Daily Dose: Nationals give up on Milledge

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Pittsburgh made a pair of trades to shake up the outfield Tuesday,
sending Eric Hinske to the Yankees for a pair of mid-level prospects
and then swapping Nyjer Morgan to the Nationals along with Sean Burnett
for Lastings Milledge and Joel Hanrahan. Morgan has emerged as a very
solid all-around player, offering elite defense and nice on-base
skills, but Andrew McCutchen made him expendable.

Morgan dramatically upgrades the Nationals’ outfield defense and
certainly has a good deal of value, but he’s also 29 years old with a
modest .286/.351/.376 mark in 157 career games. Milledge has far more
long-term upside even considering his various issues, but clearly
Washington had given up on him and Hanrahan as pieces of the puzzle
going forward.

Morgan was already playing every day in Pittsburgh, so the only big
change from the trade will be his moving back to the leadoff spot. That
should give him a little boost, but his basic value remains the same.
Hanrahan’s value dries up now that he has no chance for another crack
at closing duties and Burnett isn’t worthy of a fantasy roster spot in
any circumstances, leaving Milledge as the deal’s winner.

Demoted to Triple-A all of seven games into the season, he’s
currently rehabbing a broken finger and should get an extended shot in
the Pirates’ new-look outfield once healthy. Milledge has been a large
disappointment both on and off the field so far, but he’s still just 24
years old with a promising power-speed combo. If he can get on track
and live up to some of the hype, the Pirates will have done well.

While the Pirates likely look to trade Freddy Sanchez and Jack Wilson next, here are some other notes from around baseball …

* Carlos Beltran received good news Tuesday as the second opinion on
his knee injury confirmed the initial diagnosis of a bone bruise. He’s
been advised to rest through the All-Star break, which while longer
than the original return timetable is better than possible year-ending
and perhaps career-threatening microfracture surgery. Fernando Martinez
and Jeremy Reed have been splitting full-in duties.

* Mike Lowell would have been unavailable for as long as week after
receiving a lubrication injection in his surgically repaired right hip,
so the Red Sox decided to place him on the disabled list Tuesday. He’s
expected to return once the 15-day stint is finished, but in the
meantime Kevin Youkilis started at third base Tuesday as call-up Jeff
Bailey went 3-for-4 with a walk while playing at first base.

AL Quick Hits: Josh Hamilton (abdomen) reportedly could come off
the disabled list as soon as this weekend … As expected, Josh Outman
underwent Tommy John elbow surgery Tuesday and will be sidelined until
at least mid-2010 … Erik Bedard (shoulder) has been penciled in to come
off the DL for Saturday’s game against Boston … Adam Jones left
Tuesday’s game with shoulder and neck pain after crashing into the
outfield wall … Scott Downs threw off a mound Tuesday for the first
time since spraining his toe two weeks ago … Ervin Santana (triceps)
threw a bullpen session Tuesday and is expected to rejoin the rotation
at some point this weekend … Adrian Beltre opted to go under the knife
Tuesday and will miss 6-8 weeks following shoulder surgery … Matt Garza
tossed seven innings of one-run ball Tuesday for the Rays’ seventh
straight win … Justin Duchscherer (elbow) has finally been cleared to
begin a throwing program.

NL Quick Hits: Jimmy Rollins went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts in
his return to the lineup Tuesday and is now hitless in 24 at-bats …
Albert Pujols had his seventh multi-homer game of the year Tuesday,
extending his MLB lead to 30 … Edinson Volquez (elbow) has been cleared
to begin a throwing program … David Wright homered Tuesday for the
first time in 78 at-bats … Bronson Arroyo allowed six runs Tuesday,
serving up his MLB-high 19th and 20th homers … Colby Ramus is available
to pinch-hit despite being diagnosed with a hiatal hernia that he
blamed on “heavy late-night eating” … Martin Prado went 4-for-5 and
drove in four runs Tuesday, including a walk-off single in the 10th
inning … Yunel Escobar (hip) and Nate McClouth (hamstring) were
scratched from the lineup Tuesday … Chad Tracy came off the disabled
list Tuesday after missing 27 games with an oblique injury … Ross
Ohlendorf tossed seven scoreless innings with a career-high eight
strikeouts Tuesday … Dan Haren allowed just one run and hit a homer
Tuesday.

Columnist calls for Sammy Sosa to “come clean.” He probably shouldn’t.

15 Sep 1998:  A silhouette portrait of Sammy Sosa #21of the Chicago Cubs taken in the dug-out as he looks across the field during the game against the San Diego Padres at Qualcomm Park in San Diego, California. The Cubs defeated the Padres 4-2
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Yesterday Sammy Sosa — quite ridiculously — compared himself to Jesus Christ. The idea: he has suffered greatly since retirement, having been shunned by the Cubs and disparaged by the baseball establishment and . . . well, I don’t know how that makes him Jesus, but forget it, he’s rolling.

Today, predictably, a Chicago columnist does what columnists have been doing for years with respect to guys suspected of PED use: argues that Sosa should “come clean” if he wants to come in from the cold. Here’s David Haugh of the Tribune:

The game welcomed back Barry Bonds and McGwire from steroid exile after both separately acknowledged their involvement with performance-enhancing drugs. Fox Sports employs Alex Rodriguez, who admitted to PED use during his career. The door back to baseball is open for Sosa, but only if he follows the same path his contemporaries from the steroid era did. The Cubs have made this clear to Sosa, in no uncertain terms, yet he continues to paint himself as the victim.

This is not accurate. Bonds has never “come clean” about his PED use. He was in litigation over it until 2015 and wasn’t giving any confessionals about it. When the Marlins hired him he said nothing. He made allusions to being “an idiot” in an interview last summer, but that was clearly focused on his cagey attitude, not his drug use. There was no deal with the Marlins that his job was prefaced on his “coming clean,” and he never did.

The same can be said for McGwire. Big Mac was hired by the Cardinals as a hitting coach on October 26, 2009. His acknowledgment of PED use came months later, just before spring training in January 2010. While it may be plausible that the Cardinals told McGwire that they would not hire him absent a confession of PED use, that’s not how it tracked in real time. At his hiring, John Mozeliak and Bill DeWitt each said there was no set blueprint for how McGwire would proceed as far as his public statements went and they allowed him to control the timeline. His confession seemed to be very much a function of heading off spring training distractions and questions from the press which would have access to him everyday, not some precondition of his employment.

But even if we grant the apparently erroneous premise that Bonds and McGwire “came clean” to return to baseball’s good graces, such a road map is of no use to Sosa. He’s not looking to coach or, as far as we know, even be employed by a club. If the study we talked about four years ago remains accurate, coming clean about PED use makes an athlete look worse in the eyes of the public than those who deny. Ask David Ortiz how that works. It likewise will do nothing for his Hall of Fame vote totals. Ask McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro how that works.

Sosa may be engaging in some unfortunate hyperbole, but as far as can be determined, he’s not asking for a whole hell of a lot. He’s not asking for a coaching job or to have his number retired or for them to rename Wrigley Field after him. He’s asking to be acknowledged as a part of Cubs history. He’s asking for the same kind of treatment other retired greats receive from time to time. A first pitch? A public appearance or two? Some minor role as a team ambassador? The bar for that isn’t very high.

The Cubs, who benefited greatly from Sosa’s production — and, necessarily, by whatever juicing Sosa did to achieve it — aren’t being asked to do much. Just to be decent to a person who is an important part of their history. That should not require that Sosa give a weepy interview about steroids which will serve no one’s purpose but the tut-tutting media. A media which, if McGwire’s example is any guide, will still slam Sosa if he comes clean and claim that his confession wasn’t good enough and his contrition wasn’t genuine. If he does confess, bank on that reaction. Bet the mortgage on it.

All of which makes me wonder if it’s the media, and not the Cubs who are the ones who really want to see such a thing.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.