Yankee's Rodriguez hits a single while playing the White Sox in the second inning of their MLB American League baseball game in Chicago

Alex Rodriguez goes 1-for-4 with a single in his first game back with Yankees

43 Comments

Let the spectacle begin.

Despite being handed a 211-game suspension from MLB for his alleged connections to Biogenesis, Alex Rodriguez is making his season debut tonight against the White Sox. In his first game in the majors since January hip surgery, he’s batting cleanup and playing third base. And you can count on HBT to bring you all the details.

8:39 PM: With the Yankees down 3-0, Rodriguez led off the top of the second inning against left-hander Jose Quintana for his first at-bat. Not surprisingly, he didn’t get a very warm welcome for the U.S. Cellular Field crowd, with boos raining down on him after his name was announced and during the at-bat.

After Rodriguez took the first two pitches for balls, he dumped a single into shallow left field which Casper Wells failed to catch on the dive. See, he’s already a massive improvement at third base. Rodriguez scampered to third base on a double by Vernon Wells — and looked perfectly healthy doing so — but he ended up being stranded there after Quintana sat down Curtis Granderson, Ichiro Suzuki, and Eduardo Nunez. That’s Yankee baseball in 2013 for you.

9:38 PM: Rodriguez took his second at-bat in the top of the fourth inning with one out. After swinging through a pitch for strike one and taking a ball which got away from the catcher, he flew out a few feet away from the warning track in center field. Rodriguez was visibly frustrated after he made contact, as he likely realized that he just missed a potential home run. As for the U.S. Cellular Field crowd, it was more reason to celebrate a 7-0 lead for the home team.

10:21 PM: Rodriguez had his third at-bat in the sixth inning with one out. After taking two balls and swinging through a pitch, he ripped one just short of the warning track in left field. He hit the ball hard and gave it a pretty good ride, but Casper Wells was right there to secure the out. Rodriguez is now 1-for-3 with a single and two fly outs on the evening.

11:04 PM: Rodriguez came up for his fourth at-bat with no outs and a runner on first in the top of the eighth inning. Facing reliever Matt Lindstrom, he ran the count full before striking out looking, which was followed by a loud ovation from the fans. It’s worth noting that the boos and chants were even louder in this at-bat than earlier ones, likely because the fans realized it would be his final at-bat of the night.

11:23 PM: The Yankees lost to the White Sox by the score of 8-1 while Rodriguez ended the night 1-for-4 with a single, two fly outs, and a strikeout. While his range at third base isn’t great at this point, he handled all of his chances in the field without any major issue and looked fine when he ran the bases. Rodriguez will have a really tough test on his hands tomorrow night when the Yankees go up against Chicago’s ace Chris Sale.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
19 Comments

It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Getty Images
2 Comments

Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.