Results tagged ‘ Giants ’

Time for harsher PED penalties

In light of all the new information coming out of Miami over the last week or so, what do the commissioner and the players union need to do?

First, let me state that I don’t agree with “guilty until proven innocent.” That is not how the American judicial system works. The system can’t be different for athletes than it is for every other member of society.

So I am not passing judgment on these players who have been linked to the Biogenesis clinic until the investigation is complete. I never have changed my stance on that.

What I am going to change my stance on is this: I have stated over the last few years that baseball has the testing in place and the penalties in place and that we should move forward. What I am seeing is that the penalties are not harsh enough, as baseball still is having players test positive every year.

Players who have tested positive lose 50 games for the first positive test. The theme I am picking up from this is that players are willing to take the 50-game suspension, because it could end up making them more money in coming years. It is hard to single out just one player, but a perfect example of this is Melky Cabrera.

Last year he signed a one-year deal for $6 million with the Giants and was the MVP of the All-Star Game and well on his way to an MVP season. Then came the positive test. He was suspended 50 games and then was eligible to be reinstated by the Giants for the Postseason. But instead, the Giants made a decision that I think was one of the best decisions I have ever seen made by an organization: they elected to not activate him.

I was extremely critical of Giants GM Brian Sabean a couple of years ago when he came out and made the comments he made about Scott Cousins after Cousins ran over Buster Posey on a play at the plate. When Sabean said that he hoped he never saw Cousins in a big league uniform again, I felt that was a deplorable thing for anyone in his position to say about a player. I know it was an emotional statement, based on the fact that he had just lost his best player, but I was very outspoken about those comments.

So I will be very outspoken about how he handled the Cabrera decision last year. Would getting Cabrera back have given his team a better chance to win a World Series? I think anyone who knows this game would answer “yes” to that question. But Sabean chose to not use him, in what I consider one of the best decisions I have ever seen made.

Sabean and the Giants put the integrity of the game above what probably would have given them a better chance to win. As players, coaches and front office people around the game know, there is this thing we call “The Baseball Gods.” I believe The Baseball Gods were watching! And the Giants walked away with their second World Series championship in three years.

But what did that decision mean for Cabrera? He was, as I understand it, voted a full World Series share, and then signed a two-year contract with the Blue Jays for $16 million. So for testing positive he lost roughly a third of his $6 million contract (close to $2 million), of which he recouped close to $400,000 because of the full World Series share. Then he was awarded a contract twice as long as the one he had with the Giants, and got a $2 million-a-year raise.

So all that being said, what do I believe needs to be done to bring a screeching halt to PED usage in baseball?

I think it is simple. The first positive test, you lose a year. Any money you have made up to that point must be repaid to the organization. The second positive test, you are banned for life from the game. There are so many kids like myself who come out of high school or even college who, if they don’t have the game of baseball, will have no other means of supporting themselves. Speaking from personal experience, if I didn’t have baseball, I wouldn’t have had a clue what to do with my life.

Once that threat of taking the game completely away from these players exists, that will be the last we ever hear about PEDs! There may be one or two who think they can beat the system, but once they are caught and every player in the game sits by and watches as the career they worked so hard for their whole life is snatched away from them, we won’t be starting every Spring Training with new stories about players testing positive for banned substances.

In conclusion, I don’t think athletes should have a different set of rules as far as the American judicial system, but what I do feel is incumbent upon all athletes is to make sure you are not associated with anything or anyone that could possibly raise a red flag. That, to me, is just common sense.

Winter Meetings

Who do I think made out the best at this year’s Winter Meetings?

There were not a lot of big name deals that were done at the Meetings this year, but there were some deals made that I think were very good moves, some that I thought were not such good moves, and some that made me scratch my head.

I will start with the team that I think made out the best: the world champion Giants. They had two guys who were not what many people might have considered very important. They brought back Angel Pagan for four years at $40 million — not a ton of money. They also retained Marco Scutaro. Those two moves alone tell me that the Giants get it when it comes to how important “complementary” guys are to the success of a team in today’s game. You can buy players, but you can’t buy chemistry! If you look at the Giants on paper, they are not going to scare many people . But they have won two World Series in the last three years.

The move that I thought was the worst took place in Queens. The signing of David Wright doesn’t make much sense. I say this because the Mets have committed $138 million over eight years years to a player that I believe they could have used as trade bait and gotten back some good young talent. I do think Wright is worth the money, but are the Mets in a position to win in the next four years? I don’t see it. Also the mets signed Wright and now we are hearing talks of trading 2012 Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey. Talk about mixed signals. The man won 20 games.

That brings me to my biggest question signing: the Red Sox signing Shane Victorino to a three-year, $39 million deal. I love Shane . He plays the game hard and plays it the right way. But he didn’t have a great year last year between Philly and the Dodgers. I’m very happy for him, but I would be lying if I said that I thought he would get that kind of deal. He reportedly turned down $44 million to play in Cleveland. It tells me there are some clubs who believe that a down year doesn’t mean a player can’t bounce back. If anyone can, it is Shane. But I don’t think as a businessman I could bet $39 million that it will happen.

Winter Meetings are not where all the big deals are made anymore. It has become a place for teams to get a chance to meet with players and discuss possible trades. But I think the days of big deals taking place there are over. Now it’s more about the middle-of-the-road players.

Are PED penalties working?

There are many people who are wondering if the 50-game suspension for first time offenders of the PED rule is a stiff enough penalty. In my opinion, it is not working. We are still having players violate the rule every year. At the <ajor League level, and also in the Minor Leagues.

I will use the most recent high-profile incident to demonstrate why I believe the penalty must be stiffer. In the case of Melky Cabrera, he was making $6 million for one year to play with the Giants in 2012. He got off to a great start, then tested positive. He was given a 50-game suspension, at the end of which the Giants could have reactivated him and he would have been eligible for the Postseason. The Giants chose not to do that. In my opinion, that showed a tremendous amount of integrity on the part of the organization.

The Postseason is a reward for a team playing great baseball over the course of 162 games. I personally don’t know Melky, so I don’t have any ill will towards him at all. But what he did was force the Giants to go out and make a move that they probably wouldn’t have had to make to fill the hole he left in their lineup. He lost what would add up to roughly one-third of the $6 million he would have been paid. That is a lot of money — some of which he was able to get back, because it is my understanding that his teammates voted him a full World Series share of around a half-million dollars. That to me isn’t right.

Melky did the right thing by saying he would not take the batting title if he was eligible to win it. Then he signs a two-year deal with the Blue Jays for $16 million. He not only tested positive, but then he got a $2 million a year raise for it. That is sending the wrong message! You can cheat, and it may cost you some money, but you will more than make up for that loss with your next deal.

I believe that the only way we can truly rid the game of PEDs is to suspend the player for a full year. That will then give the opportunity to younger players who are not cheating to come up and maybe prove that they can play at the big league level. When guys start losing a full year because of their poor decisions, I believe we will see the end of it. But as long as a player knows he can cheat and only lose 50 games’ salary, and then get a raise the following year, I believe we will always have guys trying to beat the system.

Again, I tip my cap to the Giants as an organization for not activating Melky for the Postseason. That showed a ton of integrity and restraint on their part. And they were rewarded with another World Series championship.

Breaking down the MVP races

When we look at who should be the MVPs, I believe there are clear winners in each league.

In the NL, I think Buster Posey is the hands-down winner. I view the award how I believe it was intended. That is, without the player it would drastically change the number of games his team would win. Do I believe the Giants would have made the Postseason without Posey? No, I don’t. He is a catcher who has to handle an entire pitching staff and still produce at the plate. I am not someone who puts much value on batting average, unless that average leads to runs being scored as a result of that average. In Posey’s case, he was able to do that — while playing the most physically demanding position on the field. I don’t think this race will be close.

In the AL, we have heard arguments that Mike Trout may win the MVP over Miguel Cabrera. I am a huge Mike Trout fan and he is probably the best all-around player I have seen come to the big leagues since I was a rookie in 1986. That being said, any writer who thinks he is the MVP over Cabrera doesn’t understand our game very well.

I do believe that an MVP has to affect the game on both sides of the ball. In this case, Trout plays center field as well as anyone in the game. But that is his position. Cabrera was playing out of position at third base and did an average job. To those who say Trout’s play in the field is the reason he should win the award. I say this. Have him play shortstop — a position that is not his natural position.

For me, what Cabrera did this year in winning the Triple Crown makes it a slam dunk for him to win the award. People who vote on this award can’t possibly fathom how hard that is to do in our game today. If I apply the same logic to the AL award that I did with the NL award, it defines the award perfectly. Could the Angels have finished third in the AL West without Trout? Yes, they could. Could the Tigers have won the Central without cabrera? No.

The award is called Most Valuable Player — not most exciting; not most athletic. I truly believe that had Trout not been a rookie doing what he did this year, there wouldn’t even be a debate on the award. Mike Trout may win multiple MVPs in his career, but it ain’t gonna be this year.

I really hope the writers who vote on this get it right. Because if they vote Trout over Cabrera, it will make me think that the people tasked with making these decisions don’t have a clue about what this award is.

Breaking down the World Series

We finally know the two teams that will play for the 2012 World Series crown. The Giants completed two of the better Postseason comebacks you’ll see, being all but dead and buried at 0-2 down to the Reds in the Division Series, and having to go to Cincy and win three straight games against a team that had not lost three straight games at home all year long.

The Giants took the only approach you can in that situation. Some people will say take it one game at a time. I don’t buy into that. In order to win three straight games in a win-or-go-home situation, you have to break it down as far as you can. And that is a pitch-to-pitch approach. That is what the Giants did in both series. They put away the Cardinals in convincing fashion last night:

That tells you what kind of team the Tigers will be facing in the Fall Classic. Many people would have said that the Giants would be the team that would have a better chance against the Tigers than the Cards. I am not one of those people. The Cardinals’ bullpen is a stronger one than the Giants’ and the Cards’ lineup is more dangerous because of the right-handed power bats. Detroit does not have a left-handed starter, and that would make many people
think the Giants’ lineup would be better against the right-handed power arms that Detroit will run out there.

But the Cards love hitting against hard-throwing pitchers and the Giants have many left-handed or switch hitters in their lineup, which I feel helps the Tigers because of the change-ups that Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer possess! In his two starts prior his last outing, Verlander struck out 22 hitters, and 17 of them were left-handed hitters.

So I feel that the Giants are the team the Tigers would rather face. All that being said, be careful what you wish for. Because this Giants team does the most important part of winning games: they play one pitch at a time and they do it as a team. I’m picking the Tigers in six games, but the Tigers had better not fall into the trap that the Reds and Cardinals did in thinking that if they get an early lead in the series, it is over. Because like Yogi famously said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over!”

Looking ahead to the LCS

We are in the middle of one of the best Postseasons we have seen in a long time, with all four Division Series going the full five games.

Of the two Division Series still undecided, the NL is the tougher one to predict. The Nationals and Cardinals are very closely matched. It will come down to the pitchers. If Gio Gonzalez has his emotions under control, I see the Nats moving on to the NLCS. If he goes out overamped like he did in Game 1, I see the Cards moving on.

The AL is a little easier to predict. Pitching will definitely decide Game 5 of the Yankees-Orioles series. Neither team is swinging the bats well. The Yankees are beat up: Jeter is on one leg, Teixeira has a bad calf and Cano has a bad calf. A-Rod cant catch up with a fastball and Girardi has pinch hit for him twice in the last two games. That is not a good sign for the Yankees, considering they have five years of $30 million a year that they still owe him. But CC will put the Yanks through to the ALCS.

When the League Champions Series start, the AL will be much easier to predict a winner. With the feel-good story of the A’s coming to an end, I don’t think the Yankees are healthy enough to beat Detroit. That could be a quick series. The NL will be much tougher to predict. With the Nats and Cards still unsettled, with Giants awaiting the winner, either way the NLCS will be much more compelling. But I see Washington facing Detroit in the World Series.

Next week I will have more on the World Series. I picked Detroit out of Spring Training to win it all, so I doubt I will change that pick!

Revisiting preseason predictions

Before the season started, I made predictions as to what teams I thought would be Postseason teams. We are in the first week of July, and there are some teams that I thought would win divisions that are either not playing good baseball and are still in the hunt and there is one team that sits dead last in its division — the Phillies being that team.

As I sit here today, the American League East is shaping up to much like I thought it would, with the Yankees leading the division. The big surprise is that the Orioles sit in second place. I still believe that the Yankees will win that division, and I am sticking by my pick of Boston being one of the Wild Card teams. They have endured more days of players being on the DL than any other team in baseball, with over 900 games missed. And they still are only 6.5 games out of first. That means when they do get healthy, the Red Sox will be very deep heading into the second half.

The AL Central has not played out in the first half like I thought it would. I had Detroit running away with the division, but they have not played well as a team yet. I still see them doing much like they did last year and winning the division by a wide margin. Their starting pitching hasn’t been as dominant yet this year. Namely Doug Fister. He came to Detroit last year at the Trade Deadline and went 8-1 for the Tigers. He is 1-6 at this point. That won’t last.

The AL West is right where I thought it would be, with the Rangers leading the division, and the Angels in second place, which will earn them the other Wild Card spot.

In the NL, it has been much harder to figure out what has happened. The Dodgers got off to a great start, but the loss of Matt Kemp due to a hamstring injury has left their offense unable to out-hit average starting pitching. The Giants lead the division, but the team I picked to win the division, Arizona, has started to gain a little ground and they are getting healthier. I still feel that they will win the West.

In the Central, I picked the Cardinals to win the division. They started off on fire this year, but have since come back down to earth. The team that has shocked me and every other so-called expert is the Pirates. They have pitched well and are starting to hit a little bit. This is one division I am changing my pick to win from St. Louis to the Reds. They are at the top of the division in spite of the fact that they have not hit well all year long. They will hit in the second half and win the Central.

The NL East is a division that looks upside-down. In the spring, I picked the Phillies to win the division, even though Ryan Howard and Chase Utley were starting the year on the DL. They are in last place and 11 games out of first. Roy Halladay hasn’t pitched in well over a month. Cliff Lee has not won a game. All of these things will change in the second half. Utley is back, Howard is rehabbing in the minors, and Lee will start winning games. Washington, who I picked to finish second and be a Wild Card team is leading the division and is a very deep team. Atlanta is getting healthy, despite losing Brandon Beachy for the year. They have gotten Jair Jurrjens back, and he has thrown very well in his first two starts. People are going to think I’m nuts, and that is ok. I’ve been nuts before. But I think Washington is going to win this division, and the two Wild Card teams are going to come out of the East, with Philly and Atlanta being the two Wild Card teams.

I think Philly is going to trade Cole Hamels at the deadline to get a big right handed bat to hit behind Howard and also get an arm or two in the deal. There is zero chance of Hamels resigning with the Phillies, in my opinion. He is a Southern Cal boy, and the Dodgers will overpay to get him in their rotation, to go along with Clayton Kershaw. Hamels is at his peak as far as trade value. If the Phillies get a big bat and a bullpen arm or two in the deal, they can win games with Halladay, Lee, and Worley in the top 3 spots in that rotation.

Like I said, people will think I’m nuts. Well, I have papers to prove it! So let’s see how it all shakes out.

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