Alex Rodriguez Reuters

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.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Tuesday’s action

New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey (33) delivers during the first inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Wednesday, April 27, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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We’re back to a full slate of games on Tuesday night. The game to watch tonight, especially if you’re a fan of mismatches, is Braves-Mets. The Mets easily handled the Braves on Monday night, winning 4-1. The club blasted three home runs in the first inning off of Mike Foltynewicz, which is nearly as many homers as the Braves have hit all season (five). The Mets went on cruise control from there. Bartolo Colon finished with seven strikeouts over eight shutout innings. Jeurys Familia gave up a run but was able to reach the finish line.

The Braves are now 6-19, a game ahead of the Astros and Twins for the worst record in baseball. It’s not particularly shocking since the Braves have embraced tanking in their final year at Turner Field. How low can they go? The Atlanta record for losses in a season is 106 by the 1988 club. The 1935 Boston Braves went 38-115. The Braves’ current .240 winning percentage would rank as the worst in franchise history — including Atlanta, Boston, and Milwaukee — if the season were to end today.

Tuesday’s pitching match-up features Matt Wisler for the Braves and Matt Harvey for the Mets. The two will square off at 7:10 PM EDT at Citi Field tonight.

The rest of Tuesday’s action…

Detroit Tigers (Justin Verlander) @ Cleveland Indians (Josh Tomlin), 6:10 PM EDT

Chicago Cubs (Jake Arrieta) @ Pittsburgh Pirates (Jon Niese), 7:05 PM EDT

New York Yankees (Luis Severino) @ Baltimore Orioles (Chris Tillman), 7:05 PM EDT

Texas Rangers (Martin Perez) @ Toronto Blue Jays (Marco Estrada), 7:07 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Patrick Corbin) @ Miami Marlins (Justin Nicolino), 7:10 PM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers (Scott Kazmir) @ Tampa Bay Rays (Matt Moore), 7:10 PM EDT

San Francisco Giants (Jeff Samardzija) @ Cincinnati Reds (Jon Moscot), 7:10 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (Steven Wright) @ Chicago White Sox (Jose Quintana), 8:10 PM EDT

Los Angeles Angels (Nick Tropeano) @ Milwaukee Brewers (Junior Guerra), 8:10 PM EDT

Minnesota Twins (Alex Meyer) @ Houston Astros (Collin McHugh), 8:10 PM EDT

Philadelphia Phillies (Aaron Nola) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Michael Wacha), 8:15 PM EDT

Washington Nationals (Tanner Roark) @ Kansas City Royals (Chris Young), 8:15 PM EDT

Seattle Mariners (Hisashi Iwakuma) @ Oakland Athletics (Sonny Gray), 10:05 PM EDT

Colorado Rockies (Eddie Butler) @ San Diego Padres (Andrew Cashner), 10:10 PM EDT

Bryce Harper signs the largest endorsement deal in MLB history

Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper pumps his fist as he takes a curtain call after he hit a grand slam during the third  inning of an baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Thursday, April 14, 2016, in Washington. This was Harper's 100th home run of his career. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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I figure it’s not that hard to sign the largest endorsement deal in baseball history. In the NBA? Sure. Those deals are insane. But in baseball? Man, we still have major leaguers doing quickie, video taped ads for local car dealerships and sandwich shops and stuff. It would mildly surprise me if I saw a third starter for a .500 team spinning and flipping one of those signs on a street corner near a new apartment complex some day, but I wouldn’t be utterly shocked. It’s just a different set of economics. You can’t really wear baseball shoes out around town. Cleats tend to scuff up the woodwork.

But Bryce Harper is different. He was barely in the league a year before I saw his giant underwear-clad butt in a big glossy ad while walking through the unmentionables department at Macy’s and his Under Armour ads are all over the place. Probably the closest thing we’ve seen to NBA-style shoe exposure in MLB, though it doesn’t quite compare.

It may one day, though: he has reportedly signed a 10-year extension with Under Armour that is believed to be the largest endorsement deal in history for a baseball player. Terms aren’t being disclosed, but they’re claiming that so it’s probably at least plausible.

Baseball players will still never be the kind of product-pushers other athletes are, but Harper is probably the closest thing it’ll get for a while. At the very least he can be the second or third banana in one of those commercials in which stars from various sports do things like shave, drink sports drinks and, I dunno, flex their quads while wearing compression gear. He can be Garfunkel to Steph Curry’s Simon. Or something.

Major League Baseball may cancel the upcoming Puerto Rico series due to Zika concerns

FILE - In this Jan. 27, 2016, file photo, Aedes aegypti mosquito larvae sit in a petri dish at the Fiocruz institute in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. Even before the Zika virus reached crisis levels early this year, Brazil had trouble maintaining routine eradication efforts. An Associated Press investigation found that cities and states in Brazil’s northeast ran out of larvicide for several months last year. The Aedes aegypti mosquito are a vector for the spread of Zika virus. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
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Last month we wrote about how the Pirates and the Marlins are scheduled to play a series in Puerto Rico at the end of May. And how, due to an outbreak of Zika on the island, Pirates and Marlins players have voiced serious concerns. For, among other reasons, Zika precautions are such that those exposed should not engage in procreative sex for several months due to birth defects concerns and baseball players are at an age when doing stuff like having kids is a pretty important thing.

This afternoon Yahoo’s Jeff Passan reports that, while the official line is that the series will still be played, multiple sources with knowledge of the situation are telling him that it’s on “the brink of cancellation.”

It’s understandable though, as Passan notes, it makes politics — both baseball politics and regular politics — with Puerto Rico kind of uncomfortable. And then there’s the concern that Zika could spread to Florida and is already in other countries, which means that the Pirates-Marlins thing is something of a case of first impression which could set precedents beyond just baseball.

That’s understandable, but it’s also a set of concerns that are above the pay grade of baseball players. Personally, it’s hard to blame them for being wary. And this seems like some reasonable wariness, not hysteria.

 

Tigers activate James McCann

Detroit Tigers catcher James McCann blows a bubble while warming up during a spring training baseball workout, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016, in Lakeland, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
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The Tigers have activated catcher James McCann from the 15-day disabled list. He’s been out since April 11 with a sprained ankle.

Whether he has a position is an open question. In his absence Jarrod Saltalamacchia has put up a .947 OPS. That’s weighted somewhat heavily by slugging and some fluky power, but he’s done a good job. At the very least it will cause Brad Ausmus to ease McCann back into the lineup more slowly, possibly in a split role as opposed to a backup/starter relationship.