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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.

Report: Phillies want a top-five prospect for Jeremy Hellickson

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 20: Starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson #58 of the Philadelphia Phillies throws a pitch in the second inning during a game against the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park on July 20, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
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Starter Jeremy Hellickson has become the Phillies’ most enticing trade chip as he’s put together a solid month of July. After shutting out the Marlins on one hit and one walk over six innings on Monday, the right-hander lowered his July ERA to 1.97 and his overall ERA to 3.65. As a result, the Phillies are telling teams they want a top-five prospect to part with Hellickson, per ESPN’s Jayson Stark.

Obviously, a top-five prospect means something different if you’re the Marlins as opposed to the Rangers. And the Phillies’ price point for Hellickson isn’t likely to stay that high, but GM Matt Klentak is setting a lofty starting point so that the return might end up being higher than market value.

ESPN’s Buster Olney speculates that the Phillies could end up holding onto Hellickson and giving him a qualifying offer after the season. He notes that the Phillies have only $25 million tied up for the 2017 season, so they could afford to pay Hellickson in excess of $16 million if he were to accept.

Video: Matt Cain launches a three-run home run

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 26: Matt Cain #18 of the San Francisco Giants hits a three run home run against the Cincinnati Reds during the second inning at AT&T Park on July 26, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Madison Bumgarner isn’t the only Giants pitcher who can rake. Matt Cain crushed a three-run home run during Tuesday’s game against the Giants.

Cain stepped to the plate with runners on the corner and one out against Reds starter Cody Reed in the bottom of the second inning. Reed threw a 1-1 fastball down the middle and Cain hit it about 20 rows back in the left field seats.

It’s Cain’s first homer of the season, his first since 2012, and the seventh of his 12-year career. He still has some work to catch up to Bumgarner, who has two homers this year and 13 in his career.

On the pitching side of things, Cain got the win against the Reds on Tuesday night, giving up four runs on six hits and a walk with four strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. He currently holds an ugly 5.95 ERA.