Josh Lueke

Sorry, I don’t have to appreciate the way Josh Lueke has “persevered”


Rays’ reliever Josh Lueke was charged with rape, pleaded out to a lesser charge and did 42 days in prison. As far as I’m concerned he’s human garbage, even if some baseball teams think it’s worth still employing him because of his fastball (which hasn’t been able to get anyone out, but that’s another topic).

So forgive me if I’m not on board with a blog post, the premise of which is essentially “Josh Lueke may have raped someone but being good at baseball offers him redemption of some kind.”  Really:

You can hate Josh Lueke’s guts, but you have to appreciate the way he has persevered through the critical mistake he made and all the opportunities that have passed him by … as Lueke finds success for the first time at the major level, we’ll be captivated by his dominating arsenal, and justifiably or not, his past will be forgotten as Rays fans watch him help their team win games.

No, I don’t have to appreciate that at all.

As for the second part: sadly, yes, some people may forget that because as we’ve regrettably learned so often of late, it’s amazing what people will forget or even forgive if you happen to be good at sports. But the truth is that sports are not a vehicle for moral or ethical redemption. They are games, no more, no less, and the noise in the linked post is the logical extension of our society’s fetish for grafting narratives onto said games.

If there is such a thing as redemption for a rapist like Leuke, it comes via one’s acts in the real world. The price they pay. The things they learn. The efforts they make to redress the damage they’ve done and the efforts they make to prevent such damage from being done again. It is measured by the true character of the person, not their athletic accomplishments. I don’t know Lueke or anything else about him besides his rap sheet and his page so I’m not the arbiter of his soul, conscience or ethical self, but I do know that flinging a baseball well or even being a good clubhouse citizen — something the author also gives Lueke credit for – is completely irrelevant with respect to that stuff.

As for the author: pro tip: if you ever are again inclined to write something which basically says “this guy may have raped someone but sports …” just stop. Please. Don’t even consider it.

Marlins hire Juan Nieves as pitching coach

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This is not a terribly big deal compared to the rumors of who the Marlins want to hire as their hitting coach, but it’s news all the same: Miami has hired Juan Nieves as their pitching coach.

Nieves replaces Chuck Hernandez who was let go immediately after the season ended. Under Hernandez Marlins pitchers allowed 4.19 runs a game and had an ERA of 4.02, striking out 1152 batters and walking 508 in 1,427 innings. As far as runs per game go, that was around middle of the pack in the National League, just a hair better than league average. The strikeout/walk ratio, however, was third to last in the NL.

Nieves, a former Brewers hurler who once tossed a no-hitter, was most recently the Red Sox’ pitching coach, serving from the beginning of the 2013 season until his dismissal in May of this year.

In baseball, if you lose the World Series you still get a ring

ST. LOUIS - APRIL 3:  Detail view of the St. Louis Cardinals 2006 World Series Ring at Busch Stadium on April 3, 2007 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Scott Rovak/Getty Images)

“Second place is first loser” — some jerk, probably.

The funny thing about “winning is everything” culture in sports is that it’s revered, primarily, by people with the least amount of skin in the game. Self-proclaimed “Super Fans” and talk radio hosts and guys like that. People who may claim to live and breathe sports but who, for the most part, have other things in their lives. Jobs and families and hobbies and stuff. Winning is everything for them on the weekend at, like, Buffalo Wild Wings or in their man cave.

Athletes — whose actual job is to play sports — like to win too. They’re certainly more focused and committed to winning than Joe Super Fan is, what with it being their actual lives and such. But you see far less “winning is everything” sentiment from them. In interviews they talk about how they hate to lose but, with a little bit of distance, they almost always talk about appreciating efforts in a well-played loss. They rarely talk about big losses — even championship losses — as failures or choke jobs or disgraces of one stripe or another.

All of which makes this story by Tim Rohan in the New York Times fun and interesting. It’s about championship rings for the non-championship winners. The 2014 Royals — winners of the A.L. pennant but losers of the World Series — are featured, and the story of rings for World Series losers is told. Mike Stanton, who played on a ton of pennant and World Series-winning teams with the Yankees and Braves, talks about his various rings and how, even though the Braves lost in the World Series that year, 1991 is his favorite.

Also mentioned: George Steinbrenner’s thoughts about rings for World Series losers. You will likely not be surprised about his sentiments on the matter.

Wait, what is the non-tender deadline again?

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For the next day and a half you’ll hear a lot about the non-tender deadline and/or players being tendered or not tendered a contract. Here, in case you’re unaware, is what that means.

By midnight on Wednesday teams have to decide whether to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players. If they do, the team retains control over the player. Now, to be clear, the team is not simply “tendering” the player the actual contract specifying what he’ll be paid. Think of it as more of a token gesture — a placeholder contract — at that point the team and the player can negotiate salary for 2016 and, if they can’t come to an agreement over that (i.e. an agreement avoiding arbitration) they will proceed to submit proposed salaries to one another and have a salary arbitration early in the spring.

If the team non-tenders a player, however, that player immediately becomes a free agent, eligible to sign anywhere with no strings attached.

Basically, the calculus is whether or not the team thinks the player in question is worth the low end of what he might receive in arbitration. Or, put differently, if the guy isn’t worth what he made in 2015, he’s probably going to be non-tendered.

MLB Trade Rumors has a handy “Non-Tender Tracker” which lists the status of the couple hundred arbitration eligible players and whether or not they’ve been tendered a contract. We’ll, of course, make mention of notable non-tender guys as their status for 2016 becomes known over the next day or two.

Mariners interested in free agent outfielder Nori Aoki

AP Photo/Ben Margot
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New Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has kept pretty busy in his short time on the job and Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reports that free agent outfielder Nori Aoki could be his next target. The club recently pursued a trade for Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna, but the asking price has them looking at alternatives.

Aoki, who turns 34 in January, has hit .287 with a .353 on-base percentage over four seasons since coming over from Japan. He was having a fine season with the Giants this year prior to being shut down in September with lingering concussion symptoms.

The Giants decided against picking up Aoki’s $5.5 million club option for 2016 earlier this month, but he should still do pretty well for himself this winter assuming he’s feeling good.