T.J. Quinn and Mike Fish reported Tuesday that MLB is prepared to suspend Ryan Braun, Alex Rodriguez and “as many as 20 players” in connection with the Biogenesis scandal “sometime after next week’s All-Star break.” Outside the Lines got this from several sources, some likely from within the commissioner’s office. MLB hasn’t been shy about leaking info in the case.
Of course, “after the All-Star break” is pretty general. One would think it’d have to be pretty much right around the All-Star break for there to be even a slim chance of any suspensions being served this year. It’s typically a couple of months between when a player is notified he tested positive for a banned substance and the appeals process plays out (which is all supposed to be happening in secret). In this case, it could be considerably longer, given that there aren’t any positive tests. MLB may announce the suspensions all at once, but there are going to be 20 or so distinct cases here, all of which could be argued separately.
With the appeals process to be played out, it’s just not very realistic to think that anyone is going to end up serving suspensions this year. That’s true even though it’d seem to be best for Braun and A-Rod to serve suspensions now rather than next year, given the Brewers’ disappointing record and the state of Rodriguez’s hip. Braun hasn’t been willing to admit any wrongdoing, and hasn’t cooperated with MLB’s investigation. Does anyone think he’ll give up his right to appeal now?
There are also key figures for contenders in the mix. The Rangers’ Nelson Cruz and the Tigers’ Jhonny Peralta are among those rumored to be in line for suspensions. The Nationals’ Gio Gonzalez is mentioned in Biogenesis documents, though reports have him being in the clear since he obtained only legal substances.
If MLB wants to suspend the players, the time to do it is either now or after the World Series. Overshadowing the pennant races by doing it in August or September would be profoundly dumb. Even though MLB likes to parade its dirty laundry for all to see, it’s not that stupid. But even if the players are suspended now, this almost certainly will turn into an offseason matter. 12 weeks isn’t enough time to work through the biggest set of suspensions in league history.
Alcides Escobar finished with a .292 OBP this year. He came in at .246 in 117 at-bats in August and .257 in 109 at-bats between September and October, so he wasn’t exactly flying high entering the postseason. Still, that didn’t stop Ned Yost from putting him into the leadoff spot for Thursday’s Game 1 against the Astros.
Yost finally did reconsider hitting Escobar first in September. It took Alex Gordon‘s return to health, plus the previous addition of Ben Zobrist to the lineup, in order to make that happen. However, it didn’t stick. Escobar hit ninth in each of his starts from Sept. 7-26, batting .236 with a .276 OBP during that span. With five games left to go, he was suddenly returned to the leadoff spot. The Royals went on to win all five games. Yost saw it as a sign, even though Escobar went 5-for-22 with no walks in those games.
Escobar went 0-for-4 in Thursday’s loss to the Astros. He did not swing at the first pitch of the game, which probably explains the defeat.
It’s been difficult to argue with Yost since last year’s World Series run and this year’s incredible run out of the game. The blind spot with Escobar, though, gets rather infuriating. One can defend hitting him leadoff against the Astros’ lefties. His career OBP against southpaws is .319 (.316 this year). Against righties, he’s the most obvious No. 9 hitter alive, with a career .258/.290/.342 line (.252/.284/.314 this year). He’s not a pace-setter. He’s not a spark plug. He’s a liability.
After shutting out the Yankees in the AL Wild Card game on Tuesday, the Astros beat the Royals 5-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS on Thursday at Kauffman Stadium. Road teams are now 4-0 to begin the 2015 postseason.
The Astros grabbed an early 3-0 lead against Yordano Ventura through two innings. Chris Young took over for the Royals after a 47-minute rain delay and was very effective for the most part, allowing just a solo homer to George Springer over four innings while striking out seven batters. Colby Rasmus, who homered in the Wild Card game, took Ryan Madson deep in the eighth inning to give the Astros’ bullpen some extra breathing room.
Collin McHugh stayed in after the rain delay and ended up tossing six innings while allowing just four hits and one walk. Kendrys Morales did all the damage against him with a pair of solo homers. He’s the first Royals player to hit two home runs in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 ALCS.
The Royals’ offense showed some signs of life in the bottom of the eighth inning with back-to-back two-out hits against Will Harris, but Oliver Perez got Eric Hosmer to foul out to end the threat. Luke Gregerson tossed a scoreless ninth inning to finish off the victory.
Consistent with their identity during the regular season, the Astros won despite striking out 14 times. The same goes for the Royals, as they struck out just four times. Despite putting the ball into play more often, the Kansas City lineup wasn’t able to muster anything aside from the home runs by Morales.
Game 2 of the ALDS will begin Friday at 3:45 p.m. ET. Scott Kazmir will pitch for the Astros and Johnny Cueto will get the ball for the Royals.
After Kendrys Morales brought the Royals within one run in the bottom of the fourth inning with his second solo home run of the game, George Springer took Chris Young deep in the top of the fifth to extend the Astros’ lead to 4-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.
According to Statcast, the ball traveled an estimated 422 feet and left Springer’s bat at 109 mph. Royals fans are happy it was just a solo home run. It could have been worse, as Jose Altuve singled to lead off the fifth inning before being thrown out trying to steal second base during Springer’s at-bat.
The Royals will try to answer as we move to the bottom of the fifth inning at Kauffman Stadium.