Unfounded rumors only add to Joey Votto's burden

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When I saw the story, I almost decided to ignore it. Better to pretend
it wasn’t there than to give it any credence. But then I figured
something needed to be said.

In case you didn’t know, there have been rumors floating around
regarding Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto’s trip to the
disabled list. Before returning to action tonight, Votto had been out with what was officially termed “an undisclosed stress-related issue.”

It’s a lame, mysterious description, for sure. And whenever we are
confronted with lame, mysterious information, what do we do? We become
a sewing circle, or a bunch of old dudes in a barber shop. We gossip.
We speculate. By we, I mean all of us. Fans, writers, journalists,
bloggers. Everyone.

The speculation got personal. The innuendo invasive. The word on the message board/blogosphere was that Votto is gay.

No proof. Just some twisted logic: Votto + stress = gay baseball player. To which I say two things:

1. No one should believe such words unless Joey Votto utters them himself.

2. Even if he does, who cares? Does it matter in the least?

If a gay athlete wants to come out of the closet, let him do so —
on his own. He should never be forced to come forth simply to answer
rumors.

And a straight athlete shouldn’t be put in a position where he feels the need to say “I’m not gay … not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

Because there isn’t anything wrong with it. But it’s personal. And it’s nobody’s business.

As writer Jeff Pearlman, a man far more eloquent than myself, put it …

A ballplayer should come out because it’s important for America to
see that gay does not mean weird or freaky or diseased. But nobody
needs to be forced out via rumor and innuendo. It’s not fair and it’s
not righteous.

I can only hope that Votto didn’t feel the need to answer the rumors when he came forth on Tuesday with incredibly personal details about his absence.

Votto said that he has struggled dealing with the death of his father
in August. He was distracted by baseball, but when he went on the DL in
May with an upper respiratory infection, he became overwhelmed, and the
emotions of his loss came crashing down. He struggled with depression,
anxiety and panic attacks. He saw doctors. He called 911 in the middle
of the night for a trip to the hospital. Finally, he couldn’t take it
anymore.

“It finally seeped its way into the game. I just had to put an end
to it. I really couldn’t be out there. It’s difficult to explain what I
was going through. I couldn’t do it. I physically couldn’t do my job.
That’s what I’ve gone through.

Votto spoke of his love for his father, and the stress of being the
oldest son and feeling as though he was now responsible for his family.
He said the pressure was so great, he felt like he “was going to die.”

It would be a terrible ordeal for anyone to deal with, let alone a public figure, a man who lives in the spotlight.

There is no need for any of us to add to it.

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.