Mays Mantle

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


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.

Concerns over Jon Lester’s throwing ability much ado about nothing

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20: Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 20, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)
Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

Going into Thursday night’s NLCS Game 5, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts planned to have his team be annoying and distracting on the base paths for Cubs starter Jon Lester. Lester, you see, has a hard time making throws when he’s not pitching from the rubber, as seen here.

The Dodgers got an immediate opportunity to test their strategy, as Enrique Hernandez drew a four-pitch walk to start the game in the bottom of the first inning. Hernandez was taking leads between 15 and 25 feet, just taunting Lester to throw over to first base. Lester never did. And despite being given the luxury of such a large lead, Hernandez never attempted to steal second base.

It ended up costing the Dodgers a run. After Justin Turner struck out, Corey Seager lined a single to center field. Hernandez, large lead and all, should’ve been well on his way to third base, but he settled for staying at second base. Carlos Ruiz then flied out to right field on what should’ve been a sacrifice fly. Hernandez instead just advanced to third. Howie Kendrick grounded out to end the inning with the Dodgers having scored no runs.

In the bottom of the second inning with two outs, Joc Pederson dropped down a bunt, but Lester was able to field it and make a bounce-throw to Anthony Rizzo at first base to end the inning. Lester stared angrily into the Dodgers’ dugout as he walked off the field. If it were me, I’d have been glaring angrily not because the opposing team was attempting to exploit my weakness, but because the strategy is so poor.

The bunting would continue in the seventh inning as first baseman and noted power hitter Adrian Gonzalez tried to sneak a bunt past Lester on the right side of the infield. Second baseman Javier Baez was able to scoop it up and fire to first. Gonzalez was initially ruled safe, but the call was overturned upon replay review.

Lester countered the Dodgers’ bunting and greedy lead-taking by just pitching his game. He went seven innings, allowing just one run on five hits and a walk with six strikeouts on 108 pitches. The Cubs went on to win 8-4, taking a 3-2 lead in the NLCS. A worthy consideration for the National League Cy Young Award based on his regular season performance, Lester now has a 0.86 ERA in 21 innings spanning three starts this postseason. Turns out, the yips isn’t debilitating if you’re really good at your main job.

Cubs swat their way past the Dodgers 8-4 in NLCS Game 5

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 20:  Addison Russell #27 of the Chicago Cubs hits a two-run home run in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in game five of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 20, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

During the regular season, the Cubs had the second-best offense in baseball behind the Rockies, averaging 4.99 runs per game. It was the best after debiting the Rockies for playing in Coors Field. There was no way, after getting shut out in NLCS Games 2 and 3, that the offense was going to stay dormant much longer. They broke out for 10 runs in a Game 4 victory on Wednesday night. They scored eight more to beat the Dodgers 8-4 in Game 5, taking a 3-2 NLCS lead.

The Cubs took an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when leadoff batter Dexter Fowler greeted Kenta Maeda with a single to center field. He’d come around to score on a one-out double by Anthony Rizzo who, like teammate Addison Russell, hadn’t hit much until breaking out in Game 4.

Starter Jon Lester was able to silence the Dodgers’ offense despite their strategy of attempting bunts and taking big leads, knowing Lester has trouble throwing when it’s not from the pitching rubber. They managed just one run, coming around in the fourth inning to knot the game at 1-1 when Howie Kendrick doubled, stole third base, and scored on an Adrian Gonzalez ground out.

Ultimately, Lester lasted seven innings, holding the Dodgers to five hits and a walk with six strikeouts on 108 pitches. Addison Russell allowed him to leave with a lead, slugging a two-run home run off of reliever Joe Blanton in the sixth to break the 1-1 tie.

The Cubs tacked on plenty of insurance in the top of the eighth against reliever Pedro Baez, which proved to be rather necessary. Russell reached on an error by Baez, Willson Contreras singled, and Albert Almora, Jr. moved both runners up a base on a sacrifice bunt. Dexter Fowler then hit a single to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, but Baez didn’t break to cover first base. Gonzalez wasn’t able to beat Fowler to the bag, allowing the Cubs’ fourth run to score. Kris Bryant hit a weak grounder to third base and he was able to beat that out as well, pushing across another run in the process. Anthony Rizzo lined out, but Baez prolonged the inning by walking Ben Zobrist. Ross Stripling relieved Baez, but he served up a bases-clearing double to Javier Baez, making it an 8-1 ballgame. Jason Heyward, as has often been the case, popped up feebly, mercifully ending the inning with the Cubs having hung up a five-spot.

Pedro Strop took over for Lester in the bottom of the eighth. He gave up a double to Andrew Toles, then hit Justin Turner to begin the inning. Though Strop was able to induce a ground ball double play from Corey Seager, Carlos Ruiz followed up with a double to left-center to push in a run. Howie Kendrick flied out to send the game to the ninth.

Closer Aroldis Chapman took over with a six-run lead in the bottom of the ninth. He issued a leadoff walk to Gonzalez, then served up a single to Yasiel Puig. Joc Pederson grounded out, but Josh Reddick knocked in Gonzalez and moved Puig to third with a single to center. Toles plated Puig with a sacrifice fly, making it 8-4. Turner grounded out to shortstop to end the game, finalizing the victory for the Cubs.

The two clubs will take Friday off to travel back to Chicago. Game 6 will take place at Wrigley Field at 8:00 PM EDT. Clayton Kershaw will start for the Dodgers opposite the Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks.