Source: A-Rod blew his chance to take a deal for a 50 game suspension

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Buster Olney wrote something that turned my head today. That A-Rod had a plea deal possible back in the spring — for a low, low, number of games — and turned it down:

If Rodriguez had agreed to something last spring, before MLB investigators had all the Biogenesis details from Bosch, Rodriguez might’ve been able to barter for a suspension for something close to 50 games, or what a first-time offender gets for a first positive PED test.  If he had taken responsibility then, owned up and made his best possible deal, then A-Rod probably would’ve been back on the field late in the 2013 season, with the whole matter behind him.

I was skeptical of this when I first read it, as I recalled no report, credible or otherwise, suggesting that A-Rod or any of the Biogenesis-connected players had a plea deal on the table in April or May, which is the timeframe Olney mentions. And certainly no plea deal to A-Rod in the neighborhood of 50 games at any time.

But, inspired by Olney’s report, I made some calls. And Buster was right. According to sources familiar with Major League Baseball’s investigation, there was a window of time — while Rodriguez was still represented by attorneys Jay Reisinger and James Sharp and before Major League Baseball flipped Tony Bosch and got him to cooperate — where A-Rod could have made a deal for a substantially shorter suspension than he ultimately received. Possibly as low as 50 games.

It was apparently not to the level of a formal offer — there aren’t documents or emails regarding this stuff — but informal conversations had begun suggesting such a framework. A-Rod and the legal team which came to represent him through the arbitration rejected the overtures, however. Major League Baseball eventually obtained the cooperation of Bosch and the settlement ship essentially sailed.

I say “essentially” because of reports in July and August — just before the 211-game suspension was announced — that A-Rod and the league were talking about a deal. But those were offers well in excess of 100 games and by that point it was worth the gamble to fight. At the same time, it’s worth remembering that, back in the spring, a 50 game suspension may not have seemed like a great deal — it was uncertain how Major League Baseball would prove its case nor was it clear that MLB had an argument or even a desire to seek more than a 50-game suspension against A-Rod in the first place. But, there was a chance for A-Rod to get back on the field after a suspension — indeed, a suspension he would have served while on the disabled list — and have it all behind him last season.

And, hindsight nor not, A-Rod, it seems, had a chance to save his baseball career. That chance came in the spring. But he blew it.

Starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani will pinch-hit and pinch-run for the Angels in 2018

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The Angels’ bench is looking woefully thin this winter — so thin, in fact, that manager Mike Scioscia says he’s considering utilizing starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner on the days he’s not scheduled to pitch.

I’ve never had a pitcher pinch-run,” Scioscia told reporters Saturday. “There’s more bad than good that can come out of it. But Shohei is not just a pitcher. He’s a guy that has the ability to do some of the things coming off the bench, whether it’s pinch-hit or pinch-run, and we’re definitely going to tap into that if it’s necessary, because we feel we’re not putting him at risk. It’s something he’s able to do.

Granted, spring training allows for a certain amount of experimentation before managers and players decide what works best for them, so this may not be the strategy the Angels employ for the entire season. In addition to coming off the bench between starts, Ohtani is also expected to see 2-3 days at DH every week, forcing Albert Pujols to shift over to first base to accommodate the new two-way star.

Ohtani’s hitting prowess has already been well-documented — he has a lifetime .286/.358/.500 batting line from NPB and crushed a batting practice home run during his initial workouts with the team this week — but his skills on the basepaths have received less attention so far. MLB Pipeline describes the 23-year-old phenom as a “well-above average runner” whose speed has yet to manifest stolen bases: he’s nabbed just 13 bases in 17 chances over the last five years. That’s a number Scioscia hopes to see increased this season, though he doesn’t want his ace pitcher making any head-first slides on the basepaths to do so.

To be sure, it’s an unorthodox role for any young player to step into, but if anyone can pull it off, Ohtani can.