Craig Calcaterra

Andrew McKirahan

Braves pitcher Andrew McKirahan releases as statement regarding his PED suspension

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We don’t always do a post about a suspended player’s statement or apology. But given the one coming from Braves lefty Andrew McKirahan actually admits that, yeah, he tried to take some stuff, it is rather novel. No “I have no idea how that stuff got in my system” from him.

And his statement:

“I am extremely sorry for letting down the Atlanta Braves organization, my coaches, teammates and the Braves fans. I also sincerely apologize to my family, who has helped me reach this point in my career. This is in no way a reflection of my character or morals. I will work hard during my suspension and pray that everyone will find it in their hearts to forgive me. I hope to have the privilege and opportunity to return to the Atlanta Braves later this season, to earn back their trust and to do everything possible to contribute to the success of the organization.”

I discussed the “minor league city downgrades” list on NPR over the weekend

El Paso
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That post I did last week about upgrades/downgrades between major and minor league cities got a lot of attention. People in El Paso and Cincinnati were particularly upset with me. But hey, if I lived in El Paso or Cincinnati I’d probably be upset a lot of the time too. It’d probably be my default mood, actually.

But most people did take it in the spirit of good fun — and completely subjectivity — in which it was intended. Even the folks at NPR’s “Only a Game” show, which invited me on to discuss the list on Saturday. Here’s the audio:

 

If you can’t listen to that where you are, there’s a transcript here.

So, NPR achievement: unlocked. Which gets me one step closer to my weird and likely singular lifelong dream of meeting Eleanor Beardsley.

You don’t have to trust Alex Rodriguez. Nothing requires you to do that at all.

Alex Rodriguez
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In the past week or so, even the most ardent of Alex Rodriguez haters have come out with columns that, while not exactly love-letters, acknowledge that A-Rod has been pretty darn effective on the young season. And that he’s even been popular, what with the cheers he’s received from Yankees fans. The consensus that seems to be forming around A-Rod at the moment is that, for all of the crap of the past few years, maybe all that matters is what happens on the baseball diamond.

Even Bob Klapisch — long one of A-Rod’s fiercest critics — is generally positive in his assessment of Rodriguez’s early season performance. And even he doesn’t just snippily assume that it’s because Rodriguez is back on drugs. Sure, he raises the subject, but concludes:

I have to assume Rodriguez is playing clean in 2015; it would be professional suicide to resume cheating after being caught, confessing and being subjected to industrywide humiliation.

Raising the topic? Fair, given A-Rod’s history. Also fair, however, is Klapisch’s conclusion. It’s possible A-Rod may once again find himself in hot water, but at some point one has to ascribe human motivations and feeling to A-Rod and one has to assume that even he is not so dumb as to tempt fate and a lifetime ban.

But our friend Thom Loverro of the Washington Times isn’t of the same mind. He asks multiple rhetorical “do you honestly believe A-Rod’s current performance?” questions and follows up with:

Do I think Alex Rodriguez is using some sort of banned performance-enhancing substance? I think if you cut A-Rod open, Ben Johnson would fall out. You have to question the intelligence of all of us if we were to believe that A-Rod — who repeatedly publicly lied over his career about using performance-enhancing substances — represents the truth now . . . I think A-Rod would inject plutonium in his veins if he meant we would like him again.

So, unless you believe what Loverro believes, you’re dumb.

But is there not a third option here? The option of not buying into the notion that everyone has to trust or mistrust Alex Rodriguez? That our enjoyment of baseball does not, contrary to the very premise of Loverro’s column, depend on us taking the word of a player or buying into his integrity? Sure, the game itself must have integrity or else we’re just watching theater, but if you’re the sort who believes that baseball as a whole has been rendered illegitimate by PEDs already, you’re not watching it anymore. Or, at the very least, you’re just hate-watching, in which case you need professional help.

Alex Rodriguez is playing well right now. That may continue, it may not. He may be found to be on drugs again or he may not. But we don’t have to trust him. It’s not written on our tickets or in our cable TV customer agreements that we do. We can simply watch and enjoy the game and note what happens with a response appropriate to how much we choose to allow the given events to impact our lives and moods.

It’s the oldest trick in the columnist book to make you think otherwise. To make you think that what he or she is on about is life or death or even important and that the way they frame the debate is the only approach one can take. Well, it’s not. And if you are the well-adjusted sort who doesn’t let the exploits of a 40-year-old baseball player hundreds of miles away from you impact your approach to trust and integrity, you can’t help but look at the column in question and wonder whether we can any more trust the columnist to present sports to us in a meaningful way than he can trust this ballplayer he’s ranting about.

Joe Buck has a truly awful suggestion about how to improve MLB broadcasts

Joe Buck
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Over at SI Richard Dietsch has a piece in which he asked several broadcasters and media members about changes they’d make to sports broadcasts and reporting. Fox’s lead play-by-play guy said this:

Specifically to baseball, I would make players more accessible. There is no way networks can be able to talk to NASCAR drivers before they stuff themselves into the driver’s seat of a race car to go over 200 miles per hour while we are all forbidden to talk to the starting pitcher of that night’s game. Old rules die. Someone is “in the well” before they climb on deck? They can be asked what they are trying to do in their next at bat. Cameras in the batting cage during a game  would then let us see how a DH is getting ready for a big at bat. Bringing fans into the experience is paramount.

I think in-game interviews of managers are already the worst thing about national baseball broadcasts, so sure, let’s expand that to player in the game. Ugh. Buck goes on after that, by the way, talking about the need to bring a “video game-like experience” to baseball. Which I’m sure some of you may have some feeling about as well.

Boxing analyst Al Bernstein gets many, many hugs, however, for suggesting an end to three-man booths. Which are pretty much the worst.

Two Atlantic League teams implemented those gonzo pace-of-place suggestions by author Paul Auster

Paul Auster
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Remember last year when author Paul Auster proposed some radical pace-of-play rules? Specifically, that a foul ball with two strikes was a strikeout and that three balls was a walk? Well, it went from (in my opinion bad) idea to reality over the weekend. At least for one game, as the Long Island Ducks and Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League tested the rules out in an exhibition game.

Andy Martino of the Daily News and Auster himself went to the game and kept score. You can read Martino’s story about it here. Short version: it definitely cut time off the game, but I’d say that it cut more action from the game than time. Lots of walks and strikeouts, of course, and batters being more aggressive due to their fear of getting two-strike counts. Personally I feel like we have enough strikeouts and walks in the game right now, but if speed is your primary concern, mazel tov. Martino and Auster liked it, it seems, as did the manager of the Ducks who made it home for dinner.

In other fast-play rules, Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch has a story about last night’s super fast game between the Reds and Cardinals. Lots of quotes from the home plate umpire about how great it was that the game went quickly. I also assume that the writers on deadline loved it.

Which is a part of the pace-of-play stuff that I think about more and more: the media’s obvious self-interest in it. I mean, no, it’s not a singular interest. I’m sure at some point most fans have been less-than-pleased with a game that drags. I certainly have. I like a game that zips along a bit. But I do wonder if this is one of those stories in sports that affects the media way more than anyone else and thus gets more coverage than it might otherwise given its importance or lack thereof in the minds of fans. Another thing like, say, Marshawn Lynch not talking to reporters.

Oh well. Worth watching. And remembering that it’s always a good idea to be at least somewhat skeptical of anything that home plate umpires and reporters think is super important.