Mays Mantle

If A-Rod gets banned he’ll be in good company, historically speaking

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As we wait for Bud Selig to do whatever he plans to do to Alex Rodriguez, let us remind ourselves that he will not be the first person to be (possibly) banned from baseball for life. He’s not even part of a small group of people which, as most people recite it, includes only Shoeless Joe Jackson, Pete Rose and him.  There have been lots of baseball bans over the years. Thirty-eight have been banned, actually.

We know Rose. We know Jackson. If we think for a minute we also probably realize that Seven of Shoeless Joe’s teammates joined him as a result of the Black Sox scandal. But do you remember any of the others? Probably not most of them as the vast majority of bannings took place in the years before and just after Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis came into office, tasked with cleaning up the game following the infamous 1919 World Series.

There are some interesting cases among those early bannings. Nearly a dozen players and managers were banned from baseball for either gambling, associating with gamblers or conspiring to fix games prior to the Black Sox scandal. But it wasn’t just players and managers. There was one umpire — Dick Higam — who was banned in 1882 for conspiring to help throw Detroit Wolverines games. There was even a team physician, Joseph Creamer, who worked for the New York Giants, who was kicked out of the game in 1908.

After Landis took office he famously swept out the Black Sox, but that wasn’t the end of his ban hammer. He kicked out three or four other players for gambling in the next several years. He banned a couple for refusing to honor their contracts with their current teams (once upon a time wanting to actually control the circumstances of one’s employment was considered just as bad as gambling or steroids). Landis banned a guy for playing exhibition games which included the banned Black Sox. He even banned an owner — William B. Cox of the Philadelphia Phillies — for betting on his team’s games.

After Landis died in 1944, no one was banned for over 30 years. Then Bowie Kuhn decided to ban Fergie Jenkins after he was busted for cocaine and marijuana possession in 1980.  That ban was overturned two weeks later by an independent arbitrator. In 1983 came perhaps baseball’s dumbest ban ever: Kuhn banned Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays because they took jobs as casino greeters in Atlantic City. This despite the fact that their employers prohibited them from gambling in Atlantic City and despite the fact that there were no sports books in Atlantic City at the time. Some of us may take issue with some of the specifics of baseball’s war on PEDs, but it’s a divine crusade compared to what Bowie Kuhn was up to in the early 80s.

You’re probably more likely to remember the rest of the bans: Rose for gambling in 1989. George Steinbrenner in 1990 for  paying a private investigator $40,000 to “dig up dirt” on  Dave Winfield. Marge Schott in 1996 for making slurs against African-Americans, Jews, Asians and homosexuals, and for making sympathetic comments about Hitler and the Nazis. There are people who will claim that A-Rod is the worst person in baseball history, but jeez, at least he’s not a Nazi sympathizer. We hope.

Anyway, whatever happens today — at least most likely today — will be huge news.  But it won’t be the first time a big name is drummed out of the sport. And, thanks to Bowie Kuhn’s silly ban of Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, if Rodriguez is banned for life, he won’t even be the biggest name banned in the past 30 years.

Report: Teams reluctant to gamble on Cliff Lee

Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cliff Lee throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.

Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.

In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.

Orioles reconsidering signing Yovani Gallardo

Yovani Gallardo
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.

Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.

Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.

The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.

Freddy Garcia is calling it a career

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Elsa/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.

Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.

“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”

Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.

Video: 2016 will be a season to remember

Carlos+Correa+Houston+Astros+v+Arizona+Diamondbacks+Ctyu5RiU3SWl
Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America
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MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.

It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.