- ARod's latest act is a symbol of ARod being ARod:
The most glaring aspect of the latest Alex Rodriguez controversy----dutifully created by ARod himself----is that he maintains the veneer of innocence and "who me?" countenance in clear opposition to an act that a student of the game like ARod knew would generate a negative reaction.
In case anyone missed it, Alex Rodriguez committed an on-field breach of etiquette when, in yesterday's Athletics 4-2 win over the Yankees, he ran over the pitcher's mound returning to first base after a foul ball----ESPN Story. Athletics pitcher Dallas Braden took it as an affront because it was intended as such.
With Braden pitching well and the Yankees trailing, ARod was obviously trying a little bit of subtle gamesmanship to rattle the young pitcher. Contrary to popular belief, there are players in baseball who can be intimidated or taken off their game by such an act. If Braden got angry enough, there was every possibility of him trying to throw the next pitch through the wall behind home plate, grooving a fastball and getting a Yankees rally started.
Players are constantly testing the manhood of other players in a symbolic fraternity initiation to see how far they can push; it happens with teammates and opponents. Sometimes it even works. Braden got angry, but it didn't help matters for the Yankees as they lost anyway; with another pitcher, it might've had the desired effect.
ARod is a bully. He tries these little maneuvers with players who are either young or so far down the food chain from him that he feels he can do it with impunity; an attitude of: "How dare you challenge me? I'm ARod!!"
We've seen ARod pull stuff like this before. The "HA!" incident against the Blue Jays resulting in a dropped pop-up and subsequent beanball war; the slapping the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's glove in the 2004 ALCS are two of the most prominent acts.
This is what ARod does.
This is how ARod is.
When debating whether or not this was a simple act of not thinking it was a big deal or some mental game, you have to ask yourself one question: If it was Josh Beckett on the mound, would ARod have done something similar?
Of course not. Beckett has the stature that would prevent ARod from pulling such a bush league act. Plus, Beckett would've attacked him.
Pitchers consider the mound their office and you simply don't do what ARod did. It's infringing on their territory and with the way athletes are emotional, reactionary and primal----especially in the heat of sports-related combat----of course Braden was going to respond. Had he not, his teammates would've questioned his toughness and the word would've filtered to the rest of the league that Braden can be intimidated; that they could force their will on him like some jailhouse test of fortitude.
If that implication of weakness isn't nipped in the bud, it spreads like a plague. Braden was right to react in the way that he did, not because the physical act itself was so outrageous, but because of the way Braden would've been perceived throughout baseball. He needed to do what he did.
ARod learned his lessons well from Madonna. The reason for the attention one receives is secondary to the attention itself.
While it's unseemly and gauche to his teammates----especially the more serious-minded ones like Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira (I doubt Nick Swisher cares)----he does these things because he's ARod and masks it with his boyish grin and faux humility that's been present since he broke into the big leagues and played the "I'm just part of the team" and "I'm just happy to be here" card. ARod knows he's one of the most gifted talents in the history of the game; the other players know it too. It's part of his shtick and it's done intentionally.
- Battering the bullpen, Jerry Manuel-style:
Fernando Nieve is the Flushing version of Scott Proctor.
Former Yankees reliever Scott Proctor was Joe Torre's designated pitcher for, well, for every conceivable situation and he blew his arm out because of it. Jerry Manuel is doing a similar job of burning out a useful arm with Fernando Nieve.
Nieve has pitched in 11 of the 16 games the Mets have played. He's shown great potential as a reliever. He throws strikes; throws hard and has a strikeout slider; but he can't be overused like this and have the club expect him to maintain effectiveness throughout the season; plus he's never going to refuse the opportunity to pitch even if he's tired or achy and that's only going to make things worse.
One thing Tony La Russa----unfairly blamed as the architect of bullpen overuse----has always done is dole out the workload for his pitchers evenly to keep them fresh throughout the season. He pays attention to their innings; their pitch counts; and, most importantly, the number of times they warm up.
Warming up to come into a game doesn't simply take a physical toll, it's mentally draining to be getting ready to come into a game with runners on base; get fired up; get the adrenaline pumping...then have to shut it down and possibly do it again an inning later.
Manuel also used Francisco Rodriguez for a 5-out save last night. K-Rod got the job done, but this type of panic-stricken, playoff-type machination was part of the reason the Mets blew their playoff spot in 2008. While the blame for the fade was Billy Wagner's injury, it was also due in part to Manuel's (and former manager Willie Randolph's) over-taxing of the bullpen with excessive warm-ups and desperate pitching changes.
Eventually, you have to trust your players even if it costs a game.
While it worked and the Mets won last night's game, are K-Rod and Nieve available tonight? They're playing the Braves this weekend----a divisional foe----and are going to need their closer; he's either going to be unavailable tonight or run the risk of injury pitching when he probably shouldn't be and that's the responsibility of the manager.
On another subject, Jose Reyes is going to bat third tonight.
I love this move.
I was prepared to write that the time for vacillation and cajoling was over with Reyes. Manuel has wanted to bat Reyes third since last year and he, as the manager, is in the position to do what he feels is best for the team irrespective of what the player wants. This is not a communal, "everyone agrees" situation where there has to be consensus on where the players bat, pitch or whatever.
The entire point of being in power is mitigated if said power is left unused. What's the point of having it if you don't use it? If Manuel wants to bat Reyes third, he should bat Reyes third even if the player doesn't like it. Perhaps the irritation or reticence Reyes has to the shift will light a fire under him to get him on a blazing hot streak. If it doesn't work, he can always be moved back to leadoff and, as I've said repeatedly, Reyes's combination of speed and pop can be better deployed in the middle of the lineup.
- Viewer Mail 4.23.2010:
Jeff (Acting Boss) at Red State Blue State writes RE the Cubs:
"The Chicago Flubs"
I love the fact that you used this under appreciated moniker.
Their Zambrano decision IS suicide...
...and of course, I'm lovin' it.
I don't think they know what to do. I've read some suggestions that it's a short-term attempt at a wake-up call. I still think it's a mistake. He hasn't pitched badly enough for a demotion. What the Cubs should've done is gone with a six-man rotation for a couple of cycles to account for Ted Lilly's return. Plus, you can't use Zambrano out of the bullpen for another reason----you can't trust him to throw strikes!
The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE Adam Rubin's reporting:
Adam Rubin? I'm finding the majority of his content on espnNY.com complete garbage. I'm not trying to be derisive. But most of his stuff is really bad.
Him and Ian O'Connor (although not as bad) are killin me. Ian is offering up a lot of trash too which surprises me because I remember all his coverage of the 1994 Stanley Cup which was very good.
Part of the reason I don't want to be a conventional reporter is the need to access sources that may or may not be accurate. There's no pretense of an attempt to be creative in finding things to write about when there's nothing obvious going on. Oh, Oswalt might be available? The Mets have no shot. Never mind that the market for him is unknown; that the number of teams who might be willing to pay him is limited; just forget the Mets as a matter of course.
After the way the Mets were relentlessly slammed for having a weak farm system, it's not looking so bad now, is it? Ike Davis; Jenrry Mejia; Ruben Tejada? Not that bad after all.
With O'Connor and other reporters? It's easy to bash the Mets; they're the designated punching bag after the way things have degenerated from 2007 onward. Once they're no longer good sport, the lazy, bottom-feeders will move onto something else.
Issac (Force Sensitive Acolyte, training in the Dark Side) writes RE Carlos Zambrano:
Are you sure the cubs would be so reluctant to trade Zambrano within the division?. I mean, I understand that trading him to the cardinals might seriously reduce their chances to go to the playoffs, but trading him to the Brewers could be a wise move for them, if the brewers have the money, which I doubt. But, assuming they do, the Cubs could get rid of Zambrano's contract and could be able to pursue a free agent like cliff lee next offseason. I also think that if the white sox are willing to take his contract, they should make the trade. They are not even in the same league, and not making that trade would be harming the team just for pride or rivalry.
It doesn't appear that the Cubs are going to have to worry about their chances to make the playoffs this year since those chances are looking increasingly non-existent.
You're right, the Cubs would put rivalry aside----with clenched teeth----and trade Zambrano to the Cardinals if the Cardinals wanted him; but that's the problem. As much work as Dave Duncan could do to straighten out Zambrano, the Cardinals are not taking that contract.
The Cubs would absolutely send Zambrano to the Brewers, but they're not taking the money either; and if it was to the point where the Cubs were willing to kick in some money or take comparably bad contracts back, they'd be able to find a taker in the American League or send him to the Dodgers or Mets. The White Sox have struggled, but they don't need Zambrano; the rotation isn't their problem, they're not hitting.
If the Cubs do start clearing contracts, they're not going after Cliff Lee; they're looking at a retooling project with a new GM and a new manager as they try to rid themselves of as much money as possible.Paul Lebowitz's 2010 Baseball Guide is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and Noble.com. It's available for download as an E-book here.