Let’s make sure our attacks on Sammy Sosa make sense

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Rick Morrissey of the Sun-Times is getting the jump on the 2013 Hall of Fame insanity, and is coming out strongly opposed to Sammy Sosa’s candidacy:

What’s that? You’d like to see solid evidence of past drug use on Sosa’s part? Well, there is the New York Times report that he tested positive for PEDs in 2003. And you might recall the way he conveniently forgot how to speak English during a 2005 congressional hearing about steroids in Major League Baseball. Through an interpreter, he said he never had used “illegal performance-enhancing drugs.’’

I’m kind of exhausted over all of the Hall of Fame stuff from the past few weeks so I’ll let most of this pass, but I really do get annoyed at the criticism of Sosa for using an interpreter and speaking his native language at the 2005 hearings.

I would never, ever, ever let a client of mine testify under oath, speak to law enforcement or to speak in any other context where legal jeopardy might attach in anything other than his native language.  It’s just way too dangerous. As we’ve seen with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, the real point of the various steroids hearings over the years was to create perjury traps. Perjury charges often turn on nuance, tense and the smallest interpretation of what the speaker is saying.  One tiny misstatement and you could be facing jail time. Why risk it?

Go after Sosa as a PED user if you believe that to be critical.  Heck, go after his merits as a ballplayer, which aren’t nearly as strong as a lot of people think even if you ignore the PEDs.  But really, don’t go after the guy for speaking his native language when he was subpoenaed to Congress. You’d do the same damn thing in his shoes. And if you say otherwise, you’re either lying or you’re unduly comfortable with taking risks with your freedom.

Joey Votto thinks he can win the Home Run Derby, but hasn’t been invited yet

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Despite having hit at least 20 home runs in eight of his 11 seasons in the majors, Reds first baseman Joey Votto has never participated in a Home Run Derby. Currently, he’s tied for the National League lead in home runs with 20, and he hasn’t been invited to this year’s festivities at Marlins Park.

In the event he is invited, Votto said he thinks he can win it, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto likened himself to Ichiro Suzuki, a player known more for his contact abilities and mastery of the strike zone than power. “Just think of me as the Canadian Ichiro — Japan has theirs and Canada has theirs,” Votto said. “I could pull homers into the seats at will.”

Along with the 20 homers, Votto is currently hitting .306/.419/.601 with 53 RBI, and 52 runs scored in 313 plate appearances.

Teammate Scott Schebler also has 20 home runs at the moment and Adam Duvall, who made it to the semifinals of the Derby last year, has 16. Neither of them have been approached about participating in the Derby, either. Per Rosecrans, in the event each was invited, Duvall said he would consider participating if he wasn’t an All-Star and Schebler would participate regardless. Votto said he would only participate if he made the All-Star team.

There was apparently some miscommunication between Pete Mackanin and Pat Neshek

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The Phillies won their first game since last Thursday, beating the Cardinals 5-1 on Thursday afternoon. Starter Aaron Nola pitched into the eighth inning, but left with one out. Pat Neshek took the mound with a runner on first base and induced an inning-ending double play on a 3-1 count to Tommy Pham.

Given that Neshek only threw five pitches and the Phillies were staked to a four-run lead, it wouldn’t have seemed unreasonable if the sidewinding right-hander came back out to finish the ninth inning as well. But Luis Garcia had that honor, tossing a scoreless final frame to nail down the win in a non-save situation.

After the game, manager Pete Mackanin said he asked Neshek to go back out for the ninth, but Neshek didn’t want to, per Stephen Gross of the Morning Call. Neshek told the media that Mackanin never asked him. There was also a miscommunication on Wednesday. The combination of Joaquin Benoit, Hector Neris, and Edubray Ramos combined to allow four runs in 2 1/3 innings, helping the Phillies lose 7-6. Neshek never appeared. According to Mackanin, Neshek told him that he wasn’t available to pitch. Neshek said he was told he’d have the day off.

The disconnect between Mackanin and Neshek could speak to a larger divide between the manager and his failing team. The Phillies have underwhelmed across the board due to players like Odubel Herrera (whose head was down and did not see Juan Samuel’s stop sign last night in what became a base running blunder), Maikel Franco, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Aaron Nola (today’s start notwithstanding), and Hector Neris not living up to expectations. The Phillies signed Mackanin to a contract extension last month, but the team has completely fallen apart since then and the latest communications issues certainly don’t reflect well on him. Neither does last night’s travesty of a game.

As for Neshek, he said that going to the Phillies was “the best thing that happened to me in a few years” but also realized, given the state of the team, that it remains very likely he winds up in a new uniform by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. After Thursday’s performance, Neshek is carrying a 0.63 ERA with a 25/4 K/BB ratio in 28 2/3 innings. He very well could be the Phillies’ lone representative at the All-Star Game in Miami next month. That is, if he’s still wearing their uniform. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Nationals have shown interest in Neshek.