Do you remember the big scandal in Major League Baseball this summer? As many as a dozen players were suspended for ties with a company called Biogenesis, the implication being that the players were taking Performance Enhancing Drugs.
Back in August I wrote about how the issue will continue because it is not being considered a team AND player problem. Here is another example of what I meant. One of the players suspended for 50 games was Jhonny Peralta, and over the weekend he signed a new contract with the St. Louis Cardinals, reportedly for more than $50 million.
I understand those who claim that Peralta served his penalty and therefore ought to be able to sign any contract that the market will bear. Peralta is certainly within his rights to seek whatever contract value he desires. My point is that clearly the penalties in place are not a deterent.
PED use will continue in professional sports so long as there not a sufficient reason not to use them. The problem that I see is that being caught using PEDs is becoming too accepted by all parts of baseball. While the commissioner and MLB can put on a big show about doing something, and really, isn't the whole A-Rod thing just a big show, in reality nothing is truly being done.
If you really want to stop PEDs then teams and players both need to have consequences that matter. A player caught should lose their free agency rights for at least a year, a team who has a player caught should lose the right to sign free agents for a year.
Last night the Detroit Tigers traded Prince Fielder and gave $30 million to the Texas Rangers for Ian Kinsler. The main reason for the trade, as I see it, is to free up first base for Miguel Cabrera. What we learned in 2013 is that the Tigers cannot afford to have their best hitter, who just happens to be the best hitter in baseball, not in the line up and 100% healthy. Fielder only plays first base, so unless he was willing to DH or learn a new position, there really was no position for him on the team.
Fielder could have made the trade much more difficult for the Tigers had he produced down the stretch in 2013 when Cabrera was injured. With nobody picking up the slack for Miggy, and the Cleveland Indians breathing down their neck, Jim Leyland was forced to keep Miggy in the line up when he should have been sitting to heal up for the playoffs.
Another big factor was Fielder's performance in the playoffs, he is a career .194 hitter in the playoffs, Ian Kinsler is a career .311 hitter in the playoffs with nearly as many at bats. Through in Fielder's less then stellar play at first base, his horrible base running, and his indifferent attitude and that all made it very easy for the Tigers to trade him.
Omar Infante has been the Tiger's best second baseman in the last two years, but Kinsler is an upgrade. The questions the trade raises for the Tigers is who will play third base, and how will they replace Fielder's bat in the line up? I think you want to keep Cabrera at third, though Kinsler could possibly be slotted in that position. Martnez could move up to fourth, but I like him at fifth. What this suggests to me is that the Tigers need to pick up a home run hitting left fielder.
Most see the trade as positive for enabling the Tigers to re-sign Max Scherzer. There has been talk of the Tigers trading Scherzer, mostly because of fear they won't have enough money to sign him, but also because some wonder whether Scherzer will be able to repeat his 2013 performance. I say that pitching is such a crap shoot you are better off sticking with what you know than taking a chance with an unknown. The Tigers need to keep Scherzer and Verlander on their staff while everyone else could be expendable.
Another factor is the bullpen, particularly the closer. If Dombrowski does not upgrade the bullpen, he will have failed to do so in two off seasons, meaning he really has not found the final piece to get the Tigers to a World Series championship. In my opinion, if there is no upgrade of the bullpen the Tigers have to give serious thought about making a change at General Manager. With the talent on the Tigers it will simply be inexcusable for Dombrowski to not address what is their most glaring weakness.
Fortunately, the baseball offseason has really just begun and their is a lot of time left for Dombrowski to make more changes.
The Chicago Cubs have replaced former manager and Milwaukee Brewer hitting coach Dale Sveum with the bench coach of the San Diego Padres, Rick Renteria. The Padres hit .245 as a team in 2013, with no player hitting better than .300. Team ERA was 3.98. The Padres had a 76-86 record in 2013 and finished 16 games behind the Dodgers.
In short, Renteria has experience with a team like the Chicago Cubs but it is not clear that he has the ability to make such a team better. Frankly, I am disappointed by this hire and don't see this as an improvement over the previous manager. The Theo Epstein era in Chicago, and with it the fate of the Cubs, has taken a huge step backwards in my opinion. Not impressed.
Let the debate begin on why the Tigers did not beat the Red Sox to make it to the World Series. As is typically the case, there really isn't one reason why the team did not win, but in the end I think it was about the Red Sox taking advantage of the Tiger's weaknesses.
Think back to spring training and what was the main question mark then? The bullpen. Without a doubt the bullpen was a glaring weakness that the Red Sox exploited, just about all of their runs came on two swings of the bat against bullpen pitchers. Problem is, if it were easy to fix a bullpen, it would have been done, good closers aren't readily available unless you do what the Red Sox did and head to Japan.
My main quibble with Jim Leyland is that he kept managing as if he had a good bullpen, when he clearly did not. I think that when you are in a championship series you ride your starting pitching until they lose. The bullpen is made up of professionals, but none who would be sought out to be on the bullpen of any other team in the MLB.
Beyond the bullpen, and finding a replacement for Jim Leyland, the biggest issue the Tigers face is what do with Cabrera, Fielder, and Martinez. In hindsight, panic over Martinez's knee injury two seasons ago lead to this problem: Cabrera's bat is too important for him to be playing third base. Fielder can't play anything but first or DH, and Leyland didn't want to put Martinez behind the plate.
Unless Martinez catches more next year, I think he or Fielder ought to be traded, preferably for some bullpen help. Bottom line, what the Tigers ought to have learned is that Miggy must be moved back to first next season.Playing Miggy at third base is too great a risk to his health, and we saw first hand since September the affect of Miggy not able to be a threat in the line up.
MLB Trade Rumors evaluates the current Cubs roster and provides observations about 2014. It doesn't look very promising, and frankly I think a lot is going to ride on who they hire as their manager.
And it was the another "same old, same old" for the Chicago Cubs. It's not surprising that the Cubs have released Dale Sveum, the bigger surprise will be who they hire to replace him. Most are betting on Joe Girardi, who has not re-signed with the New York Yankees. It's too bad that Ryne Sandberg got hired by the Phillies, if for nothing other than to add some drama to the hiring process.
I think that Theo better get Girardi signed, otherwise who else is available? If you don't sign an experienced manager then what was the point of releasing Sveum? Perhaps the bigger question is, just how much are the Cubs willing to spend to get a manager AND add talent to the team. A good manager can make a big difference, case in point Terry Francona and the Cleveland Indians, but you still must have talent. If Joe is smart, he is going to ask some hard questions about the Cub's plans to add talent during the off season. In my opinion we have come to the "make or break" time for Theo Epstein.
It has been a bit hectic lately, so I haven't had a chance to write a follow up about my fantasy football draft. To recap, I picked 10th in our ten team league, snake draft. I picked:
the Bears defence & special teams
Key players on my bench are:
I won my first game 115-82.3 thanks to big games from Kaepernick and McCoy and a decent game from Jackson. My score would have been larger if I started Boldin over Jackson.
For week 2 I am sticking with the same lineup. Kaepernick may have a touch game as he goes against Seattle, but that is why I am keeping Boldin on the bench. I am hoping that Alfred Morris has a better game in week 2.
Alfonso Soriano is probably wishing he could play the LA Angels every day because in the last four days he has hit 4 home runs and in the last 7 days he has driven in 15 runs. On one hand, I am happy because I have Soriano on my fantasy team and he has been one of the lone bright spots this year for me, yet on the other hand I am sad because I would prefer he was driving in all those runs for the Cubs, they could use his bat. It seems the Cubs have been shut out for the week.
Nice to see that MLB is finally going to implement instant replay, years after other major professional sports have been successfully doing so. The proposed manager's challenge system sounds reasonable to me, one challenge in the first six innings, 2 more after the sixth. I think what we are going to find is that there are many calls where the umpires are simply not in the right position to make the correct call.
In 2012 Melky Cabrera was caught using PEDs and suspended from the San Francisco Giants, who released him after the 2012 season. Cabrera signed a 2 year, $16 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays for 2013 and 2014. While Cabrera did not get to play in the World Series, a $16 million contract probably more than made up for it for Cabrera.
Bortolo Colon also was caught using PEDs in 2012 and suspended from the Oakland Athletics for 50 games. Colon signed a $3 million contract with the Athletics for 2013, and if he earned them, incentives could increase the total value to as much as $6 million.
So far this year, Ryan Braun has been suspended for using PEDs and we are anticipating the announcement of more suspensions. It is clear to me, however, that the suspensions are not going to drive out the use of PEDs in Major League Baseball.
The problem is that right now the use of PEDs is viewed as a player problem rather than a team, player, and MLB problem. As long as there are teams willing to give big deals to players even after they have been caught and suspended, the risks are simply not large enough to cause players to avoid the temptation.
If you think about it, with the current situation teams could almost want players to use PEDs and be caught as it could allow the teams to acquire talent at a lower cost. Braun currently has a $51 million contract with Milwaukee. Most likely his next contract is going to be for less than that, the question is how much less?
If the goal is to eliminate PEDs from baseball, then clearly there needs to be a stronger deterrent that involves BOTH players and teams. Players probably need to be suspended for a whole year on the first violation, life time afterward; teams that have a major league player caught with PEDs should lose the ability to sign free agents for one year.
Until using PEDs becomes too painful for both players and teams, their use is going to continue. Right now the players currently facing suspensions are only going to lose income for 50 games, and most likely they will sign as good of a deal they have today in the future. In short, for some, there is still no financial real reason to NOT use PEDs.
I have mixed feelings about the Soriano trade. I've really liked how he has been playing the last couple of years, and he appears to have responded to Sveum real well, so that makes me a little sad. On the other hand, the Cubs are definitely sellers, which means accumulating talent is the most important thing.
I have Soriano on my fantasy team, and I am not sure the Yankees is the best team for him to be traded to. The Yankees need the right hand bat, so he'll likely be in the line up, but will he see good pitches? Obviously, this is well out of my hands so only time will tell, but the trade to the Yankees make me nervous.
With my second pick of my fantasy baseball league draft I took Justin Verlander. At first, it appeared to be a very good pick but Verlander has looked very bad of late. He is doing the opposite of my big pick last year, Albert Pujols, who had a poor first half and a great second half.
Well, I am trying to do something about this by negotiating a trade for Verlander. I'll probably regret the decision, but as a Tigers fan I am thinking that it is the right thing to do.
Ryan Braun has been suspended for the rest of the MLB season and guesses are this is just the first of the suspensions due to the Biogenesis scandal. Of course Braun is getting an extra heaping of scorn because he avoided suspension in 2011 when he tested positive but successfully disputed the handling of the drug test.
Like most fans, I hate the idea of players cheating, yet its a bit hard for me to get all hot and bothered by players when you consider that the PED use went on for years and the MLB, owners, players and sports writers all ignored it. Mark McGwire and Sam Sosa's PED-fed home run battle was a big help to baseball as it was coming out of a work stoppage.
Selig is complicit in baseball's problems because he has been the man in charge while they have been going on, and he certainly could have taken action much sooner than he did. Consequently, I think that if MLB is serious about cleaning things up, Selig needs to be replaced, preferrably by someone who most believe will have the game's and the fans' interests top priority. Therefore, I nominate either Bob Costas or Peter Gammons for position of MLB Commissioner.
The second half the Major League Baseball season is about to start, and so it's time to take stock in our teams. Our fantasy baseball teams, that is. Unfortunately, my team looked much better on draft day than it does now, sporting a 5-7-2 record. I've been most hurt by below-par performances from Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia, and Albert Pujols.
I picked seventh this year, and Albert popped up as the top guy on the board in the 5th or 6th round. Prior to my turn I had made my mind up to take Fielder, expecting Albert to be gone and therefore a non-issue, but alas I was left with the dilemma, pass on the highest talent or stick to my plan and take Fielder.
I went for the highest ranked player, and I am paying for it with a poor first half from Pujols, who is getting by with an injured foot that frankly isn't going to get better unless he is shut down for a month or two. Right now Albert is batting .249, .753 OPS, 15 home runs, and 57 RBIs, and I am hoping like heck he has as good a second half as he did last year. Prince is batting .267, .820 OPS, 16 home runs, and 69 RBIs, so the stat lines are comparable, but Prince has knocked in more runs leading to a higher OPS and it feels like Prince is having a much better year.
While I am disappointed by with some of my players, I do feel a little better having Chris Davis, who has been leading the majors in home runs all season. Alfonso Soriano has been having another good season, and I am hoping that he gets picked up by a better team soon and that translates to even bigger numbers. Josh Willingham has been fighting injuries so he is no where near last year's numbers, and Starlin Castro has regressed from the last two years.
For me to make a move I need more power from Pujols and one more outfielder to have great second half, I am looking at you Brandon Moss. My pitching staff needs to get more consistent, it seems every week one of them gets blown up and ends up with a double digit ERA and high WHIP that can't be recovered. Verlander, Sabathia, Sanchez, Hefner, Dempster, Feldman, Milone, Miley, and Chen, let's get it together!
AllThingsD has a good article comparing wearables. I've been wearing the Jawbone Up since the beginning of the year, and frankly, I was pleasantly surprised that this article shows it to be as accurate as it is. I suspected it wasn't very accurate and feel that the trending information collected by the app is the most important info rather than the specific numbers. Ideally, you want your exercise and sleep to trend in a positive direction.
Yesterday I posted a video of Steve Goodman singing "Dying Cubs Fan's Last Request" and mentioned in passing his song Go Cubs Go, which is the current victory song at Wrigley Field. While it's cool that it's played and sung by fans in the park after a victory, I think the lyrics are more appropriate for before a Cubs game. So, in celebration of their current four game winning streak and to spur them on to extend that streak to five games, I give you Go Cubs Go.
While they may be 14 games out of first place, they are only eight games below .500 and so a winning season is still possible, and after a World Series win, all a real Cub wants is a winning season.
UPDATE: Obviously my exuberance jinxed the Cubs as they are being pummeled by the Angels tonight.
No doubt there was much celebration in England today as Andy Murray won the Wimbledon men's tennis championship, making him the first from the United Kingdom to win a Wimbledon title in 77 years. The significance of the accomplishment is greater in large part because of the length of time, but that time is not terribly surprising given how few tennis players come out of the U.K.
More significant to me is the fact that Andy Roddick is the last American man to win the U.S. Open men's tennis championship in 2003. With no American a serious contender for this year's title that will make it a decade since the last time an American man has hoisted the hardware of his country's tennis championship.
The drought is significant because there is no American man in professional tennis who appears poised to win the title. John Isner is currently the highest ranking U.S. player at #19 in the world. Sam Querrey is #21, and Marty Fish is #61.
For the most part, tennis has become a European sport, particularly for the men. Today it appears that tennis has too much competition in the United States from other sports to be attractive to boys, and the situation is made worse by the fact that there is currently no star American male player in the sport. When I played tennis in my youth I was inspired by John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, but today's want-to-be male tennis players have no role model to aspire towards.
Hopefully a star is in the making in tennis schools throughout the country, but right now men's professional tennis does not appear to have a bright future in the United States. I wonder when, or if, Americans will begin to yearn for an American male to win the U.S. Open?
The Detroit Red Wings have signed Stephen Weiss to a 5 year $24.5 million contract. Last year Weiss played only 17 games due to injury. With the decision to let Filpula walk done, the Wings needed to sign another top tier center to allow for Datsyuk and Zetterberg to play on the same line.
Now that the Red Wings have made two big signings, I expect they will now focus on signing their own UFAs.
The free agent signing period has begun in the NHL and I see a flurry of signings on Twitter. The Detroit Red Wings have picked up another Swede, signing Daniel Alfredsson to a one year deal.
I see that Filpula wants much more pay than the Wings are willing to provide, so he will be gone. I hope that the Wings sign Clearly and I am ambivalent about Brunner.
I think the Detroit Tigers are starting to feel the pressure of what is shaping up as a medicore season. Last week Miguel Cabrera got upset at a high and tight pitch and the next day Rick Porcello plunked a Tampa Bay Ray. Now last night Tori Hunter got upset at a high and tight pitch resulting in a talking confab on the field. Hunter's reaction came after Omar Infante was injured by a hard slide that some Tiger players think was dirty.
Not that these are all non events but still they don't seem to be worth getting all hot and bothered over. It looks to me like the Tigers are not handling the pressure being applied by the Cleveland Indians. It's time for Leyland to use his managerial chops.
Theo Epstein is busy today. I just received a notification from ESPN that the Cubs have traded maligned closer Carlos Marmol to the Dodgers for RHP Matt Guerrier. Guerrier will just have to travel up the coast to join the team who is in Oakland.
I just receive a notification on my phone from ESPN that the Cubs have traded pitcher Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger to the Baltimore Orioles for two prospects and cash. Feldman, who the Cubs aquired during the off season, has been the most consistent pitcher in the Cubs starting rotation this year.
Feldman also has the distinction of being on my fantasy baseball team, and this trade makes the second year in a row that a Cubs pitcher on my team was trade mid season. I hope that Feldman is more productive after his trade than Dempster was after being traded to the Rangers.
The upside for me is that the Orioles are a much better team than the Cubs, so Feldman has a better chance of getting wins. The downside is I lose him for today and that I believe was on an AL team last year so the AL batters may already know him.
Now that the Cubs have started selling, the Soriano watch can begin in earnest.
It must be what the LA Dodgers are telling themselves if reports by ESPN Chicago that they are in talks with the Chicago Cubs to acquire exiled reliever Carlos Marmol. At one time Marmol possessed one of the most wicked sliders in all of baseball, but during the last two years Marmol's pitches have lost their way across the plate.
Marmol was designated for assignment last week after blowing yet another save opportunity for the Cubs. Over 31 relief appearances the reliever has a 5.86 ERA, and has struck out 32 while walking 21 in 27 and 2/3 innings this year.
Is it just me, or does Justin Verlander sound like Tiger Woods in the Mike & Mike interview this morning? Apparently Justin has found a hitch in his shoulder angle that is causing him problems. I've got Justin on my fantasy baseball team, so I really hope that he has in fact found the problem. Permanently fixing it can be another matter.