Will an A-Rod-fueled Yankees-run do “immeasurable harm” to the game?

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Peter Gammons is one of the reasonable ones when it comes to PEDs and A-Rod and stuff. You’ll rarely if ever hear him going on about A-Rod being history’s greatest monster (Gammons actually likes Rodriguez). Maybe it’s smarts, maybe it’s experience, maybe it’s both, but Gammons tends to have some perspective about these things. He remembers ballplayers snorting cocaine and drinking and popping amphetamines and stuff and is among the last to say that the sky is falling.

Today’s Gammons column, then, does cause me to raise an eyebrow.  It’s a good column — he continues to engage in reason and doesn’t do what so many other columnists do and try to find the newest, freshest ways to make A-Rod out as Satan — but one passage does make me wonder. After noting that A-Rod is playing because he has earned his right of appeal, and noting that MLB probably dreads him in the postseason, Gammons says:

And if somehow he takes off on a month-long tear and heroically carries the Yankees into a one game post-season date with the Rangers, of all teams, he will have done immeasurable harm to the game that he plays so well, a game that provided him the stage he so embraces.

I agree that MLB will hate such a thing (at least when they aren’t paying attention to the TV ratings), but I disagree on the “harm to the game” part. If anything, I think A-Rod playing these past few weeks has done more to help the game than anything. No, not because A-Rod himself is helpful. That’s silly. But helpful because now he is a mere ballplayer. He’s not a symbol. He’s not a martyr. He’s not a monster. He’s not a source of day-in, day-out public scorn like he was over most of the summer. He’s just a ballplayer.

A ballplayer that can look bad at times. A ballplayer that has looked good at times. But a ballplayer who is, by necessity, subordinate to the game. No matter what he does, if the Yankees can’t get good pitching, his season is going to end in September. No matter how good the pitching is, if A-Rod gets hurt or struggles or shows that at 38 his bat just can’t get around on fastballs anymore, he will necessarily be humbled. Even if the Yankees do make an October run, it will be because of many moving parts and good fortune, not because of A-Rod.

We’ve made too much of sports heroes in the past, elevating them to such heights that they’re above the games they play. We’ve tended to do the same thing with sports villains too, making them out to be monsters who can destroy the games they play. Truth is, they can’t. The game will level it all out. Or make the heroes or villains anonymous in the way it is so good at doing.

No one is really talking about A-Rod now, even when he plays. That shows you that the game is just fine, thank you.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.