Buster Olney’s column today speculates about whether Major League Baseball will use next weekend’s Hall of Fame ceremonies in Cooperstown as a vehicle to promote its get-tough stance on Biogenesis:
The Hall of Fame ceremony in Cooperstown will be held next weekend, in a year in which no recent retirees will be inducted, and if Selig makes his announcement of suspensions before Friday, he will be guaranteed three days of almost uniformly positive response.
Olney — who to be fair, is one of the most rational and reasonable guys around when it comes to PEDs and the Hall of Fame — correctly observes that if Major League Baseball were to announce suspensions before next weekend that there would be three days worth of old timers nodding their heads and patting the league on the back for doing the right thing and suspending players. It’s way better to have Hank Aaron out front defending the league, the thinking goes, than Bud Selig, and it would provide a P.R. bump for the league.
I can see the logic there from MLB’s perspective, but I question whether the league is truly willing to risk that bank-shot going in so cleanly. I can just as easily imagine Biogenesis newsmaking at the time of the Hall of Fame inductions being a big P.R. black eye. Because for every quote from a star of yesteryear patting the league on the back, there will be just as many things written — bad things and good things — trying to combine an inductee-free Hall of Fame induction and the Biogenesis news into a narrative about how baseball has lost its way, is irrelevant, is tragic and on and on. People love to pile on baseball during its marquee events — mostly people not familiar with the day-to-day of the league — and this would give them a big fat target.
A source I spoke with a couple of weeks ago who is familiar with the Biogenesis investigation suggested that Major League Baseball itself is wary of having the Hall of Fame events overshadowed by Biogenesis news. It’s possible that the league changes its mind on this. It’s possible that Selig gets on the freakin’ podium in front of the Hall of Fame and announces anti-PED justice. But I kinda doubt MLB wants to make that kind of news at that particular time. After all, it’s one thing for the story to be floating around like it is now but it’s another thing altogether for MLB to actively make a new news story regarding the suspensions just as things get moving in Cooperstown.
The league is historically awful at P.R. coordination when it comes to these things, but I don’t think it’s that bad.
Paul Hoynes at the Cleveland Plain Dealer has an in-depth look at how the Indians will manage their outfield during the early part of the 2016 season, in the absence of star Michael Brantley.
Brantley underwent labrum surgery on his right shoulder this past November and has not picked up a bat all winter. “In the off-season people know I love to hit,” Brantley acknowledged to Hoynes late last week. ”I hit a lot. It’s just been a change in my timetable.”
Hoynes says the projected date for Brantley’s 2016 debut is “hazy,” guessing that it might happen around late April or early May if everything continues to go smoothly. Shoulders can be tricky, for hitters and pitchers.
Rajai Davis, Abraham Almonte, and Lonnie Chisenhall figure to make up Cleveland’s primary starting outfield while Brantley is finishing his rehabilitation. Collin Cowgill and Joey Butler could also be in the mix. It’s a lacking group, tasked with replacing one of the most productive players in baseball.
Brantley, 28, has slashed .319/.382/.494 over the last two seasons, tallying 35 home runs, 90 doubles, 181 RBI, and 38 stolen bases in 293 games.
Could the talented Tribe be in for another slow start?
Shouldn’t this club be spending more money?
Zach LaVine of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic put on a tremendous show in Saturday night’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest up in Toronto, Canada. The stars were out to see it at the Air Canada Centre, and Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista had one of the very best views in the house. Check out this video he posted to Instagram of LaVine’s final dunk, a between-the-legs jam from just inside the free throw line …
That is Toronto’s very own Drake going wild in the pink jacket. Gordon probably had the best individual dunk of the night, though, if we’re being really real …
Back to your regularly scheduled baseball programming. Pitchers and catchers report Friday.
The 2016-18 All-Star Games are spoken for, but the Cubs could play host not long thereafter according to commissioner Rob Manfred, Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago reports.
The Padres are hosting at Petco Park this year, the Marlins will host at Marlins Park next season, and the Nationals will host in 2018 at Nationals Park. That will make four consecutive National League hosts and five if the Cubs get it in 2019. In the past, the National and American Leagues have alternated hosting privileges. That is sort of important now since the league that wins the All-Star Game gets home field advantage in the World Series.
The Cubs last hosted the All-Star Game in 1990 and have hosted a total of three times (1962 and 1947 being the other years) since its inception in 1933.
Wrigley Field has been undergoing renovations which are expected to be completed by the 2019 season. Manfred said that the Cubs hosting the All-Star Game “will provide the Cubs and Ricketts family a chance to showcase the unbelievable renovation they are in the midst of doing for Wrigley field.”
Update: Here’s a table showing the last time each team hosted the All-Star Game.
||Olympic Stadium (Expos)
||Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
||Jack Murphy Stadium
||Oriole Park at Camden Yards
||The Ballpark in Arlington
||U.S. Cellular Field
||Minute Maid Park
||Angels Stadium of Anaheim
||Great American Ball Park
Expect Kyle Hendricks and Adam Warren to battle it out for the fifth spot in the Cubs’ starting rotation this spring, writes Gordon Wittenmyer for the Chicago Sun-Times. Clayton Richard could serve as a fallback option as well.
Hendricks, 26, pitched well in his first full season in 2015. He finished with a 3.95 ERA and a 167/43 K/BB ratio over 180 innings. That was a solid follow-up to his rookie campaign in 2014, when he posted a 2.46 ERA over 13 starts.
The Cubs acquired Warren, 28, from the Yankees in the Starlin Castro trade. He contributed both out of the rotation and the bullpen in the Bronx this past season, pitching 131 1/3 innings with a 3.29 ERA and a 104/39 K/BB ratio.
One through four, the Cubs’ rotation is solid with defending National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Jason Hammel.