Alex Rodriguez

If Alex Rodriguez cheated, it was just to help the Yankees win

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Maybe it’s just me, but I see a great deal of irony in the idea that Alex Rodriguez, years after all of the allegations and admissions, with hundreds of millions of dollars already earned, was still trying to cheat in 2012.

What, pray tell,  did Rodriguez have to gain by cheating, nine years after he said he stopped. Fame? I imagine he already had more than he’d like. Money? He does have $30 million possibly coming to him if he sets home run records. That’s essentially equal to one year’s extra salary for a guy who has already taken home about $300 million. The admiration of an adoring American populace? Fat chance.

I’m not writing to defend Alex Rodriguez. I abhor the act of cheating. I understand it, though. I’d be very tempted to do it myself if millions of dollars were at stake, as would so many others who are quick to condemn. For that reason, I’m pretty rational about the cheaters themselves.

But if we believe A-Rod’s first story, he never cheated until after he got his huge, $252 million contract from the Rangers. I don’t necessarily buy that, especially in light of today’s news, but obviously, he didn’t stop once he got his cash, as someone who was simply in it for the money might have done.

So, what is this all about, if not money? In my opinion, it’s about winning. Alex Rodriguez, for whatever faults he may have, has always desperately wanted to win. Sometimes it’s caused him to try too hard. I’m mostly referring to some postseason struggles in saying that, but it could also be applied to injecting powerful and potentially harmful substances into his body. A-Rod wants to win. And he wants to be liked, by teammates and fans both, which is another obvious product of winning.

Here we were in 2010, 2011, 2012. Rodriguez is signed through 2017. Nothing he did those seasons was going to affect his next contract. He’s making $30 million per year. He’s already admitted to steroid use early in his career, which would seem to make it imperative that he never again be caught with such substances if he wanted any chance of getting into the Hall of Fame when the time came.

And, yet, he put it all into jeopardy, according to today’s account in the Miami New Times.

In my eyes, whatever Rodriguez personally had to gain by using steroids was dwarfed by what he could lose by continuing to cheat. The potential voiding of his contract. Alienating the fans who had forgiven him. Endorsements. The rain of boos in every stadium he plays in going forward. What is that against an extra year’s salary?

Maybe I don’t know. I’m not a professional athlete, much less one of the greatest to ever play the game. I don’t have any real insight into what’s going on in Rodriguez’s head. In my head, it’s simply mind-blowing that Rodriguez would continue to cheat after everything that’s happened. That’s the main reason I have some doubts about today’s news; not the report itself but that Dr. Bosch was treating the actual Rodriguez and not some A-Rod he made up on paper.

Because this Rodriguez seemed to have so very much more to lose than to gain by cheating. If he did it anyway, wasn’t it all in the name of making the Yankees better? More wins, more championships, more love. I don’t see what else it could have been about.

Tony Clark is not happy so many players remain unsigned

ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 18-19 - This Jan. 15, 2014 photo showing new baseball union head Tony Clark during an interview at the organization's headquarters, in New York. Clark has big shoes to fill _ and not just as Michael Weiner's replacement as head of the baseball players' union. Moving from Arizona to New Jersey, the former big league All-Star also needed to find size 15 snowshoes.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
AP Photo/Richard Drew
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We’re almost halfway through February. Pitchers and catchers report to spring training soon. And yet, there are more than a handful of solid free agents that remain unsigned. Among them: Yovani Gallardo, Ian Desmond, and Dexter Fowler. All three have draft pick compensation tied to them, as each rejected a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from his respective former team. That, undoubtedly, is a reason why they haven’t inked a contract yet.

MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark is unhappy about this reality and expects to discuss potential changes when the next collective bargaining agreement is negotiated. The current CBA expires after the 2016 season. Per the Associated Press, Clark said last week, “I think it’s disappointing when there are as many talented players still without a home. I don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interest to be in a world where very talented players are at home for whatever reason they are there. It will likely be a part of the conversation in bargaining.”

Clark also mentioned, among other things, the possibility of a draft lottery, which would take away the incentive for teams to “tank”, or lose on purpose. The Astros and Phillies have notably done this in recent years, finishing with baseball’s worst record and thus netting the #1 overall draft pick.

These are, however, simply two items of many that will be discussed during the upcoming offseason. It will be interesting to see what solutions are eventually put in place.

Michael Pineda hopes to reach 200-inning mark for first time

New York Yankees' Michael Pineda delivers a pitch during the third inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
AP Photo/Adam Hunger
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It was reported on Friday that Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka isn’t sure if he’ll be ready for Opening Day as he makes his way back from arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. His health will be crucial to the Yankees’ chances this season, but the same goes for rotation-mate Michael Pineda, who hopes that this is the year he’ll be able to take on the workload of a frontline starter.

Pineda was on pace for a career-high in innings last season, but he landed on the disabled list in late July with a right flexor forearm muscle strain and missed a month. He struggled upon his return and ended up with 160 2/3 innings, so he fell short of his career-high of 171 innings as a rookie with the Mariners way back in 2011. Now going into his age-27 season, Pineda told Bryan Hoch of MLB.com that his goal for 2016 is to reach 200 innings for the first time in his career.

“For me, this year, I’m coming here early to be strong and working hard to pitch 200 innings this year,” Pineda said at the club’s Minor League complex. “I want to throw 200 innings this year. This is my goal, and help my team.”

Pineda had a mediocre 4.37 ERA (90 ERA+) last season despite impressive peripherals with 8.7 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9. Among pitchers with at least 160 innings pitched, only Bartolo Colon of the Mets had a lower walk percentage. Pineda managed to increase his ground ball rate to 48.2 percent and also saw an uptick in velocity from 2014, so there’s reason to believe in improvement if he can stay healthy.

Brewers GM: Acquiring Jacob Nottingham doesn’t change Jonathan Lucroy’s status

Jonathan Lucroy
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
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The Brewers acquired prospects Jake Nottingham and Bubba Derby from the Athletics on Friday in exchange for slugging outfielder Khris Davis. The hope is that Nottingham will develop into the Brewers’ catcher of the future, so you could say that the club is planning for life after Jonathan Lucroy. However, Brewers general manager David Stearns said today that the trade doesn’t change Lucroy’s immediate status.

The Brewers are in rebuild-mode and Lucroy is an excellent trade chip if healthy, as his contract includes a $5.25 million club option for 2017. It’s likely just a matter of time before he’s shipped elsewhere, but yesterday’s trade shouldn’t change the timeline for a potential deal. Nottingham doesn’t turn 21 until April and has yet to play in Double-A, so he’s still a ways off from the majors. The Brewers can afford to wait on the right offer for Lucroy, whether it’s in spring training or at the trade deadline or perhaps later.

Checking in at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, Nottingham batted .316/.372/.505 with 17 home runs over 109 games last season between Class A and High-A. He was traded from the Astros to the Athletics as part of the Scott Kazmir deal last July. It’s worth noting that Stearns was the assistant GM for Houston when Nottingham was drafted in the sixth round back in 2013, so he’s clearly a fan.

Joe Panik says he’s “100 percent” recovered from back injury

San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik follows through on a single off Colorado Rockies relief pitcher Scott Oberg in the eighth inning of Game 1 of a baseball doubleheader Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Denver. The Giants won 10-8. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Giants second baseman Joe Panik missed nearly all of August and September last season due to a nagging back injury, but he told Alex Pavlovic of CSNBayArea.com on Friday that he’s feeling “100 percent.”

Panik, who earned his first All-Star selection last season, originally landed on the disabled list in early August due to what was described as lower back inflammation. He made his return in September, but appeared in just three games before being shut down. The good news is that he was cleared by doctors in mid-December and considers himself “back to normal.”

“It was right around the time of all the signings,” he said, smiling. “I was able to fly under the radar. I got tested and everything had healed up. I got cleared and was able to have my full offseason workouts. I’m good to go. I’m happy to be feeling good and going back out on the field to show that I’m healthy. My swing feels strong.”

Panik altered his offseason workout routine and plans to spend less time in his spikes in the early part of spring training. The hope is that these changes will prevent future issues.

After a strong showing as a rookie in 2014, the 25-year-old Panik proved to be one of the best second baseman in the majors last season by batting .312/.378/.455 with eight home runs and 37 RBI over 100 games while playing solid defense.