This morning on the Today Show, Alex Rodriguez’s lawyer, Joe Tacopina, reiterated his stance that he would “love nothing more” than to discuss the case against Alex Rodriguez, but can’t do so due to the confidentiality provisions of the Joint Drug Agreement. He was then presented with a letter from Major League Baseball which offered to waive the confidentiality provisions. It made for some awkward moments for Tacopina and some fun TV at least.
The Wall Street Journal has a copy of the letter and reproduces it here. It’s from MLB’s Rob Manfred and it’s just as confrontational in prose as it was in its use on the Today Show. And having read it, I am even more of the view that Major League Baseball is being roped into a P.R. battle that it doesn’t need and probably shouldn’t want.
The only purpose of Manfred’s letter is to try to score some points on Tacopina and, by extension, Rodriguez, in the wake of Tacopina’s media offensive. That it came from Manfred and not legal counsel — which MLB should be using in its case against Rodriguez — is evidence of that. It strikes me as a letter Manfred himself dashed off or dictated with a cackle. And he certainly got his intended response on TV today.
But what does this get the league? For as loud as it has been, A-Rod and Tacopina’s offensive hasn’t changed many minds. And it doesn’t change the evidence. And by delving into the fray like this, putting the Confidentiality provision in play, one wonders if it doesn’t potentially weaken claims MLB may have against A-Rod in the arbitration about his own efforts to publicize or leak information that should otherwise be confidential. Might Tacopina use this letter to argue that MLB doesn’t care about those rights? That it has waived them or is, at the very least, selective as to when it believes they are relevant?
It’s not much, but it’s more than a fighter like Tacopina needs to grab onto and start punching. And it’s just going to add to the circus and the mess which MLB seemed to so want to avoid when it set out to discipline the Biogenesis players.
Most lawyers would counsel their clients to avoid this sort of bomb-throwing. Is anyone counseling Major League Baseball to do that?
The Mets lost again on Thursday afternoon, suffering a 7-5 defeat at the hands of the Braves. It’s their sixth consecutive loss and the club is now in last place in the NL East. Not exactly the start the Mets envisioned.
Matt Harvey got the start, but lasted only 4 1/3 innings. He gave up six runs on five hits and five walks with only one strikeout. After the game, Harvey said he was tight and that he threw yesterday expecting to start on Friday instead, per Matt Ehalt of The Record. Sounds like no one communicated to Harvey that he’d be starting this afternoon until it was too late for him to properly prepare.
Harvey started because Noah Syndergaard was scratched due to a “tired arm.” Syndergaard blew reporters off after the game, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. Puma then added that Syndergaard ripped Mets P.R. guy Jay Horwitz for letting reporters approach him.
By the way, the Mets also lost outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to a hamstring injury. Not much else can go wrong in Queens.
If you haven’t heard, fly balls — not ground balls or line drives — are all the rage among hitters these days. Tigers outfielder J.D. Martinez summed it up perfectly last month when he said, “I’m not trying to hit a [freaking] line drive or a freaking ground ball.” The goal is to maximize damage. Last year, for example, fly balls became hits about 17 percent less often than ground balls (7.4% versus 24.6%), but hitters had a slugging percentage more than twice as much as on ground balls (.539 versus .267). This refocusing has helped hitters like Martinez as well as Ryan Zimmerman reinvigorate their careers.
Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who is as much a student of new age analytics as anyone in the game, doesn’t feel that this approach is necessarily a good one, as Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto said:
Where I get concerned is the guys that make this attempt and burn out too much of their time and don’t get a chance to be their best selves, and either don’t make it to the big leagues or don’t perform their best in the big leagues because they’re always attempting this new style of hitting. I see it with a lot of guys. Everyone tells the good stories, but there’s a lot of s—ty stories of guys who are wasting their time trying things.
Votto added that while the fly ball approach is working right now, pitchers will soon adapt and the fly ball approach won’t be so good anymore. And he’s right. Baseball has always been a game of adjustments. For example, as teams have gotten comfortable with shifting their infield, hitters like the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber have both dropped bunts down the third base line for easy hits. Knowing that hitters are aiming to hit fly balls now, pitchers may stay higher in the strike zone more often as one possible solution.
Votto is just trying to stay as well-rounded as possible. He says that he wants to become “unpitchable.” Votto wants to be like Angels outfielder Mike Trout, whom he describes as a guy “who can do absolutely anything he wants” and “at all times [has] all options.”
So far, Votto is having another productive season despite a relatively pedestrian batting average and on-base percentage. He’s hitting .238/.330/.563 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 94 plate appearances. Coincidentally, he’s been hitting way more fly balls than usual as he’s currently carrying a 42.3 percent rate compared to his 33.1 career average, according to FanGraphs. His line drives are way down to 16.9 percent compared to his 25.4 percent career average.