Will Major League Baseball turn Hall of Fame weekend into PED-Fest?

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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.

Rougned Odor didn’t technically steal home, but he basically did

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Just saw this from last night’s Tigers-Rangers game. It was pretty wild.

Rougned Odor walked in the seventh inning. He broke for second on a steal and was safe due to the throw going wild, allowing him to reach third base. The Tigers called on reliever Daniel Stumpf and he was effective in retiring the next two batters, leaving Odor on third with two out.

Stumpf, a lefty, was paying no attention whatsoever to Odor, so Odor just took off for home, attempting a straight steal. Stumpf was so surprised that he tried to throw home to nail Odor, and in so doing, he balked. That technically means that Odor scored on the balk, but I think it’s safe to say he would’ve scored on the strait steal regardless. Watch:

 

He definitely gets points for style.

 

Aroldis Chapman is pitching himself out of a job

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Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman looked shaky again last night, coming in to the game with a three-run lead before allowing a two-run homer to the Mets’ Amed Rosario. He would nail down the save eventually, giving Sonny Gray his first win as a Yankee, but Chapman’s struggles were the talk of the game afterward.

It was the third appearance in a row in which Chapman has given up at least one run, allowing five runs on three hits — two of them homers — and walking four in his last three and a third innings pitched. He’s also hit a batter. That’s just the most acute portion of a long slide, however. He posted a 0.79 ERA in his first 12 appearances this year, before getting shelled twice and then going on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, missing over a month. Since returning he’s allowed 12 runs — ten earned — in 23 appearances, breaking out to a 4.09 ERA. He’s also walked ten batters in that time. At present, his strikeout rate is the worst he’s featured since 2010. His walk rate is up and he’s allowing more hits per nine innings than he ever has.

It’s possible that he’s still suffering from shoulder problems. Whether or not that’s an issue, he looks to have a new health concern as he appeared to tweak his hamstring on the game’s final play last night when he ran over to cover first base. Chapman told reporters after the game that “it’s nothing to worry about,” and Joe Girardi said that Chapman would not undergo an MRI or anything, but he was clearly grimacing as he came off the mound and it’s something worth watching.

Also worth watching: Dellin Betances and David Robertson, Chapman’s setup men who have each shined as Yankees closers in the past and who may very soon find themselves closing once again if Chapman can’t figure it out. And Chapman seems to know it. He was asked if he still deserves to be the closer after the game. His answer:

“My job is to be ready to pitch everyday. As far as where I pitch, that’s not up to me. If at some point they need to remove me from the closer’s position, I’m always going to be ready to pitch.”

That’s a team-first answer, and for that Chapman should be lauded. But it’s also one that suggests Chapman himself knows he’s going to be out of a closer’s job soon if he doesn’t turn things around.