Adrian Beltre hits three homers, clubs the Rangers past the Rays and into the ALCS

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Adrian Beltre hit three homers — all solo shots — to lead the Rangers past the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3.  That win makes three which puts the Rangers in the ALCS, making it there by beating the Rays in the division series for the second straight year.

For the Rays, the season ends six days after it was improbably extended. The high drama occasioned by their pursuit of the collapsing Red Sox offset by a division series that was anti-climactic in the extreme. The momentum, if you believe in such things, carried over into their Game 1 drubbing of the Rangers, but after taking a 3-0 lead in the fourth inning of game 2, they seemed to have no life left in them at all. Mike Napoli took care of them in that game and in Game 3, Beltre today.  Into the postseason with a bang, out with a whimper.

Notes:

  • Beltre was the sixth player to hit three homers in a postseason game.  Reggie Jackson, Adam Kennedy, um, some other guys, and then Beltre.  Points to whoever can name the other three.
  • Matt Harrison struck out nine in five innings. Can’t say he looked extremely dominant — it wasn’t as if he was really overpowering guys — but results is results. And strikeouts lead to big pitch counts, which is why he only went five.
  • Major kudos to Ron Washington and the Rangers front office. Last year there was a sense that Cliff Lee, Hired Gun, was everything. With Lee gone, Jon Daniels pushed a number of buttons, Nolan Ryan opened the purse strings a bit and Ron Washington made it all happen in a way that people, I don’t think, truly appreciate. Just a fantastic organization they got down in Texas.
  • Sean Rodriguez scored from second on a Casey Kotchman single in the fourth. To score he had to barrel into Mike Napoli who is, suffice it to say, is much, much bigger than Rodriguez. Napoli had the plate blocked so the collision was unavoidable, but Napoli took a forearm to the jaw and looked a bit dazed afterward. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s OK and ready to go for the ALCS.
  • Matt Moore relieved Jeremy Hellickson. Believe it or not, it was his home debut. He too gave up a homer to Beltre, but he was impressive all the same. I’ve never seen someone generate his velocity with such an easy, almost lazy delivery. The season is over, but this kid’s future is crazy-bright.
  • Evan Longoria went 1-for-11 with 6Ks in the three Texas wins.  Ouch.
  • It ended up not mattering, but Sean Rodriguez was allowed to score his third run of the game in the ninth when he walked, was allowed to reach second on defensive indifference and then scored on a Casey Kotchman single.  Why on Earth would the Rangers just ignore the runner in that situation? I’ve always hated that. That run didn’t need to score.
  • The attendance was 28,299, which wasn’t a sellout. It’s hard to sell out games at Tropicana Field to begin with, and a weekday 2PM start makes it harder, but that’s still kind of a bummer.

And with that, the Rangers play the waiting game. Do they face the Tigers following A.J. Burnett-pocalypse tonight, or does Burnett hold serve for the Yankees and force a Game 5?  Playoff baseball: it’s, like, totally awesome.

The Braves’ top minor league team to rename itself

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Whereas once it was expected that all sports teams would be named after ferocious animals, notable historic figures or events or something else otherwise inspiring, there has been a trend in the minor leagues over the past few years to give teams somewhat silly names.

The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. The Binghamton Rumble Ponies. The New Orleans Baby Cakes. The Down East Wood Ducks. Etc.

I suspect a lot of that is fueled by a desire to sell intentionally uncool merchandise to ironic hipsters. Some of it may simply be a function of branding and creating a team identity that will not, for a moment, cause the local nine to be confused with anyone else. Not that those things are mutually exclusive. Whatever the impulse, the trend will no doubt continue.

The next place we could see it: Gwinnett County Georgia, where the Atlanta Braves’ Triple-A team plays:

Gwinnett Braves general manager North Johnson announced a contest to rename the Triple-A team for the 2018 season and beyond.

Fans and members of the Gwinnett community can suggest new team names starting Monday through June 2. After all team name suggestions are submitted, a final round of voting on the top choices will last from June 19-July 3 on the Gwinnett Braves’ website.

Like all but one of its other affiliates, Gwinnett is named the Braves, just like the parent club. Being so close to Atlanta has caused it some identify problems, however, as one suburban Atlantan telling another that he’s “going to the Braves game” tomorrow could be confusing. Especially now that the major league team also plays in suburban Atlanta, about 35 miles apart. It makes sense.

So, go to the website, folks, and suggest a new name. The sillier the better. Basebally McBaseball Face? The Gwinnett Crackers?

 

David Ortiz thinks the Yankees leaked his 2003 drug test results

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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.