful, but there was hardly anyone there today. The new Goodyear Ballpark that the Indians will eventually share with the Reds is beautiful, but there was hardly anyone there on either of my visits. Is it the economy? Very possible. Does this mean baseball attendance will be awful this summer? Not necessarily, because the people who aren't making spring training trips might also be looking for entertainment closer to home this year.

-- The Angels do a lot of things right. With spring training going longer than ever because of the World Baseball Classic, Mike Scioscia went away from the traditional reporting dates for pitchers and catchers. He staggered the reporting dates, and has been holding his regulars out of early-spring games, to give them as normal a spring schedule as possible. I know his players appreciate it, because they told me so. Incidentally, Scioscia plans to bat Bobby Abreu in the second spot, with Vladimir Guerrero hitting third and Torii Hunter hitting fourth. Abreu batted second 17 times for the Yankees over the last two years; before that, he hadn't hit second since 2000.

-- Maybe the best moment of the spring so far was Ken Griffey Jr.'s return to the Mariners. Believe me, other players noticed how nice it was for Griffey to go back to where it started. A few days later in Angels camp, Hunter said that as much as he loves playing for the Angels, he'd love to finish his career in Minnesota. Then he turned to ask Guerrero if he still had great feelings for Montreal -- and Guerrero said yes, he did.

-- After the first day of workouts at Camelback Ranch, I wrote that it didn't feel at all like Dodgertown in Vero Beach. After spending the last two days there, and seeing it on game days, I'll amend that. It still isn't Dodgertown, but you have to admire the way the Dodgers have tried to make their new spring home nearly as fan-friendly as Vero was. The contrast with the White Sox on the other side of the complex is striking. While fans are separated from the Dodger players only by ropes, allowing plenty of interaction, the White Sox fans are left standing on the other side of the fence. The White Sox side has a tunnel so the players can walk under (and avoid) the fans on the way to the workout fields. On the Dodger side, players have to pass right by the fans on the way to workouts.

-- Everywhere you go in the Cactus League, you hear that Arizona spring training is better than Florida spring training. You hear it from players, managers, club executives, scouts and writers. It's true that the facilities here are outstanding, and that the shorter distances make it easier for everyone. But you have to wonder if it's better for the fans of some of the Midwest teams that have moved or are moving here. You can drive from Cleveland to Winter Haven, and judging by the license plates seen at Chain of Lakes Park in recent years, many people did. Not too many will drive from Cleveland to Goodyear.

Posted on: February 13, 2009 8:57 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2009 9:03 pm
 

Manny, come home

PHOENIX -- Joe Torre won't hide it.

The Dodger manager admits that he badly wants to see the team get Manny Ramirez signed. Torre said today that he phoned Ramirez on Tuesday, and then he repeated what he has said all along.

"We're all in agreement that we want him," Torre said.

When someone tried to suggest that the Dodgers could have spread the Manny money around and signed several players, Torre didn't agree.

"His presence made the guys around him better," Torre said. "Manny showed the kids. He can't teach them his ability, but he can show them how to prepare for a game."

Torre said he would be "very surprised" if Ramirez doesn't eventually sign with the Dodgers. But he also said that feeling was based more on what he wants to see done than on anything he heard from Ramirez, or from general manager Ned Colletti or owner Frank McCourt.

Other notes from reporting day visits to the Cubs and Dodgers:

-- Torre said of Alex Rodriguez's stats and records: "Now they're going to be tainted. People don't forget." Torre said he hasn't spoken with Rodriguez, but he said Rodriguez will have a tough time with the reaction to his admission of steroid use. "I think it's going to be very difficult. Alex has a knack to block things out when he's on the field. (But) it's going to be very, very difficult, especially early on."

-- Carlos Zambrano said that he won't play for Venezuela in the WBC. He also said that he has been taking drops for an eye infection, and that he still may have Lasik surgery this spring. Zambrano said he's been told that his right eyeball "is shaped like a football, rather than like a baseball."

-- Carlos Marmol does plan to play in the WBC, but he doesn't see any problem with it. "I'd be pitching in spring training anyway. The innings I'd pitch in spring training would be the same innings I'll pitch there."

-- Zambrano said he had tears in his eyes when he received a text message from Kerry Wood after Wood left the Cubs to sign with the Indians.

-- Apparently everyone in baseball is going to be asked this spring whether the other 103 names of players who tested positive for steroids in 2003 (other than Alex Rodriguez, that is) should be made public. Tough question, because on the one hand the players were guaranteed that the tests were anonymous, but on the other the existence of the list (and the possibility that it will eventually become public) is helping to keep the steroid issue alive. Torre's perspective: "Do we need more names to know we have a problem? At this point I think we've heard enough names."

-- Torre still says he stands by everything that's in his book, but he said today that he didn't feel comfortable changing any of the parts of the book that were written by co-author Tom Verducci. I've now read the whole book, and the strangest thing about it is how Torre seems to disappear from it for pages at a time, while Verducci discusses steroids, Moneyball, etc.

Posted on: February 9, 2009 3:16 pm
 

'That's pretty accurate'

So now you're sorry?

That's OK, Alex, because I'm sorry, too. I'm sorry that your admission/apology, delivered today to ESPN's Peter Gammons, isn't going to save you. I'm sorry that it wasn't even all that convincing.

"That's pretty accurate," A-Rod said at one point during the interview.

Pretty accurate, huh? Yeah, at least until any more evidence comes out. After all, isn't it convenient that Rodriguez now says he stopped taking steroids in spring training 2003? Presumably, that's a few days after the failed test that Sports Illustrated revealed on Saturday.

So that's the strategy now. Admit to what they've already caught you on, say you're sorry, say that you did it because "it was the culture" and because you cared so much. And then strongly deny anything else.

Is it possible that Rodriguez is now telling the truth? Sure, it's possible. But let's remember this is the same guy who told Katie Couric that he wasn't even tempted to use steroids.

Rodriguez says he felt "a tremendous pressure" to play well in Texas, and that's why he started using. He doesn't really explain why he stopped, except for saying "I realized that I don't need any of it."

So he felt tremendous pressure while playing in Texas, but apparently not while playing for the Yankees. He felt like he needed help after a near-MVP season in Seattle in 2000, but realized after another near-MVP season that he didn't need it.

Whatever.

Is it the truth? I barely care anymore.

There are those who will celebrate Rodriguez for admitting to something. They'll point to Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the twin pillars of denial. They'll remind us that Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte were helped by their admissions.

OK, fine, so A-Rod is ahead of Bonds and Clemens.

That's hardly the point. What matters is that as long as Alex Rodriguez plays, he'll be linked to steroids. What matters is that whatever records A-Rod goes on to set, steroids will have played a part in them.

Saturday, when the A-Rod steroid report first appeared on the Sports Illustrated website, I wrote that A-Rod will never get away from this, and that not even an admission would help.

It's two days later, the admission has come, and I don't feel a bit different.

So you're sorry, Alex? Good, because I'm sorry, too.

Category: MLB
Posted on: January 26, 2009 11:45 am
Edited on: January 26, 2009 12:46 pm
 

Now he's Back (and Front) Page Joe

Any manager can reveal embarrassing things about his players. Most choose not to.

That's why the biggest surprise out of the Joe Torre book fuss is that Torre chose to co-author a book that landed him on the back page of the New York tabloids (and on the front page, too). Torre's biggest strength as Yankee manager was that he kept back-page controversies from developing. He made playing in New York as easy as possible, in large part because he kept it from becoming a circus.

Now he's all over the tabs, because of The Yankee Years , the book he wrote with Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci. And while Verducci told SI.com that "Joe Torre does not rip anybody in the book," the revelations and quotes were enough to stir up two days of un-Torre-like midwinter controversy.

It's a little much to say that the book ruins Torre's legacy with the Yankees, or even that it does serious damage to a relationship that was already strained. Remember, the Yankees chose to leave Torre out of last September's Yankee Stadium closing, long before anyone knew what he would write in this book.

As for his relationship with Alex Rodriguez, remember that it wasn't that great to start with. Remember that Torre famously batted A-Rod eighth in the Yankees' final playoff game in 2006, which was more embarrassing than anything he could write in a book.

No, the real question is why Torre suddenly decided to start sharing back pages with his former star?

Certainly, Torre didn't need the attention. You wouldn't think he needed the money.

Maybe he just got tired of holding it all in.

Category: MLB
Posted on: October 11, 2008 4:51 pm
Edited on: October 11, 2008 5:20 pm
 

The 3-0 green light: It's not that bad an idea

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- In their 2-0 loss to the Red Sox in Game 1 of the ALCS, the Rays made two outs while swinging at 3-0 pitches. One of them was among the biggest outs of the game, a Carlos Pena fly ball with two on and nobody out in the eighth.

So did manager Joe Maddon err by green-lighting Pena and, before that, Evan Longoria (who flied out to end the sixth)?

Fans tend to say yes. Fans tend to complain when hitters swing at 3-0 pitches, just as they tend to complain when hitters swing at the first pitch.

But the stats say most middle-of-the-order hitters become unbelievable hitters when they put the first pitch in play. Pena is 3-for-6 in his regular-season career on 3-0, with two home runs and a double (including a grand slam off Dan Haren this year). David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Howard and Justin Morneau, among others, all hit .500 or better when they put a 3-0 pitch in play (all stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com).

OK, but wouldn't they have just as good a chance at 3-1 or 3-2?

Not necessarily. When Pena doesn't put the 3-0 pitch in play, he becomes a .190 hitter.

"It's something we've done all year," Maddon said today. "With Pena, taking everything into consideration, I felt pretty good about it actually. If he doesn't top-spin that ball, it might have hit the back wall."

Pena said Friday night that Maddon spoke to him after the eighth-inning at-bat, telling him he had taken exactly the right approach.

By the way, the stats also show that some hitters won't swing 3-0 even when given a green light. Neither J.D. Drew nor Kevin Youkilis has ever put a 3-0 pitch in play, and Wade Boggs did it just seven times in his entire career -- going 2-for-7.

*****

While Maddon didn't second-guess his decision to let Pena swing 3-0, he also didn't dispute Ortiz's contention that the Rays had a different look in their faces Friday from what he saw in the regular season.

"I agree, and I did see it," Maddon said. "That's why I thought it primarily manifested itself in the pitches we swung at. However, (the Red Sox) had kind of the same look themselves."

Posted on: September 4, 2008 11:21 am
Edited on: September 4, 2008 11:24 am
 

Yanks are down, and it obviously stings

I was at Yankee Stadium a couple of times last week, and it seemed to me that Yankee fans were taking losing surprisingly well. Sure, they booed Alex Rodriguez a few times, but it almost seemed that they were booing because it was the thing to do, and not because they actually cared.

So imagine my surprise when I open my mailbox and find a whole bunch of hatred from Yankee fans, just because I had the gall to point out that -- well, that the Yankees just aren't very good.

From Kurt: "Feel compelled to write about Cleveland or Detroit or St. Louis or Colorado with no hope? No, you try to bury the Yankees. Typical response from a fiction writer who gave no credit when the Yanks did dominate."

Hmm. I guess all those World Series columns I wrote from 1996-2000 didn't make it into your hands. And I guess you missed the column I wrote last month on the Tigers, or the one I did in June on the Rockies.

From Jon: "Danny Boy, what great insight. I for one believe that if it wasn't for the Yankees you wouldn't have anything relevant or interesting to write about. You inane drone!"

I guess Jon didn't like those columns on the Tigers and Rockies, either.

From Hyam: "The Yankees have won 26 titles since 1920 and the Red Sox 2. What rivalry? You appear to be just another jerk Red Sox fan."

Did you notice that the Astros are closer to a playoff spot right now than the Yankees are? Uh oh. Now you'll accuse me of being a Houston fan.

Posted on: August 27, 2008 6:33 pm
 

Hi from New York. I feel right at home.

So on my first day as a New Yorker, the Mets blew a seven-run lead, lost to the Phillies and fell out of first place. And the Yankees lost to the Red Sox in the first game of a series they absolutely had to sweep, with Alex Rodriguez proving to be completely unclutch.

Which means that one day in, baseball-wise, New York looks an awful lot like Detroit. (I'd say it means that I was the problem in Detroit, but in the two days since I left there, the Tigers have lost two more games and fallen into fourth place).

Anyway, I am in New York, which doesn't mean that you'll only be reading about the Mets and Yankees, but does mean that CBSSports.com's baseball coverage should be even better balanced than before, with me here and Scott Miller still basking in the Southern California sun.

But from the looks of things, there might not be any more October baseball in New York than there will be in San Diego -- or in Detroit, for that matter.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com