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.

Struggling Francisco Rodriguez’s job seems to be secure

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Tigers closer Francisco Rodriguez continued to struggle on Thursday, allowing a run in a 2-1 loss to the Mariners. It’s the sixth time in nine appearances that the right-handed veteran has allowed a run, bumping his ERA up to 6.23. He’s blown two saves and has two losses on the year.

Despite that, it doesn’t sound like Rodriguez’s job as the Tigers’ closer is in any jeopardy, Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports. When asked how much of a leash Rodriguez has, manager Brad Ausmus said, “I’ll let you know.” Ausmus continued, “I think people have short memories. This guy did a pretty good job for us last year. Early on, people were worried because the velocity was down. Well, the velocity is back.”

“But at some point,” Ausmus said, “he does have to pitch the way he pitched last year, because he did an outstanding job for us last year and in a city that has been looking for a closer that was consistent for a long time, he was that.”

Rodriguez, 35, doesn’t have the stuff he once did. And the Tigers do appear to have someone who would be a better option in high-leverage situations. Lefty Justin Wilson has thrown 9 2/3 scoreless, hitless innings so far this season with 15 strikeouts and three walks. But for now, it sounds like Rodriguez will be free to work through his issues.

The Nationals are sad to be leaving Coors Field

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Don’t look now, but the Nationals have the best record in baseball at 16-6. They’re coming off a 10-game road trip in which they went 9-1, including sweeps of the Braves and Mets and a 3-1 series against the Rockies at Coors Field. During that series with the Rockies, the Nationals scored 46 runs, which is nearly as many as the Royals (54) have scored all season long. The Nats scored double-digits in all three wins.

The first game at Coors, an 8-4 loss, saw a three-hit game from Anthony Rendon and a homer from Ryan Zimmerman.

The second game featured Trea Turner hitting for the cycle and driving in seven runs. Daniel Murphy had three hits and five RBI.

The third game saw Turner finish a triple short of the cycle. Bryce Harper had four hits. Zimmerman had three hits including a homer. Murphy homered, too.

The fourth game featured homers from Adam Eaton, Harper, and Murphy. Seven members of the lineup had multiple hits and six had multiple RBI including pitcher Gio Gonzalez.

The series helped the Nationals bring their run differential to +34, the best in the National League. The Yankees are the only team with a better differential at +35.

Indeed, the Nationals are sad to be leaving Coors Field. They return home to open up a three-game set with the ailing Mets on Friday night.