The Week Ahead: Manny hits Big Apple

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Manny Ramirez’s return from a 50-game suspension this past week was met
with a mixed reaction, helped no doubt by the games being played in
“Mannywood South”, also known as San Diego’s PETCO Park.

But this week, Manny and the Dodgers head to New York for a
three-game series against the Mets beginning Tuesday. Will Ramirez’s
reception be any different? Will the boo birds come out in force, or
will it be more of the rainbows and puppy dogs we saw in San Diego?

Ramirez’s reception so far has been fascinating to watch, a mix of boos and cheers, with the booing seemingly half-hearted. (Video, here)

Can you imagine Barry Bonds receiving that kind of treatment anywhere outside of San Francisco?

Stephanie Armijo, 27, fell into the category of indecisive fans who
don’t hold an opinion concerning Ramirez. She brought along three
friends, all San Diego residents, and made creative signs in the hopes
of finding tickets to Friday’s sold-out game.

“Baseball is entertainment,” she said. “Manny is just being Manny.”

Ahhh! Manny being Manny. I guess that’s the difference. Very few
ever found “Barry being Barry” to be particularly charming. But if you
wear dreadlocks, smile a lot and appear to float through life on a
childlike cloud of indifference, they cut you some slack.

It will be interesting to see if New Yorkers treat Manny any
differently. It seems to me he deserves at least as much scorn as Bonds
received. For all his faults, at least Bonds never failed a drug test,
as Ramirez did. At least Bonds was never suspended by baseball, as
Ramirez was.

But Manny wasn’t caught with a steroid, you say? It was only a female fertility drug?

My answer then, is this: Why was this substance banned by baseball
in May of 2008? Why are they testing for it? Why, if you are caught
with it, does it result in a 50-game suspension?

The N.Y. Daily News sheds some light on these questions:

While it’s not technically a steroid (a point Ramirez strove to make
early on) hCG is well-known to bodybuilders, who use it as an adjunct
to their testosterone regimens, according to experts interviewed by the
Daily News.

“Every steroid dealer carries hCG because he knows his customers
will use it,” says Anthony Roberts, a trainer, blogger and steroid
expert who has written two anabolic reference books. “That indicates he
was a longtime user and that he knew what he was doing. The fact that
he was using hCG is as damning as a positive drug test to me.”

Manny being Manny? Not so charming now is it?

More after the jump …

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH

**Rangers at Angels, July 6-8: The Rangers enter the week
on a four-game winning streak, while the Angels have won their last
two. Oh, and they’re tied atop the AL West. The Rangers took two of
three from the Angels last week.

**Giants at Marlins, July 6-8: Two surprising second-place
teams go at it in Miami. The Giants have managed just enough offense to
back a great pitching staff, while the Marlins have been boosted by the
return to form of starter Ricky Nolasco, who struck out 12 in eight
scoreless innings on Sunday.

**Cardinals at Brewers, July 7-9: The top two teams in the
NL Central battle this week, although no one seems able to run away
from this division. Even the last-place Pirates are only seven games
out of first.

**Dodgers at Brewers, July 10-12: After Manny braves New York, he and the Dodgers head to Milwaukee. Should be a welcome reprieve … or will it be?

**Yankees at Angels, July 10-12: The red-hot Yankees enter
the week having won nine of their last 10. After a series against
Toronto, they head to Anaheim. Should be a good test.

ON THE TUBE
Monday, 7:05 p.m. ET: Braves at Cubs (ESPN)
Wednesday, 7:10 p.m.: Dodgers at Mets (ESPN)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Yankees at Angels (FOX)
*Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Cardinals at Cubs (FOX)
Sunday, 2 p.m.: Dodgers at Brewers (TBS)
Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Cardinals at Cubs (ESPN)
*Check local listings

Drew Smyly brings youth and experience to Mariners rotation

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PEORIA, Ariz. (AP) Trades don’t surprise Drew Smyly anymore.

At age 27, the Seattle Mariners left-hander has been dealt twice. The first swap sent him from the team that drafted and developed Smyly, the Detroit Tigers, to the Tampa Bay Rays in midseason 2014. That trade landed star pitcher David Price in Detroit.

“I was surprised by that one,” Smyly said.

The most recent trade involving him came in January, when the Rays shipped Smyly to Seattle for three prospects in one of many moves by Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto. Smyly immediately joined the Mariners’ projected starting rotation, and is having fun getting to know his new teammates at spring training by way of manager Scott Servais’ clubhouse icebreakers.

Servais thinks Smyly is a solid fit as a still young yet experienced pitcher.

“One, being where he’s at in his career age-wise and service time, he’s kind of at the point where, put him in the right environment … very good defensive outfield, he’s a fly ball guy, maybe he does step up and take the next step,” Servais said. “Getting out of the American League East certainly should help him, but there’s no guarantees. Our division’s pretty tough.”

Servais suggested that another Arkansas native, ex-big leaguer Cliff Lee, might have helped sell Seattle on Smyly. Lee is a former Mariner and the two share an agent.

Smyly went 7-12 in a career-high 30 starts last season in Tampa, but won five games from July 30 to the end of the season after starting out 2-11. From May 21 to July 18, he lost seven straight starts.

“Pitching’s tough, you know,” Smyly said. “To manipulate the ball, to make it do different things, to put it in the strike zone with hitters that know what they’re doing. … I just had a rough stretch but I show up at the field every day, play catch and work on my craft and you know, that’s going to turn around one day.”

The 32 home runs Smyly surrendered in 2016 figure to be reduced in Seattle’s pitcher-friendly Safeco Field.

“It can only help,” he said. “But it’s still going to be up to me to execute pitches and pitch well.”

Smyly is set to join the U.S. World Baseball Classic team shortly. Before that, he’ll make his first spring training start in the middle of next week.

“It’s an honor to be able to put your country on your chest and play with some of the guys on that team,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it big time.”

NOTES: Servais plans to roll out what figures to be Seattle’s opening day lineup in the spring training opener Saturday against San Diego. It’s OF Jarrod Dyson, SS Jean Segura, 2B Robinson Cano, DH Nelson Cruz, 3B Kyle Seager, OF Mitch Haniger, 1B Dan Vogelbach, C Mike Zunino and OF Leonys Martin. … Servais said Cano and Cruz will play a little more than is typical for early spring games, as the two will depart for the World Baseball Classic in early March. … LHP Ariel Miranda will start Saturday, then RHP Chris Heston Sunday, RHP Yovani Gallardo on Monday and ace Felix Hernandez on Tuesday.

Mitt Romney’s sons are trying to buy a stake in the Yankees

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 30:  Tagg Romney son of Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gives an interview during the final day of the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 30, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate during the RNC which will conclude today.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Mitt Romney built his professional life in Massachusetts and was once the governor of the state. As such, it is not surprising that he has long identified as a Red Sox fan. So this has to be troubling to him from a fan’s perspective. From Jon Heyman:

The Romney family is bidding to buy a small stake in the Yankees months after their try for the Marlins stalled. If the deal goes through, it is expected to be $25 million to $30 million per percentage point and thought to be interested in one or two percentage points. The Yankees are valued around $3 billion or more.

The effort is being led by Mitt’s son Tagg, one of his brothers and their business partners. Mitt’s spokesman tells Jon Heyman that he has nothing to do with it personally. Tagg Romney is reported to have been planning a bid for controlling interest in the Marlins, but that has fallen through.

I find this interesting insofar as the M.O. for the Steinbrenners has, for years, been to buy out minority shareholders in the Yankees, not seek more. Indeed, when George Steinbrenner bought the Yankees back in 1973 he held just a bare controlling interest and there were a ton of silent partners, most of which were back in Ohio and knew Steinbrenner from his shipping business. I’ve personally gotten to know some of them over the years as there are a handful of them in Columbus and I crossed paths with them in my legal career. They have almost all been bought out in the past couple of decades. They still get season tickets and World Series rings and stuff. You can tell them by their personalized Yankees plates and the fact that, within the first ten minutes of meeting them, they will tell you that they once owned a piece of the Yankees but got pushed out.

In light of all of that it’s interesting that the Steinbrenners are once again accepting bids for small stakes in the team. Especially from someone whose interest in controlling the Marlins suggests that they do not consider it to be a mere vanity investment. Makes me wonder what the Steinbrenners’ long term plans are.