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Puns are not for the weak, Alex

Puns are not for the weak, Alex

Are you familiar with Alex Rodriguez? You probably heard his name a lot this weekend. Turns out he’s one of the better baseball players in the history of the game. It also turns out he’s probably not a saint. Or a good capable of making good decisions in an optics sense.

You can’t throw a kit bag full of testosterone lozenges without hitting an Alex Rodriguez think piece right now. Wait, think piece? Hit piece. There isn’t an easier target for columnists seeking the moral high ground. Winning points on A-Rod’s back is easy.

Rodriguez makes it easy. He might well love shooting his body full of chemicals to make it stronger. Or faster. Or healthier. Maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he didn’t do it. He probably did. But he’s not the only bad guy in this story. After last night’s 60 Minutes interview, the list of bad guys just keeps getting longer.

Everything about this A-Rod situation stinks. Somehow suspending a player who breaks the laws of the game comes off like a bad idea. In bed with scummy quacks with dubious intentions, the league went to some dark places to “get” Alex Rodriguez. Using the fine print of the Joint Drug Agreement to throw the book at Rodriguez, shipping him off for a year after an arbitrator saw things the league’s way.

His baseball career, while not over thanks to the three years remaining on his contract AFTER his 162 game suspension ends, takes on a very different air. What kind of player will he be when he returns?

In the meantime, Alex Rodriguez will do what Alex Rodriguez does best – make a spectacle of himself. Permitted by the league to attend Spring Training, Rodriguez isn’t about to go away quietly. The Yankees now must attend to the delicate task of keeping him as far away as possible without further damaging their fractured relationship. They also must prevent their still expensive asset from devaluing himself any more, which likely means no Indy league ball or anything fun like that.

A victory for the “tough on crime” MLB brass, who can loudly crow about finally catching a player who reportedly beat 12 different drug tests. A player who spent more than $10000 a month on drugs to keep him at the top of his game. There is no need for sportswriter psychoanalysis or pleas for authenticity – there is no scrubbing Alex Rodriguez from the history books. All fans watched this grotesque chapter in baseball history unfold before their eyes.

If the league thinks this public flogging is better for the future of the game, consider the damage done this winter proof that no good deed goes unpunished. If it changes nothing, if drugs or the threat of drugs continues hanging over the game, MLB put a lot of credibility on the line for what, exactly?

Then again, who needs credibility when you have billion dollar TV deals, right?

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Here’s to better days, Alex.

Quote of the weekend

Buster Olney riffs on Bob Costas’ sanctimonious line regarding “authenticity” in the Hall of Fame and reveals a very telling nugget in the process.

Testing for amphetamines started in 2006, and a lot of players and executives strongly believe that the offensive numbers have declined because most players haven’t been able to use speed in the way that a high percentage of players did for a period of about half a century. So do the numbers generated since amphetamine testing began lack authenticity? Or is it the numbers produced with greenies that lack authenticity?

This hints at trickiest part in naming any era the steroid era – there are so many factors at play. Is offense down now because players are off greenies? Or is it the lack of pep pills combined with a significant uptick in pitching quality and velocity combined with more reliever specialization combined with…there are so many connected levels that only a fool with draw the most direct and shortest line and say “that’s the reason.”

But fools aren’t known for their great love of nuance. So offense is down because drugs are out, even if home runs are still actually up and triples are way down. Or something. It’s never easy.

House Calls

You’re healthy until you aren’t. Some pitchers spend their whole careers fighting against injury. Maybe it’s the mechanics, maybe it’s their body or their training but some pitchers just can’t stay healthy.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do, bad health finds you. If you’re Derek Holland, it lurks in your home. A fall down the steps at home and suddenly the start of your season is very much in doubt.

Even if he misses only a couple months, the formerly rosy outlook for the Texas Rangers changes ever so slightly. Derek Holland is a good pitcher – which seems like damnation with faint praise but is not. Holland’s innings would be difficult for any team to replace, and Texas is no different. Holland’s injury moves Colby Lewis into the fifth slot on the Rangers’ depth chart, which is not something any contender should boast.

The chances that this sends Texas into a panicked frenzy are slim. Hard to see any team, let along the forward-thinking Rangers, suddenly upping their pursuit of Mashairo Tanaka because their number two starter will miss the start of the season.

It should demonstrate that quite literally anything can happen at any time, so chasing down Tanaka is in the best interests of all teams. Today’s healthy rotation is tomorrow’s freak injury (by way of dog chasing or amateur hockey playing) away from chaos and Colby Lewis.

There is never enough depth. Not for a team that only featured two 30-game starters last year. This freak injury to Holland should only remind Jon Daniels and the Rangers front office that their pursuit of more pitching is a good idea. It should not start them doing anything they hadn’t already undertaken.

Safe to say

Safe to say Stephen Strasburg was definitely all hype. He is NOT one of the best young pitchers in baseball. No sir, not even close. Goofy treatment by the Nationals aside, it is “safe to say” that Stephen Strasburg is one of the most electric pitchers around, The hype may have died down but Strasburg is still a legit ace who can strike out 16 guys any time he takes the mound.

So yes – all hype.

No Homers Club

Homer Bailey is going to be a very rich man at this time next year. The 28-year old Texan is sitting on a free agency gold mine, looking to cash in when he goes to market at the end of the season.

There was some discussion that the Reds might want to move Bailey, understanding his desire to test the market and take advantage of his big payday. There was also discussion that Bailey wants out of Cincinnatti, according to Ken Rosenthal.

Bailey is a good pitcher, posting two straight seasons with more than 200 innings pitched with numbers better than league average. Homer Bailey is working from a solid baseline while looking like the kind of pitcher who could get even better.

His stuff so good and he’s making better use of it than ever. His strikeout rate improved for three consecutive seasons, as did his ground ball rate and swinging strike rate. No-hitters aren’t predictive of much but they do showcase how dominant Bailey can be, an alluring mix for any GM with a rotation in need of a kickstart. This is a huge season for Bailey, as everything is trending the right way as free agency looms.

It is a big year for the Reds, too. A highly competitive club looking to extend its championship window faces multiple tough questions like what to do with Bailey. They could hold him and stay all-in for 2014, but they still have the Brandon Phillips mess to sort out and possess more question marks around the diamond their chief rivals for NL Central supremacy.

If they deal Phillips and Bailey, the Reds still have Joey Votto and Jay Bruce to build around. Billy Hamilton is a total wild card in center field. Ryan Ludick? Todd Frazier? More than a few spots up in the air – spots a nice return for Bailey might fill.

A player like Bailey represents a fine place for the Reds to use whatever financial heft to keep a good player in the mix. Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos could both become free agents the following season, leaving the Reds with a very thin rotation (lest one bursts fully formed from their pipeline). They won’t get a hometown discount but if he’s open to staying (and he, of course, tells Rosenthal he is) then maybe splashing the cash for Homer is a plan that they can make work?

Mat Latos might be the better long-term candidate (unless you’re afraid for his shoulder, which I get) but any team that gets Homer Bailey’s name on a contract should come away happy. An already solid mid-rotation starter that flashes brilliance and hints a putting it all together for a monster season? Those guys grow on trees, right? Where do I send my cards and letters to get him on my favorite team?