Must-click link: All of the sordid details in the Alex Rodriguez case

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Every week we get a story here or there in which Alex Rodriguez’s lawyer or someone from Major League Baseball fires a missile at the other side. Or some odd fact falls out that puts one side or the other in a bad light. I obsess about A-Rod and PED cases more than most people, but even my eyes have begun to glaze over at it all to some degree.

But if you have to read just one story about the performance enhancing drugs investigation and arbitration surrounding Alex Rodriguez, read this one from the New York Times which came out today. It’s a fantastic overview of it all and, more importantly, a fantastic read.

The story puts all of those drips and drabs in context, and talks about how desperate each side has been to paint the other as the real wrongdoers here. Some of the details from the story, some of which are new, some of which are older, some of which are surprising, some of which are not and all of which illuminate each side’s all-or-nothing approach to this case:

  • Two baseball sources tell the Times that A-Rod failed a stimulant test in 2006 (players get suspended for a second positive). Which is a violation of the confidentiality of the drug-testing program;
  • Unsatisfied with investigative efforts, Bud Selig hired a second set of investigators without telling M.L.B.’s in-house investigative unit;
  • The pro-A-Rod protests by the group Hispanics Across America? Yeah, that group got a $100K donation. Anonymously, but with a stipulation that it be used to raise awareness of A-Rod’s plight;
  • One witness who signed an affidavit saying he saw A-Rod injected has disputed its contents and says that MLB investigators have followed him and his family around. He was subpoenaed while entering a toy store in New York;
  • Another witness — a former Biogenesis nurse — had a fling with an MLB investigator who was working on the case. A-Rod’s team paid her $100K for documentary evidence and access to her text messages. She claims she had no evidence about any baseball player using drugs;
  • Baseball paid witnesses hundreds of thousands of dollars for evidence that may or may not have been stolen, and then A-Rod paid those same witnesses large amounts of money for evidence that the evidence was bought;
  • Major League Baseball agreed to pay all of Anthony Bosch’s legal fees, travel expenses and to provide him personal security at a cost of $2,400 a day;
  • A golf course employee may or may not have heard MLB’s Rob Manfred talking out of school about the case against A-Rod while playing a round. A-Rod’s people tried to get his story.

All of the stuff that is bad for baseball is denied by baseball. All of the stuff that is bad for A-Rod is denied by his people. Naturally.

And all of this stuff was inevitable given the stakes involved. You level a suspension on someone as big as the one baseball leveled on A-Rod, and he has no choice but to fight back with everything he can muster. And if someone is shooting at you, you have to shoot back at them.  One wonders, though, whether all of this expense and vitriol could have been avoided if A-Rod was offered the same deal Ryan Braun got: a suspension that ended his 2013 season and let him start fresh in 2014.

Maybe MLB didn’t offer that because maybe A-Rod’s actions were far, far worse than anyone else’s. If so, though, they had better have the goods or all of this will have looked like a waste.

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

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UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.