December 6, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Wednesday, August 07, 2013
Monday, Commissioner Bud Selig proposed suspension of Alex Rodriguez for 211 games, or the remainder of the 2013 season and all of the 2014 season for multiple allegations of misconduct. The reason I say "proposed suspension," rather than "suspended," is because under the Joint Drug Agreement (JDA) between MLB and the Major League Players Association, the suspension doesn’t begin until three days after it is announced. ARod's appeal stays implementation of the discipline until the arbitrator's award is issued.
Selig’s announcement stated:
Rodriguez's discipline under the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program is based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including Testosterone and human Growth Hormone, over the course of multiple years. Rodriguez's discipline under the Basic Agreement is for attempting to cover-up his violations of the Program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to obstruct and frustrate the Office of the Commissioner's investigation.
As Wendy Thurm wrote on FanGraphs Monday, “we don’t know how he reached 211 games.” What we do know, as I’ve written before, is that MLB bears the burden of proof that the misconduct occurred and that the discipline is reasonable and appropriate for that misconduct, both by a preponderance of the evidence. If the penalty is already contained in the CBA, MLB only has to prove the charged misconduct took place, but several provisions provide for a range of suspensions or no fixed period.
Therefore, where the charges are proven or admitted, the arbitrator must follow the JDA’s outlined penalties. Where there are no specific penalties, MLB must prove that the penalty is appropriate for the misconduct and the arbitrator has the authority to mitigate that penalty.
While some have complained that the JDA is not clear enough regarding penalties, it is quite uncommon for employers and unions to agree to a table of penalties in advance. While employers usually have decision rules and guidelines for penalties for certain offenses to guarantee some degree of consistency, those are unilateral systems. Often, unions still argue for mitigation at arbitration based upon a host of other factors even if the penalties are consistent.
In the current case, MLB is charging A-Rod under the "use and possession" provisions in Section 7(A) of the JDA. That provision carries a 50-game suspension for first-time violations, 100 games for second offenses, and a lifetime ban for third offenses. It does not distinguish between the analytic and non-analytic violations that some writers seem to be dwelling upon still. Except for the difference in how MLB must prove use or possession, there is no difference under the JDA.
While MLB cites “numerous forms… over multiple years,” this is the first time MLB has charged A-Rod with a violation of the JDA. All the other players involved in the Biogenesis investigation, save Ryan Braun, were presumably suspended solely relying on this same provision and elected not to challenge it. Similarly, Bartolo Colon and Melky Cabrera, among others, have accepted 50-game suspensions in the past without appealing to arbitration when they have tested positive.
Based upon a host of statements, including union executive director Michael Weiner’s comments on Chris Russo’s radio show, it is unlikely that the union will dispute a first-offense use charge.
It is a well-established and generally accepted concept in disciplinary arbitration that penalties for similar conduct must be exercised in a consistent manner. While MLB bears the burden of proving the use or possession, depending on how the 211 games are allocated among the charges, A-Rod could assert an affirmative defense of discrimination. If he raises that defense, he bears the burden of proof that he was treated differently and that his situation was substantially similar to the other players who received 50-game suspensions. Perhaps MLB is citing multiple substances over multiple years because it intends to charge him with a second separate offense, requiring 100 games.
As I wrote before, A-Rod’s past history of non-positive tests is exculpatory evidence. While blood testing for Human Growth Hormone is new in the JDA, testosterone has been included for some time. In fact, it’s exactly what several of the previously suspended players tested positive for. And, it’s what Braun tested positive for in the case of his overturned suspension.
If MLB is pursuing a second-time violation for “use or possession” it will have a hard time justifying anything more than the first-offense 50-games to the arbitrator without significant separately obtained evidence from a whole different time period.
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Pirates 4, Marlins 3: A walkoff homer for Josh Harrison -- the utility infielder if you didn't know -- gave this one to Pittsburgh, as the Pirates show no inclination to give up first place. Andrew McCutchen had a fantastic diving catch to save at least one run in the seventh when the game was tied and the Marlins were threatening. My anticipation to go see this team play a week from Saturday is at about an 11 on a 10-point scale.
Braves 2, Nationals 1: The 12th straight win for Atlanta; the Braves are tied with the Red Sox for the most wins in baseball. Costly, though, as the recently-hot Jason Heyward left in the first inning with a neck strain. Also: there was attempted fisticuffsmanship when Julio Teheran plunked Bryce Harper. The Braves said it wasn't on purpose, but Harper had hit a home run the at-bat before, so hmmm. Still, given the lack of overall threat the Nats represent these days, the Braves should no more be throwing at them than they should throwing at their mamas.
Tigers 5, Indians 1: Ten in a row for the Tigers as Verlander beats Masterson in the Battle of the Justins. A gimpy Miguel Cabrera broke the 100-RBI barrier and the Indians are revealing themselves to not be much of a direct threat to Detroit. If the Tigers sweep this series and give themselves a nice cushion, they should maybe consider DL-ing Cabrera -- or at least resting him a ton -- so that he's not so gimpy come playoff times.
Phillies 9, Cubs 8: Darin Ruf played right field for the first time ever but it was his bat that helped out the most. He homered and doubled and extended his streak of games in which he has reached base to 33, which is the longest in the majors at the moment and longest Phillies streak since 2009. His move to right field likely spells the end of Delmon Young's time in Philly. Chase Utley had three hits.
White Sox 3, Yankees 2: Chris Sale outduels Hiroki Kuroda in the Battle of the Lone Bright Spots. If you care, A-Rod went 1 for 2 with a walk.
Twins 7, Royals 0: Andrew Albers makes his major league debut and all he does is pitch eight and a third shutout innings, allowing only four hits. In other news, it was very considerate of the Twins and Royals to trade embarrassing losses like this.
Reds 3, Athletics 1: The A's have lost five of six and the offense is sputtering. The Reds needed to face a team like that given how things have been going for them. Here Mat Latos struggled with his stuff, but it didn't matter as he still threw seven and a third shutout innings. Jay Bruce homered and had a nice running catch.
Red Sox 15, Astros 10: The Bosox were down 5-0 after two innings, thanks in part to four -- four! -- passed balls from Ryan Lavarnway, who was trying to catch knuckler Steven Wright. But just when John Farrell was about to call Doug Mirabelli, Wright came out of the game and the Sox' bats came alive. Including Lavarnway's, who had a two-run double in a five-run fifth inning which ended up being the turning point. This was Boston's 69th win. The Sox had 69 wins all of last season.
Mets 3, Rockies 2: The Eric Young Jr. show, as he made a fantastic diving catch to save runs and then later scored from second on an infield single. Wheels, baby. Wheels.
Rangers 8, Angels 3: The Rangers pull to within one of the A's. Eight runs without the benefit of an extra base hit. Struggling to think of the last small ball Rangers team. Failing.
Cardinals 5, Dodgers 1: And thus endeth the Dodgers' road wins streak. Carlos Beltran and Matt Adams homered in the eighth off Brandon League and the Cardinals bullpen pitched three and two thirds scoreless innings to back up Joe Kelly.
Blue Jays 7, Mariners 2: Toronto's bats didn't hail to the King: Hernandez is touched for six runs -- three earned -- in five innings. Jose Reyes homered on the first pitch of the game and added an RBI single.
Diamondbacks 6, Rays 1: Wade Miley allowed five hits in seven one-run innings. Cody Ross hit a three-run homer off Jeremy Hellickson. Ross is 14 for his last 31.
Orioles 4, Padres 1: Adam Jones must love the San Diego home cooking. He had four hits including a homer and scored twice in front of a crowd that skewed Baltimorian (Baltimorite? Baltimorish?) despite the game being at Petco.
Brewers 3, Giants 1: The Giants offense continues to sputter despite a nice outing from Matt Cain. This is not a repeat from every season apart from 2012.
My "Currently historic" column has spent much of the season tracking players with a serious tendency toward the strikeout. All this whiffing got me wondering what a team would look like if you took the highest strikeout season from a position and put those players in a lineup. I wondered if this team would be any good or would most of the players have crossed the threshold over which they are simply not making contact often enough to be productive?
I've done my best to also place them in some sort of logical batting order based on their various abilities. So, here you go. The all strikeout team.
1. RF, Bobby Bonds, 1970, 189 Ks, 26 HRs, 5.5 WAR: Bonds' speed makes him our leadoff man. Many of the players in our lineup get on base at a fair clip, but Bonds has that little something extra. His 5.5 WAR also make him easily the team MVP, as you'll soon see.
2. LF, Jack Cust, 2008, 197 Ks, 33 HRs, 1.8 WAR: Cust was a good hitter and seems like a fair choice for the two-slot. He did spend a lot of 2008 at DH, but a slim majority of his time was in the outfield.
3. 1B, Ryan Howard, 2007, 199 Ks, 47 HR, 3.2 WAR: Either Howard or Bonds qualifies as the best hitter on the team (it's close). We've already used Bonds, so we'll give Howard the coveted third spot in the order.
4. 3B, Mark Reynolds, 2009, 223 Ks, 44 HR, 3.2 WAR: To this point in his career, Reynolds has had four truly full seasons and in them, he has posted the four highest strikeout totals for a third baseman. His 2009 season represents the all-time record for all players. It his also his best season to date; his 3.2 WAR nearly doubles his output in his next best season.
5. SS, Jose Hernandez, 2002, 188 Ks, 24 HR, 4.7 WAR: Hernandez gives Bonds the only real competition for team MVP as he provided some defensive skills to go along with his very solid offensive season that is aided y a career high .404 BABIP.
6. DH, Adam Dunn, 2012, 222 Ks, 41 HR, 1.8 WAR: Dunn made a run at the all-time record last year, and he would have had it if not for a late season injury that cost him a few games. For much of the season he was on pace to crush the record, but he fell just short.
7. C, Gary Alexander, 1978, 166 Ks, 27 HR, 1.8 WAR: Color me surprised. I had never heard of Gary Alexander until I started researching this little piece. He split his career between San Francisco and Cleveland (with a 21-game stint with Pittsburgh at the end) and this was the year he was traded from one to the other. It was also his only year as a full time player. In 1978, Alexander played in 147 games, 67 at catcher. He also saw time at first, in the outfield, and at DH. He had a brief career and finished with only 0.8 WAR total.
8. 2B, Danny Espinosa, 2012, 189 Ks, 17 HR, 3.4 WAR: One of the better players on our team, much of Espinosa's value comes from his glove.
9. CF, Drew Stubbs, 2011, 205 Ks, 15 HR, 2.1 WAR: Defense saved Stubbs in what was a dismal offensive season. Since a real breakout in 2010, his career has gone quickly down hill.
So what do you think? My team has 1,778 strikeouts, which is an average of 197.5. Given than none of these players played every game, I'm sure the bench could bring us up to an even 1,800 at least. There are also, obviously, a ton of home runs on this team, and some very good seasons from good players. I think this lineup would go .500 with an average pitching staff, but who knows, really. Mostly, it was sun just to look.