Alex Rodriguez plays high-stakes poker, but is he any good?

15 Comments

OK, so at this point we know that Alex Rodriguez regularly played poker, usually for a lot of money and with some shady people, but one thing I haven’t heard addressed is whether he’s actually any good. Until yesterday, that is.

I was watching a recent episode of NBC’s late-night show “Poker After Dark” on my DVR when the players at the $100,000 buy-in table began sharing their experiences playing in cash games with Rodriguez.

Their talking about him was purely a coincidence, since the episode was taped months before the various allegations surfaced this week, but I thought the discussion was interesting. You can watch the episode online, but here’s a transcript of the Rodriguez-related banter that occurred as part of some more general chatter about high-stakes mixed games:

Mike Matusow: I heard A-Rod was playing $50-$100 no-limit.

Jean-Robert Bellande: Yeah, we’ll add no-limit [to the mix] for the right guy.

Michael Mizrachi: Does he play mixed [games] or just no-limit?

Mike Matusow: No-limit.

Jean-Robert Bellande: We just play no-limit with him. And then we just switch right back to the mix as soon as he gets up [from the table].

Chris Ferguson: How does he play?

Jean-Robert Bellande: I thought he played fine. I wouldn’t say he plays great, I wouldn’t say he plays awful.

Michael Mizrachi: If he plays fine, that’s really good.

Roughly translated: Rodriguez plays strictly no-limit hold ’em, but the professional poker players are willing to abandon the other games in their usual “mix” to accommodate his action. So while Jean-Robert Bellande says “he played fine” the fact that high-stakes pros are willing to completely alter the games being played in order to keep him at the table tells you plenty about whether Rodriguez can hold his own or not. He’s the fish.

And there’s no shame in that. I’m pretty much obsessed with poker and would probably get my clock cleaned if I sat down at the table in question, with the main difference being that Rodriguez can actually afford to sit at a $50-$100 no-limit table and probably doesn’t mind dusting off $50,000 in the name of having a good time playing with the big boys. After all, he makes about $200,000 per day at his real job.

David Ortiz thinks the Yankees leaked his 2003 drug test results

Getty Images
4 Comments

David Ortiz was one of the hundred or so ballplayers who tested positive for PEDs during the 2003 survey testing which was designed to determine whether or not baseball’s drug problem was significant enough to warrant full-blown testing the following year.  His and everyone else’s name was supposed to remain confidential — indeed, the test results were supposed to be destroyed — but the government illegally seized them and, eventually, his, Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa’s names were leaked.

While most people have long moved on from those survey test results — and while Rob Manfred himself recently said that those results may not, in fact, establish that Ortiz took banned substances  — the story still sticks in Ortiz’s craw. So much so that he’s still out speculating about how his results were made public. His theory? The Yankees did it. From an interview on WEEI:

“What was the reason for them to come out with something like that?” he said. “The only thing that I can think of, to be honest with you, a lot of big guys from the Yankees were being caught. And no one from Boston. This was just something that leaked out of New York, and they had zero explanation about it.”

I’m gonna call B.S. on that.

At the time names were surfacing in connection with those test results, in the summer of 2009, I was given a list of players by an anonymous source. This person claimed it was a list of all 100+ players who tested positive in 2003. Given the nature in which they were provided to me and given that, at the time, there were a lot of people circulating hoax lists, I was dubious to say the least. I had a separate source at the time who knew people who had access to the actual list of players. The source would not tell me who was on the actual list — it was and continues to be confidential — but the knowledgable source did confirm for me that, as I suspected, my list was bunk. I obviously didn’t write anything about it and moved on.

Some added value from that conversation, however, was learning just how few people actually had access to the real list. A small handful of top officials at the union and the league office did, I was told, and obviously the government had it given that they seized it in their idiotic and illegal raid, but that was it. Clubs, I was specifically told, did not have the list.

We’ll never know for sure, but I strongly, strongly suspect that the source of the leak was either IRS/FDA agent Jeff Novitzky, who spearheaded the government’s investigation into PEDs or someone close to him, such as the prosecutors with whom he worked. Novitzky spent close to a decade outing and prosecuting athletes for PED use and, in my view and the view of many others who followed the story at the time, he saw his work as an almost holy crusade. As the above-linked story about the federal court smacking down his seizure of the 2003 test results as illegal, he was often overzealous.

The reporter who broke the story of David Ortiz’s positive test result was Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times. Schmidt almost always had the first stories about players being outed as PED users during that period and his reporting on steroids in baseball in general almost always carried with it a pro-government slant. As I said, we’ll never know for sure, but it seems obvious to me that federal investigators and prosecutors were his sources. I suspect they were his sources for the name-naming articles as well. When Ortiz’s name leaked, Novitzky’s investigation was on the brink of being smacked down hard by a federal court and, I suspect, he leaked Ortiz’s name to the New York Times as a means of putting a face on the story and getting public sentiment on the side of those who would name names.

Like I said, though, that’s all ancient history at this point. At least to most people. It’s not to David Ortiz, which is understandable given that the whole incident affected him personally. But I think he’s wrong on the Yankees being the ones to out him. I don’t think anyone with the Yankees knew who was actually on the list. And even if they did, they had no incentive to get into some sort of P.R. war about PED users given that they already at least one prominent superstar getting killed for PED use and a lot of other ones who could possibly have been on the list as well.

But the feds had the list. And a desire to have the bad guys they were trying to prosecute shamed in the public arena. I’d bet a decent sum of money that they’re the ones who leaked your name, Big Papi. I’d aim your rhetorical guns at them if I were you.

 

Buster Posey and Brandon Belt had an on-field tiff Saturday night

Getty Images
2 Comments

The Giants beat the Cardinals on Saturday night, but there was some grumpiness between a couple of Giants players all the same.

As Hank Shulman reports, late in the 13-inning game Fox TV cameras caught catcher Buster Posey yelling at first baseman Belt after Stephen Piscotty of the Cardinals stole second base. Then, after the final out, there was a brief, cold stare down between the teammates. The issue would appear to be Posey being upset with Belt for not holding Piscotty close at first base and then Belt being upset with Posey for calling him out in front of God and the fans and the TV cameras and everyone.

Neither Posey nor Belt would talk about it to reporters afterwards or on Sunday, saying the matter was between them and that they’d deal with it privately. Which is a smart move.

Of course, if Posey heeded that advice beforehand and took up his dissatisfaction with Belt in private, the reporters wouldn’t have even known about it in the first place.