Results tagged ‘ Mitch Williams ’
As we have finished April, there are many surprises around baseball. Here’s what I feel are the biggest ones:
First, a major surprise to me is that the Rockies are leading the NL West with a 17-11 record. I don’t think that they will wind up at season’s end, but I didn’t think they had enough pitching to be where they are now, even this early in the year.
Everyone’s preseason pick in the NL West seemed to be the Dodgers, because of all the money they spent in the offseason. I was not one who picked them to win it. As anyone who knows me will tell you, I don’t believe you can buy a team. You can buy players, but not a team. The Dodgers had eight starting pitchers coming out of Spring Training. They traded Aaron Harang and the next day Zack Greinke breaks his collarbone in the fight with Carlos Quentin. Then Chris Capuano gets hurt. So the Dogers are hanging around .500.
Then we go to the other LA team. This team I did pick to win the AL West because I thought the additions of Josh Hamilton and Jason Vargas would help them because they are both low-key players who would fit in to the Angels clubhouse — which I have since found out from a player who has since left was not a very cohesive clubhouse. And it shows on the field.
Harold Reynolds pointed out one specific play that demonstrated this point perfectly. Albert Pujols was coming in for a pop-up and it bounced out of his glove. The catcher, Chris Iannetta, was there to catch it. There was no excitement on their faces, no laughing, nothing. This game is supposed to be fun. The minute you play the game just for the paycheck, it’s time to go home.
I can speak from personal experience on this. I always said that when the game felt like a job, I would retire. Because your ability won’t shine through. I retired at 32 because I wasn’t having fun anymore. The Angels have arguably the best all-around player in the game in Mike Trout to go with Hamilton and Pujols, and they are 10-18. Losing Jered Weaver didn’t help, but this team should be much better than they are.
In the NL, the Pirates started poorly and now are just one game back in the Central at 16-12 . They have started fast the last two years, but faded toward the end of the year. They traded a lock-down closer in Joel Hanrahan and gave the job to a career setup man in his mid-30s in Jason Grilli, who entered this season with five career saves. He is now 11-for-11 in save opportunities. I didn’t think this would be the year they broke the streak of 20 straight losing seasons in the Steel City, but it may be.
Over in the AL Central, the Tigers will win this division! But the Twins being at .500 after the first month is a shocker to me. I thought they had a lineup that could compete, but I didn’t see anything in their starting rotation that would have led me to believe that they could be anywhere near the .500 mark after the first month. Justin Morneau is back to his MVP form at the plate, and they have gotten enough pitching to keep them afloat.
Back to the Can’t Buy a Team Theory. The Blue Jays had the huge trade with Marlins this winter that made many people’s pick to win the AL East. The pitching they got via trade has been subpar to this point. So far R.A. Dickey has not been the guy who won the NL Cy Young Award last year. Mark Buehrle has not been his reliable self, and Josh Johnson is on the DL. But the biggest loss for them has been the Jose Reyes injury. This guy absolutely disrupts the opposing pitcher’s focus when he is on base. He was hitting .395 when he got hurt. Meanwhile, the man who was an MVP of the 2012 All-Star Game and well on his way to perhaps a league MVP award until failing a drug test and getting a 50-game suspension, Melky Cabrera — to whom the Jays gave a two-year deal and a $2 million-a-year raise — has not even come close to being what he was before the suspension. All of this leads to the Jays being 10-19 and in the cellar of the AL East.
The other surprise in that division is the Yankees. I picked them to finish last because of all the injuries they were dealing with coming out of Spring Training. They led the majors last year with 245 home runs, and 200 of those were not in the lineup Opening Day. Yet they are in second place right now behind what I consider to be the biggest surprise so far this season to everyone. (I wasn’t as surprised most by the A’s, as I had the chance to see them in the spring in person and talk with the players to get a feel for what this team was all about.)
The Red Sox are a very good team. I think the main reason is the change in the manager. Bringing back John Farrell to manage a club where he was the pitching coach when they won their World Series titles was pure genius on the part of the Sox. First, they needed Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz to return to their former selves. Secondly, they needed a manager who wasn’t the main focus of the team. Farrell is very content to sit back and let his players play, and wants none of the credit. They have three starting pitchers who have not yet lost. Buchholz is 6-0. Lester is 4-0. And Felix Doubront is 3-0. The Sox have the best record in baseball and — barring injuries — I think they will win the AL East.
And for the record, I didn’t see them being this good. I expected them to be much improved, but I would be lying if I said I saw this coming all along. Also, for the record, Buchholz and Lester returning to their old form under their former pitching coach, Farrell, is not a coincidence!
Now for my least surprising performance to this point: Mariano Rivera being 11-for-11 in save opportunities. Many people wondered about his knee. If it had been his landing leg, yes, there would have been concern on my part. But the fact it is his post leg meant I never doubted he would be the old Mo! He is only off to the best start of his career. And yet he has said he will retire at the end of this year. I hate to see that. I believe Mo could close for another five years. When you have his command and an absolute understanding of the mental part of closing — by that I mean he knows the pressure is on the hitter, not you as the closer. You already have the lead.
I don’t care if his cutter velocity drops to 85 mph. Any coach who wants to teach kids perfect throwing mechanics, put on a tape of Mo for them to watch. His mechanics are flawless. And simple. If he decided not to retire, he would put the save record so far out of reach that no one would ever come close to it. He could pitch five more years and be close to 800 saves. He is a guy who shouldn’t have to wait five years to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. The day he says “I’m retired,” he should be inducted. We will never again see anyone like him!
Here we sit on April 25th and there are three aces who have yet to record a win for their teams: Matt Cain for the Giants, Cole Hamels for the Phillies and 2012 Cy Young Award winner David Price.
If I could have made a wager on this happening, can you imagine the odds I could have gotten? At least a million to one. But here we are, all three pitchers without a win.
Not only are all three without a win, but their teams have lost all 15 combined games the trio has started. Hamels is 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA, Cain is 0-2 with a 6.59 ERA and Price is 0-2 with a 5.52 ERA. They only have seven decisions between them, but the fact remains that their teams have not won a single game that their Opening Day starters have pitched. Consider that Stephen Strasburg is 1-4, and you have four teams that were supposed to at least compete — and in the Nats’ case, be the class of the NL.
If you look closely at their starts, they have been all that bad. Other than Strasburg, who has an ERA in the low 3s, the other three have elevated ERAs, but they have all pitched well enough to win some games. Those four pitchers’ teams being 1-19 in their starts is hard to fathom.
It goes to show you that even if you are an ace, you still can’t make mistakes in the middle of the plate. And that has been the case for Hamels, Price and Cain. Price has the most overpowering stuff, but when you make mistakes in the middle you pay. What makes great pitchers is not always giving up the fewest hits, but when you give them up. All three guys have given up too many hits with two outs and runners on. Those are the times when you as a pitcher have to make the pitch to end the inning.
As bad as it has gone for all four of these guys, I will still take the bet that they will all end up over .500 and all reach double digits in wins by the end of the year. So please, guys. Get back to being yourselves. I don’t want to look stupid!
I watched the Dodgers and Padres last night, and what took place in the sixth inning was frankly stupid. Zack Greinke had no outs and a full count on Carlos Quentin, with the Dodgers leading in a 2-1 game. Quentin gets hit with the 3-2 pitch, turns and takes a step to the mound.
Everyone said Greinke said something to Quentin. If you watch the video, you can see Zack turns his head to the left and says something to himself. He was mad that he had hit Quentin. Then he saw Carlos taking a step to the mound and did say something to him then. And the fight was on.
You have to use just a little bit of common sense when you make a judgment on whether a batter was hit on purpose. No one is going to hit a guy with a one-run lead and no one out in the sixth.
Good hitters don’t give at the plate. Carlos doesn’t give. He got hit earlier in the series, but he got himself hit, because he is a dive hitter. The only defense for a pitcher is to pitch dive hitters in. If big league hitters don’t have to think about anything but hitting, they are going to hit.
If umpires take that away from pitchers, then someone is going to get killed. I got hit in the head with a 102 MPH line drive. I didn’t have a helmet on. Last year Brandon McArthur got a fractured skull from being hit in the head.
People think I’m being one-sided on this. I’m not. I can’t stand pitchers who hit a batter because that batter hit a home run off him. If you hit a guy because you, as a pitcher, made a mistake, then you are ignorant and you should be heavily fined and suspended.
Vincente Padilla gave up a home run to Kurt Suzuki in Oakland a few years ago, and Padilla hit the next guy. Padilla was playing for the Rangers at the time. Michael Young came up for the Rangers the next inning and knew he was getting hit. It took two or three pitches for Young to finally get hit. The Rangers released Padilla after that.
As a player, you know if a guy was hit on purpose or if it got away from the pitcher. Watch the catcher. If he jumps right up and gets in front of the hitter, that hitter was hit on purpose. There is only one reason for a pitcher to intentionally hit a batter: to protect his players from being hit. In my opinion, if you hit a batter because he hit a home run off you, you are showing that hitter that you can’t get him out!
Last night never should have happened. Quentin claims there is a history between them. Well there is a history between Carlos and 113 other guys. What started the brawl was the fact that Carlos took steps to the mound immediately after being hit. Zack said something to himself, then said something to Carlos and Carlos charged. Now the Padres are going to be without Quentin due to suspension, and the Dodgers are going to be without Greinke for a couple of months. All because a guy got hit in the arm. Senseless!
If we look around the league at pitching — more specifically at the pitches that pitchers are using — we always go through periods where a certain pitch becomes the new pitch every pitcher wants to learn. Back in the 80s it was the split-finger, or forkball. Former Giants manager Roger Craig was a big believer in it. Bruce Sutter, a closer, made it popular.
The pitch that is so popular today is the cutter. Greg Maddux was the first starting pitcher I can remember using it regularly. But it was another closer who made the pitch so popular. Mariano Rivera has pitched 17 years and become the all-time saves leader with over 600 saves while using basically one pitch: the cutter.
The first problem I see with this pitch is that, if thrown incorrectly, it stresses the elbow a lot. The second problem I see is that if you don’t have absolute command of it, it is simply a fastball that typically is 5 to 7 MPH slower than a four-seam fastball. Maddux had absolute command of his. What many people don’t know is that Mariano’s cutter is natural. That is how the ball comes out of his hand. There are two pitchers in the game today whose cutter is a result of the natural way they deliver the ball: Mo and Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen.
To tell if a cutter is natural, all you have to do is watch the ball come out of their hand. With both of these guys, the ball is cutting the second it leaves their hand. They are thinking about locating it, but they are not thinking about what they have to do to make the ball cut. That is why Mo’s cutter was clocked in the mid to upper 90s in his prime. Jansen’s is the same.
What drives me crazy is seeing pitchers who have been blessed with the ability to throw four-seam fastballs 95 MPH with command, but choose to use a cutter that sacrifices velocity and command.
My favorite example of this is one of my favorite pitchers in the game: Jon Lester. Lester has great mechanics and the ability to throw the ball 95 MPH and command it. But he uses the cutter, which he throws around 90 MPH and does not have command if it. He has a slider and a change-up. He does not need the cutter.
Perfect example: Opening Day he was shutting out the Yankees, got in a bases-loaded jam with Francisco Cervelli at the plate, and he threw him a 90-MPH cutter that was supposed to be inside. It cut right to the middle of the plate, and Cervelli hit a two-run single for the only two runs Lester gave up that day. What people who didn’t play the game don’t understand is that at 95 MPH and higher, you can make way more mistakes and get away with them than you can with a pitch thrown at 90 MPH.
The other pitch that drives me crazy is the two-seam fastball, or sinker. It is a great pitch if you can command it, but again you are going to sacrifice velocity and command. Guys who are blessed with the ability to throw the baseball 95-plus MPH and command it need to realize that a two-seam fastball is a pitch that is meant to be put in play by the hitter. Balls that are put in play can find holes to get through. If you can command the sinker and it has good downward movement, it can be a great pitch.
I think that the cutter and the two-seam fastball have become so popular because of the stupid pitch count. Pitchers want the ball put in play within the first three pitches of an at-bat. It is as though the strikeout is taboo anymore, because relying on strikeouts will elevate the pitcher’s pitch count too quickly and he won’t be able to go deep into the game because of that stupid clicker every pitching coach has in his hand. I was always of the belief that it didn’t matter how many pitches it took to get the hitter out, as long as you got him out!
It is my opinion that if you are a pitching coach at the Major League level and you have to look at a clicker to tell you that a pitcher is tired, you shouldnt be a pitching coach. A pitcher’s mechanics will tell you when he is getting tired, and that can change from start to start. You look at the best pitcher in the game today (in my opinion): Justin Verlander. He throws a four-seam fastball, a curve ball and a change-up.
There will be some days where Verlander will get tired after 90 pitches, and there will be days that he is still able to not break down on his back side and stay on top of the ball after 130 pitches. That is why pitchers run so much and do a lot of lifting weights with their legs. When a pitcher gets tired, his back leg will start to break down. When that happens, it forces him down the mound too soon, and his arm is stuck behind him causing him to blow open his front side to get the ball to the release point.
If, as a pitching coach, you know what to look for, there is no need for a clicker. That, and I always believed the opposing lineup will let you know when you are done. When they start rattling the outfield walls with your pitches, you are done.
One final note on the cutter and two-seamer: Yu Darvish was within one out of a perfect game the other night. Darvish was clocked at 97 MPH in that game. The final hitter he faced was a pinch hitter. A pinch hitter is coming to the plate looking for the first hard thing he sees, and he is going to swing at it. Darvish could have thrown him a get-me-over breaking ball or a 97 MPH four-seamer. He threw him a 90-MPH two-seam fastball right in the middle of the plate. A mistake. Had it been 97, he could have gotten away with the mistake. A pinch hitter who has sat there the whole game and is coming to the plate cold ain’t catching up to a 97-MPH fastball.
The moral of the story is: if you have a big gun, shoot it.
It’s that time of year where I make predictions. I will start in the AL.
1. Tampa Bay. I think the Rays win the East. The sexy pick is to take the Blue Jays, because of all that they added. I believe you can buy players, but you can’t buy a team. For example, two of the past three World Series were won by the Giants, a team that — on paper — shouldn’t have won.
2. Toronto/Boston. A dogfight between the Jays and Red Sox. John Farrell coming back will help the Sox staff and take the attention off the manager, putting it back on the players and what they do on the field. Way fewer distractions.
4. Baltimore. It will be hard for them to repeat their record in one-run and extra-inning games this year.
5. New York. Yes, I’m picking the Yankees. This team is so beat up — no A-Rod, no Teixeira, no Granderson, and no Jeter to start the season. They are simply too hurt to compete in this division this year. Without all the injuries, they would be right at the top.
1. Detroit. The Tigers should run away with this division. Getting Victor Martinez back to hit behind Fielder will only help Prince do more damage!
2. Kansas City. The additions of Shields, Davis, and Santana to the Royals’ rotation will take pressure off a young lineup and allow it to realize it can win games while scoring four runs. KC also has one of the best bullpens in the game.
3. Cleveland. The Indians have added some offense with Swisher and Bourn, but their rotation is a little light.
4. Chicago. This team has a couple of very good starters in Peavy and Sale. I don’t know if they have enough offense .
5. Minnesota. It is going to be a long year for the Twins. They have a pretty solid lineup. Mauer and Morneau are back and Willingham made Target Field look small last season with 36 home runs and 110 RBI, but when your Opening Day starter is Vance Worley, that tells you all you need to know about your rotation.
1. Los Angeles. The Angels will win this division. By adding Hamilton to hit between Pujols and Trumbo and a leadoff guy in Trout, they will score a ton of runs.
2. Texas. The Rangers lost Hamilton, Young, and Napoli, but I think they have enough pitching and offense to stay close.
3. Seattle. The Mariners added some pop to their lineup by bringing Mike Morse back, and made some other moves that have made them a better team.
4. Oakland. This team shocked everyone last year when they won the West. They reminded me of our ’93 Phillies team, where they had some guys have career years and never quit. But it is hard to get those players to repeat those career years.
5. Houston. The Astros are in a complete tear-down-and-rebuild process.
1. Washington. The Nats are the best and most balanced team maybe in all of baseball. They have the top rotation, a deep bullpen, and very strong lineup.
2. Atlanta/Philadelphia. The Braves and Phillies will battle for this spot. I’m not very high on the Braves’ starters, and the Phillies have issues at the corner outfield spots.
4. New York. The Mets are trying to build a team that can compete and have some standout guys. Matt Harvey is one of the best young right-handed starters in the league and David Wright will do his thing. But I don’t think they have enough to compete with the top three teams.
5. Miami. The Marlins are going to have to fight and claw to not lose 100 games this year. They are young, and Giancarlo Stanton wouldn’t see a pitch he could reach if I were pitching to him. He is the strongest player with the most power in the game today.
1. Cincinnati. The Reds should win this division going away. The decision to keep Chapman as the closer was a no-brainier for me.
2. St. Louis. This team has offense and some good young arms, with a staff ace in Wainwright. But there is a learning curve with young starters. These guys will have to adjust on the fly at the big league level.
3. Milwaukee. The Brewers have a potent lineup , but Corey Hart is on the DL to start the year. Adding Kyle Lohse will help, and John Axford will get back to where he was in 2011, closing games.
4. Pittsburgh. The Pirates will finish fourth, and I don’t see them being above .500 again this year. They traded away a closer in Joel Hanrahan who made the games they should win stand up.
5. Chicago. The Cubs are rebuilding and it will take Theo a couple more years to get this club competitive.
1. San Francisco. ‘Cause they have a great team!
2. Los Angeles. The Dodgers spent a ton of money. But again, you can’t buy a team. Hanley’s injury will hurt this team as far as getting off to a fast start.
3. Arizona. The D-backs have some solid starters and a good bullpen. Can the lineup score enough runs to take pressure off the rotation? That is the big question.
4. San Diego. This Padres team has gotten better but I don’t think can compete with the dodgers or giants.
5. Colorado. Starting pitching wins. And the Rockies just don’t have enough of it to get them out of the cellar.
AL MVP: Prince Fielder
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander
NL MVP: Joey Votto
NL Cy Young: Stephen Strasburg
World Series: Tigers vs. Nats; Tigers win in six
After traveling to San Francisco to cover the third World Baseball Classic on site, I can say that this event is great for the sport of baseball worldwide.
As an analyst you make predictions based on what you know. So it is tough to make predictions in this event. I took a lot of heat from Team Puerto Rico because they felt I was making excuses for Team USA losing to them, when I said they didn’t look as ready as Puerto Rico because PR has winter ball. I was not making an excuse for the US! It was a nice way of saying that the US needed to start working and playing together sooner.
Team PR had five Major League players on their roster. The entire US team was made up of big league players. But to be honest, before Japan played PR in the semifinals, I was going to pick Japan to win. Right up to the point that I found out that Team PR were so mad at me, thinking I was making excuses for the US. Then I changed my pick and went with PR.
If a team is so passionate as to get that upset by my comments about the US, they are there to win. What Yadier Molina did to upset that Japan lineup was impressive to say the least. He had his pitchers get the ball and throw it. They took no time in between pitches. Hitting is about timing, and the Japanese are known for the high leg kick at the plate. It is a timing mechanism. Molina did all he could to disrupt that, and PR got to final, where they eventually lost to the DR, 3-0.
This brings me back to why I believe Team USA needs to pick a team and start playing together sooner. Because the art of hitting is about timing.
Having the general manager of the DR, Moises Alou, on our MLB Tonight postgame show last night, I asked him directly what he did differently for the event this year from years past. He came right out and said he chose players who had been playing winter ball. He felt in the past, they weren’t ready to perform at their highest level because they hasn’t been playing.
In any case, I really like this event. It was awesome to get to witness first-hand the pride all these countries take in the fact the name of their country is on their chest!
This is the problem plaguing our game. I have all the respect in the world for these young front office people that come out of Harvard or Yale — or in Daniels’ case, Cornell. I respect them when they know what they are good at: business, finance, or organizational skills — those sorts of things.
Where I tend to lose respect for them is when they decide they know how to evaluate baseball talent better than people like Nolan Ryan! When they so that, they do their players a disservice, as well as their fan base and the entire organization.
I can’t speculate what the problem is down in Arlington between Nolan and Daniels, but I can say this: I was a Ranger back when going to a game was something a fan did when there was nothing else to do that night in town. Over the last four years, they have done something I never thought would be possible, and that was take away fans from the Dallas Cowboys.
I don’t know Daniels, but the way that Michael Young was treated there was just wrong. Young changed positions four times for the good of the team. He became an All-Star at three different positions, then demanded a trade after the signing of Adrian Beltre.
I spoke to Michael about this, and that conversation will remain between us. One thing I can say for sure is that as soon as a GM starts to think he can evaluate talent better than someone like Ryan without anywhere near the baseball background, he is giving himself too much credit. The problem I see in Texas is that they have power arms in their rotation, and all of them are trying to become sinker ball pitchers.
It is harder to command a sinker than it is a four-seam fastball. So if you can’t command it, it becomes a 91-MPH hit-me pitch. Trust me. You can make way more mistakes and get away with them if the pitch is 98 than if the pitch is 91. I think that has to change. I think they need to let these guys who can throw 95 to 98 go out and do it, and use a sinker only in spots where it is needed.
I will point to an organization that has a very smart GM: Tampa. Andrew Friedman is very smart. I believe he is smarter than any other GM out there right now, because I believe he surrounds himself with very good baseball people and trusts each of them to do their job, from scouts to Minor League pitching instructors. I don’t know about y’all that are reading this, but I don’t for a second think Friedman is making any decisions involving talent without consulting his baseball people.
In my opinion, you are only ignorant if you try and tell someone how to do their job if you aren’t qualified to do that job. I don’t think I’m going to get to many people calling me to do their taxes or represent them in court. Just as I am not going to argue with someone who does a job that I have no clue about.
If the Rangers lose Ryan, they will be headed back to where they were before he got there.
Why is Kyle Lohse still not signed by a club?
When free agents declared this year, Zack Greinke got all the attention. From a stuff perspective, I believe Greinke had the best stuff of all the free agent pitchers on the market, and he was given a huge contract by the Dodgers. I will never say a player isn’t worth what he is paid, because I learned a long time ago that worth is subjective.
When I bought my ranch, the man I bought it from said that he had $40,000 worth of equipment on the premises. I told him that he should then haul it up on the highway and sell it, because it is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it, and I wasn’t paying $40,000 for it. In the end, I got it all for free. So Greinke got what he was worth because someone was willing to pay him that.
I still feel the same way today that I felt when free agency started: Lohse doesn’t have the best stuff, but he is the best pitcher available. The problem here is that he is 34 years old and is represented by Scott Boras. I’m sure Boras feels that his client is worth three or four years at probably around $16 million a year. (I’m guessing on the years and money.)
But I understand why it is taking so long for him to sign. Over the last few years since PEDs testing has kicked in, players signing multi-year contracts at age 35 and beyond have virtually gone away. So at 34 years old, Kyle and his agent know that this is his last chance to sign a multi-year deal.
It would not surprise me at all if he didn’t sign until late March. Would I sign him to a three-year deal? Yes, I would, because he knows how to pitch. He doesn’t rely on an overpowering fastball. He locates and changes speeds. I believe that there will be a team that will sign him to a three-year deal, but only because I think there will be a team with an otherwise legit chance to compete for a World Series title that has a key pitcher get hurt in Spring Training, hurting their chances dramatically.
That brings me back to “It ain’t worth but what it will bring.” Right now Lohse is not worth to anyone what he is asking for. If no one important on a contending staff gets hurt, I believe he will end up signing a one-year deal. I know if I had a team that had a chance to win the World Series this year or next, I would sign Kyle Lohse in a heartbeat. As I stated earlier, I believe he is — and was — the best free agent pitcher available this offseason.
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.
Atlanta acquired Justin Upton to play along side his brother, B.J., in their outfield. I think this is a great deal for the Braves. I believe that the thing holding Justin back from being as good as he can be is the fact that all the pressure had been heaped on him in Arizona.
There are some players who can handle that pressure and perform up to expectations, but also there are guys who feel that pressure and expectation and it can make them try to do more than they are capable of doing. I truly believe that Justin falls into this category. His talent is off the charts. But you have to believe that your talent is enough and trust in what you can do. I know personally from the point of an observer, that just watching his reaction to a strikeout or a missed play in the outfield that he wasn’t feeling that he had a bad at-bat or took a bad route. He was feeling that he let his whole team down. That is a lot to shoulder as a kid under 25 years old.
Going to the Braves to play next to his older brother is going let this kid’s true ability shine through. First of all, he is not going to be “the guy” in that Braves lineup. He is going to be one of the guys. The Braves had to part with Martin Prado, who I feel is one of the best “baseball players” in the game today — meaning he can put on any glove and have success. But in the the Braves also got Chris Johnson, who I feel will be the everyday third baseman and hit for more power than Prado. Now that Chipper Jones has retired, this team is now Brian McCann‘s. He is the perfect guy to take over the leadership role for the Braves. He is a steady, level-headed guy who plays the toughest position on the field.
What this means for Justin Upton is that he can put on his uniform and go play the game. From everything I have heard, he and his brother have a great relationship. I can speak from experience when it comes to playing with your brother — not at the big league level, but in high school. My older brother signed with the Brewers the year before I signed with the Padres. My only goal was to outperform my older brother, his was to make sure his little brother didn’t show him up! This deal could mean that we will finally see what the Uptons are truly capable of doing. There is nothing stronger than sibling rivalry to bring out the best in someone. I still feel the Nats are the best team in the NL East, but this deal definitely puts pressure on them to play in 2013 as well or better than they did in 2012. I am not counting out the Phillies, but their big three starting pitchers are going to have to all win 15 or more games apiece if they hope to contend.